I like our new senior pastor, Graham Baird. For a young man he is certainly knowledgeable, and way ahead of where I was at his age. But he made an error yesterday in his sermon which I’d like to correct.
He said the Presbyterian Church in American began in 1777. He is just plain flat dead wrong. John Calvin and the Presbyterian tradition not only pre-dated the American Revolution, it was largely responsible for it.
I have enjoyed reading Loraine Boettner‘s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination several times: it’s one of those wonderful masterpieces that is so filled with profundities that I just never get tired of it. Each time I read it I discover new and fresh insights into my faith.
One of the most profound was how John Calvin’s theology had percolated into the people’s’ lives and beliefs to the degree that Boettner concludes that Calvin was actually the founder of America! Here is Boettner:
History is eloquent in declaring that American democracy was born of Christianity and that that Christianity was Calvinism. The great Revolutionary conflict which resulted in the formation of the American nation was carried out mainly by Calvinists, many of whom had been trained in the rigidly Presbyterian College at Princeton, and this nation is their gift to all liberty loving people.
Want more proof? How about this: The Mecklenburg Declaration, proclaimed by the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of North Carolina on May 20th, 1775, more than a year before the Declaration of Independence was signed, contained these words. See if you recognize them:
We do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us with the mother-country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British crown…
We hereby declare ourselves to be a free and independent people; are, and of right ought to be, a sovereign and self-governing association, under control of no power other than that of our God and the general government of Congress to the maintenance of which we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual cooperation and our lives, our fortunes and our most sacred honor…
Boettner then quotes from The Creed of Presbyterians, written by Dr. E. W. Smith:
If the average American citizen were asked, who was the founder of America, the true author of our great Republic, he might be puzzled to answer. We can imagine his amazement at hearing the answer given to this question by the famous German historian, Ranke, one of the profoundest scholars of modern times.
Says Ranke, “John Calvin was the virtual founder of America.”
Until we get our history right, we simply won’t know what we’re fighting for.