Jon Rowe on Peter Lillback’s Sacred Fire

Glenn Beck is now in the business of promoting history books about the American founding. If Beck mentions your book or includes it on his “reading list” you can expect a huge bump in sales.

David Barton’s Original Intent currently sits at #49 at Amazon.Com. Ira Stoll’s Samuel Adams: A Life is at #75. (We reviewed this book here). Jay Parry’s The Real George Washington (a book I had never heard of before) is #35. Jerome Mahaffey’s Preaching Politics: The Religious Rhetoric of George Whitefield and the Founding of a Nation, a book that looks to be a scholarly treatment of Whitefield’s rhetoric, sits at #33,101. Thomas Kidd’s The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in America is at 17,594 and, according to John Schmalzbauer at Immanent Frame, it had reached #377 after Kidd appeared on Beck’s show last month.

Glenn Beck: You may want to learn about an ordinary Presbyterian farmer living in southern New Jersey at the time of the Revolution. He was a Christian and a patriot. His name was Philip Vickers Fithian and there is a great book about his life, but it is currently lagging at #838,029 at Amazon. Shoot me an e-mail and we discuss an appearance on your show!

But perhaps the book with the most sensational rise in sales following a Beck endorsement has been Peter Lillback’s George Washington’s Sacred Fire. (See Schmalzbauer’s post on the Sacred Fire phenomenon). After Beck endorsed the book on his show, it skyrocketed to #1 in the Amazon rankings and currently sits at #6.

I knew it would only be a matter of time before this spike in sales (the book was apparently somewhere in the 400,000 range before the Beck endorsement) caught the attention of Jon Rowe, the dogged researcher and thoughtful critic of all things “Christian America.” Rowe usually blogs over at American Creation, but this morning his review of Lillback’s book appears at Religion in American History.

Rowe argues that Lillback effectively proves that George Washington was not a deist, but he fails to show that he was a Trinitarian Orthodox Christian. Rowe concludes with a real zinger: “George Washington’s Sacred Fire contains much idle speculation, illogical arguments, and redundant prose in 1200 pages. No respectable academic publisher would publish a book that length where so much could have been edited down. Providence Forum Press, the publisher, is part of a group of which Lillback himself is a leader. This is essentially a glorified self published book.”

One thought on “Jon Rowe on Peter Lillback’s Sacred Fire

  1. A friend of mine–a trained historian, but not a classicist–said this about the title, George Washington's Sacred Fire:
    “The sacred fire was a symbol of Greek paganism (present, you will recall, to please the gods at the Olympics), and from them the Romans acquired the practice, with them the sacred flame / fire was guarded by the vestal virgins. If I recall correctly . . . the whole cult was suppressed by Theodosius I.”


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