September 19, 2017

Benjamin Franklin and Religion

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Here in the United States, and to some extent in other parts of the world, there has been considerable debate about the religion of the Founding Fathers. While the majority of them could be considered fundamentalist or evangelical Christians by today's standards, a few were Deists. Secularists who attempt to rewrite history somehow try to make it seem that the appearance of these Deists negated the fact that America was clearly founded on Christian principles

There are different stripes of Christians, Buddhists, Mohammedans, atheists, and other religions. Indeed, even within certain sects and denominations, you will find variations. This includes Deists. I've encountered deists who want to join in with misotheists in slapping leather with Christians, and others who are more moderate. Like other groups, there is no "one size fits all" for Deists.


Ben Franklin was a Deist but supported Christian values
Benjamin Franklin / Joseph Wright, 1782
Benjamin Franklin was unarguably one of the most important American founders, and was a complex individual. He was also a Deist. This Deist was good friends with one of the most important Christian leaders of their time, George Whitefield. Franklin was friendly toward Christianity, and made remarks that were friendly to it and to the Bible, yet he apparently never surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. A somewhat famous but dishonest picture of atheism "good enough for these idiots" pictures Franklin and several other people, but only one was an avowed atheist. (Atheists are not necessarily idiots, but they are fools, Psalm 14:1, Proverbs 1:7.) I seriously doubt that Ben would be fond of today's dishonest atheists who are unskilled at rational thought

Dr. Albert Mohler has an intellectually-oriented show with a name that I think is quite good: Thinking in Public. In this episode, he interviews Professor Thomas Kidd about his book,  Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father. There are people who may be put off by the intellectual approach, but I reckon that if I understood it, most folks can.

Before I give you the link, I have to take you on a side trail. (I tend to do that frequently, don't I?) It's about intellectualism. In days of yore, there was an intellectual class in Europe that was into philosophy, the arts, and leaned to the political left (including Marxism). Another trait of the intellectuals then (and now) is fondness for theological liberalism, which disdains the authority and perspicuity of the Bible. This did harm to Christianity (as it does today), and was an influence in the Christian Fundamentalist movement. For more about this, you may want to take a gander at my article, "Christian Fundamentalism and Anti-Intellectualism".

Being intelligent and seriously examining not only Scripture, but other aspects surrounding it, is definitely not unchristian. In fact, reacting against intellectual pursuits has, I believe, been detrimental to Christianity. God gave us our minds, and expects us to use them. That is why we have some brilliant theologians and Bible-believing scientists. Especially creationists. We cannot effectively refute atheism and evolutionism, nor can we defend the biblical aspects of our values, with slogans and captioned pictures alone.

Okay, I'm done with that side trail. I hope you'll spend the hour to listen to "Benjamin Franklin’s American Religion: A Conversation with Historian Thomas Kidd", which is free to download or hear online. If you prefer to read, the transcript is also available at the link. Although this phrase may be cutesy, I think it's true: they put the cookies on the bottom shelf. I like cookies.
  

1 comments:

Sue Botchie said...

Dear Bob, i am so enjoying your blog. Have a great day.

Subscribe in a reader