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George Washington’s Sacred Fire

April 21st, 2012

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Book Overview:

What sets "George Washington's Sacred Fire" apart from all previous works on this man for the ages, is the exhaustive fifteen years of Dr. Peter Lillback's research, revealing a unique icon driven by the highest of ideals. Only do George Washington's own writings, journals, letters, manuscripts, and those of his closest family and confidants reveal the truth of this awe-inspiring role model for all generations. Dr. Lillback paints a picture of a man, who, faced with unprecedented challenges and circumstances, ultimately drew upon his persistent qualities of character - honesty, justice, equity, perseverence, piety, forgiveness, humility, and servant leadership, to become one of the most revered figures in world history. George Washington set the cornerstone for what would become one of the most prosperous, free nations in the history of civilization. Through this book, Dr. Lillback, assisted by Jerry Newcombe, will reveal to the reader a newly inspirational image of General and President George Washington.

Book Review

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History Books What sets "George Washington's Sacred Fire" apart from all previous works on this man for the ages, is the exhaustive fifteen years of Dr. Peter Lillback's research, revealing a unique icon driven by the highest of ideals. Only do George Washington's own writings, journals, letters, manuscripts, and those of his closest family and confidants reveal the truth of this awe-inspiring role model for all generations. Dr. Lillback paints a picture of a man, who, faced with unprecedented challenges and circumstances, ultimately drew upon his persistent qualities of character - honesty, justice, equity, perseverence, piety, forgiveness, humility, and servant leadership, to become one of the most revered figures in world history. George Washington set the cornerstone for what would become one of the most prosperous, free nations in the history of civilization. Through this book, Dr. Lillback, assisted by Jerry Newcombe, will reveal to the reader a newly inspirational image of General and President George Washington.
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  1. Thomas Manna
    April 21st, 2012 at 07:23 | #1


    Thoroughly researched and well written.

    Dr. Lillback has set the standard for refuting the 20th century “revisionist” rewrite of American History.

    This book is an eyeopener to all who are benefactors (or desire to be one) of this great experiment in a representative form of government we call America.

    His meticulous detail in relieving a true portrait of Washington and dispelling the falsehoods that have been written about this devote Christian leader are quite refreshing for those of us who are quite suspicious of the liberal rewrite of American History.

    A Great Work

    Tom Manna


  2. Ovaltine Jenkins
    April 21st, 2012 at 09:38 | #2


    Amazing. This book completely debunks the myth of Washingotn being a “deist” using fact after fact not only to prove his Christianity, but to disprove any claim that suggests he is a deist. The one star reviews on this book come from people who clearly have either not read the book or simply do not wish to accept truth and want to continue drinking the kool-aid. This book is very long, but very well worth buying. It clearly outlines the definition of deism, the history of virginia (Washingotn’s home state), Washington’s life, and his legacy. This book also uses exact quotes from Washington in clear context. Every American should own this book.

  3. Al From Virginia
    April 21st, 2012 at 16:30 | #3


    “we have presented the evidence that proves that George Washington was, without doubt, a Christian.”

    Earlier in the book, Lillback is more circumspect:

    “The only honest standard that can be employed in historical research is the same that is used in a legal process, namely, `beyond a reasonable doubt.’”

    The authors’ certitude has a better basis than other authors who make alternate claims, such as Ellis’ claim to know Washington’s deathbed mindset. Now and then Lillback pushes some evidence the way he wants it to go (that Washington recommended a Christian to the post of chaplain isn’t quite proof of Washington’s Christianity, though Lillback argues it to be) he makes a very good argument for Washington’s Anglican orthodoxy, a far better argument than those who argue for his Deism.

    For me, I enjoyed absorbing the wealth of information Lillback brings – I enjoyed the footnotes (though in my copy the type is annoyingly small) and the appendices.

    A lot of information is irrelevant to the major theme of Washington’s spiritual life. Lillback makes an effective case without much Weems input, yet he includes an entire chapter on Weems and Washington. Lillback also includes much on the 110 Rules of Civility, where God is mentioned exactly once, and though many rules have biblical origin, they’re purely behavioral instructions, not theological, and Washington’s interest in them is compatible with deism or Christianity.

    But they’re great to read anyway.

    In addition, Lillback includes a passage on how Washington’s sickness in Barbados saved the USA by giving Washington a resistance to smallpox – yet Lillback gives no evidence that Washington believed that this was divine intervention designed to create a United States, so it’s apparently more relevant to Lillback’s religious faith than to Washington’s. The authors also slip at least once, including the questionable “so help me God” inaugural story without question. And there’s this acontextual cut and paste hodge-podge of Washington quotes patched together by the authors that they call “Washingtonian Creed.” Skip that and move on to the hard information.

    Which there’s plenty of. The basic arguments of the book are sound. There are only a handful of quotations that pin Washington as a Christian, but they’re not as easily dismissed as some would like. Washington would have had to have been a systematic liar to recite creeds in church, state oaths of the godparent, etc. Also, he’d have to have been deeply cynical to command divine services for his men, promote spreading Christianity to the Indians, and advise personal friends to behave in a Christian fashion while believing it was just something to keep the rabble in line. Lillback also points out a handful of much more convincing witnesses for Washington’s prayer than Parson Weems’ Quaker. Additionally, the testimony of Nelly Custis and of Martha Washington is very difficult for anyone to explain away.

    The only serious omission I found was the letter Ashbel Green wrote to Washington on behalf of a group of Philadelphia ministers. In that incident, Green hoped Washington’s would reply would state his Christianity more explicitly. It didn’t. Martha Washington and Nelly Custis were in a better position to discern his faith, but here are people who knew and spoke with Washington – why did they believe that Washington was not a Christian? This confusion is one of the primary reasons for the existence of George Washington’s Sacred Fire and that the authors don’t fully address the issue is a weakness.

    George Washington’s Sacred Fire is a terrific pile of information on George Washington and his spirituality. I enjoyed the pure volume of information. And Lillback has made an excellent case for Washington’s Christianity – if not absolutely, his argument is beyond any reasonable doubts that I’m aware of.

  4. David J. Wallace
    April 23rd, 2012 at 08:39 | #4


    This book clears the air from a lot of revisionist historians who are trying to blurr how Christianity shaped the foundation of the United States. This volume tells a compelling story about George Washington’s faith during some of the most trying times individuals as well as our country faced. Provides the rest of the story.

  5. PeggyQ
    April 24th, 2012 at 03:44 | #5


    The contents of the book are wonderful and so informative and inspiring. However, I ordered the paperback version of this book for Father’s Day along with Overton Window (in hardcover). The first time my husband started reading Sacred Fire, the pages started coming lose and falling out. The book was never handled roughly, but for whatever reason, the pages kept coming out so he eventually set it aside because it was too difficult putting pages back in place, etc. We do want to read this great book, and are hoping to get a hardback version from Amazon. We are very disappointed in the quality of this paperback.

    April 26th, 2012 at 05:47 | #6


    Wow, what a glimpse into the life of this great and religious man. I have always known deep in my heart he was very special being the first president of our country, turning down a second term and helping form the Declaration of Independence. That was all from junior high thru my first years in college.

    But, this book took my knowledge and boosted it even further! Wow, what a man! The author gives us great overview and insight but the personal references and letters, memos, etc., in the back expand it even more.

    Great for high school, home schooling and to have in your library for future references.

  7. Jeffrey E Ellis
    April 26th, 2012 at 10:13 | #7


    SACRED FIRE is a tome devoted to refuting historical challenges to George Washington’s faith as a Christian.

    I had expected, indeed looked forward to, a dive into Washington’s faith and how it impacted his life and career. This book is certainly the deep end of the pool. It is the culmination of fifteen years’ of scholarly research and is presented as a detailed apologetical of his faith. Of its 1000+ pages, 400 are appendices and notes.

    SACRED FIRE is so big it requires its own luggage. I had to valet check it. Not for the casual reader or faint of heart. But if someone ever challenges the fact that Washington was a Christian, you can whack him in the head with this book: it is pursuasive.

  8. thechrisaccount
    April 26th, 2012 at 13:25 | #8


    This is a massive book, more than a thousand pages

    of seemingly endless rhetoric, speculating over and

    over about things that simply cannot be clearly proven.

    The author, at times, puts words in Washington’s mouth,

    making his vague declarations about God into “Christian”

    doctrine. He refers to books that Washington would

    have been required to read as a child, his implication

    being that young Washington would have probably

    believed the things contained in these books — for

    which there is no evidence. His suggestions are often

    quite drawn out and illogical.

    A key point is that George Washington was a Freemason,

    and his writings reflect Masonic beliefs. Lillback

    seems to know very little about the doctrines of

    Freemasonry, which allow the Mason to profess any of

    a variety of religions. The Masonic belief is that all

    “gods” are one and the same — which is at the very

    heart of the doctrine of “religious freedom” that

    Washington and the other revolutionaries fought for.

    It is a Masonic doctrine, and a Jesuit doctrine; but

    not a Biblical one.

    In his letters, Washington had no problem referring

    to the “Great Architect of the Universe” — the god of

    Freemasonry; but when he was compelled by the clergy

    of Philadelphia to make a public confession of Jesus

    Christ, he refused to do so (see The Writings of Thomas

    Jefferson, Vol. I, page 284). Jefferson goes on to

    say that, (according to Governeur Morris) George Washington

    had no belief in the system of Christianity.

    Washington’s Masonic views are further expressed in

    a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, which is actually

    documented in this book (see pg. 453); but because the

    author does not understand Masonic beliefs, the quote

    gets by him. Washington speaks about Christianity as

    an outsider, implying that he merely “indulges” Christians.

    This is especially significant because he is writing

    to his fellow Mason, LaFayette.

    Yes, Washington spoke of and to some extent practiced

    the “Christian Religion,” by going to church and so

    forth. But any true believer can tell you that Christianity

    is not a religion, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    That personal relationship with Christ, which is the

    true salvation (John 17:3) is not shown to be true

    of Washington.

    What the author either avoids or brushes over is

    that the clergy of Philadelphia doubted Washington’s

    faith, as did the three pastors who knew George Washington

    best (Bishop William White, the Rev. James Abercrombie,

    and Dr. Ashbel Green). All either had serious doubts

    about Washington’s faith, or they believed he was a

    Deist (as Abercrombie says — the author suggests Abercrombie

    “retracted” this statement, which he did not), or that

    he was an unbeliever (Dr. Green).

    The following account is given by Dr. Ashbel Green, who

    was the Congressional Chaplain for the eight years that

    Washington served as President in Philadelphia. Dr. Green

    knew the President personally, had lunch with him

    regularly, and spoke often with him. Dr. Green said


    “… from his long and intimate acquaintance with

    Washington he knew it to be the case that while he

    respectfully conformed to the religious customs of

    society by generally going to church on Sundays, he had

    no belief at all in the divine origin of the Bible,

    or the Jewish-Christian religion.” (Six Historic

    Americans, by John E. Remsburg, citing an article

    from The Chicago Tribune, by B.F. Underwood)

    Certainly, George Washington had faith in a higher

    power — but to be a Christian, one must believe that

    Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; and that no

    man comes to God the Father but by Him (John 14:6).

    I have found nothing presented in this book that proves

    G.W. believed that. Meanwhile, there is significant

    historic evidence to suggest he did not believe the

    Gospel, but merely obeyed the concept of “Christian

    character” which had to do with morality and personal


  9. Jacob of Sterlington
    April 26th, 2012 at 18:00 | #9


    Dr Lillback gives us a masterful display of Christian historiography.

    Thesis: George Washington was neither a Deist nor a modern Fundamentalist Evangelical. Rather, he was an orthodox Latitudinarian within the Anglican church. This means that while he did not have the outward, expressive, emotional zeal of 20th century counterparts, he did have a real faith in a Personal Triune God, and sucha faith did inform his public policies and inspire commitments.

    Critics object that Washington never referred to Jesus; refused to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and among other things, used Deistic language. Lillback skillfully rebuts all claims:

    (1) Washington did refer to Jesus, and those who say otherwise just ignore several letters where he recommends “the author of our Faith” (a reference to Christ in the book of Hebrews), and the religion of Jesus to the Indians. Also, Washington didn’t like to speak of himself at all. It is not the case that he refused to speak of his Faith. Rather, he refused to speak of Washington.

    (2) It is true at times that Washington refused to take communion, but a number of points need to be made: a) this was not like the modern, high church Episcopalism. Due to the lack of ministers, and the frontier nature of the church, congregations would celebrate communion only a few times a year. Given that other evidence shows Washington took communion, this objection is actually a strong argument for Washington’s faith: it is only a few times that Washington actually missed communion!

    (3) Did Washington use Deistic language? I think we can answer no on two counts. Dr Lillback shows that terms that Deists use were actually Christian terms that were subsequently stripped of their orthodox meaning. Therefore (2) if he used Deistic language, his lifestyle and other references indicate that he did not mean by it the same thing Deists meant by it.


    Over 200 pages of valuable endnotes. Reading Washington’s letters is quite devotional and reading of his struggles is inspiring. Was Washington a practicing Christian? I leave on the following count: Given the nightmare and stress of Valley Forge, wouldn’t it make sense if Washington indeed got down on his knees and prayed? In fact, that is the only explanation that explains the historical data.

    EDIT: Several years later I feel i have to qualify my initial praise. I’m still judging the book in terms of Lillback’s aims and goals: if you are wanting to see what Washington said concerning religion, and what he could and could not have meant by them, Lillback gives you close to 1,000 pages. While Lillback is correct to point out Washington was not a Deist, he does not rescue Washington from the Masonic charge–and given the diabolical nature of masonry from masonry’s own testimony (see below). While some of the openly satanic writings appear after Washington, and one shouldn’t commit the anachronistic fallacy, one is safe to presume continuity between 18th century freemasonry and Hall.

    Further EDIT: I had quoted in my review Masonic authority Manley Hall where he states Masons worship Lucifer. People got angry. Either Masonic sources speak authoritatively and represent Masonry, or they don’t. If the latter, then why do they bother writing? Also, and this point is routinely ignored by critics/defenders of Washington/defenders of Lucifer, is that I realize Washington probably didn’t believe the same type of devil-worship that Hall and Pike believe. I am simply pointing out his legacy is in brotherly communion with such people.

    Now, Lillback’s book is 1200 pages long. Perhaps there is a section where Lillback clears Washington from the masonic charge. I can’t remember it, though.

    Still, as a research and resource guide, it is worth getting.

  10. Rick
    April 29th, 2012 at 02:09 | #10


    Being Catholic, having attended Catholic school and learning about our Founders in that atmosphere (not “washed” of all things Christian as in today’s public schools), it never dawned on me there would be those who didn’t know Washington was a Christian. One of the main reasons for the United States Revolution was Religious Freedom. Unfair taxes were the “final straw”; however, religious freedom was the mainstay.

    As I entered adult life I learned George Washington was a “Deist”. You can imagine my surprise when all this time growing up I thought he was Episcopalian.

    I saw Peter A. Lillback, author of GW Sacred Fire on Glenn Beck (Fox News). He explained the book was a 15 year task to completion. Beck displayed that approximately one third of the book is *foot notes* anchoring Mr. Lillback’s facts.

    If one truly wants to know the thoughts and beliefs of our county’s “Father”, our first president and, perhaps, the greatest of the founders, this is the book to read.

  11. Michael Thompson
    April 30th, 2012 at 04:55 | #11


    There are many who have asserted (academically), and many who have accepted the premise (popularly) that George Washington, along with the rest of the Founders, were Deists. Although this is true, and easily verifiable, for some of them (e.g., Thomas Jefferson), such a sweeping historical statement refuses to hold water. And that is where Lillback’s volume comes into the discussion.

    At first blush it is an impressive book: 725 pages of text, 228 pages of appendices, and 198 pages of footnotes (the print of which strains the naked eye). The weight of this volume has no doubt already sent many curious readers heading the other direction. But this is part of the problem one will encounter when publishing within one’s own organization. Lillback is the the president of Providence Forum, and thus probably did not receive an honest and challenging editorial process for his own work (Providence Forum Press should be concerned with other volumes being produced, which would have helped this book become more solid and would have helped clear the air of editorial bias and charges of self-publishing).

    Indeed, the writing style of this book is often redundant and repetitive. Often the primary source material is presented two or three times as though it were unique. Those who would wish to challenge the book’s credibility could easily point to this as an attempt to make the source material appear more abundant than it actually is. Further, such writing style is frustrating to the reader who quickly begins to gloss over and lose portions of the argument. Certainly, a more strenuous editorial process would have caught and challenged this disappointing aspect of the book.

    In terms of content, the book does well at providing a good amount of source material which allows Washington to speak for himself when he can. The difficulty here is that Washington doesn’t always speak for himself, and it becomes the role of historical scholarship to fill in the gaps with speculation – hopefully informed and responsible speculation. Lillback is no exception to this, although he perhaps could have demonstrated more scholarly humility in this fact. For as much as he charges other Washington scholars (most notably Boller and Flexner) for their theorization, he does not always accomplish a greater method.

    My point in challenging Lillback is this: The argument he presents should have (and could have) been presented better, seeking a more sound case for the faith of George Washington. There are many points at which I think Lillback gets it right, and a few places where his assertions wear thin and are not supported by the evidence in front of us. Although I am a biblical scholar, I do know how to evaluate an argument, consider evidence and understand the historical method. Hence, I believe that my comments are justified here – there is a better case to be made.

    Lillback succeeds in making the case for George Washington to be separated from the Deists. Simply, this can be done by setting him next to Hume and Jefferson and watching the worldviews quickly part ways. Many look to the context of the Age of Reason and dismiss the impact which it held on the entire world, even the church. I learned a long time ago that every age has its impact on the faith of those who live through it, and the Founders are more apt to look like Deists from our perspective than from their own. We are examining Christianity in conversation with the Age of Reason, a world that we do not experience.

    The words and deeds that survive George Washington (along with the testimonies of those who knew him well) give us a strong probability that he was a Christian in his belief, though a few disappointing unanswered questions linger. Perhaps the strongest conclusion which Lillback makes is the founding of the United States as a whole, with a figure like George Washington leading the way: A nation with these values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, defined in the manner which the Founders have demonstrated in their own work could not have come about by people who believed that God was not present in the daily affairs of the world.

    George Washington’s words captured this often throughout his life as he demonstrated a strong faith in Divine Providence for the forging of this new nation. Overall, I recommend this book – even with its shortcomings and disappointments – to those who would be interested in understanding Washington’s faith from the inside, as we see his own words exhibit a deeply rooted and embedded faith.

    [grasshoppersdreaming -dot- blogspot -dot- com]

  12. B. Smith
    April 30th, 2012 at 11:29 | #12


    This is an interesting and thought-provoking book. While it’s true that the presentation of the material and notes could have been better done the main point are the contents of this work. The large amount of information presented brings new insight into the innermost thoughts and beliefs of one of America’s founding fathers and deserves to be read and carefully considered. Read this book and make up your own mind!

    Other books I enjoyed that are related to religious history are The Life of Apollonius of Tyana and The Syrian Goddess: De Dea Syria.

  13. Stacy L. Harp
    April 30th, 2012 at 20:50 | #13


    Dr. Peter Lillback and co-author Jerry Newcombe, have hit a smashing home run with this extraordinarily powerful book on George Washington.

    After spending over a decade of research going through all the original documents of George Washington, Lillback has exposed the myths about this true man of Christian faith, and proven without a doubt that Washington was a follower of Christ Jesus and not merely a Deist.

    This must have book is broken up into seven sections that cover the controversy over George Washington, the historical background of Washington, Washington’s life, and Washington as a churchman, and even the debate over Washington and communion.

    My favorite part of the book was the ten appendices at the end that cover the rules of civility and decent behavior that Washington abided by, as well as representative biblical quotations and allusions that Washington used all of the time. The other appendices cover sermons, and other prayers by others that were impacting to Washington.

    This book also has beautiful photographs within its pages and a few hundred pages of endnotes so that you can go directly to the source and see for yourself the truth about Washington.

    In this day of revisionist history, where the liberals are trying to convince the world that faith was not a part of the founding of this country, Dr. Lillback’s work is a two fisted punch in the nose to prove otherwise.

    This is a much needed book in the public schools, universities, pulpit and church libraries and every patriot in America. Buy it today, you won’t be disappointed.

  14. Mark Fanning
    May 2nd, 2012 at 14:10 | #14


    An absolutely amazing book, fifteen years of research! There are 200+ pages of footnotes! (You’ll need two bookmarks, one for the reading section, the other for the footnotes, trust me on this!)

    This is a thorough study of George Washington’s public and private life and is a great critique of those who say that he was only a deist. Once the Hardback comes down in price, I’ll purchase it also!

  15. Robert Douglas Creamer
    May 3rd, 2012 at 17:34 | #15


    If you buy one book on George Washington, get this one. The Real George Washington is a very good biography along with a section of topical quotes from George Washington but Sacred Fire goes beyond that and looks at the faith of the man. Its a faith that isn’t found in politics today nor in society. A wonderful piece of work that is backed up by over 200 pages of footnotes. If you want to know what formed the outstanding character of the man that so many admired, this is the book to get.

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