Contra Rick Warren 29 of the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence Did Not Have Ministry Degrees from Seminary or Bible College

This morning, Pastor Rick Warren tweeted the following:

He didn’t cite a source for this tidbit, but it’s almost certainly wrong.

Here’s a list of the signers, together with a the college each graduated from (if any):




New Hampshire

Rhode Island

New York



North Carolina

South Carolina

New Jersey



I’ll assume the biographical information linked to is correct. By my count, 27 of the 56 signers attended no college. This doesn’t mean they were uneducated, of course. Wealthy families sometimes educated their children by means of private tutors or apprencticeships.

That leaves 29 signers who attended some college or another. John Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister with an appropriate “seminary” education. So, that’s 1 in Waren’s favor. But the only way he can arrive at this conclusion for the other 28 college-educated signers is by assuming that all the colleges these persons attended were either seminaries or Bible colleges. Harvard was established to avoid the danger of an “illiterate ministry,” though by the Revolution, it was tilting Unitarian and educating non-ministry students. Yale was founded to continue the Puritan tradition that Harvard was perceived to be abandoning, but it educated both ministerial and lay students. William & Mary was established to be “a certain Place of Universal Study, a perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and the good arts and sciences.” Princeton was founded to train ministers, but its educational focus shifted to preparing leaders, both ministerial and lay, during the presidency of John Witherspoon. The College of Philadelphia was founded by Benjamin Franklin and cannot in any sense be construed as a “seminary” or “Bible college.” By my count, 21 of the signers attended one of these schools. The remaining 8 attended schools in either England or on the continent.

The only way Warren can reach his conclusion is by counting all these schools as seminaries or Bible colleges. Even if training ministers was the founding purpose of some of them, it wasn’t the founding purpose of all of them. And even those colleges whose founding purpose was to train ministers had broadened their purpose to train lay leadership by the time of the signing.

So, while I know and respect Rick Warren and thank God for his ministry at Saddleback, I have to completely disagree with this inaccurate tweet.

UPDATE: Chris Rodda debunked David Barton’s claim sometime ago. Here’s the video:

UPDATE 2: Here’s David Barton explaining, in part, the “29 of 56” statistic:

Can’s Syria’s Christians Survive?

From this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal:

Near the Syrian city of Aleppo, the Church of St. Simeon the Stylite commemorates the 5th-century ascetic who became an ancient sensation by living atop a tall pedestal for decades to demonstrate his faith. Krak des Chevaliers, an awe-inspiring castle near Homs, was a fortress for the order of the Knights Hospitaller in their quest to defend a crusader kingdom. Seydnaya, a towering monastery in a town of the same name, was probably built in the time of Justinian.

A nun there spoke about Syria’s current crisis from within a candlelit alcove this week, surrounded by thousand-year-old votive icons donated by Russian Orthodox churchgoers and silver pendants in the shape of body parts that supplicants have sought to heal—feet, heads, legs, arms, even a pair of lungs and a kidney.


Krak des Chevaliers, a castle near Homs, was a fortress for the order of the Knights Hospitaller in their quest to defend a crusader kingdom.

“It’s not a small thing we are facing,” she said, speaking as much about the country as her faith. “We just want the killing to stop.”

Few places are as central as Syria to the long history of Christianity. Saul of Tarsus made his conversion here, reputedly on the Street Called Straight, which still exists in Damascus. It was in these lands that he conducted his first missions to attract non-Jews to the nascent faith.

A century ago, the Levant supported a population that was perhaps 20% Christian. Now it is closer to 5%. Syria today hosts vibrant, if dwindling, communities of various ancient sects: Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics and Armenian Orthodox.

But Syria’s Christian communities are being severely tested by the uprising that has racked the country for more than a year. They think back to 636, when the Christian Byzantine emperor Heraclius saw his army defeated by Muslim forces south of present-day Damascus. “Peace be with you Syria. What a beautiful land you will be for our enemies,” he lamented before fleeing north to Antioch. In the 8th century, a famed Damascus church was razed to make way for the Umayyad Mosque—today one of Islam’s holiest sites.

Not a few Christians in modern-day Syria worry that the current crisis could end the same way for them if Bashar al-Assad and his regime are defeated by the rebel insurgency.

Another Kind of Christian Witness at Chick-fil-A

Christianity Today has interesting story about Chick-fil-A that centers on how a Christian businessman uses his franchise to help refugees in his city:

As the Chick-fil-A at a shopping center in west Richmond prepares for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day—the newest salvo in a culture-war feud over gay marriage and free speech—some employees, like Jirom, have other reasons to appreciate their fast-food employer.

A native of Eritrea, Jirom moved to the United States in 2008 to be with his fiancée, whose family had left the isolated African country several years prior. Like most of the 60,000 refugees who arrived in the U.S. that year, he had little money and few relationships to land on his feet. But a Christian couple, inspired by their church’s sponsorship of a large Burmese family, decided to open their doors. They gave Jirom a room and one of their cars, helped him and his fiancée navigate marriage paperwork, and enrolled him in a local GED program. And then they employed him: Jirom now works full-time at the Westchester Commons Chick-fil-A, where Spanish, Nepali, Burmese, Tigrinya, and Amharic are spoken to a suburban clientele ordering fried chicken nuggets and waffle fries.

The fast food restaurant of a thousand lands is the work of Erik Devriendt, the owner/operator of this Chick-fil-A since June 2011. Since moving to Richmond in 2006, Devriendt has wielded his vocational skills to address the needs of Richmond’s refugee population: namely, steady and life-giving employment. Including Jirom, Devriendt has employed some 20 refugees for his 67-employee team, often receiving referrals from Commonwealth Catholic Charities, the local resettlement agency. The agency helps with paperwork and training, but Devriendt is not incented financially for hiring refugees. He simply wanted to “help them in the most tangible way possible, so we stepped up to the plate and took a swing.”

My Thoughts On Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day and National Same-Sex Kiss Day

Yesterday, August 1st  was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. Sponsored by Mike Huckabee, the purpose of this event was to “affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse.” Evidently, business was booming yesterday at Chick-fil-A stores across the country.

Tomorrow, August 3rd, is National Same-Sex Kiss Day. Sponsored by GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), the purpose of this event is to “speak out against Chick-fil-A’s stand against the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community.” We’ll have to wait and see what impact both this event and the Chick-fil-A boycott have on the company’s bottom line.

As for me, I didn’t eat at Chick-fil-A yesterday. Although I support marriage and oppose same-sex marriage, I’m tired of the politicization of everyday life. Can’t a guy just eat—or not eat—his chicken sandwich and waffle fries without worrying what political statement he might be making? Can’t we carve out some politics-free zones in life where considerations other than legislation come into play? Or must we all become soldiers in the army of “the personal is political” and draw up battle lines accordingly?

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. Neither the August 1st nor August 3rd events are illegal. Each group has the right to support or to boycott whatever company it desires to. I can’t—and wouldn’t if I could—stop any group from exercising its rights of free speech and association. But I can opt out of that kind of politicization entirely, and I did.

This doesn’t mean I’m opting out of politics. I’ll cast my ballot this November and encourage you to do the same. I’ll engage in civil and rational argument about my preferred political values and policies, and I encourage you to do the same. And whether this election goes well or ill for my “side,” I’ll strive to love my neighbor and even my enemy, as Jesus teaches me to do, and I encourage you to do the same.

But I’m going to go ahead and eat waffle fries and Oreo cookies in good conscience, regardless of what politics their companies support, for the simple reason that they taste good. Doing so is my little rebellion against the divisive effect of the politicization of everyday life.

Here’s another little rebellion: If you disagree with me about my preferred political values and policies, let’s go to lunch and talk about them. Let’s prove that people can remain friends and enjoy meals across the political divide. The alternative—the politicization of friendship—is, to my mind, unthinkable…unbearable.

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