A Holy Baptism of Fire and Blood by James P. Byrd

A Holy Baptism of Fire and Blood by James P. Byrd The Garrett Ashley Mullet Show

Both the North and the South, Union and Confederate, knew their Bibles.

As President Abraham Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address, which was as much a sermon to the nation as it was a summary of the Civil War, men on both sides of the conflict “read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

In James P. Byrd’s excellent book on the subject – A Holy Baptism of Fire and Blood: The Bible and the American Civil War’ – the extent to which Americans were familiar with God’s Word is laid bare with quote after quote, and one Biblical reference after another in a long procession, like soldiers marching.

But did Americans understand God’s Word? And did Americans apply what God had said to every facet of life consistently?

The tragic conclusion I come to after studying this in some depth is that the Civil War would never have happened if the answer to these questions had been in the affirmative. 

Yet we find ourselves in a very similar predicament in our day, and not by accident. 

We are not divorced from the theological problems which plagued professing Christians in the United States before, during, and immediately after the Civil War. If anything, we are more deeply mired and entrenched in those same problems in part because of how that conflict came to be, was handled, and is still thought of and taught about today.

To understand this issue better and more deeply, I would recommend Mark A. Noll’s ‘The Civil War as a Theological Crisis,’ Nathan O. Hatch’s ‘The Democratization of American Christianity,’ and Douglas Wilson’s ‘Black and Tan: A Collection of Essays and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America.’

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