Abe and Predestination

Some interesting points about Abraham Lincoln:

Source: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file041.html

Self-Made Theology

Youthful skepticism gave way to deeper respect for religion. And during the devastation of the Civil War, Lincoln’s self-made theology reshaped American history. The key to Lincoln’s belief system was a roughhewn version of predestination that he absorbed from his parents’ churches.

In Kentucky, Lincoln’s parents were devoted to the hard-shell Primitive Baptists; later in his boyhood, in Indiana, his father and stepmother joined the slightly more moderate Separate Baptists. Both were rigidly Calvinistic.

Young Abe had little interest in his parents’ churches. And while living in New Salem, Ill., in 1834, he wrote a “little Book on Infidelity” that contemporaries said attacked the divinity of Jesus. Then 25, he considered publishing it but friends persuaded him to burn it.

That was fortunate, since Lincoln was just launching a political career. As a champion of small and big business, his natural home was the Whig Party. Like today’s Republicans, the Whigs drew heavy support from Evangelical Protestants — roughly equivalent to today’s Religious Right — who wanted public piety and the abolition of slavery.

Lincoln would have gained politically by joining some church, maintaining a religious front and keeping doubts to himself. But that would have been completely out of character. “He was, quite literally, honest Abe,” Guelzo says.

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3 thoughts on “Abe and Predestination

    • I’m a Brit, but I am not sure about that one? I was a military officer (Mustang), Retired from the RMC’s (Royal Marine Commando’s), reserves, though over ten years active. And saw combat several times. And I remember we studied the American Civil War for tactics a bit. You would have to elaborate! It seems the religious consciousness of the American Civil War, both North and South was rather eclecticism, from what I have read.

      • (I’m Canadian.) Not sure I can offer anything concrete but Abe seemed to be a fatalist when it came to the Civil War. He thought it was inevitable. His religious views were more Unitarian than Christian, he believed in a national Christianity but seemed to lack an experimental or personal understanding of what it meant to be a Christian. The Republicans use faith as good ol’ Abe did…to move the nation to back conservatism but nothing about this religion is personal or real. God is the unmoved mover.

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