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Gettysburg Address ... easy question? maybe
03-15-2018, 10:20 AM
Post: #44
RE: Gettysburg Address ... easy question? maybe
Most of what we know of Lincoln’s early life is from Herndon, who was adamant about Lincoln’s religious state: Lincoln, at New Salem, had acquired a reputation as an infidel, a label for a non-Christian. Lincoln had written a small book attacking Christianity on a rational basis. Espousing such a non-belief in Christianity in central Illinois in the 1830’s was political suicide, and his friend Samuel Hill burned the book. Lincoln's beliefs no doubt evolved, but there is no written evidence that he rejected his position. But certainly he became more discreet.

In 1846, Lincoln ran for Congress against the formidable Reverend Peter Cartwright, who was accusing Lincoln of infidelity and had referred to Lincoln as a “religious scoffer.” Lincoln published a pamphlet to answer the charge. In this pamphlet Lincoln admits to having believed “in early life” in the Doctrine of Necessity, which is also known as necessitarianism, an extreme form of determinism that holds that all phenomena, including the will, are subject to immutable rules of cause and effect. The Doctrine of Necessity might appear to contradict Christianity’s belief in Jesus as the messiah. But Lincoln did say in the pamphlet that although he “was not a member of any Christian Church,” he had “never denied the truth of the Scriptures and [had] never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or any denomination of Christians in particular.” However one chooses to interpret this statement, it is not a ringing denial of Cartwright’s charge.

Did Lincoln ever become a “conventional” Christian, as a nineteenth century person might understand the term? I don’t think so, and I really can’t see him on his knees praying to God for victory at Gettysburg. I don’t think Lincoln’s rational mind would admit to “wrestling” with God—no human could win such a contest. However, I also think that he never lost belief in the existence of an omniscient and omnipotent God, the being he refers to in the Second Inaugural Address.
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RE: Gettysburg Address ... easy question? maybe - davg2000 - 03-15-2018 10:20 AM

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