The Stubborn Facts About My Would-Be Idol

Me with Abigail and John Quincy Adams January 2013

Over 30 years ago, I sat in San Rafael, CA, hunched over a biography of Abigail Adams that my mom had given me.

In the early chapters, I thrilled to descriptions of Abigail Smith running through the woods of Braintree, Massachusetts to meet John Adams — the man she would soon marry. Reading on, I admired the support and sacrifices on her part as her husband served in establishing the United States of America. In short, I struggled a little with the temptation to idolize Abigail Adams.

Years later, marriage brought me to a town in Massachusetts that borders Braintree. The day after our wedding, John and I had supper in a restaurant in Braintree. I reminder sitting outside the restaurant, looking at the woods and wondering if Abigail had seen those same trees 200 years earlier.

It amazed me that I now lived so near where Abigail once lived. When we visited the house in Quincy where she and John Adams had their first farm, I touched her house and squealed like a star-struck teenager. I had to repeatedly caution myself against idolizing her.

Then I started reading biographies on her that were more complete than the one my mother gave me.

I discovered that, as John Adams famously said as the lawyer defending the British soldiers after the Boston Massacre, “facts are stubborn things.” One stubborn fact about my beloved Abigail Adams broke whatever idolatry I had harbored for her.

Abigail Adams embraced the Unitarian religion late in her life, rejecting the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity. In a letter to her son, John Quincy, she wrote:

I acknowledge myself a unitarian – Believing that the Father alone, is the supreme God, and that Jesus Christ derived his Being, and all his powers and honors from the Father. … There is not any reasoning which can convince me, contrary to my senses, that three is one, and one three.

Click the quotation for the source

What a sad discovery! Sad for me, in the sense that this woman whom I’d admired for so many years denied an essential doctrine of the Christian faith. Sadder for her because she denied a doctrine necessary to salvation.

Thankfully, my devotion to Abigail Adams wasn’t really all that serious. It disappointed me to learn of her theological convictions; I hoped for a while that I’d misunderstood things, or that she repented at the end of her life. But my disappointment in no way devastated me. I didn’t feel compelled to find ways of reconciling her beliefs with Scripture, nor did I deny that she had become a Unitarian. I accepted the stubborn facts.

I wish that evangelical women would accept stubborn facts when someone shows them false teaching by their favorite celebrity teachers. Sadly, they almost always ignore doctrinal error, viciously attacking anyone who dares to challenge their idols. They either defend their idols by quoting Bible verses out of context or they appeal to personal experience and ignore Scripture altogether.

Sisters, I know it hurts to find that someone you highly esteem deviates from God’s Word. But we can’t allow ourselves to revere anyone more highly than the Lord.

I am the Lord; that is my name;

    my glory I give to no other,

    nor my praise to carved idols. ~~Isaiah 42:8 (ESV)

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