These are powerful documents of American history:
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/benfranklin.htm (Franklin during constitutional convention)
http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-04-02-0091 (New president Washington’s proclamation of prayer and thanksgiving… Following the ratification of the constitution)
Read the speech and proclamation above. What strikes me about these documents is that Washington and Franklin are universally considered Deists according to most of the literature on them that I am familiar with.
Consider the definitions of Deism:
Wikipedia- “Deism combines the rejection of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge with the conclusion that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator of the universe.” (found on Wikipedia- search “Deism”)
Merriam-Webster- “a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe”
What did the Founders believe?
Both Acts 17 and Romans 1 and 2 in the Bible seem to agree that God can be perceived by men outside of special revelation. However Deism, to my understanding, does not allow for God to specifically intervene in human affairs (Divine Watchmaker idea). According to Deism, a creator exists, period. Beyond that, it is implied that the creator is not involved with humans after creation. This Deistic doctrine seems silly as a creator most likely IS ABLE to intervene once his creation is complete. There does not seem to be anything logically inconsistent with the idea of a creator intervening.
So my question is: where do Franklin and Washington (presumably whom reject Christianity and all revealed religions) get their notion of divine providence of God in human affairs? In my opinion, that is a doctrine that emanates from a purely Theistic doctrine. There are only three main religions that can claim the sovereignty of a god that the founders would be aware of: Christianity, Muhommadism (Islam), and Judaism. Surely they did not accept the doctrines of the latter two. Further, where does Franklin get his understanding as the creator being a “Father of lights”? The language of these two documents alone have VERY Christian tones. This is without mentioning the numerous other primary documents from the founding fathers that are blatantly Christian.
I believe that these two men and others of the “Deist” camp had a more Christian worldviews than many liberal scholars today would like to admit. This point can also be seen by the fact that over half of the signers of the Declaration and Constitution had a seminary degree and Christian ministry background and/or graduated from institutions that were chartered for specifically Christian ends.
Image found searching “Constitutional Convention” in Yahoo images.