Books in Review - Faith of Our Founding Fathers

Faith of Our Founding Fathers

By Tim LaHaye. (Brentwood, Tennessee: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers Inc., 1987. 258 p.p., notes, hard cover, ISBN 0-943497-00-0)

"A U.S. federal judge was fascinated by the testimony of the expert witness on the stand as he described the distortion of history in state-approved textbooks. The judge had always been led to believe that students and their parents could trust their school textbooks. Consequently, it was difficult to believe that the religious history of America had been systematically stolen from our nation's texts." In this opening paragraph of his book "Faith of Our Founding Fathers," best-selling author Dr. Tim LaHaye makes the clear and unapologetic claim that we as Americans have been robbed of our spiritual heritage. Recent editions of school textbooks, which mention the social and religious influences of everything from Madonna and the Beatles to the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam, mention comparatively little or nothing about the evangelical Protestants who helped shape not only the cultural, but the political foundations of our nation.

At a time when the controversy over religious expression in schools and other public arenas is increasing to an all-time high, Dr. LaHaye takes a serious look at America's religious heritage by challenging what he calls a "revisionist" view of history that portrays our Founding Fathers as mostly deists or agnostics. With extensive research and documentation, LaHaye lays a solid foundation for what he calls a "Christian consensus in America" at the time of the Constitutional Convention with chapters that discuss topics such as "Who Fathered America," "Interesting Historical Events to Keep in View," "The Christian Understanding of Civil Law," and "A Constitution for the Ages - If We Can Keep it."

Yet his most convincing and compelling research becomes evident as LaHaye provides an in-depth look at the spiritual and religious lives of dozens of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. The values and beliefs both of men who signed and sign the most significant and influential document in world history, the Constitution of the United States.

Beginning with whom he calls "The Two Most-Honored Founding Fathers" Dr. LaHaye documents the religious lives of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Then moving to five of the most-influential founders, he discusses James Madison, Gouverneur Morris, Roger Sherman, and George Mason. Next is his list of outstanding Christians among the Founding Fathers. Men like William Patterson, John Blair, John Dickenson, and Charles Pickney. Other delegates mentioned who signed the Constitution also include William Blount, Nathaniel Gorham, who was President of the Continental Congress, Thomas Mifflin, and Robert Morris. Religious biographies of those who didn't sign the Constitution include the likes of Edmund Randolf, George Wythe, and Caleb Strong, just to name a few.

In total, Dr. LaHaye details the religious beliefs of more than thirty-eight of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Offering compelling evidence that those who worked to produce what Catherine Bowen called "The Miracle at Philadelphia," were men who would be considered faithful Christians, or at the least people who had a clearly distinct Christian idea of what our nation should ultimately be.

This book is essential reading for anyone who is seriously interested in the debate over America's religious heritage. A product of extensive study, historians and researchers will find a large body of information to satisfy their need for primary sources. Yet Dr. LaHaye writes it in a style that allows even the casual reader to come away with a clear knowledge of these great men and what they believed. There will no doubt be those who will argue with Dr. LaHaye's conclusions, yet few can deny the intensity or the integrity of his research.
--- Nelson Schroeder

Savage Wilderness

By Coyle, Harold. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997) Mr. Coyle, known mainly for writing contemporary military cum action adventure fiction, has taken the same idea back to the time of the French and Indian War. The story follows the destinies of three men.

The most difficult to like of the three is a British officer trying to establish a career and place for himself in the world. He starts out self-centered and arrogant to the point of being a danger to himself as well as those under his command. His personal bravery is unquestionable. However, he personifies the British military elite's disdain at having to fight savages in untracked forest. He prefers open fields and volley fire. After nearly dying with Braddock, he learns enough to participate productively in the battles around Lakes George and Champlain, although he gets wounded and narrowly escapes being scalped at one point . He ends up still self-centered and arrogant, but somewhat wiser, having married into a rich Albany Dutch merchant family and retired to become an estate farmer-merchant-manager in the new world. Who did the author pattern him after? Perhaps William Johnson, if you could picture him coming to North America in the 1750's as an English minor aristocr at career military officer.

The second of the three is a young French artillery officer who is entranced by everything he sees in the new world. He goes everywhere; from Quebec to the Ohio headwaters to the Lake campaigns in New York. He is a very competent officer, but his main interest is his surroundings. He was obviously patterned after Montcalm's aide-de-camp, Captain Louis-Antoine de Bougainville plus every continental European aristocrat who came to North American on grand tour in the last three centuries. He lives through the war, falls in love with an Anglo-American refugee and presumably lives happily ever after somewhere.

The third, and most likable protagonist is a young Scottish refugee from the Jacobite Rebellion who comes to America as an indentured servant, works his passage and freedom, and joins the Virginia Militia to serve the war under the command of a young Washington. Washington is pictured only from a distance; he is not a character in this story. The young Scotsman starts firmly believing that he will return to his homeland to help free it from the English yoke, but ends by marrying an Irish girl, starting a family and taking up life on a frontier outpost. He is an early American icon; he could have been Louis L'Amour's original Sackett.

The battles as well as other military matters come across very realistically and seem very accurate in their detail as near as this reviewer, who is not a military historian, could tell. Two errors in the last part of the book (deadline drawing near?) really stuck out, though.
1. The author describes Colonel Henry Bouquet, second in command in Forbes' campaign, as an Englishman. Bouquet was a very competent Swiss mercenary officer in the employ of the English military; he was not an Englishman. He did, however, become a naturalized British subject in March of 1765; that was well after the time of this novel, though.
2. A bit of description and dialog goes like this (p. 483): One of the two men was a young German lad who hadn't saved enough money to buy his own land yet. After looking about he asked the obvious question. "Vhat if ve cannot stop der savages?"
The problem here is that no native German speaker would ever say der savages. Der (masculine form of the) works only with singular nouns. Die is the form used with plurals; the kid would have said "Vhat if ve cannot shtop die savages?"

Other that that, I found the book a pleasant read. Also, it is the first new real American historical novel I've seen in a long time. At 519 pages including epilogue, most readers won't be able to get through it in one night, though; give yourself two or three.
--- James P. Pierce