What did Lincoln believe?

Lincoln and the Will of God


By the time of his Second Inaugural, with the end of the war in sight and the preservation of the Union a near certainty, he could say with confidence that the proposition had survived. And this “fundamental and astounding” conclusion had come about under the watchful and unfathomable eye of a Providence whose ways are ultimately beyond explanation but “whose judgments are true and righteous altogether.”

This is what we know for certain of Lincoln’s religion. After all the informed speculation and historical sleuthing, the rakings of historiography, the mountains of testimony and reminiscence and wishful thinking pointing in one direction and another, the written record that this “shut-mouthed man” himself left us will have to be sufficient.

“I don’t know anything about Lincoln’s religion,” a longtime friend, David Davis, remarked after Lincoln’s death, “and I don’t believe anybody knows anything about it.” Though Davis’ skepticism should give pause to more historians than it has, he overstated the case. We will never know for sure whether Lincoln held orthodox Christian beliefs, whether he believed in the Trinity, the divinity of Christ or his resurrection, the life everlasting, the forgiveness of sins, the inerrant word of God as revealed in the Old Testament or the New.

Comment: This brief clip does not do justice to the entire article. Kathee and I are causal students of Lincoln. As we drove home from the Lincoln Museum a month ago, we discussed whether Lincoln was a Christian. It seems that all sides want to claim him for their champion. Probably the best answer is that only the Lord knows.

1 comment:

  1. Wasn't the Civil War mainly fought in order to not divide the Union? Slavery is usually given first priority as the reason for the war, but some historians say slavery was the secondary issue and the main issue was Lincoln wanted to keep the United States together.


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