Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ben Franklin Promotes Rational Christianity

The rational Christians/unitarians of the Founding era seemed of two minds on the Trinity.  They vacillated between thinking the doctrine "unimportant" and a harmful irrationality.  If the Trinity is unimportant, all we need to believe is Jesus is Messiah, then we can get along and worship together (and unitarians and Trinitarians got along in Founding era churches precisely by ignoring the Trinity and focusing on common ground).  But if it's a harmful irrationality, then it must be purged.  Likewise if the Trinity is central to Christianity, then unitarianism must be purged.

With that, when Ben Franklin promoted "rational Christianity" in his 1772 letter to the Arian Richard Price, it was done in the context of promoting unitarianism.  As Franklin wrote:
If he had come to town, and preach'd here sometimes, I fancy Sir John P. would now and then have been one of his hearers; for he likes his theology as well as his philosophy. Sir John has ask'd me if I knew where he could go to hear a preacher of rational Christianity. I told him I knew several of them, but did not know where their churches were in town; out of town, I mention' d yours at Newington, and offer 'd to go with him. He agreed to it, but said we should  first let you know our intention.

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