Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian?

As I perused Richard Carwardine's acclaimed Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power recently, I came across his discussion of Lincoln's religious life. This discussion covers only nine pages, but it persuasively makes the case that Lincoln was not a Christian, in any biblical sense of that term. He was certainly influenced by the Bible, but, as Mary Todd Lincoln said, he had "no faith in the usual acceptation of those words."

Another blogger, Joe Carter, recently discussed the beliefs of the founding fathers of our nation. While there were some orthodox, Trinitarians in the bunch (such as John Witherspoon), many of them were deists or Unitarians.

Why do I bring this up? As Christians who desire to be biblical, we must remember that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of Christianity. Those who are merely influenced by the moral guidelines of Christianity are not Christians in a biblical sense. Given the fact that the Bible has wielded great influence in the history of our nation, it is tempting to start to apply the label "Christian" to many of our national forebears. But this is inaccurate, and this inaccuracy can actually cause us to mistake the real genius and nature of Christianity.

It is those who trust wholeheartedly in the Second Person of the Trinity who became a man, died as a substitute for sinners, and rose from the dead who are Christians. Jesus must be the object of faith of a sinful man seeking a Savior. Christianity cannot be reduced to a prescription for a moral society. To take it as such is to divest it of its distinctives and power. This is because its power is bound up in a Person, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We are obviously not the final judge of any man's salvation, but we do have the clear word of God on this issue: "Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God" (1 John 4:3). We must never forget this.

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