Thomas Paine, a Christian Theonomist?

January 29, 2014 | War for Independence

Thomas Paine

Many people believe that the founders of the United States were deist rather than Christian. Very few of the founders would fall under the modern definition of deist, but one who certainly would was the pamphleteer Thomas Paine. But even Paine, in his most famous book, Common Sense, based many of his arguments off the Bible, at points quoting extensively from the scriptures. 

In one point he even said that God’s law ought to be the king of America:

But where, say some, is the king of America? I’ll tell you, friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the royal brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth, placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world my know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there out to be no other.1

Although Paine wrote like a Christian, in 1776 when he published Common Sense, he was doing it just to make an impression on the colonists, who were very religious. He would use the Bible to win an argument without truly believing it. Three decades later he published The Age of Reason, a three part attack on religion and Christianity. In The Age of Reason Paine clearly denounced Christianity:

The opinions I have advanced … are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world, that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation, by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonorable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; that the only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues – and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter. So say I now – and so help me God.2

This book destroyed his reputation in America, and when he died in 1809, only six mourners came to his funeral.

Common Sense

1. Thomas Paine, Common Sense (New York: Peter Eckler Publishing Co., 1918) p. 35-36.
2. Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason (Boston: Josiah P. Mendum, 1874) vol. 1, p. 171.

 

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