Jefferson & Franklin were Deists?

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Doug Stevens, Aug 26, 2002.

  1. Doug Stevens

    Doug Stevens
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    We've heard it all before how the Secular World presents Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin as Deists and say they weren't Christians at all. D. James Kennedy has pointed out that Jefferson though a Deist was a Christian, but just didn't subscribe to a particular church denomination as most men of his day did. Kennedy points out that the definition of Deist has changed from Jefferson's day and Deism today means agnostic. Kennedy also said that Franklin is the only Founding Father who probaly was not a born again Christian. Kennedy points to a letter a close friend received from Franklin shortly before Franklin died which points out that Franklin had doubts about the divinity of Jesus. So that clinches it for me that Franklin is not in Heaven today. Anyone have any opinions on whether Jefferson or Franklin were born again Christians?
     
  2. Ransom

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    I have a copy of the Jefferson Bible, published some years ago by Beacon Press.

    Jefferson published his Bible as an attempt to separate the true "religion of Jesus" from what he considered the corruptions of his disciples - particularly the Apostle Paul, whom he considered to have turned the religion of Jesus into a religion about Jesus.

    In an 1813 letter he wrote to John Adams, Jefferson described this process:

    The remaining 46 pages of the Bible - literally a cut-and-paste job - start with Jesus birth' (not a virgin birth) and end with the stone being rolled over the tomb.

    "Deist" does mean the same thing today as it did in the late eighteenth century - someone who believes in God but believes he can be known or discovered through the use of human reason ("natural theology") rather than revelation. Their modern successors are the Unitarians.

    If Jefferson had written the same thing today instead of in 1813, there would be no question that he was a liberal of the same stripe as a John Shelby Spong.

    [ August 26, 2002, 01:37 PM: Message edited by: Ransom ]
     
  3. Karen

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    Doesn't clinch it for me. Some things like this we simply don't know. But I do know that God is gracious and merciful, responds to honest questions, and leads many to Himself right before death. There will be people in Heaven who were wrong on many points of doctrine. There will be people in Hell who had the right mental list.

    Karen
     
  4. mark

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    There is a lot of evidence that Benjamin Franklin believed strongly in God. His words and writings reveal that. As far being a Christian, that is questionable. He was a friend of the great preacher George Whitefield and in fact stopped taking money with him when he went to hear Whitefield preach, because he would be so moved that he would give all his money! It didn't work, because he just started borrowing money to give...... [​IMG] [​IMG] I suspect we won't know until we get to heaven about who among the founding fathers of our great nation are there.
     
  5. Doug Stevens

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    D. James Kennedy said that Jefferson only removed verses from the Bible because he wanted to use it as a Code of Conduct for the Indians and that Jefferson never thought the whole KJV Bible was not the fully inspired Word of God. Kennedy said that it is a lie that Jefferson intended his Indian Code of Conduct to be a substitute for the Bible. Jefferson was using the Indian Code of Conduct to reach the Indians in an effort of gradually civilizing them so the US would not have to fight them in wars. Jefferson also wanted Missionaries to go to the Indians in order to win them to Christ. Kennedy says that Jefferson has been wrongly discredited and misunderstood due to the Liberal Press and should be reinstated in the minds of Christians in good standing as a Christian of the highest standards. Franklin on the other hand never made a personal decision for Christ even though Franklin greatly respected the many virtues of Christian living.
     
  6. Ransom

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    Another of Jefferson's letters, this time to William Short in 1820:

    And it goes on from there in like fashion.
     
  7. Ransom

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    Doug Stevens said:

    D. James Kennedy said that Jefferson only removed verses from the Bible because he wanted to use it as a Code of Conduct for the Indians . . .

    If D. James Kennedy said those things, then D. James Kennedy is guilty of revisionist history. Jefferson's own words condemn him.
     
  8. mommynurse

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    I just finished, not too long ago, going round and round on a Christian teenage BB about something just like this.

    My pastor gave a sermon on Sunday follosing July 4th about USA's Christian Heritage. I then posted some of this info on my web page, and proceeded to put in on a teen BB; since you won't find this stuff in today's history books in schools.

    To make a long story short...it is very hard to prove that the Founding Fathers were Christians (in the sense that they were born again). There has been alot of research done into this topic, and is still ongoing. See www.wallbuilder.com that is David Barton's site. He and others are deep into researching just what our Founding Fathers believed. Please be aware that there are unconfirmed quotes on Barton's site. He even asks that no one use these quotes in this type of argument because they are unconfirmed. Unfortunately, alot of well meaning pastors/preachers have used these quotes as rock hard evidence. I accepted these quotes as proven evidence (I had not yet seen Barton's site). As I sorrily learned from the pagans on the Christian teen BB; these unconfirmed quotes (when used as evidence) are shot down by other confirmed writings from the fathers of this country.

    I've done some of my own research into writings by some of these men in the Library of Congress, but have only begun to scratch the surface. My webpage has been updated and the link is in my profile...if you care to read what I have found in the LOC so far.

    BTW: So now you all know why I came here. I'm bruised and bloody from posting at another BB site!
     
  9. Kiffin

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    D. James Kennedy, as much as I respect him, is very poor in history and unreliable. He had another laughable series on Lincoln that Lincoln was a Christian. Lincoln in no way ever professed to be a Christian. David Barton and Wallbuilders are notorious for taking statements out of context also. There were many Christians among the Founding Fathers but there were also Deists, and one Athiest.

    Jefferson was a Deist NOT a Christian. Visit his home and you can see his Bible on display where he literaly cut out passages he disagreed with (I've seen it when I visited Virginia years ago). Jefferson had respect for Christian principles but lived and died a unbeliever. Dr. Kennedy once again is writing a revisionist history that is made up in his own imagination and has absolutely no validity.

    [ August 26, 2002, 03:05 PM: Message edited by: Kiffin ]
     
  10. rsr

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    I don't watch Dr. Kennedy because he always seems to be preaching on politics instead of the gospel.

    If he really is propagating the claptrap indicated in this thread, he should stop. Christians have enough trouble getting their message across without having to deal with pseudo-history as well.

    [ August 26, 2002, 06:46 PM: Message edited by: rsr ]
     
  11. Baptist Believer

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    Amen. It undermines his credibility as well as the entire Christian church when he promotes patently false material as being true.
     
  12. Deekay

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    I agree with many of those above. I think that D. James Kennedy (for whom I have had great respect in the past) has in his zeal to combat liberalism distorted Jefferson's beliefs about the Bible. I have read in several conservative works that Jefferson, as a deist, rejected the idea that God could become incarnate in a man or perform supernatural acts. So, Jefferson removed all miracles, including the Resurrection, from his edition of the Bible. I don't understand how pretending he was a Christian helps our cause at all. The evidence doesn't seem to support this conclusion.

    (But at least I learned a new word in one of the previous posts, amphibologisms, which apparently means "ambiguous or equivocal speech." Always nice to increase one's vocabulary.) :D
     
  13. Rev. Joshua

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    Mark,

    You may want to look more closely at Franklin's autobiography to see his views on Whitefield. In those places where Franklin mentions Whitefield, it's clear that Franklin is amazed by the man's charisma and rhetorical skills - not by the gospel he preached.

    I did a study in a Church History course specifically on Jefferson and Franklin, and I can't imagine that any conservative evangelical would consider either a Christian.

    Joshua
     
  14. Doug Stevens

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    Well. Some of you really don't approve D. James Kennedy and Wallbuilders. But can you give me quotes that prove Jefferson could not have been a Christian? Someone mentioned Jefferson didn't believe God could ever become incarnate. Any Jefferson quotes on that?
     
  15. Ransom

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    Doug Stevens said:

    But can you give me quotes that prove Jefferson could not have been a Christian?

    See the letters quoted above. Jefferson denied the infallibility of Scripture, the authority of the apostles, the virgin birth, the Resurrection, and the reality of the biblical miracles.
     
  16. MikeJ

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    I am going to weigh in on this one. But I am going preface my position with a couple of statements: First, I believe none of us can presuppose the salvation of anyone. We don’t know either Jefferson or Franklin’s spiritual condition when they died. So we cannot say for sure that they were or were not Christians. I also believe that when we do get to heaven, we will be surprised at those present, and those not present.

    First, I would like to recommend two excellent texts. The Light and the Glory and From Sea to Shining Sea , both by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. Please don’t let the fact that these books are occasionally promoted by Dr. Kennedy put you off them too much. I know that Dr. Kennedy’s theological skills aren’t highly respected here. And if I were going to argue theology with a Presbyterian, I would choose R.C. Sproul, not D. James Kennedy. And his historical skills are also sometimes suspect, but usually pretty close to the mark. But, he is a much better historian than theologian.

    Now let me get down the meat of my own positions regarding Jefferson and Franklin. I would be very surprised to see Jefferson in heaven. I believe that Jefferson is the archetypical modern christian (small “c”) or more properly, Unitarian. I do not believe that Jefferson believed that Jesus was divine, period. He may have believed that God created, but he didn't appear to believe that God was active in His creation.

    His writings seem to indicate that.
    The “Jefferson Bible” is an excellent case in point. It is my understanding that this volume was prepared for his own children as essentially an instruction manual for life. To Jefferson, Jesus was the best man that ever lived, the best example of how to live as a man, but unfortunately at best, just a man.

    Remember that the original drafts of the Declaration of Independence contained no reference to Deity, and Jefferson strongly resisted any inclusions of specific reference to God, finally accepting vague language describing a “Creator”.

    Franklin on the other hand, may be another story. I would be inclined to believe that he may have ended up a non-denominational Christian. The real problem with Franklin is that he was such a popular writer for so long a time that we may be unfairly influenced by the bulk of his published writings, which are from his youth. Poor Richard’s Almanac for example is a set of mid-18th century publications.

    George Whitfield’s evangelistic trips to the American Colonies were also mid-century occurrences. Whitfield is generally credited with evangelizing up to a third of the total inhabitants of the American colonies at the time. And Whitfield and Franklin were more than just acquaintances. Franklin enjoyed and sought out Whitfield's comapany. Sometimes seeds long planted bloom in the strangest places.

    Franklin lived until 1790, after the Constitution was ratified. And it is one of his statements during the final fights to draft the constitution upon which I place my most optimism for his salvation. This is as close to a quote as I can recall but it is interesting. It goes something like this “The longer I live the more I am convinced that God rules in the affairs of men…” and then he continues to recall the fact that there were daily prayers in the Continental Congress and asks for a resolution to that effect for the constitutional convention. While this may appear to a little weak for a profession of faith, it is definitely interesting. We just don’t know. I would be pleased to see him, but not really surprised.
     
  17. Kiffin

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