Posted By Foundation for American Christian Education,
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797
Many people today find their role models in the media culture. According to The Barna Group, two thirds of Americans say pro athletes have more influence on our society than faith leaders. However, American Christians, in addition to their pastors and teachers, have traditionally looked to the elected leadership for role models. Can you find a hero there today?
George Washington, our first president, understood that as an elected leader he had a duty to be the very model that all other presidents would follow. He discerned that his entire life would be carefully examined, not by some prying journalist, but by God, to whom Washington knew he would be fully accountable. So he set his heart and mind to be the President that would set the standard for all others to follow and began to build a foundation for a young nation to shine the light of liberty to the entire world.
Washington was also humbly conscious of the tremendous responsibilities of the new office of president of the United States. He knew that the whole world would measure America by the character of the man who occupied that office. And indeed, most nations identified Washington as “America” long before they were acquainted with the nation.
This prayer, found in his writings, indicates how closely Washington associated the success of the American nation with the spirit and practice of the Christian religion:
I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.
George Washington “Circular Letter to the States” 1783
Posted By Foundation for American Christian Education,
Saturday, January 28, 2017
The British Evacuating after the Siege of Boston, March 17, 1776
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. Psalm 133:1
The recent presidential election has exposed a rift in our national life. Americans are more divided than ever on political and cultural issues, and the spirit of unity that is the mark of genuine patriotism and which keeps afloat the ship of state seems to have drowned in a sea of disrespect, distrust, skepticism and failed hopes.
In the midst of these dark waters that threaten the foundations of the Republic, we must ask, is a spirit of unity still possible and where is it to be found?
FACE founder and Christian historian Verna M. Hall discovered the source of our nation’s unity in the Biblical principles on which it is founded. From the beginning, Americans saw themselves as one nation, under God, with a common destiny and purpose.
In her primary source study, The Christian History of the Constitution, Vol. II: Christian Self-Government with Union, Hall cites an important early example of how our nation’s unity is rooted in Biblical thinking. When the citizens of Massachusetts suffered extreme hardship caused by the closing of Boston harbor, the thirteen colonies acted as one. The British blockaded the harbor in order to punish Massachusetts. The Crown thought making an example of Boston would break the spirit of liberty in the colonies. However to the surprise of the British, the result was not factionalism and submission, but an indestructible unity, which led to liberty. “One by one the colonies declared their solidarity with Boston’s cause, making it their own.”*
The response of the colonies to the plight of Boston was the result of their faith:
Boston citizens, suffering under harsh financial circumstances, were “sustained by the large contributions sent from every quarter for their relief, and by the noble words that accompanied them.” The flow of donations from other colonies lasted 10 months.
Virginia called for a day of prayer and fasting to be observed the day the Boston Port Bill went into effect, and large congregations filled the churches throughout the colony that day.
Newspapers and pamphlets were published which supported Boston and aided in crystallizing public opinion. People were able to learn and understand the principles at stake for all the colonies by the closing of Boston’s harbor.
Because their beliefs and actions were rooted in their Biblical worldview, the colonists were able to throw off the yoke of British oppression and establish a free nation unlike any before or since.“The British were sure that the policy of singling out Massachusetts for punishment would prove the means of destroying the union. Instead, this afflictive act had just the opposite effect.” The response of the colonies became the “cement of American union."
In his inaugural address, President Trump directed us on how to act if the rifts in our national life are to be healed. His words bear keeping in mind:
We are one nation—and their (speaking of fellow Americans) pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity."
If our nation is to once more pursue our glorious destiny, we must not let our hearts be hardened by factionalism and distrust, but return to the “cement of American union”—Christian self-government and Biblical Christian unity.
Posted By Foundation for American Christian Education,
Thursday, January 19, 2017
George Washington taking the oath of office at his First Inaugural, April 30, 1789
On January 20, Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. The inauguration ceremony will commence our new president’s fouryear term in office.
The ceremony culminates in the new president taking the oath of office, which is found
in Article II of the Constitution. The Constitution states:
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall
take the following Oath or Affirmation: — "I do solemnly
swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of
President of the United States, and will to the best of my
Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the
By tradition, presidents add the phrase, “So help me God.”
Our first president, George Washington held his inaugural on April 30, 1789.
Washington much preferred to retire to private, domestic life, but reluctantly agreed to
take on the Executive Office. As he said in the first inaugural address, “I was
summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and
Washington is remembered as the “Father of His Country” not only because he was the
first U.S. president, but also because he set the standard of character, piety, integrity,
equanimity and patriotism by which all subsequent presidents have been measured. He
rose above prejudice, politics, and personal interests and sought to do what was right
for the country. As David Ramsay, M.D., wrote in 1811 in The Character of Washington
by His Contemporaries:
Truth and utility were his objects he readily pursued, and generally attained them. With
this view he thought much, and closely examined every subject on which he was to
decide, in all its relations. Neither passion, party spirit, pride, prejudice, ambition, nor
interest, influenced his deliberations.
In making up his mind on great occasions, many of which occurred in which the fate of
the army or nation seemed involved, he sought for information from all quarters,
revolved the subject by night and by day, and examined every point of view. Guided by
these lights, and influenced by an honest and good heart, he was imperceptibly led to
decisions which were wise and judicious.*
As we witness the solemn inaugural ceremony held in our nation’s capital tomorrow, we
will look to our first president as the example of dignity and honor due to the office of
president and chief executive of our nation. We pray for our incoming president, Donald
J. Trump that God will give him wisdom, a spirit of unity, a genuine love for our nation
and respect for the liberty we treasure.
*George Washington: The Character and Influence of One Man, a compilation by Verna M. Hall, published by Foundation for American Education
Posted By Foundation for American Christian Education,
Monday, December 19, 2016
Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.”
So begins Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic Little Women, with a complaint that we all certainly can share. Fifteen-year-old Jo (Josephine) March and her sisters, Meg, Beth and Amy are seated around a snug little fire in their New England home, lamenting the gifts they will not receive for Christmas. Jo, an aspiring playwright, wants a new book. Thirteen-year-old Beth, a pianist, wants sheet music. Little Amy the artist hopes for drawing pencils. And Meg, at sixteen, the oldest and considered the prettiest, longs for a new dress.
These good-hearted girls wrestle with their disappointment. They know that their mother, Marmee, would give them these things if she could afford them and that the absence of their beloved Father, who is far from home, serving as a chaplain in the United States Army during the Civil War, is difficult for everyone. Generously, the girls decide that instead of receiving gifts, they will spend their hard-earned money on presents for Marmee. The arrival of a letter from Father confirms their good intentions. His warm greetings to his “little women,” as he affectionately calls them, are mixed with fatherly wisdom and advice:
Give them all of my dear love and a kiss. Tell them I think of them by day, pray for them by night, and find my best comfort in their affection at all times. A year seems very long to wait before I see them, but remind them that while we wait we may all work, so that these hard days need not be wasted. I know they will remember all I said to them, that they will be loving children to you, will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women.
Anxious to merit Father’s praise, the girls regret their recent pettiness and resolve to be even more selfless. The opportunity comes, when, on a snowy Christmas morning, they have a chance to help the mother of a newborn and her six hungry young children, who are living in a cold and fireless home. When Marmee and her daughters bring their own holiday breakfast to the poor family, the mother and her children call the Marches "angels." "That was a very happy breakfast," Alcott writes, "though they didn't get any of it." The March family's sacrifice leaves them with empty stomachs, but full hearts:
And when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts and contented themselves with bread and milk on Christmas morning.
Alcott’s tale, though told with simplicity, contains rich imagery appropriate for this time of year, when we too are filled with expectations and desires. Like Jo and her sisters, we anticipate our annual celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, with presents and parties, gifts and good food. And although, by today’s standards, the things the March sisters long for are simple, the same longing for things can encroach on our own hearts and distract us from what is truly important. We celebrate Christmas because Jesus came to make known to us the good news that there is another Father, who, like Father March, may seem far away, but in truth is always near us, a Father who, Jesus teaches, gives us “good gifts”—the Holy Spirit and eternal life (Matthew 7:11). The March sisters remind us of both the angels who greeted the birth of Jesus and also the shepherds who left their flocks to worship the newborn King. But the girls also display the love, self-denial, patience in suffering and sharing with those in need that recalls another group of “little women,” the Wise Virgins in the parable (Matthew 25:1–13), who trimmed their lamps and made themselves ready to greet the Bridegroom when he came. We celebrate Christmas because we await the moment when Jesus will come again. Let us prepare by being like Jo and her sisters, anxious to make our Heavenly Father proud of our good works and our love.
Little Women provides a model of the well-ordered Christian home, which is the bedrock of society and the first sphere of government. (Read Rosalie J. Slater's Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History, “Home-Government” pp. 23-27) When mothers and fathers faithfully educate their children to love of God and live virtuous lives, then our communities and nation flourishes. Little Women captures the heart of family living because Alcott’s view of the family is centered on Christian ideals and principles.
In this time of preparation for Christmas, what a wonderful way it is to strengthen the foundations of our own families and prepare to receive the infant Jesus by sharing with our families Little Women and learning its lessons of love, generosity, kindness and long-suffering.
Posted By Foundation for American Christian Education,
Thursday, August 11, 2016
American citizens are increasingly fed up with their government, observing shocking waste of taxpayer money, and bureaucrats regulating and limiting freedoms.
At a recent FACE sponsored “Lessons in Liberty”, Dr. Gai Ferdon presented a synopsis of the federal government budget process. Dr. Ferdon disclosed that many Americans are aware that our national debt is now almost $20 trillion, but most are shocked to know that funds designated to discretionary spending items include defense spending, while mandated budget items include many entitlement programs (including anti-poverty programs). The President’s proposed budget for FY 2017 is $4.2 trillion, but with projected tax revenues at only $3.6 trillion. No debt relief is on the horizon.
As this debt-fueled budget moves our country towards socialism, we sink deeper in dependence and despair.
What is the antidote? We must return to the Christian idea of man and government.
As Americans and Patriots, we must incorporate the same sense of government that was apparent among churches of the first century. These local, self-governing bodies were, in fact, little republics, all decisions being made by the congregation. Thus were the ideas of Constitutional liberty and government planted.
How is the structure of Constitutional liberty and government built?
First, let us return to the Christian home where the foundations of character and self-government are laid.
Secondly, families form churches where God’s principles and precepts are taught.
Thirdly, we must lay Christ as the bedrock of all sound knowledge and learning by establishing schools (and home schools) with a Biblical curriculum to educate and prepare our future citizens and leaders.
Will left-leaning leaders mandating progressive socialist fiscal policies keep us free? Or will true liberty with Christian self-government remain as the heart of our American Republic?
Posted By Foundation for American Christian Education,
Friday, July 1, 2016
Updated: Thursday, June 30, 2016
John Trumbell, The Declaration of Independence, 1817
On Monday, we celebrate one of the most solemn days in American history, the signing
of the Declaration of Independence. It was a transforming moment in the history of North
America, which changed the British colonies into a self-determining nation.
It is easy today, 240 years later, amidst the celebratory parties, barbecues, and fireworks displays, to forget that American independence was not inevitable and did not happen overnight. It was a hard-won victory that
required a struggle of more than 30 years and great personal sacrifice from many men and women. And on July 4, 1776, that victory still hung in the balance.
At first, the future citizens of the United States wanted only to preserve their rights and liberties as British citizens.
The colonists strongly opposed the acts of trade enacted by the British Council in 1760, authorizing, among other things, search warrants on any pretext, and the Stamp Act of 1765, which levied heavy taxes on the colonists without their own parliamentary representation, seeing in these laws a violation of the rights guaranteed by British common law. When it became clear that insisting
on their rights would not be enough, those opposed to tyranny took
action on that sultry July day in 1776 and declared independence from Great Britain. The gravity of this act was not lost on any present at that meeting of the Second Continental Congress. The Declaration, as far as the British sovereign was concerned, was a deliberate act of treason and the signatories were all in danger of their lives. Benjamin Franklin quipped to his fellow representatives at the signing, "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."
The War of Independence marks a second stage,
although it began 15 months before the signing of the Declaration, at the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775, and ended in 1782 with the signing of the Treaty of
Peace in Paris. The third and final stage reached its conclusion when Congress
ratified the Constitution in 1789, bringing into being a new country and a new kind of
A contest of principle
But the great work of the American struggle for independence was not winning the conflict
of arms. The birth of liberty was a contest of principle. At each stage, the struggle for
independence was met by individuals, providentially prepared with minds and spirits trained
to the issues of the times. The Declaration of Independence was the standard heroically
waved in this war of ideas because it annulled the idea that men were subjects to any
tyrannical powers and affirmed the natural right to be self-governed. The tie to British
rule was dissolved by one common act, the signing of that document. It made Americans into
members of a distinct community in relation to each other, bound by the laws of nature and
the Union. It was the opening to a new era in the science of government and in the history
From “John Quincy Adams on the American Revolution,” The Christian History of the American
Revolution, Consider and Ponder, published by the Foundation for American Christian History
Posted By Rosalie J. Slater,
Friday, November 13, 2015
Updated: Friday, November 13, 2015
THE PILGRIMS BRING THE GOSPEL TO AMERICA
We remember the Pilgrims sailed across the Ocean on the little ship named The Mayflower. The first year at Plymouth was very hard for the Pilgrims. It was very cold—there was snow and ice on the ground. The Pilgrims built houses for shelter. But first, they built a house for the Lord, a church where they could gather to worship Him and to give thanks for their safe voyage across the ocean to America. The Pilgrims came to America to “propagate and advance the Gospel” of Jesus Christ in these “remote parts of the world.” They also wanted to educate their little children in the ways of the Lord.
GOD SENDS SQUANTO TO HELP THE PILGRIMS
After that first winter, the Pilgrims had a surprise. This is how Governor William Bradford described it in his history of the Pilgrims, Of Pilmoth Plantation:
But about the 16th of March, a certain Indian came boldly amongst them and spoke to them in broken English, which they could well understand but marveled at it… His name was Samoset. He told them also of another Indian whose was Squanto, a native of this place, who had been in England and could speak better English than himself.
A few day later Samoset returned with the great chief, Massasoit, and with Squanto. The Pilgrims and the Plymouth Indians made a Peace Treaty which they both kept for over fifty years.
Now that Spring had come it was time to begin to plant their crops so that they might have enough food for the winter. Squanto was a big help to the Pilgrims. He showed them how to plant corn and how to put a little fish in the ground with each grain of corn. With the little fish Squanto was providing fertilizer for the soil—he was feeding the ground with the fish to make the corn grow up big and tall. In many other ways Squanto was a big help to the Pilgrims. He was their guide when they went exploring in their little boat which they called a shallop. He was their interpreter when they wanted to trade with the other Indians because he could speak both Indian and English languages.
William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth Plantation, from whose book we learn about the Pilgrims, wrote about Squanto, that he was “A special Instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation.”
A BETTER WAY TO RAISE CORN
When the first harvest was gathered the Pilgrims had enough to eat but not for long. Soon the corn crop was all eaten up. They were very hungry again. They gathered nuts and berries. They lived on fish and shell-fish, like lobsters. Sometimes they felt weak from lack of food. But the Lord gave them strength to go on. What could they do to raise more corn—enough to feed themselves, enough to feed the visitors that came to them—enough to trade with the Indians for beaver skins?
William Bradford wrote in his book, “So they began to think of how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery.”
All this time they had been going to work in the same big field. This was very confusing. Some men worked only a little. Other men and women worked very hard and their children, too. The result was that many of the lazy ones let the weeds kill their corn plants. The Pilgrims who worked diligently to keep the weeds out of the corn patch grew a big corn crop. Then they had to feed not only their own families, but also the lazy ones who had been careless. This made for injustice and hard feelings.
The Pilgrims talked these matters over with Governor William Bradford. They wanted him to divide up the land so that each family could have their own acres to work. In this way each one could work as hard as he wanted. Each one would be responsible for his plot of land. Some of the young boys had lost their parents the first hard winter. These were given to a family where they could help in the fields. In turn, the family would take care of the boy and feed him with their own. With this new plan there were many individual fields of corn planted. The Governor was pleased at the new attitude of diligence and industry on the part of those especially who were willing to work as hard as they could. Even the lazy ones began to work with new purpose.
THE THREAT OF A FAMINE
The corn was planted just as Squanto had taught them: each grain of corn was planted with a little fish. The families hoed and weeded. They were happy in the thought a good harvest. Soon the young corn shoots stuck their heads out of the soil and began to reach toward the sun. The fields were beautiful to see with the little green shoots.
But now came a great drought. No rain fell to give the young corn plants a needed drink. Every day the sun became hotter and hotter. The drought started in the third week of May and continued until the middle of July. The Pilgrims saw that unless they had some rain their young corn shoots would all wither and dry up. The sun would burn them up. What should they do?
THE PILGRIMS’ DAY OF PRAYER AND FASTING
Always the Pilgrims had turned to the Lord when they were in trouble or when they had problems. This time was no exception. They decided to set apart a whole day to pray to God for rain. They also fasted which means they did not eat any food all day. The Pilgrims humbled themselves before the Lord and asked forgiveness for their sins. How did God answer them? Let us look at the words of William Bradford:
All the morning, and the greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen; yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God. It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith. Which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold.
One of the most remarkable results of their prayers was the “gracious and speedy answer” that the Lord gave in sending them such gentle showers. Had the rain been hard and the drops too big, the little green shoots would have flattened out. But “as the small rain upon the tender herb” the showers fell softly and gently. This gentle rain opened the hearts of the Indians to receive the Gospel message of Salvation through Jesus Christ. It was the beginning of the evangelistic efforts of the Pilgrims. The Indians felt the Pilgrims’ God was bigger than the God they prayed to, for when they had prayed for rain it had come with storms and tempests. Instead of doing good it had layed the corn flat on the ground. But this had not happened to the Pilgrims’ corn.
THE FIRST THANKSGIVING
Bradford tells us that “afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, causes a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of Thanksgiving.” The year was 1623.
Setting apart a special day of Thanksgiving in America honors the Hand of God in our History. It especially honors the Pilgrims as a Christian people whom God sent to America to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On Thanksgiving Day, let us thank the Lord for what He has done for our Land and for us.
THE PILGRIM’S PRAYER FOR RAIN I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
Read more about the Pilgrim story in The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America: Christian Self-Government by Verna M. Hall. Visit FACEBookstore.net for more information.
STUDY GUIDE Use this guide to help your students and children apply the Pilgrim story to their own lives.
Principles From God’s Word
• God loves humility and repentence for sin (see James 4:6)
• God answers the prayers of His people (see James 5:15–16)
Pilgrim Christian Character
• Diligence and Industry in working
• Faith and Steadfastness in prayer
• Humility in asking God’s forgiveness for sin
• Thankfulness to God for answered prayer
Questions for Reflection
• Does God answer your prayers?
• What does God require of us when we pray?
• What are some of the unexpected ways that God helps us in our lives? Who are our Samosets and Squantos?
Every year on October 31st, we as Americans can choose to celebrate either the pagan Halloween or the Biblical Reformation Day. The Reformation was one of the most important events in history, second only to the birth of Christ, and it should be especially important to Americans. The Reformation in its challenge to false doctrine and endeavor to spread Biblical literacy, is the source of freedoms that we—and many other people of the world—enjoy today.
On October 31, 1517, an obscure Augustinian monk and the rector or President of Wittenberg University, named Martin Luther, challenged the intellectual community to a debate concerning indulgences, which freed souls from Purgatory. His now famous Ninety-Five Theses, which he nailed to the door of the church in Wittenburg that day, were 95 statements of opposition to sale of indulgences, which Luther saw as a grave abuse. Although Luther did not then realize the significance of the posting of these theses, scholars mark the date of his protest against the Catholic Church as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
Watch Dr. Max Lyons give a dramatic presentation of Martin Luther's life.
Luther was one of four university level educators—John Wycliffe, John Huss and William Tyndale were the other three—who were used mightily by God to bring about the Reformation. These men opposed the authority of the Pope as Christ’s vicar on earth and taught justification by faith (sola fide) and the sole authority of the Bible in deciding true doctrine (sola scriptura). Recognizing that the Christians are always in need of conversion, the motto of the Reformation became semper reformanda—always reforming.
One outcome of the Reformation was the establishment of the United States. Historian Alan Grimes begins his book American Political Thought, with a chapter entitled, “The Rise of Protestantism.” His opening words underscore the importance of the Puritans, who were one of the Reformation communities in England:
Although American political thought begins with a study of Puritan thinking, an understanding of the Puritan in America requires at least a brief survey of the religious forces which brought forth Puritanism. Socially, politically, and economically, colonial Puritan thinking reflected the heritage of late medieval Europe tempered somewhat by the humanism of the Renaissance and the nationalism of Elizabethan England. Fundamentally, however, Puritanism was another step in the march of the Protestant Reformation.
American government is grounded in the principles of the Reformation and the Biblical Christian worldview that the Reformation restated and revived. “Conscience is the Most Sacred of all Property” was one of the Reformation’s main principles. Without it, it would be hard to imagine the establishment of a system of government based on self-government. The Founders assumed that citizens would be governed by their conscience, formed by their reading of Scripture.
The Reformers’ activities and teaching led them to become involved in promoting Christian education and starting Christian schools. FACE continues this work today through its advocacy of the Principle Approach. The Principle Approach is a process of ongoing reformation intended to help students grow closer to Christ by becoming principled thinkers.
What an opportunity we have as Christians on October 31st to teach our children and others about one of the monumental events in the advancement of liberty!
Dr. Max Lyons, Director of Teaching Services at the Foundation for American Christian Education (FACE). Dr. Lyons has been involved in Christian education over 30 years in every aspect including: teacher, administrator, board member, curriculum development, and policy. He is the author of several books including, Government Takes All, a Biblical case for limited government. Dr. Lyons and his wife Margie reside in Virginia Beach, Virginia and together homeschooled their four children using the Principle Approach for American Christian Education curriculum.
Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, Columbus, Providence Rhode Island, 1893
n September 25, 1973, American Cherokee Chief Adam Nordwall stepped off a plane in Rome, Italy. He announced that he had “discovered” Italy, claimed it on behalf of the Cherokee Nation, and took possession of it “by right of discovery.”
Needless to say, the people of Italy took little notice of Chief Nordwall’s claim. But what makes his claim any less valid than that of Christopher Columbus, when the Admiral landed on what is probably Watling Island near Florida on the 12th of October 523 years ago, named it San Salvador (Holy Savior) and claimed it for Spain?
That’s easy, one might say, Italy didn’t need to be “discovered;” it had been inhabited and governed for thousands of years.
But the same is true of America. Over 500 tribes of Native Americans had lived in North and South America for thousands of years with forms of government ranging from the despotic rule of the Aztec emperors to the relative freedom of the Cheyenne Council of Forty-Four and the Iroquois Confederacy. As one tribal chief recently said, “We knew who we were and where we were, and we didn’t need to be discovered.”
And Columbus wasn’t the first European to visit America, or even the first Christian. The excavation of the L’Anse Aux Meadows site on the coast of Newfoundland verifies the Norse sagas’ claim that Leif Ericson established a colony on the North American coast around 1000 AD, and other Europeans may have visited America even before that.
Those who haven’t read the Norse sagas may not realize that Leif’s expedition took place shortly after the conversion of Norway to Christianity, and the colonies established by Leif Ericson and his kinsman Thorfinn Karlsefni contained a mixed population of Christians and pagans, the former being the strong majority. But why did the Norse colonies fail? Why were they abandoned after only a few years? Would God not look with favor upon Christian outposts on a pagan continent?
One possible reason: Although the Norse colonists were mostly Christians, they showed little interest in sharing the Gospel with the people of the New World. The sagas describe the Norse relations with natives in Greenland and North America as almost invariably hostile, using terms of derision like skraelings and trolls. And the natives responded in kind. The Vikings’ courage and weaponry enabled them to fend off native attacks, but they knew they could not ultimately prevail as a small band on a hostile continent, and they returned to Greenland, Iceland, and Scandinavia.
By contrast, Christopher Columbus came to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
His modern detractors suggest all sorts of motives – gold, glory, power, conquest, fanaticism – but they ignore his own words, clearly stated in his Book of Prophecy:
It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel His hand upon me) to sail to the Indies. ...There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures. ...Our Redeemer Jesus Christ said that before the end of the world, all things must come to pass that had been written by the prophets. ...These are great and wonderful signs for the earth, and the signs are that the Lord is hastening the end. The fact that [the] gospel must still be preached to so many lands in such a short time – this is what convinces me.
When Columbus spoke of the “Indies,” he meant islands off the coast of Asia, and he never really understood that he had discovered a New World. European Christians hoped to bring the Gospel to China. The Khan had asked Marco Polo to return with priests to proclaim Christianity in China, but the Church had failed to respond, partially because the land routes to Asia were blocked by the forces of Islam, particularly the Ottoman Empire. Some Europeans were building ships that could sail around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope and reach China via the Indian Ocean. Columbus said the best way to reach China was to sail west from Spain.
Columbus never abandoned that goal. In 1504, shipwrecked off the coast of Jamaica and in bad health, Columbus wrote to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella:
Jerusalem and the Mount of Zion are now to be rebuilt by Christian hands, and God through the mouth of the prophet in the fourteenth Psalm said so. The abbot Joachim said that this man was to come from Spain. St. Jerome showed the way thither to the Holy Lady. The Emperor of Cathay [China] some time since send for wise men to teach him the religion of Christ. Who shall offer himself for this mission? If Our Lord takes me back to Spain, I vow in God’s name I will undertake to convey them thither.
The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Columbus returned to Spain in November 1504, but he never regained his health. On 20 May 1504 his condition worsened, and after receiving the Lord's Supper and the Last Rites, he passed into eternity. His last words were “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum.” (“Into thy hand, Lord, I commend my spirit.”)
Columbus’s modern critics ignore his stated purposes and accuse him of engaging in a war of genocide upon the native population, and the sad truth is that millions died in the wake of his voyage and colonization. But the vast majority of these deaths were from disease, especially smallpox, to which the native population had little immunity. Inevitably, contact between the two worlds would have brought these epidemics, whether Columbus discovered America or Chief Nordwall discovered Italy. This makes the deaths no less tragic, but it does make them less blameworthy.
Columbus had urged King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to allow only “good Christians” to settle in the Indies. But his advice was forgotten, and ungodly and unscrupulous men came to the Indies, some who wanted to get rich quick without working, even convicts who settled in the Indies in exchange for clemency. As a result, great cruelties often took place.
But this was not Columbus’s intention. In his October 12, 1492 Journal entry, he exulted in the discovery of the island he named San Salvador and wrote that its inhabitants were “a people who could better be freed and converted to our Holy Faith by love rather than by force.” He added, “I believe that they would easily be made Christians, because it seemed to me that they belonged to no religion.” Four days later, on October 16, he wrote of them, “I don’t recognize in them any religion, and I believe that very promptly they would turn Christians, for they are of very good understanding.”
Certainly Columbus looked for gold. Purchasing and outfitting three ships, hiring and provisioning crews for those ships and paying them for a voyage that could last for years, takes a lot of money. To get this expedition off the ground, and to interest investors in future expeditions, Columbus had to find ways to make the expeditions profitable. My advice to stuffy academics who decry Columbus as materialistic or greedy is this: Try thinking of it as a “research grant.”
The aftermath of Columbus’s expedition should remind us that Christian motives are not enough; we must act upon those motives with sound biblical principles. But despite the Spaniards’ sins and failures, Columbus succeeded where his predecessors had failed: he brought the Old World and the New World together in a way that they could never be separate again. And because he did so, hundreds of millions have heard the Gospel and trusted Jesus Christ for salvation, and biblical principles of law and government have taken root in the United States and have spread throughout the world.
In fact, the contact between Columbus and the Taino, between Europe and America, between the Eastern Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere, between the Old World and the New World, has been called the most important inter-cultural meeting in world history.
Because he initiated that contact, Christopher Columbus deserves to be called a “discoverer,” while Chief Nordwall does not.
John Eidsmoe is a frequent lecturer and debater at colleges, universities, churches, and civics groups and the author of 12 books, including Christianity & the Constitution and Columbus and Cortez. As a constitutional attorney, he has successfully litigated court cases involving First Amendment religious freedom and has defended home education and Christian schools, championed the right of students and teachers to study the Bible in public schools, debated ACLU attorneys on radio and television, and served on the Ten Commandments Legal Defense Team. He is an ordained pastor in the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, and with his family, he lives in rural Pike Road, Alabama. Learn more about Dr. Eidsmoe at his website. His books are available for purchase at Amazon.com
Posted By Foundation for American Christian Education,
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Sebastiano del Piombo, Posthumous Portrait of Columbus, 1519
This Monday celebrates Columbus Day, the anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492. Although many today ignore the providential aspects of this momentous event, American Christians can celebrate and remember the heroic actions of Christopher Columbus and his crew.
Columbus is often portrayed as an opportunist and a villain in today's secular culture, but the "Christ-bearer" (as the explorer's name, Christopher, means) saw his primary mission to be the spreading of the Gospel. He believed his name was given him, not by accident, but by the will of God. As he wrote in his journal, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, “determined to send me, Christopher Columbus, to...India, to see the...people, and territories, and to learn their disposition and the proper method of converting them to our holy faith....”
Columbus’ journey changed forever the concept which people had of the Earth and opened a new stage of God’s plan for the redemption of the world. Columbus's zeal planted the Gospel on the shores of the Americas and along with it, the seeds of liberty.
Columbus said of his venture, “No one should be afraid to take on any enterprise in the name of our Savior, if it is right and if the purpose is purely for this holy service…”
This year, as we commemorate Columbus’s voyage to the New World, let us remember that God sees history not as a haphazard series of accidental and unrelated events, but rather as the working out of His plan for His creation.