Is the Latter Day Saint Church a Denomination of Christianity?

Last Friday, Latter Day Saint Glenn Beck told Liberty University students that Mormonism is a Christian denomination. While I focused briefly on the Grand Council reference in the speech, blogger James Duncan referenced Beck’s statement about Latter Day Saints and Christianity in his post on Beck’s speech in Liberty’s chapel.  Beck said:

I share your faith. I am from a different denomination, and a denomination, quite honestly, that I’m sure can make many people at Liberty uncomfortable. I’m a Mormon, but I share your faith in the atonement of the savior, Jesus Christ. In my faith, we have a guy who gave his life for what he believed in. You don’t have to believe it; I’m not asking you to. I’m asking you, “What is it that you believe? Are you willing to give your life?”

Unlike some other speakers who deviate from Liberty’s evangelical affiliations, Beck made a religious claim. It is incredible that Liberty allowed this to be said without any response or disclaimer. Given the enthusiastic response of LU leaders and the student body, I wonder if Beck’s claim is accepted and taught at LU.
Al Mohler addressed the claim that Mormons are members of a Christian denomination. As he points out, the LDS movement began as a rejection of Christianity and a claim that the LDS church had recovered the true Gospel.

Once that is made clear, the answer is inevitable. Furthermore, the answer is made easy, not only by the structure of Christian orthodoxy (a structure Mormonism denies) but by the central argument of Mormonism itself – that the true faith was restored through Joseph Smith in the nineteenth century in America and that the entire structure of Christian orthodoxy as affirmed by the post-apostolic church is corrupt and false.
In other words, Mormonism rejects traditional Christian orthodoxy at the onset – this rejection is the very logic of Mormonism’s existence. A contemporary observer of Mormon public relations is not going to hear this logic presented directly, but it is the very logic and message of the Book of Mormon and the structure of Mormon thought. Mormonism rejects Christian orthodoxy as the very argument for its own existence, and it clearly identifies historic Christianity as a false faith.

As I noted yesterday (and blogger Duncan also demonstrates), Beck spoke from the foundation of his Latter Day Saint theology. About that theology, Mohler wrote:

The major divisions within Christian history (Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism) disagree over important issues of doctrine, but all affirm the early church’s consensus concerning the nature of Christ and the Trinitarian faith. These are precisely what Mormonism rejects.
Without doubt, Mormonism borrows Christian themes, personalities, and narratives. Nevertheless, it rejects what orthodox Christianity affirms and it affirms what orthodox Christianity rejects. It is not Christianity in a new form or another branch of the Christian tradition. By its own teachings and claims, it rejects that very tradition.

LDS founder Joseph Smith clearly taught that his angelic visitors told him that none of the denominations of Christianity were correct. From Smith’s writings 1:19-20:

18 My object in going to ainquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
 19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.”
 20 He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.

Some of the silence in response to Beck’s claims may be due to the endorsement of David Barton. Barton has claimed that Beck is a Christian who identifies as a Mormon out of loyalty.  Also, some of the silence may be due to the fact that Beck donated money to Liberty and promised to do more.
In any case, from both an orthodox Christian and the historic LDS perspective, the case for the LDS church being a denomination of orthodox Christianity isn’t credible.
 
 

Glenn Beck Talks Mormon at Liberty University

I honestly have a hard time figuring out Liberty University.
After finding themselves in some hot water over Mitt Romney, and then more recently Benny Hinn and Ron Godwin’s past devotion to Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon, you would think they would take more care about the speakers in their chapel. However, last Friday, LU featured Mormon enthusiast Glenn Beck in their chapel. Right there in front of their motto “Training Champions for Christ Since 1971,” Glenn Beck spoke from his Mormon theological base to young evangelicals.
Right Wing Watch had the story yesterday. Here is a clip where Beck refers to the Mormon doctrine of pre-existence (begin at 26:45)
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYNjZ55nctE#t=1597[/youtube]
To the Liberty students, Beck refers to the Grand Councils which apparently is a reference to the pre-mortal meeting to decide the plan of salvation and other matters, according Mormon theology. I wonder how many classes the LU profs have to spend undoing what happens in chapel.
 
 

More on Liberty University and the Unification Church

James Duncan at Pajama Pages has another article today with more information on the historic links between Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church and Liberty University.  Specifically, he focuses on Ron Godwin, LU’s Provost who has a long history with the Unification Church. The beginning:

Liberty University’s current provost, Ron Godwin, was appointed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon to take his teachings and use them to revive and resurrect American Christianity. Moon knew Godwin intimately, and repeatedly praised him publicly for his usefulness in taking the Moonie message to the American Christian church.

I don’t know where Godwin is today with all of this. I can’t find any material where he disavowed his relationship with Moon but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In addition to Duncan’s post, you can many references to Godwin’s affiliation with Moon at TParents.org. According to this write up of a Moon sermon delivered in 1992, Godwin was one of the “heavenly musketeers” who would represent Moon in America. Sometimes Moon spoke about himself as “Father”:

Father sees the presence of Dr. Ron Godwin, Dr. Bob Grant and Dr. Don Sills as very precious. Father looks at these precious three collaborators, supporters and members of this great movement almost like Jesus’ three disciples. The three of them are really accomplished giants in our world. By uniting with Reverend Moon’s ideology they will become even greater. Each of the three has very special characteristics. They are very different characters, as much as Jesus’ three major disciples were different from each other.

[Speaking to these three men.] Father said you are lucky. If you fulfill your mission, fine. If you don’t fulfill your mission, that is fine too. The reason is you are responsible for the first generation. The second generation is already mine, I claimed them already. But I don’t want to see the first generation become like Moses’ flocks who perished in the wilderness. It is very difficult to wipe out the concepts initially implanted in the first generation. Even Bob Grant, a great preacher and Don Sills, a great preacher and Ron Godwin, a great Christian leader, have been reading the Bible which says the Lord is coming on the clouds. That is the concept they have. Billy Graham has been preaching the Lord is coming on the clouds. For you the important thing is not the Washington Times or AFC or the Coalition for Religious Freedom. Wherever you go, that is your house, your podium. Your podium is not only your church. Wherever you are standing or wherever you meet people that is your podium.

Those three champions, just bring them and work them day and night. If they can’t keep up with the schedule and they run away that is alright, I will bring somebody else. But I think those three strong men won’t run away. Father invited Ron Godwin to join in this great crusade not because he is such a great business man. He is, but more importantly Father is concerned about Jerry Falwell, who represents the great Southern Baptist Christian community. He is not fulfilling his responsibility, so Father would like to see if Ron Godwin can fulfill it. Unless he knows me now, Jerry Falwell is in the position of a foreign person. Jerry Falwell cannot become president himself, he should come together with Father and make the spiritual and moral foundation for a God-chosen man to be President of the United States. We have to have a righteous God-centered president in this country, not just anybody.

The Washington Times is a side activity, the prominent mission is a spiritual mission. That is basically what Father is saying. This is very important: the Washington Times is secondary. As far as Father is concerned your primary mission is a spiritual mission and the revival of Christianity is crucial.

The AFC alone cannot save the country. Christianity must be rejuvenated. All Christian ministers must be re-educated. They must become new Christians. Unity with Reverend Moon is of vital importance. Without it, no matter how much they do, God will not be on their side. You should be a champion for the teaching of the Divine Principle. You should be able to teach them and testify to them much better than anyone else because you have that background.

I abandoned Korea and came to the United States because of the importance of working on the world level. This is a key important statement: an alliance between Christianity and the Unification Church is absolutely vital. It is a life or death matter for this country’s future. It is not easy because of public opinion and the media, but this is God’s will and it can be done. These three most Abel-like champions will spearhead this work. I think you are here, not because of your own will, but because this is God’s will. You have been divinely ordained, hand-picked by God to be here and represent each a different segment of Christianity. For that reason you have a crucial role to make that alliance between Christianity and the Unification Church. Do you follow?

I know those words are harsh and difficult to hear. But I am registering this as a testimony to God and the world. I’m not embarrassing you at all–again, I am doing it with a parental heart. Nobody else in the entire world would say anything like this to you. But Reverend Moon, with absolutely no personal ambition in it, is saying this to you because he is living with a parental heart.

Christianity in the United States has done the most evil against me; you know that. But I have no grudge or vengeful feelings. I have only sympathy. I only want to bring life to this country, that is my sole desire. However, my departure for Asia is immanent. Therefore I want to have some champions in the United States to take responsibility and move this country. You three can do the job.

You will be like the three disciples of Jesus. Each one of you will put your self in Jesus’ position and multiply three disciples of your own. Then your number will grow to a team of twelve. With twelve people of your character and determination, at this level, you will be invincible. Your catch phrase will be the that American Christianity needs resurrection more than revival. Let us resurrect American Christianity. It is crucial to the survival of this nation and the world.

New York is a rotten place, you know that. 42nd Street is a living hell. Father would like to have 8th Avenue up to 42nd Street cleaned up. Only by resurrection of the Christian spirit can this be accomplished. You follow, right?

[At this point, Dr. Grant, Dr. Sills and Dr. Godwin stood up and grasped their hands together, holding them high. Father waded through several rows of members to himself grasp the clasped hands of the three, making four.]

Reverend Moon is going to go up and have a little meeting with Mrs. Moon. Father will come down shortly but Father would like us to proceed with the testimonies of these three men.

[Dr. Ron Godwin gave his testimony talking about the USA activities and his part in it. Afterwards Dr. Pak gave a testimony about Dr. Godwin and his first meeting with Father at Danbury. Father returned, and Ron Godwin made a presentation to Father on behalf of the Washington Times family. It was a large drawing of an Atlantic salmon.
Dr. Pak then introduced Dr. Robert Grant as a man with a deep spiritual connection to Father. Dr. Grant then spoke about his work for God and the direction of the USA activities. Finally, Dr. Pak introduced Dr. Don Sills, who has completed a forty day workshop under Reverend Ahn. Don Sills spoke about his growing relationships with the Korean elders and how he came to work with our church. He ended by offering himself completely to Father’s service.]

Father spoke again:

Time has passed very quickly, but Father is very satisfied and fulfilled in his heart because Father has been assured that the three heavenly musketeers will do the job. Father looks at them almost as heavenly locomotives pulling the train of America in the right direction. They are locomotives, but not electric ones, they are choo-choo trains. Father likes that sound. Don Sills said wake up America. What is a better way to wake someone up than by making a locomotive noise?

I feel very confident that even though I may not be here all the time, if you trust these three musketeers and unite with them and join with them and work together toward the goal, I am sure you will fulfill a great victory here in America.

I have read many of Moon’s “sermons” and I can’t really make much sense of them. Some of this is probably because they are translations from Korean (seems odd that the Messiah didn’t speak English well). In any case, the point is that Moon wanted some kind of revival of Christianity in his image and he called on the “heavenly musketeers” to lead the way.

Liberty University, Benny Hinn, and the Moonies

Pajama Pages has an interesting piece on the link between Liberty University and Benny Hinn.  Then the historic link between Liberty founder and Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon is explored. I was aware of this and have considered writing about it several times. I have some additional information on religious right figures and Moon which I may post at a later time.
Liberty issued a statement denying the link between the school and Hinn. However, the LU provost did appear on Hinn’s show. Provost Godwin says he appeared based on a misunderstanding. However, the fact that he appeared at all is harder to understand and unexplained.

Weekend Roundup: White Power Demo In TN, Transgender Prof Transitions From Christian College, IOTC At Liberty U., Senate Takes Lead In Shutdown Talks

 
Local public radio appropriately calls the League of the South rally in TN, a “white power demonstration.
Azuza Pacific theology prof, H. Adam Ackley leaves the school via a mutual statement.  Ackley is transitioning from female to male.
John Lofton of the Institute on the Constitution presents the theocratic God and Government Project at Liberty University.
Looks like the adults have gotten involved in the Shutnado standoff. Maybe the Senate and the President can keep us from going over the cliff.
Update: The League of the South look pretty puny in this pic…

 

WMOT says about 50 LoS protesters attended the event.

Free at Last – DC Talk

The 50th anniversary of the March of Washington for Jobs and Freedom is being commemorated this weekend through August 28. The march took place on August 28, 1963. Free At Last by DC Talk (from one my favorite all-time CDs) samples Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech (which I will post on Wednesday).

DC Talk members Toby Mac, Kevin Max and Michael Tait attended Liberty University. How sad it is that Liberty University is hosting the Institute on the Constitution’s course on their television network.

Dean of Liberty Law School Says Islam Not Protected by the First Amendment

Prospective Christian law students pay attention.

Mat Staver, Dean of the Liberty University Law School told OneNewsNow, the “news service” of the American Family Association that Islam is more political ideology than religion and as such does not merit the same religious liberty protections.  Staver said

“One of the issues, however, that needs to be considered is whether or not there will be much emphasis placed on advancing the Muslim cause,” he notes. “Certainly that could be a concern to many people around the country.”

He explains why that should be a concern in a law school.

“Islam is a political ideology. Certainly it takes characteristics of religion, but by and large, at its core, both in the United States and around the world, it is a political ideology,” Staver asserts. “Consequently, to use the same kind of laws for an advancement of a political ideology that you would for religious liberty could eventually cause some concerning issues that we want to address.”

Thomas Jefferson certainly disagreed with this analysis. When Jefferson commented on his Virginia law on religious freedom, he said the law was meant to cover all religions. Specifically, Jefferson wrote:

The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally past; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Islam], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.

The Virginia statute is not the First Amendment but it is clear that James Madison, acting in sympathy with Jeffersonian views, intended the same scope for the First Amendment.

Another frightening aspect of Staver’s reasoning is that it could easily be applied to other religions, including Christianity.  Churches that pass out political guides and organize members to vote GOP could easily be considered to be purveyors of a political ideology.

On David Barton's claim that Unitarians were "a very evangelical Christian denomination"

David Barton told Liberty University students in their September 9 chapel that Unitarians were at one time “a very evangelical Christian denomination.” In his effort to define what he called modernism, he said this about the Unitarians the late 18th and early 19th century:

And the example of that is what happens when you look at Universalist Unitarians; certainly not a denomination that conforms to biblical truth in any way but as it turns out, we have a number of Founding Fathers  who were Unitarians. So we say, oh wait, there’s no way the Founding Fathers could have been Christians; they were Unitarians. Well, unless you know what a Unitarian was in 1784 and what happened to Unitarians in 1819 and 1838 and unless you recognize they used to be a very evangelical Christian denomination, we look at what they are today and say the Founding Fathers were Unitarians, and say, there’s no way they were Christians. That’s modernism; that’s not accurate; that’s not true.

Last week, I briefly examined Barton’s claim that Unitarians were a “very evangelical denomination” with the help of college professor and attorney Jon Rowe. In a 2007 post, Rowe noted that Unitarians during the era of the Founding Fathers denied the Trinity and the deity of Christ. While Unitarians used the Bible to come to their conclusions, one cannot call them evangelical in any meaningful or current sense of the word.
I also asked two Grove City College colleagues with expertise in religious history, Gillis Harp (professor of history) and Paul Kemeny (associate professor of religion and humanities), to react to Barton’s claim about the Unitarians. First, Dr. Kemeny contradicted Barton, saying:

To call nineteenth-century Unitarians a “every evangelical Christian denomination” is like calling a circle a square. While many were deeply pious, Unitarians rejected the deity of Christ and consequently the Trinity. Since the common sense meaning of “evangelical Christian” usually entails an affirmation of Christ’s deity and by implication the Trinity, it strikes me as a rather oddly creative use of the term to suggest Unitarians were “evangelical Christians.”  The Unitarians’ early nineteenth-century critics, such as orthodox Congregationalist theologian Leonard Woods, would likely be surprised to learn the Unitarians were actually “evangelical Christians after all.

As Kemeny notes, the orthodox theologians of the time did not think of Unitarians as orthodox. The Congregationalists of the eighteenth century were in dispute with their fellows who were moving in the Unitarian ways. For instance, President John Adams is often listed as a Congregationalist, but, as I documented previously, his views were decidedly Unitarian.
Dr. Harp also discounted Barton’s theory, saying

It is misleading to refer to early 19th century Unitarians as ‘evangelical.’  If Barton means that they were far more orthodox on many basic doctrinal matters than are Unitarians today – then, sure, one can say that.  But belief in the incarnation and substitutionary atonement are both essential to evangelicalism and these were both firmly repudiated by all Unitarians in this period.  Some Unitarians certainly continued to follow evangelical personal habits (daily prayer, Bible study, promoting evangelism) but that doesn’t make them evangelical doctrinally.

Christian scholars Harp and Kemeny agree that the claim is faulty. What about the original sources? If Unitarians of the era were evangelical in doctrine, perhaps this would show up in their writings. However, even a cursory examination of the leading Unitarian thinkers demonstrates that Barton is incorrect.
Barton cites Jared Sparks as a man who said George Washington was a Christian in the evangelical sense. However, Sparks was a leading Unitarian. Sparks’ ordination to the ministry in 1819 was the occasion for William Ellery Channing to preach a sermon outlining Unitarian beliefs in a break with the more orthodox Congregationalists.
Sparks was also the editor of the Unitarian Miscellany and Christian Monitor. In an 1821 edition, he explained the Unitarian position on Christ.

Unitarians believe, that Jesus Christ was a messenger commissioned from heaven to make a revelation, and communicate the will of God to men. They all agree, that he was not God; that he was a distinct being from the Father, and subordinate to him; and that he received from the Father all his power, wisdom, and knowledge. (p. 13)
Although unitarians do not believe Christ to be God, because they think such a doctrine at variance with reason and scripture, yet they believe him to have been authorized and empowered to make a divine revelation to the world. We believe in the divinity of his mission, but not of his person. We consider all he has taught as coming from God; we receive his commands, and rely on his promises, as the commands and promises of God. In his miracles we see the power of God; in his doctrines and precepts we behold the wisdom of God; and in his life and character we see a bright display of every divine virtue. Our hope of salvation rests on the truths lie has disclosed, and the means he has pointed out. We believe him to be entitled to our implicit faith, obedience, and submission, and we feel towards him all the veneration, love, and gratitude, which the dignity of his mission, the sublime purity ot his character, and his sufferings for the salvation of men, justly demand. But we do not pay him religious homage, because we think this would be derogating from the honour and majesty of the Supreme Being, who, our Saviour himself has told us, is the only proper object of our adoration and worship. (p. 15-16)

Regarding sin, Unitarians denied original sin and consequently the need for Christ’s atonement to pay the penalty for sin. Again in 1821, Sparks wrote:

We have only room to state, that we do not believe “the guilt of Adam’s sin was imputed, and his corrupted nature conveyed to all his posterity;” nor that there is in men any “original corruption, whereby they are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil.” (p. 19)

Disputes between trinitarians and the anti-trinitarians (as unitarians were often called) raged in eighteenth century New England. Historian E. Brooks Holifield wrote in his book Theology in America that the divinity of Christ was in doubt among New England clergy as early as 1735, adding

By 1768, Samuel Hopkins could claim that most of the ministers of Boston disbelieved the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. By 1785, James Freeman succeeded in leading the Episcopal congregation at King’s Chapel in Boston to delete Trinitarian views from their liturgy. (p. 199)

In his speech to Liberty University quoted above, Barton refers to 1784 as a point of reference for what Unitarians were. Perhaps he has this transition at King’s Chapel in mind when the church went from Anglican doctrine to Unitarian beliefs. The minister at the time, James Freeman, considered the church Anglican. However, in another sign that orthodox leaders of the day did not consider Unitarian views to be in line with traditional doctrine, the local Bishop refused to ordain Freeman in the Anglican church.
A question for Mr. Barton: Since the Unitarians at the time took pains to distinguish themselves from orthodoxy and the orthodox leaders of the day did not consider unitarian beliefs to be what we would today call evangelical, why would we dispute them now and call them “very evangelical?”
 

David Barton: Did Early Presidents Sign Documents "In the Year of Our Lord Christ?"

On September 9, David Barton spoke to students at Liberty University during their chapel service. Last week I addressed several claims Barton made during the first five minutes of his talk. Today, I want to follow up with more detail about Barton’s claim that Thomas Jefferson and other early Presidents signed official presidential documents with the closing “In the year of our Lord Christ.” Barton points to this phrase as evidence that the early Presidents “had Jesus Christ in the center of what they did.”
Earlier this year, I demonstrated that a document on the Wallbuilders website dated 1807 and signed by Thomas Jefferson is a passport, also called a sea letter, needed by ships at the time to indicate that they were no threat to friend or foe as a combat ship. The wording of the sea letter signed by Jefferson was required by a treaty with Holland. Sea letters were in common use, so much so that Congress authorized the printing of a form for this use with the treaty language preprinted. The language specified in the treaty with Holland included the phrase, “In the year of our Lord Christ” and only required the person completing the form to include information about the ship, the cargo, the destination and the correct date.
This was a perfunctory duty of the President at the time, causing John Adams to lament to his wife Abigail in a letter that his fate was to sign “Thousands of sea letters, Mediterranean passes, and commissions and patents to sign; no company — no society.”
Thomas Jefferson was once asked about the proper use of a sea letter by Secretary of Treasury Albert Gallatin. In his January 26, 1805 reply, it is clear that the document is not something he or the Congress developed, saying

The question arising on Mr. Simons’ letter of January 10th is whether sea-letters shall be given to the vessels of citizens neither born nor residing in the United States. Sea-letters are the creatures of treaties. No act of the ordinary legislature requires them. The only treaties now existing with us, and calling for them, are those with Holland, Spain, Prussia, and France. In the two former we have stipulated that when the other party shall be at war, the vessels belonging to our people shall be furnished with sea-letters; in the two latter that the vessels of the neutral party shall be so furnished. France being now at war, the sea-letter is made necessary for our vessels; and consequently it is our duty to furnish them.  (my emphasis)

If you search through the Annals of Congress (1774-1875), you will find 8 citations with the exact phrase, “in the year of our Lord Christ.” All of them are used in a treaty (Holland, Morocco, Japan). The exact form for the sea letter is specified as required by the treaty with Holland. Here is the text from Annals:

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 2
Form of the Passport to be given to Ships or Vessels, conformable to the Thirtieth Article of this Treaty.*

[Note *: * MSS. Dep. of State.]
February 6, 1778.
To all who shall see these presents, greeting:
Be it known that leave and permission are hereby given to A. B., master and commander of the ship or vessel called –, of the (city, town, etc.), of –, burden –, tons or thereabouts, lying at present in the port or haven of –, bound for –, and laden with –, to depart and proceed with his said ship (or vessel) on the said voyage; such ship (or vessel) having been visited and the said master and commander having made oath before the proper officer that the said ship (or vessel) belongs to one (or more) of the subjects, people, or inhabitants of –, and to him (or them) only.
In witness whereof we have subscribed our names to these presents and affixed the seal of our arms thereto, and caused the same to be countersigned by –, at –, this –day of –, in the year of our Lord Christ –.

 
I have found additional sea letters with the phrase “in the year of our Lord Christ” pre-printed. These are similar to the images signed by John Adams and James Madison which Barton presented at Liberty. Click this link to see an entire document with all four languages (Dutch, English, French and Spanish). Then see below for two closer views:

 

Adams, Madison and every other President signed these forms on behalf of countless vessels sailing into foreign waters. That Presidents signed their names to form letters with language required by treaty is simply not an indicator of some special recognition of Christ. Although the Americans were not antagonistic to including this diplomatic language in their treaties, they were not breaking new religious or political ground. As I noted in the prior post, other nations, including France and Holland, used this language long before the United States did as a new nation.
I suppose if you don’t take into account that the various treaties specified the exact language to be used, and you aren’t aware that Jefferson said sea letters are “the creatures of treaties,” then one might believe that Jefferson and early Presidents wanted to bring Christ into the important business of shipping passports.
I should add that I don’t claim to be a historian. Rather, I am taking the suggestion Mr. Barton made to Liberty University students. He told them in his speech not to take things for granted. He said go back to the original documents and explore the facts for yourself. Having done that, I disagree with Mr. Barton. In no reasonable use of the language can it be said that the early presidents signed presidential acts with the designation “in the year of our Lord Christ.”
For other posts examining similar claims, see this link.