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Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
10-25-2015, 03:39 PM (This post was last modified: 10-25-2015 03:40 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #16
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Thanks, Gene! Re.: "Lincoln obviously thought about God and religion before Willie's death" - maybe Mary wasn't aware?
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10-25-2015, 07:34 PM
Post: #17
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
A stalwart Christian, you ask? Well in that and other Greene narratives demonstrated as by a lawyer attending a dying woman and giving comforting Christian counsel. No doubt Lincoln knew well the verses and was not hesitant to bring them into use, whether this particular instance was historical or not.
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10-25-2015, 08:02 PM (This post was last modified: 10-25-2015 09:08 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #18
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Maharba, I think you either didn't understand my question at all, or didn't consider it serious, which it was. I was looking for your definition of a (stalwart) Christian. Commonly a Christian is someone who believes first of all in the New Testament and in Jesus Christ as God's virgin born son who died to free humanity from the Original Sin.
I like Mary Lincoln's wording "not a technical Christian" and "no faith in the usual acceptation of those word(s)" because I wouldn't only apply this to myself but also to Abraham Lincoln. E.g. I think Jesus did probably exist but was a wise man/prophet like Buddha or Muhammad, not God's son, and I do not believe in the Original Sin, nor would I pray to Jesus. Nevertheless would I consider myself a Christian (highly appreciating the Ten Commandments, which are Old Testamental, of course, and other Christian values as e.g. illustrated by Jesus in his parables) - but due to my issues with Jesus, in the original sense and definition I am not. I don't "follow" Jesus Christ the way a Christian is supposed to do. Likewise I am not sure respectively tend to doubt Abraham Lincoln gave much thought and faith to Jesus and his "function", but rather, like I, to God and the essential values behind the tales. But "stalwart" implies to me strictly following the original meaning and beliefs. Thus I am asking you what your criteria for a Christian are (or if you have evidence he did believe in Jesus, the Original Sin, etc.) as it wouldn't match the common definition.
BTW, I, too, like the 23rd Psalm (and although not considering me a "stalwart" Christian could/would give it as counsel even by heart) which, again, is Old Testamental, and has nothing to do with Jesus Christ:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?se...ersion=KJV
I hope I could make my question as for your definition better understandable and would really like to learn. Thanks!
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10-25-2015, 11:06 PM
Post: #19
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
From what I've read and understand about Lincoln (as some have described his beliefs) he had doubts for most of his life with believing in the "miraculous" events recorded in the bible. This includes Jesus as the Bible shows him.

Why Willie's death seems to bring about a shift in his thinking is something we can speculate on, but never really know. With all the death and destruction at this time, he was definitely looking for meaning and purpose to it all. He does seem to turn to God and the Bible to find the answers.

I have my own opinions, but they are probably mixed with my own personal religious beliefs that I want Lincoln to have too. The few books I have read on this subject all agree that in the later years of his life he has a strong faith and belief in God. They also have different views on the extent of Lincoln's faith and beliefs.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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10-26-2015, 08:30 AM
Post: #20
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Gene - I 100% agree with you. Well worded. My point was just that the question of his "Christianity" (not religiousness) is a matter of definition and modification of the original meaning and concept of "Christian".

I think Mary's assessment as for her husband being "not a technical Christian" and "not in the common sense of the word(s)" is probably appropriate. She also said "he was a religious man", and that he was, no doubt. But a Christian from the strict theological (scholarly/"scientific") point of view and definition?

Is Mr. Burkhimer a theologist? How does he define "Christianity"? What parameters has he fixed for his examination for the application of this feature/attribute?
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10-26-2015, 09:58 AM
Post: #21
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
I don't feel like I know enough to answer your question regarding Mr. Burkhimer

It is almost impossible to get inside Lincoln's head to know what his religious beliefs are. There comes a time in his life where he is looking for answers and guidance to some deep questions and problems. He turns to his bible and people who's knowledge of the bible he respects. With this additional knowledge, he either reaffirms or modifies his thinking. Those who personally knew Lincoln comment that Lincoln displays many of the behaviors we associate with Christianity,
specifically those mentioned in Paul's letter; Galatians chapter 5, verses 22-26.
(Not wanting to take things out of context I have posted more than the short passage mentioned. The entire letter of Galatians, 6 short chapters, will take less than 30 minutes to read.)


13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another.


New English Translation (NET) from Biblegateway.com

While we may question Lincoln's Christianity on doctorinal issues, he seems to understand and try to live by the intent of biblical teachings in shaping his character, lifestyle and attitudes. These he learned from his youth and maintains throughout his life.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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10-26-2015, 11:26 AM (This post was last modified: 10-26-2015 11:48 AM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #22
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Very well said again, Gene! (So IMO it's not important to expand further examination to book-length. But IF one does in order to determine one should define and use the specific terms and concepts carefully and as precisely as possible.)
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10-26-2015, 12:05 PM
Post: #23
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
My observation was intended to be diagnostic of the actions of such a person as the lawyer acting also as a comforting minister in the final illness of his client. Not to comprehend all of Lincoln's past and future actions. A snapshot. Do I have a worked up, omnibus definition of 'stalwart Christian'? No. Instead, I believe my assessment would be universally apprehended and broadly joined by those same simple Christians Lincoln was consistently seeking to reach and to sway with his scriptural references.
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10-26-2015, 01:43 PM (This post was last modified: 10-26-2015 02:33 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #24
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
You wrote that the incident "gives every indication to me of him being a stalwart Christian".
I asked you for your definition because I cannot see how you can conclude from this incident that he was a Christian for the reasons I have already pointed out. I am fine when you say this incident shows he "lived" Christian values, but being a Christian from the theological/confessional point of view as for who is a "member of the club" e.g. first of all means confessing to Apostles' Creed:
"I believe in God, the Father almighty/ creator of heaven and earth./ I believe in Jesus Christ/ his only Son, our Lord./ He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,.. " etc. pp.
I cannot see from the one incident he would have confessed to Jesus Christ (which is where the word "Christian" comes from, for the very reason, just to say). Thus I asked how you could fix from the example he did, or what else you mean when you speak of a "Christian". IMO it's a huge difference between being a Christian or living Christian values. So if you have your own/a different definition I would have liked to know to understand your conclusion.

It's not a perfect illustration, but maybe gives an idea of what I mean: Just because I like your country, speak your language, can sing your anthem and know your constitution, appreciate democracy and other American values that doesn't make me an American.

Another try to illustrate - this is a lamprey:
   
Although it looks like a fish it is biologically totally different and belongs to a separate order. (Unfortunately the English trivial order name misleadingly is "jawless fish"). If you say the snapshot "gives every indication of it being a fish", I would likewise ask you for further explanation. If you say precision and scholarly approach is not important to you, that, too, would help to clarify and understand respectively not furthermore try to understand where I question, and accept that, of course.
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10-26-2015, 02:46 PM
Post: #25
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
I thought I'd mention an article written by Ed Steers. Ed wrote "A Question of Faith: Was Lincoln a Christian?" which was published in the September 1999 edition of North and South magazine (Volume 2, Number 7). Essentially Dr. Steers argues that Lincoln had a very strong faith although he probably was not a Christian in the strict 19th century sense of the term.
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10-26-2015, 04:39 PM (This post was last modified: 10-26-2015 04:44 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #26
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Thanks, Roger! (That's what I think, too, and consider possible to safely conclude on the "pro" side at all.)
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10-27-2015, 04:11 PM
Post: #27
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
As I read the Bible, the OT God is primarily angry and vengeful against mankind for the Fall, whereas the New Testament is all about the Atonement (Jesus Christ) and portrays a kind and merciful God who assures us that "I go to prepare a place for you [in heaven]."

Lincoln wanted to see his son Willie again so badly that he had him exhumed once or twice just so he could see his face. I'm wondering what hope and comfort Lincoln could have found in the Old Testament alone, if he turned to the Bible in his grief over the loss of his son.

Of all the miracles recorded in the NT, the resurrection from the dead of Lazarus (not to mention Jesus' own resurrection from the dead) ranked right at the top of the long list. Isn't that exactly the kind of comfort Lincoln was looking for...hope that he and Willie would some day, in some other world, see each other again? So what was it about the miracles in the New Testament that Lincoln found difficult or impossible to believe?
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10-27-2015, 05:47 PM
Post: #28
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
(10-27-2015 04:11 PM)My Name Is Kate Wrote:  Isn't that exactly the kind of comfort Lincoln was looking for...hope that he and Willie would some day, in some other world, see each other again? So what was it about the miracles in the New Testament that Lincoln found difficult or impossible to believe?

Yes, but I don't have an answer for you on the second question. His belief in miracles may have changed as he got older, but I don't know.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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10-27-2015, 07:00 PM
Post: #29
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Quote: Lincoln wanted to see his son Willie again so badly that he had him exhumed once or twice just so he could see his face.

In 40-plus years of reading about Lincoln, not once have I ever come across this in any of the main biographies or books about the aspects of his life. Doing a quick Google search, I saw this mentioned on various websites but none gave a source. I looked through four main Lincoln biographies (Burlingame, Donald, White and Oates) and not one mentions this ever happening. I would be interested in knowing a verifiable source for this outside of the internet.

Lincoln's religion has always held especial interest for me, given my own skepticism and atheism. Mike Burkhimer's take on the subject is well-informed and knowledgeable and deserves to be in the library of any serious student of Lincoln. Unlike many skeptics I don't doubt that in the last years of his life Lincoln's faith grew. Given the death of Willie, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of deaths as a result of the war, Lincoln's attempt to find comfort in faith seems like a no-brainer. But I also believe had Lincoln died in his bed on the corner of Eighth and Jackson as a popular retired attorney or judge who never left Springfield and never held any higher office than a single term as a Congressman, his adherence to faith would not have been as strong. Why Lincoln never formally joined a church is a question without an easy answer, but I think part of it stems from his personal experience as a youth and growing up on his own. Tragedy like Lincoln experienced can either bring one closer to faith or push one further away. I think it had the latter effect on him, at least in his early years. I think after the death of Ann Rutledge Lincoln was as close to atheism as he ever got. Three of the most important women in his life were taken away. He had to be asking "what kind of deity would allow that to happen?"

Although I would question Herndon's claims about Lincoln dying as an unbeliever--"Simply a Theist"--I think before the war and the presidency, Herndon was closer to the truth than most want to admit. Lincoln's path changed when he began to bear the burden of civil war. The death of Willie only solidified what had started after Sumter.

Trying to parse Lincoln's religion in a single, simple post is impossible. There are numerous articles and books (including Mike Burkhimer's) that do a better job than I have in how I explain Lincoln's religious outlook. Allen Guelzo, Douglas Wilson, Samuel W. Calhoun and Lucas E. Morel, Stewart Winger and even one as old as William E. Barton have done more complete jobs in a much better form than I ever could, but even they do not have the last word. To hold faith that anyone has the last word in Lincoln studies is nothing more than a will-o'-the-wisp.

Best
Rob

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell

I want the respect of intelligent men, but I will choose for myself the intelligent.
--Carl Sandburg
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10-27-2015, 07:06 PM
Post: #30
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
If Lincoln had fallen into historical religious paths there, shouldn't he have been a Methodist like Rev Peter Cartwright, and maybe 'saved' at one of Cartwright's revivals? And Lincoln claimed some ancestors were Quakers, but I don't know this has been confirmed. Something too about Lincoln having earlier married relations with the Boones? The Boones were quakers had come down from Chester PA, Kennett Square to Rowan County NC. And immediately left off from being quakers, pacifists.
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