Jerry Johnston Interviews Thomas Kidd on the Biblical Literacy of the Founding Fathers
America’s shocking Biblical ignorance is a rapidly emerging phenomenon. In my efforts to better understand America’s religious history, I traveled to Waco, Texas to film with Dr. Thomas Kidd, Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University. Dr. Kidd has conducted detailed research into the religious life of early America and the founding fathers. The Bible has not changed since colonial times, yet modern Christians are ignorant of basic Christian doctrines. I asked Dr. Kidd to explain the distinction intellectually and doctrinally that’s missing among American clerics today. He told me,
“Well, what I find is that at the time of the American founding, there is an enormously high rate of biblical literacy. And it’s so striking because even among people who were more skeptical about Christianity, they often know the Bible backwards and forwards. A great example of that is Ben Franklin. Franklin called himself a deist. That’s how we know Ben Franklin was a deist because he said he was a deist in his autobiography. And yet he has command of so much of the text of scripture that as a young man in particular, he is able to engage in debates about very technical theological issues that even for many committed Christians today would go right over their heads because he’s so deeply literate. “
Our hope is for pastors to purposefully prepare their congregations for the theological questions that continually barrage the church. In order to accomplish this, Christians and pastors must be roused from their passiveness and address those questions. Our documentary next year will be filled with scintillating interviews conducted around the world. Packed with a powerful message, our documentary will be sure to rouse men and women to action and address the thought provoking questions of today.