I’m sure many of you are familiar with Thomas Jefferson. He was the 3rd president of the United States, and is most known for writing the Declaration of Independence; the document that declared the colony’s independence from England. By all means, Jefferson is a Saint of America, and notably known as a Founding Father. It is clear that many American values were derived from a Christian perspective, but what perspective did Jefferson bring?
A Great Thinker
Jefferson was highly intelligent, by any standards. His ability to synthesize philosophical ideas and history to create a modern, flexible government structure in and of itself is impressive. Jefferson was also not one to take information at face value, even religion. Jefferson believed that simple study of nature reveals that there is an existence of one God. One who created it all. Interestingly enough, this very reasoning is included in the Bible (Romans 1:20). While Jefferson did support the existence of a divine Creator, his views on Christianity were much past radical.
The Absurdity of the Gospels
As Jefferson unpacked the Gospels, he began to encounter odd stories. Stories of a man, Jesus, performing miracles, things that were not scientifically possible. Pondering these texts, Jefferson wondered at why a divine God would call for someone to have blind faith, while not giving them pure evidence for belief. Despite the religious climate of those around him, Jefferson created a new path. He felt that miraculous deeds, Jesus claiming to be God, and the Trinity were absurd. Jefferson believed that the disciples had misinterpreted them, claiming things happened that actually different. For this reason, he created his own book which focused on the moral and ethical values that Jesus taught.
A Great Philosopher
Jesus was no doubt a great philosopher. But was He more than that? Was He divine? Jefferson thought not. Perhaps he thought Jesus created a system that was simply a great way to be happy and treat others well. He believed Jesus was NOT the Son of God. However, he greatly praised His moralistic and ethical values he spoke. This new way of thinking Jesus brought was life-changing, and actually worked. Because of this, Jefferson cut up his Bible. He cut and paste passages he thought were true and pure, leaving stories of miracles and claims to divinity by Jesus. Any mention of supernatural intervention, resurrection included, was left behind as senseless. Soon, there was a thin book of things Jefferson believed, and a thick book of leftover passages in the Bible.
We Can All Relate
While this sounds demeaning and outright wrong, is it? Well, yes, picking apart the Bible selecting only certain passages is Biblically wrong. But, couldn’t we say that as modern Christians, we do the same thing, just not physically? Maybe Jefferson was just doing the literal action of what we do in our minds every time we read the Bible.
How often do we pick and choose the scriptures we want to follow?
I would encourage you to search within yourself over the next few days. Find passages that you never really read because you thought they were outlandish. Find the things that, in your own life, you have twisted from God’s original intent to make it seem more believable. What are those things that you decided you could make sound better than God’s Word He breathed out into man? We are all guilty of this practice that marks Jefferson. Although Jefferson basically created his own beliefs, he did show us the danger of only partial belief in the Bible, as well as the fact that we all, in some way, create our own religion too.