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on May 31, 2016
On the eve of The Civil War in April of 1861, in the eyes of many The War boiled down to the competing interests of two parties. The Northern states called themselves “The Union” and the Southern states called themselves “The Confederacy.” The Union trumpeted that they were fighting to save the Union while The Confederacy announced that they were fighting for “States Rights.”
However, there was a 3rd party who had a vested interest in this conflict, and who saw to the heart of the matter long before most White people in either The Union or The Confederacy.
African-Americans who had long-been held as slaves for close to 250 years at that point, had been praying for eons for God to release us from our bondage. We looked for signs and kept the faith. So, when the conflict erupted in 1861 between what was primarily two sections of White folks, African-Americans saw and intuited God's hand in the conflict as the source of our eventual emancipation long before any significant group of White people could “see” it. Any careful study of slave testimonies and the writings and words of free Black people documented at the time shows the spiritual and divine hand of God in the messages of African-Americans who saw to the heart of the conflict.
What does this have to do with Abraham Lincoln? Well, like many others, it took Lincoln years to evolve to the position that the emancipation of my ancestors was a purpose neither sought by White folks in the North or South in general at the outset of the conflict, but God's mightier Will was revealed in time to match what African-Americans had been saying for some time—that The Civil War was God's way of bringing about an end to slavery in America.
This book, is, in large part, the evolution of Lincoln's religious life over the course of it. While the author is a partisan for religion, this book may be the best, most open-minded and fair assessment of Lincoln;s religious life to date. The book takes the reader through the spirit and mind of Lincoln over the course of his life, in an attempt to get at his faith. This is a mighty effort and one that is worth reading, leading Lincoln to ultimately come to the conclusion, as worded in his Second Inaugural, that God's purpose in The War was to bring an end to slavery. I salute Lincoln for eventually coming around to the position maintained by a great deal of African-Americans, who lived at the same time that he did. This a great book on an often disregarded aspect of Abraham Lincoln—his faith. It is well-worth the effort of giving it a good read. A great job, this!
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on December 4, 2016
This is a remarkable historical account and a page turner. Lincoln's faith was very complicated, and this does perhaps the best job of explaining how complicated. His dying words before he was murdered at the theater, the sometimes disturbing hostile words he used toward relations in his youth, and the Presbyterian pastors book of apologetics that served as the turning point on his faith journey. His conversion was by no means a road to Damascus moment. He became convinced on the reason of Christianity well before he could accept the actual theology, that he could be worthy of a loving and forgiving God's grace.

Most of what is written about Lincoln and faith is loaded with one perspective or another, with some insisting his words clearly prove he was an atheist and others making the same case that he was an unmistakeable Christian. The author with impressive precision and research shows that both were true at different points in the beloved president's life. For anyone who wants to explore this aspect of Lincoln's life, this is the perfect source.
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on February 5, 2013
I was thrilled with this book. I read it in 2-3 days. As a pastor, I like to creep away and read variety not necessarily entrenched in something theological or applicable. And I still got a little of both. This immediately struck me as intriguing. From what I've read & studied about Lincoln, this seemed to be a fair, honest, & balanced account of his faith journey. He left plenty on the table to let the reader decide much. What is clear, however, is that Lincoln was more than able to help lead a nation divided that reflected the yearnings, personal reflections & insight of division within himself. It seemed he had cultivated a pathway to something more solid & attainable by the time he worked his way into office. Yet still, we are not 100% clear where he stood in every aspect of an evangelical faith. And as the author clarified, that wasn't the book's intent. And I'm okay with that.

I largely resonated with "not rejecting God completely" but "rejecting the faith of his own father". One thing I found needling it's way through towards the end that I've personally dealt with is the idea that maybe he "wasn't questioning God...but questioning his own undestanding of God". Which is something that anyone who believes in God, will face.

I would urge anyone interested in Lincoln or American history to buy this. In the end, this book might appeal to Pastors, lay leaders, as well as skeptics.
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on August 23, 2017
Stephen Mansfield's Lincoln's Battle with God recounts Lincoln's spiritual journey from the tent revivals in or near Hodgenville, Kentucky, through his days as the village atheist in New Salem (now Petersburg), Illinois, and finally to a carriage ride with Mary on April 14, 1865, during which they discussed going to the Holy Lands after his second term ended. Lincoln was born during the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century, but Lincoln's careful mind could not accept the Bible literally. He saw too many internal inconsistencies, and no one in Hodgenville or New Salem could answer his questions. Perhaps among others: if the Bible is literally true, then why do the resurrection narratives in the gospels have four different sets of details? Lincoln's discovery of Rev. James Smith's The Christian's Defence in his father-in-law's parlor in Lexington, Kentucky, begins to answer his questions. Rev. Smith's First Presbyterian Church is literally two blocks from the Lincoln's home in Springfield (1 west and 1 north). Lincoln seeks Rev. Smith out. Unlike the hellfire and brimstone preachers of his youth and young adulthood, Rev. Smith apparently read the Bible literately, instead of literally, and carefully just like a meticulous, careful, and dispassionate lawyer would read it. The friendship changes the course of Lincoln's religious and spiritual journey.

Relying upon Lincoln's letters and speeches, Mansfield details the major steps of Lincoln's search for God over the course of his life, through his early public life, the death of his sons Eddie and Willie, and the bloodshed of the Civil War. It is a fascinating journey that shaped Lincoln's public and private life, and ultimately our collective public life over the last 150+ years.
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on February 25, 2016
You have to do something exceptional to get 5 stars. I believe this is the only product I ever gave a 5 star rating. I enjoyed this book, easy read, and you are not stuck on the language. Writing is very fluid, the story is great. I can see Mr. Mansfield has done his research to give us an objective take on Lincoln's faith. If you are looking for a statement of faith Lincoln will not give it to you. What you get is a journey, a journey that was unfortunately cut short. What if Lincoln was able to finish his 2nd term? the possibilities would be endless. From Lincoln's own words I can agree with him on some the struggles the Christian church suffers even today. When you read this book put your prejudices aside and leave them outside of your mind and let Lincoln himself tell you what he thought about God. Like Lincoln's our path to faith is a journey and everyone's path is different, it can be messy at times with different twists and turns but if we do give up all roads will lead to the final heavenly destination. I believe Lincoln finally arrived to this place.
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on August 21, 2017
Mansfield has written an inciteful and enjoyable book covering an individual's journey from scepticism in the existence of a supreme being to a working form of Christianity not directly linked to a specific sect but compatible with Christian theology. While the reader journeys with Lincoln as his faith evolves, the success of public and self education is explained, the development of American forms of Christianity is described, and the impact of the Civil War on citizen involvement and on Lincoln are examined.
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on December 2, 2013
For readers, like myself, who haven't closely evaluated our 16th president,this is a good introduction to the man. It provides a window into his deeply personal religious development that serves as a testament to his moral character and a platform for further reading by Lincoln historians. Stephen Mansfield has selectively drawn from the plethora of scholarly publications and primary sources to depict Lincoln's deep thinking and resolve to lift himself and others in agreement with him from despair. I am especially impressed with Abraham's genuineness and aversion to hypocrisy through his skeptic youth toward the sweeping religious fervor of The Great Awakening,and rejection of dogmatic Christianity as a budding politician. Only to the God whom he prayed did this insular man formulate his thoughts and reserve them for poignant public discourse. Eventually, his puzzlement over how Americans, both Northern and Southern, could read the same Bible and pray to the same God would become resolute through an epiphany of divine intervention. Realizing that slavery was the culprit of the lord's wrath on the entire country, his subsequent Emancipation Proclamation would turn the tide of the war toward the Union. Reading Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address made this book a good one to read over the Thanksgiving holiday.
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on June 27, 2014
I've met a few Christians who've said, "I'm not a fan of Lincoln," so when I was watching the 2013 movie in theaters, they were scoffing and shrugging and not attending with me. I guess after reading this book I might see why... For me, it's nothing TOO amazing. I'm well aware of the fact that the people we see in paintings and are taught about in school where just... humans... and people... in their own time. It's not like Washington was constantly dressed in blue and stoic 24/7 saying nothing but maxims to be commemorated for generations.

Reading this book has opened me up to Lincoln in a way I never realized. I haven't read too many biographies about any presidents really, so all I had about Lincoln came from history channel Civil war flicks, and just the plethora of releases about Lincoln on the big screen lately.. So I know he battled depression, and I figured he wasn't a hardcore Christian.. but this showed me how deep his depression went, and how against God he was for a major part of his life.

If you have at least a bit of intrigue about Lincoln and religion, I would strongly recommend this book. This is the second book of Mansfield I read, I like his style as it isn't burdensome with boring fact, and though it speculates a lot on different areas in life and seems to draw conclusions based on assumptions, it's a way of writing that gets YOU thinking while you read.
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on March 19, 2013
I was suspicious that Mansfield would simply attempt to throw some quotes together demonstrating that Lincoln was a perfect example of Christian leadership. I had this suspicion because he wrote the books about the faith of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, books I am not interested in reading having arrived at my own conclusions. However, I was impressed with Mansfield's serious research which included Lincoln's expressions of faith, and the lack of it, through out his life. I have read other books about Lincoln that I thought were well written. This one, I believe, also fits into that category.
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on June 9, 2016
Another book from Stephen Mansfield dealing with the subject of Faith in the life of this Nations leaders. Captivating, thorough in examining both sides of this subject and how it related to the life struggles of Abraham Lincoln. Through the eyes of Mansfield we enter into the trials and brokenness of Lincolns life, feeling his struggles with depression and understanding them when we consider the scope of pain in his life. Then, when we think this life will end in darkness while sitting in his private box at Ford's Theatre, light dawns, and though the sadness of his assassination grips our hearts, we are encouraged when realizing the assurance of Faith this humble man arrived at before that fateful night. Well written with nothing hidden from view as we walk the walk of Faith with one of our Nation's greatest Presidents.
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