Lincoln's Battle with God: A President's Struggle with Faith and What It Meant for America
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Abraham Lincoln is the most beloved of all U.S. presidents. He freed the slaves, gave the world some of its most beautiful phrases, and redefined the meaning of America. He did all of this with wisdom, compassion, and wit.
Yet, throughout his life, Lincoln fought with God. In his early years in Illinois, he rejected even the existence of God and became the village atheist. In time, this changed but still he wrestled with the truth of the Bible, preachers, doctrines, the will of God, the providence of God, and then, finally, God’s purposes in the Civil War. Still, on the day he was shot, Lincoln said he longed to go to Jerusalem to walk in the Savior’s steps.
What had happened? What was the journey that took Abraham Lincoln from outspoken atheist to a man who yearned to walk in the footsteps of Christ?
In this thrilling journey through a largely unknown part of American history, New York Times best-selling author Stephen Mansfield tells the richly textured story of Abraham Lincoln’s spiritual life and draws from it a meaning sure to inspire Americans today.
barbarians in the process. Loved ones at home wondered how a people could cross an ocean and live in the wild without losing the literacy, the learning, and the faith that defined them. The early colonists came determined to defy these fears. They brought books, printing presses, and teachers with them and made the founding of schools a priority. Puritans founded Boston in 1630 and established Harvard College within six years. After ten years they had already printed the first book in the
believe as other men did. Joshua Speed confirmed this when he said that Lincoln “tried to be a believer, but his reason could not grasp and solve the great problem of redemption as taught.”55 Again, Lincoln said this even more forcefully in his talk with Mrs. Rankin in 1846. “Probably it is to be my lot,” he told his friend’s mother, “to go on in a twilight, feeling and reasoning my way through life, as questioning, doubting Thomas did. But in my poor maimed, withered way, I bear with me, as I
he believed in ‘Jesus Christ, and him crucified.’”18 If we put these words together with Lincoln’s own statements and the observations of his closest friends, we can conclude that he was, in the broadest possible sense, a theologically liberal Christian. He believed in God, in the rule of divine providence, in the Bible as divinely inspired in part if not as a whole, in heaven, in the resurrection of the dead, in the value of righteous churches, in the role of holy clergy, in the importance of
year fitted himself more deeply and awarely into the mantle and authorities of Chief Magistrate.”58 Joshua Speed, who had become Lincoln’s friend decades before in Springfield, visited the White House during this time and concluded, “I think that when I knew Mr. L. he was skeptical as to the great truths of the Christian religion. I think that after he was elected President, he sought to become a believer—and to make the Bible a preceptor to his faith and a guide for his conduct.”59 Speed was
begun days before with his writing, editing, rehearsing, and whispered prayers. He arrived at Gettysburg on November 18 and spent the night in the home of a family named Wills. He slept unusually well, he later said, having received a telegram informing him that Lincoln with his son Tad his son Tad was “slightly better.” We can imagine the fear that must have followed him north from Washington, given his memories of sick and dying sons. The next day he joined the fifteen-minute march to the