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Author to speak on controversial topic at SEMO's Rose Theatre
The idea that the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers of the United States were agnostic or deist rather than Christian is widely accepted by historians. It is also, according to Dr. Peter Lillback, incorrect, at least when it comes to George Washington.
Lillback, president and professor of historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, believes that George Washington was a Christian, despite traditional historian views. Lillback will explain his ideas in his speech "What was the Faith of George Washington and Does It Matter?" at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Rose Theatre of Southeast Missouri State University.
The speech is the third in a series of speakers brought to Southeast to highlight the importance of Western values in American tradition. The series is made possible through the support of Stan and Debbie Crader and Don and Saundra Crader. They hope the series correct misconceptions about Western civilizations and American history by showcasing serious historians and the work they have done.
Stan Crader said he thinks Lillback's speech serves that purpose by showing the true mindset of those who built the foundation of the United States.
"It is important to know what our foundation is," he said. "Some say our country is based on Judeo-Christian principles, and if we say that then we must know that our Founding Fathers who wrote the constitution had Christian faith and principles."
Lillback's speech stems from his best-selling book "George Washington's Sacred Fire," which claims that Washington was a strong Christian, not agnostic or deist as originally thought.
Lillback analyzed primary historical documents written and signed by George Washington to prove Washington's Christian faith.
Dr. Wayne Bowen, professor of history at Southeast, said Washington's Christian beliefs had an impact on his actions.
"He didn't publicly make decisions based on faith, like 'what would Jesus do?', but what he did, his style of leading, were all motivated by his sacred fire and his view of the world was fundamentally Christian," Bowen said. "What he truly believed was going to drive everything he did and the way he acted."
Bowen said Lillback's research is important.
"Most historians said that Washington didn't care about Christianity. However, Dr. Lillback examined historical documents and found that Washington was a deeply faithful Christian," Bowen said. "Religion was a part of his life, not just his image."
In addition to his speech at Southeast, Lillback will also have a book signing from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Barnes and Nobles in the West Park Mall in Cape Girardeau. Copies of "George Washington's Sacred Fire" will be available for purchase and autograph.