Lincoln the Christian—Here we go again!

By Al Benson Jr.

On June 24, 2012 an article appeared on written by Kevin Probst, the name of which was “Emancipation Proclamation: Was Lincoln Motivated By Political Expediency Or Religious Conviction?” Mr. Probst seeks in this article to portray Abraham Lincoln as a Bible-believing Christian who was motivated by religious conviction regarding the Emancipation Proclamation. Mr. Probst is a teacher of history and apologetics at a Christian high school in Columbus, Georgia, so I do not for a minute doubt his honesty and integrity. However, the research I have done over the years forces me to disagree with his view of Mr. Lincoln as a dedicated Christian.

One of the sources for his view of Lincoln is a book written by Rev. O. H. Pennell dealing with Lincoln’s faith. This was a short book, first published in 1899, when it sold for .25. It was only 58 pages long. Rev. Pennell cited different people and events in Lincoln’s life that led him to his conclusions. Some of these I had read about previously from other sources and they failed to convince me of Lincoln’s biblical faith. It is interesting to note that this book was written at the tail-end of that period when authors were attempting to literarily seat Lincoln at God’s right hand. The period from 1865 through around 1900 was when Lincoln was almost being deified by authors—the apotheosis of Lincoln if you will.

Many portrayed him as a sincere, humble Christian man, literally praying to God almost hourly. One such was Josiah Gilbert Holland, who wrote a biography Life of Abraham Lincoln. Before he wrote this, Holland went to visit William Herndon, Lincoln’s old law partner. According to the book Lincoln’s Herndon by David Donald, published in 1948 by Alfred A. Knopf, Holland asked Herndon all about Mr. Lincoln’s religious faith. Herndon’s reply to that was “The less said the better” to which Holland replied “O never mind, I’ll fix that.” Donald wrote: “When the Life of Abraham Lincoln appeared, Herndon learned that Holland had done just that. A sincerely devout man himself, the Massachusetts author had at the very outset decided that the defied Lincoln must have been a ‘true-hearted Christian.’ He incorporated into his biography all sorts of improbable anecdotes to emphasize Lincoln’s religiosity..”

When Herndon read some of what Holland had written he nearly had apoplexy. Donald wrote: “Decidedly unorthodox in his own religious views he (Herndon) was not willing to have his partner canonized as a Protestant saint… Herndon had little personal knowledge of his partner’s religious beliefs, but in collecting his Lincoln records he had formed an opinion decidedly different from Holland’s. Joshua F. Speed, one of Lincoln’s most intimate friends during the early Springfield years, had written Herndon that Lincoln ‘was skeptical as to the great truths of the Christian religion’; Lincoln’s first law partner, John Todd Stuart, considered him an infidel; Isaac Cogdal, a Menard lawyer who rode the circuits in central Illinois, affirmed that Lincoln gave no credence to ‘the orthodox Theologies of the day’; Mrs. Lincoln herself stated that her husband ‘was not a technical christian’;–this from Speed to Herndon in January, 1866.”

Donald also wrote that: “Hardin Bale and other New Salem survivors asserted that Lincoln had read Volney and Paine during his Menard County period and had written ‘a work on infidelity, denying the divinity of the Scriptures.’ James A. Matheny, best man at Lincoln’s wedding also knew of this pamphlet attacking the divinity of Christ—special inspiration, Revelation etc”. Matheny or one of the others took the book and burned it, explaining to Lincoln how such a work would damage his political career.

Then there was the Newton Bateman story which was mentioned in Pennell’s little book. Newton Bateman was the Illinois superintendent of education. His offices adjoined those that were used by Lincoln in the Illinois state capital. According to David Donald: “Holland received an eight-page memorandum detailing a remarkable conversation with the Republican presidential nominee in October 1860.” The quote is a bit long, but the gist of it is that Lincoln affirmed the truth about Christ and the Scriptures that he had so long denied. This surprised Bateman, who had heard the stories in Springfield about Lincoln being an agnostic. Donald continued: “When the superintendent remarked how strange it was that intimate friends should be ignorant of Lincoln’s change of heart, the Republican candidate had confided; …I am obliged to appear different to them, but I think more on these subjects than all others,& have done so for years,& I am willing that you should know it.’ All these words of Dear noble heroic Lincoln Bateman vouched for as exactly as he uttered them.” This all caused Herndon some distress. Donald continued: “With such testimony in mind, Herndon stamped into the office of the superintendent of education and charged; Bateman, in order to make Lincoln a technical Christian–you have made him a hypocrite. . Looking puzzled—or ashamed—the school superintendent backed down from his statement as quoted in Holland’s biography. His recollection of Lincoln’s words, he confessed with embarrassment, was not precise—didn’t write out in particular and full until after Mr. L. was assassinated. In later conversations with Herndon (records of which are now lost) Bateman apparently retracted even further—but prohibited Herndon from publishing his statement…If Lincoln really was a Christian, Herndon shrewdly pointed out, there was no conceivable reason why he should have felt obliged to conceal his change of heart, for to reveal his hidden conversion would have won influential political and social support. The ultimate effect of Bateman’s rather flimsy testimony was to show up Lincoln as insincere and even a little foolish.” So it would seem that a good part of one of the main stories of Lincoln’s conversion was “not precise.” Who knows what was really said, but Lincoln’s supposed “conversion” makes a good story.

Interestingly also, was Mrs. Lincoln’s statement in 1866 that “Mr. Lincoln was not a technical Christian.” Yet supposedly after the death of their son, Willie, Lincoln, supposedly, “turned his heart to Christ” according to what Mary Lincoln is supposed to have told Rev. James Smith on June 8, 1870. So which is it? In 1866 his wife says he was not a technical Christian, but in 1870 she says he turned his heart to Christ while still in office. We have a contradiction.

My own research has led me to the conclusion that Lincoln was not only not a Christian, he was a socialist.

For further research on Lincoln I would suggest the following:
The Real Lincoln by Thomas DiLorenzo, Prima Publishing, Roseville, California
The Real Lincoln by Charles L. C. Minor, Sprinkle Publications, Harrisonburg, Virginia
The South Was Right by the Kennedy Brothers, Pelican Publishing, Gretna, Louisiana
Thle South Under Siege 1830-2000 by Frank Conner, Collards Publishing Company, Newnan, Georgia
Lincoln’s Marxists by Al Benson Jr. and Walter Kennedy, Pelican Publishing, Gretna, Louisiana.
The Coming of the Glory by John S. Tilley, Bill Coates, Ltd, Nashville, Tennessee

There are several other books out there but these are some I have access to at this point.

The whole question of Lincoln’s political and theological worldview needs to be reassessed. He had a decided fondness for those on the political left and they had a decided affection for him and his policies that went all the way from support to implementation where possible. The early Republican Party had notable socialist support and participation, and Mr. Lincoln was not ignorant of this. Had he really been a Christian this should have bothered him and apparently it did not. That fact alone should tell us where he was really coming from.

12 thoughts on “Lincoln the Christian—Here we go again!

  1. Lincoln was a commensurate wordsmith and he knew that Scripture was a fertile field to use when he wanted to sway the people. He SOUNDED like a Christian, but then he also sometimes sounded like a decent man (with malice towards none, with charity for all…). But there is more than sufficient evidence to prove that not only wasn’t Lincoln a Christian, but he was ANTI-Christian in his beliefs. So anyone today who tries to suggest that Lincoln was moved by Christian charity (or any other kind of charity) towards those who opposed him, is either a complete ignoramus or a damned liar. There is simply no other option.

  2. Pingback: Lincoln the Christian—Here we go again! | revisedhistory | Christian Dailys

  3. Pingback: Lincoln the Christian—Here we go again! | revisedhistory « CITIZEN.BLOGGER.1984+ GUNNY.G BLOG.EMAIL

  4. Hit another out of the park Mr. Benson.
    I’d point your audience to some of your articles on your old blog regarding Lincoln.
    Listed here for easy access…

    Mr. Lincoln The Socialist

    Mr. Lincoln’s Biographer–One More Socialist

    Mr. Lincoln The Infidel

    Mr. Lincoln The Racist

    Your adjoining article there on Ron Paul, the invisible candidate is again timely as the powers that be have been blackballing him the best they can in this election also.

    Ron Who?
    The “Invisible” Candidate Is The Only One Worth Voting For

    As the writer of Ecclesiates, believed by some to have been Solomon, a wise man no less, wrote in verse 1:9 of another King’s Bible…

    The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

    Yes sir, give me time and I’ll archive your whole site here… It’s worth another going over.
    God Bless.
    In His Service,

  5. Hello, Mr. Benson. I stumbled upon your blog as a result of an Internet search I conducted on something I’d recently learned in a documentary I watched earlier this evening. The documentary mentioned that Lincoln had once written a pamphlet attacking the divinity of Christ.

    The reason I was watching the documentary is I’ve been doing a lot of research for an alternate history fantasy novel of mine which takes place during the Civil War.

    For my research I’ve been reading history books, watching documentaries on Netflix, and I’ve also read a couple of novels: I’ve read Robert Conroy’s 1862 and Harry Turtledove’s THE GUNS OF THE SOUTH. Conroy’s yarn is speculative history, asking “What if England had joined the war and sided with the Confederacy?” whereas Turtledove’s speculation is more science fictional, being a time-travel novel in which men from the future arm the Confederacy with AK-47s. If you’ve not read them, both are quite entertaining and as to historical events (beyond their speculations) they’re both reasonably accurate within the bounds of fiction.

    I’ve categorized my novel as an alternative history fantasy novel. When I say that it’s “alternative history,” I mean that I’ve imagined a world in which the history of the US is slightly different, but not so different that the US is unrecognizable. Most of the history is left untouched, actually — there is one historical point that I’m thinking of possibly changing, but I haven’t yet made up my mind; I will say that it’s a point of history that occurs in the 1600s. The bulk of what I’ve done is that I’ve *added* to the history, but I’ve also tried to keep those additions in character with the actual history. I’d rather not elaborate too much on it, at the moment. When I say that my novel is a “fantasy,” that means that magic is integral to the story, but that the magic “fits in” with the time-frame of the story. The story isn’t so much about the war itself, actually, as it is about the lives of a small group of seven people — all fictional — who lived at that time; most, but not all, of them are involved in the war in one fashion or another. The major purpose of my research is to capture the atmosphere of the period, and to ensure that I’m not injecting any 20th- or 21st-century notions into the heads of people who ostensibly lived in the 19th-century.

    I was aware of two of the books you mention at the end of this blog post, Mr. Benson, but not all. I knew of DiLorenzo’s book as well as the book by the Kennedy Brothers, but not the others. I have since added the remaining books on your list to my wishlist and I look forward to purchasing and reading them. I am not sure how much these books will add to the substance of my novel, but I am interested in reading material from a variety of viewpoints. I’m also enjoying learning a lot more about the Civil War than I learnt in high school, obviously.

    To conclude, the main thrust of my comment is to thank you for the things I’ve learnt from this post and from the articles you wrote (linked to by David Blaine).

    G D “Gary” Townshende

    P.S. I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not — you probably are — but I recall reading probably 20 years ago or so about the failed socialist experiment that occurred in Jamestown soon after its establishment. The colonists had agreed to hold many things in common, including their food, and it caused several problems within the colony. Stealing of some of the food was one of the more notorious problems, obviously. It’s been so long since I read about it, but I believe that some of the problems they encountered during that one particularly harsh winter were a result of that experiment. As I recall, this was something I’d read back in the late 80s/early 90s in a book written by Gary North. I don’t recall the title of the book, unfortunately.

    • I’ve read a couple of Turtledoves books,the one you mentioned here and one other one, the name of which I can’t recall, but it was about the South having won the War of Northern Aggression and Lincoln being out of office as an ex-president and joining some sort of socialist party. It held my interest and I recall wondering “what does Turtledove know that the average American doesn’t?”

      • I would venture to say that Turtledove knows quite a bit more about it than most average Americans. However, I’ve no idea if he actually agrees with the notion that the South was right. The only other book I know he’s written in somewhat the same context is a sequel to GUNS OF THE SOUTH called HOW FEW REMAIN. HOW FEW, however, is less alternative history than it is speculative history, as it posits a future based on the past presented in GUNS. I’ve not read HOW FEW, and I’m not entirely sure I would, to be honest. If I were to read it, it would only be to learn more about the tropes of the alternate history genre. My interest in GUNS and 1862 was due more to their dealing directly with the actual history, albeit in a fictional and alternate historical setting. Both gave me a taste of alternate history while retaining much of the actual.

      • I remember, back in 1961 reading a book called “If the South Had Won the Civil War.” I think that was speculative history also, although back then you didn’t get alot of that kind of thig.

      • I was just browsing his books at Amazon and came upon a book of Turtledove’s I was not aware of, FORT PILLOW. This one does not look to be alternate history, though. It appears to be straight historical fiction.

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