Vanderbilt Professor: Bible 'Prominent' in Arguments for American Revolution

An assistant professor from Vanderbilt University has stated the Bible played a "prominent" role in Americans' arguments for starting the American Revolution, as well as other wars in American history.

James P. Byrd, associate dean for Graduate Education and Research at Vanderbilt's Divinity School, argued this point in the recently published book, Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Byrd explained that while doing his research he was "struck by how prominent the Bible was in Revolutionary America."

"I was struck by how prominent the Bible was in Revolutionary America, not only in sermons but also in political pamphlets, such as Thomas Paine's extraordinarily influential Common Sense," said Byrd.

"Colonists were often biblically literate – likely more so than the average American is today. Obviously colonists then did not own as many books as many Americans do today, and the book that was most accessible to them was the Bible."

Byrd also told CP that certain passages of the Bible were used by different sides in making their arguments for or against Revolution in 18th century America.

"Some texts were used over and over – texts like Judges 5. Preachers appealed to the story of Deborah and Jael to prove that God demanded military service when the cause is just, and that God rewarded those who responded and cursed those who did not," said Byrd.

"Obviously pacifists had biblical evidence, too, and they often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Loyalists had their own biblical supports, especially Romans 13. Patriots had to contend with these arguments, and that forced them to think carefully about the Revolution in light of Scripture."

In recent times, many involved in the "culture wars" have debated the extent to which Christianity and the Bible influenced the founding of the United States.

Some, like David Barton of Wallbuilders, have argued that the founders intended for America to be a Christian nation that would have had Judeo-Christian values as its foundation for society and government.

Others, like Susan Jacoby of the Center for Inquiry, have argued that America was established on reason and meant to be a secular republic as seen with the First Amendment outlining a separation of church and state.

Regarding the debate over the spiritual nature of America during its beginnings, Byrd told CP that "it's more complicated" than a simple question of secular or religious.

"For the most part, patriots were thinking about political liberty, but many saw it connected very closely to religious liberty. The Revolutionary War, for most patriots, was a just war fought for political freedom, not an outright holy war," said Byrd.

"Even so, it was not that simple…the fact that Thomas Paine, who was certainly not a Christian, used the Bible so extensively in arguing for the Revolution shows us how important biblical arguments were in colonial American societies."

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