(Correction: Payne was not an atheist. Atheistic liberals would paint him as one. However, he did reject the Bible while claiming to believe in one natural God. So it could be said that he was not a Christian, yet he still believed in a creator. So he was a creationist.)
Man’s intellect has always been at odds with Christian belief in the Bible. Every person struggles to reconcile what he see as fact verses fantasy. What is frequently overlooked is that it is out of our own imagination that fantasy becomes fact. This is one reason I find it objectionable to rule out Christianity simply because my brain says “It ain’t so”. To do so would be arrogance and potentially deceitful.
This does not mean that I accept anything and everything. Quite to the contrary, I am very particular about what I believe and most importantly, why.
Evidence is an important criteria for forming belief. To ignore obvious evidence is to stoop to stupidity. For example, one piece of evidence is the more recent find of highly compressed sulfur balls (aka, “brimstone”) around the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Are we going to ignore and/or discredit that evidence? On the other hand, we can exaggerate the significance of evidence which is equally flawed.
Observed patterns of behavior is another factor in forming belief. Belief leads to judgment and judgment can lead to acceptance or condemnation. This is what I would call the process of the intellect.
The two men spoken of herein were both of superior intellect, but differed on the subject of Christianity. And maybe that is what this is all about, ie, intelligent people going in different directions from each other with no reconciliation.
If you do not know who Thomas Payne was, let me mention the American Revolution of the 18th century. He is the guy who wrote COMMON SENSE. Later on, he made it quite clear that he thought the Bible to be trash and wrote The Age Of Reason.
Because Payne had close ties to the founding fathers, it is being said today by liberals that the founding fathers were not Christians. That argument simply does not hold water for several reasons. First, it posits the fallacious reasoning of guilt by association. Secondly, it fails to acknowledge that all Christians, including the founding fathers, find themselves in a constant state of flux with respect to their belief in the Almighty. Thirdly, it fails to acknowledge the very personal and private nature of Christianity. Fourth, it is absolutely no one’s right to declare another person as being this or that unless the individual himself declares his own identity. And finally, it appears to be a fallacious conspiracy theory designed to undermined the belief in our democracy.
As the old saying goes “Misery loves company”. “If I do not believe in it, then why should you believe in it?” is misery’s mantra. And so it seems to be so with these liberals today. I have very little faith in what the liberals say about our forefathers. It is not up to me to judge whether or not the founding fathers were Christian. But because I see in their work the humanity professed in the Bible, I can only conclude that they were in fact Christians.
The founding fathers came from a Protestant background. To understand the founding fathers’ beliefs, one has to understand the history of religious persecution visited upon protestants by the Roman Catholic Church. It is not that the founding fathers were not Christians. It is more that they accepted the teaching of Martin Luther who rebelled against and was persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church. Secrecy of belief became an essential for survival. Today, liberals like to make a big deal out of the secrecy claiming it to be some mystic conspiracy. Utter nonsense.
Now, let’s turn to C S Lewis who wrote Mere Christianity in the 1940s. Lewis was an atheist professor at Cambridge University. But he became a Christian and expounded on the Christian belief in the greatest of detail and with the greatest of logical reasoning, as required by Payne. In my mind , Lewis not only proved the existence of God, he went on to detail why Jesus Christ was/is God incarnate, thereby refuting Payne’s belief in a non-Christ God. Were Payne alive today, we might ask him “Who is this nebulous God that you believe in?”, to which his answer could only be “I do not know”. On the other hand, C S Lewis gives us a very clear answer, ie, “God is Jesus Christ” & “Jesus Christ is God”. Therefore, to deny that Jesus Christ is in fact God is to deny the existence of God.
Thomas Payne believed in reason to the exclusion of Jesus Christ as being God. That is somewhat different from atheists who believe in reason, yet deny God’s existence. Regardless of this slight difference, certainly people of intellect would believe in “good” reasoning. But if we do not know who God is and what his character is, then how do we know good reasoning from bad or faulty reasoning? This in itself seems to be “self evident”. And of course we already know the atheistic liberals’ answer as to the identity of God, ie, they are God. Do you not see their circular reasoning and their underlying motive to rule over others?
As an Interesting side note, I mention John Winthrop whose Christian faith enabled him and his followers to survive in the early colonies where others did not. I also mention John Adams as being the only crew member of the HMS BOUNTY surviving the violence that ensued on Pitcairn Island, his survival being thanks to his Bible. So you atheist liberals can lament all you want to discredit the validity of the Christian belief. But we have the historical proof. There being no honor among thieves, treachery abounds and kills itself. Yet Christianity survives.