Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Thockmorton: "Politifact Debunks Bryan Fischer’s Christianity Only View of the First Amendment"

Here is Dr. Thockmorton's post and here is the referenced article. A taste from the Politifact article:
Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University and the author of God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution, said "the founders were certainly aware of other religions besides Christianity, and discussed them at length in their writings." 
Kidd pointed us to a 1818 letter from John Adams: "This country has done much. I wish it would do more; and annul every narrow idea in religion, government and commerce," Adams wrote. "It has pleased the providence of the first cause, the universal cause, that Abraham should give religion not only to Hebrews, but to Christians and Mohomitans, the greatest part of the modern civilized world." 
Benjamin Franklin also weighed in on the subject. Jan Ellen Lewis, professor of history at Rutgers University, cited Franklin’s autobiography, when he praised a new meeting house built in Philadephia. [sic]
"The design in building not being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in general," Franklin wrote. "So that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service."

104 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ben Franklin's house of theosophy has nothing to do with the topic. Neither does the Virginia statute for Religious Freedom, really. As we read from one of Throckmorton's more brilliant commenters, Politifact's arrogant insertion of its dishonest self into the debate is also indefensible.

Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story's quote in his landmark Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833):

"The real object of the [First] amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects…"

The "establishment clause" of the 1st A is unmistakably about the competition between Christian denominations for political primacy--although they understood Jews and Muslims [and Catholics] stood to be elected, they never contemplated that any of those Abrahamic religions would be in a position to dominate politically.

And we must mention here re the quote from John Adams--that God is not the monotheistic one, the God of the Bible, was never disputed by anyone in the founding era.

To the actual debate:

"More on Justice Story's arguments in his own words here

http://www.belcherfoundation.o...

As for "Politifact," left-leaning self-appointed guardians of the truth, their record is not great.

http://www.bizpacreview.com/20...

Substantively, I almost always agree with historian Dr. Tommy Kidd, and here too I disagree with Fischer, Barton, and Joseph Story. But they're entitled to their opinions and readings of history, and Politifact

Our ruling
Fischer said that when the founders used the word "religion" in the First Amendment, they meant Christianity. Fischer cites one Supreme Court justice who expressed that view in 1833.
has no business calling people "liars" [their designation: "Pants on Fire"] over differences of opinion. "Your" ruling, Politifact? Who the hell appointed you? You're liars yourselves [see above re Mitt Romney].

Politifact is forced to concede

"Fischer also stated that the First Amendment did not apply to the states. Our experts agreed that originally, the states enjoyed the power to foster a particular religion.
"Massachusetts retained their state church until 1833," Kidd said. "Various states banned non-Christians from holding state office."
Exactly--I bet few know that Fischer's right here, and that the First Amendment did not prohibit the states from discriminating against non-Christians."

Instead we get this BS "Politifact Ruling" that only cares about winners and losers. Disgraceful show.

jimmiraybob said...

Let's see,

1) Shoot the messengers
2) Kill the livestock
3) Burn the crops
4) Poison the wells

Yup

Brilliant

And still, after all the earth scorching, Pundit Fact got it absolutely right.

Tom Van Dyke said...

A fact-free negation isn't a rebuttal. You people have gotten really lazy.

wsforten said...

Justice Story was correct. The First Amendment was introduced into Congress by James Madison, and according to him, the establishment clause was included in the First Amendment because "the people feared one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform."

The Annals of Congress records that Madison:

"apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience. Whether the words are necessary or not, he did not mean to say, but they had been required by some of the State Conventions, who seemed to entertain an opinion that under the clause of the constitution, which gave power to Congress to make all laws necessary and proper to carry into execution the constitution, and the laws made under it enabled them to make laws of such a nature as might infringe the rights of conscience and establish a national religion; to prevent these effects he presumed the amendment was intended, and he thought it as well expressed as the nature of the language would admit."

wsforten said...

Additionally, it should be noted that the bill of rights proposed by James Madison was nearly identical to the bill of rights written by George Mason (which, of course, is why Mason is known as the Father of the Bill of Rights). Mason's draft had been distributed among several different state conventions, and it was likely the source of Madison's statement that "the words [of the establishment clause] had been required by some of the State Conventions." The view expressed by Madison and Story comes directly from the religious freedom amendment in Mason's daft which reads:

That Religion or the Duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by Reason and Conviction, not by Force or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural, and unalienable Right to the free Exercise of Religion according to the Dictates of Conscience, and that no particular religious Sect or Society of Christians ought to be favored or established by Law in preference to others.

Source: The Life of George Mason http://books.google.com/books?id=PbqCAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA448

jimmiraybob said...

wsforten,

Your interpretation seems to imply that the first amendment applies to only the various denominations, or sects, of Christianity. Is Judaism, for instance, a sect of Christianity? Or is it outside of the zone of religious freedom of conscience and expression in your interpretation.

Could/can the Congress of the nation pass laws favoring Christianity (in the whole) and detrimental to Judaism? Could/can the Congress of the nation pass laws forbidding the expression of Judaism or any other religion outside of Christianity? And remember, at the time of the forging of the Constitution, many of "we the people" and their representatives did not exactly consider Catholics to be Christians either.

Or, and this is just between you and me so you can speak candidly, do you think that the first amendment really establishes a broader protection than not choosing a favorite Christian denomination?

wsforten said...

The short answer to your question is, yes. Congress can pass laws which are favorable to Christianity in the whole and detrimental to other religions. The justification behind this answer requires a much lengthier response, but I think that it is better examined in light of the conflict between Christians and Mormons over the laws of marriage.

Throughout the entirety of our nation's history, we have had marriage laws which are favorable to the doctrines of Christianity but detrimental to the doctrines of Mormonism. This, of course, has led to several legal battles between Christians and Mormons over this issue. Some of those battles progressed all the way to the Supreme Court, and the Court has examined the conflict in light of the First Amendment on multiple occasions. If you will permit, I will simply copy and paste a lengthy quote from the case of Davis v. Beason which I think answers your questions.

The term "religion" has reference to one's views of his relations to his Creator, and to the obligations they impose of reverence for his being and character, and of obedience to his will. It is often confounded with the cultus or form of worship of a particular sect, but is distinguishable from the latter. The first amendment to the Constitution, in declaring that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or forbidding the free exercise thereof, was intended to allow every one under the jurisdiction of the United States to entertain such notions respecting his relations to his Maker and the duties they impose as may be approved by his judgment and conscience, and to exhibit his sentiments in such form of worship as he may think proper, not injurious to the equal rights of others, and to prohibit legislation for the support of any religious tenets, or the modes of worship of any sect. The oppressive measures adopted, and the cruelties and punishments inflicted by the governments of Europe for many ages, to compel parties to conform, in their religious beliefs and modes of worship, to the views of the most numerous sect, and the folly of attempting in that way to control the mental operations of persons, and enforce an outward conformity to a prescribed standard, led to the adoption of the amendment in question. It was never intended or supposed that the amendment could be invoked as a protection against legislation for the punishment of acts inimical to the peace, good order and morals of society. With man's relations to his Maker and the obligations he may think they impose, and the manner in which an expression shall be made by him of his belief on those subjects, no interference can be permitted, provided always the laws of society, designed to secure its peace and prosperity, and the morals of its people, are not interfered with. However free the exercise of religion may be, it must be subordinate to the criminal laws of the country, passed with reference to actions regarded by general consent as properly the subjects of punitive legislation. There have been sects which denied as a part of their religious tenets that there should be any marriage tie, and advocated promiscuous intercourse of the sexes as prompted by the passions of its members. And history discloses the fact that the necessity of human sacrifices, on special occasions, has been a tenet of many sects. Should a sect of either of these kinds ever find its way into this country, swift punishment would follow the carrying into effect of its doctrines, and no heed would be given to the pretence that, as religious beliefs, their supporters could be protected in their exercise by the Constitution of the United States. Probably never before in the history of this country has it been seriously contended that the whole punitive power of the government for acts, recognized by the general consent of the Christian world in modern times as proper matters for prohibitory legislation, must be suspended in order that the tenets of a religious sect encouraging crime may be carried out without hindrance.

wsforten said...

On this subject the observations of this court through the late Chief Justice Waite, in Reynolds v. United States, are pertinent. 98 U.S. 145, 165, 166. In that case the defendant was indicted and convicted under section 5352 of the Revised Statutes, which declared that "every person having a husband or wife living, who marries another, whether married or single, in a Territory, or other place over which the United States have exclusive jurisdiction, is guilty of bigamy, and shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, and by imprisonment for a term not more than five years." The case being brought here, the court, after referring to a law passed in December, 1788, by the State of Virginia, punishing bigamy and polygamy with death, said that from that day there never had been a time in any State of the Union when polygamy had not been an offence against society cognizable by the civil courts and punished with more or less severity; and added: "Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is, nevertheless, in most civilized nations a civil contract, and usually regulated by law. Upon it society may be said to be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties, with which government is necessarily required to deal. In fact, according as monogamous or polygamous marriages are allowed, do we find the principles on which the government of the people, to a greater or less extent, rests." And, referring to the statute cited, he said: "It is constitutional and valid as prescribing a rule of action for all those residing in the Territories, and in places over which the United States have exclusive control. This being so, the only question that remains is, whether those who make polygamy a part of their religion are excepted from the operation of the statute. If they are, then those who do not make polygamy a part of their religious belief may be found guilty and punished, while those who do must be acquitted and go free. This would be introducing a new element into criminal law. Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or, if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice? So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances."

wsforten said...

And in Murphy v. Ramsey, 114 U.S. 15, 45, referring to the act of Congress excluding polygamists and bigamists from voting or holding office, the court; speaking by Mr. Justice Matthews, said: "Certainly no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth, fit to take rank as one of the coördinate States of the Union, than that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony; the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guaranty of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement. And to this end no means are more directly and immediately suitable than those provided by this act, which endeavors to withdraw all political influence from those who are practically hostile to its attainment."

It is assumed by counsel of the petitioner, that because no mode of worship can be established or religious tenets enforced in this country, therefore any form of worship may be followed and any tenets, however destructive of society, may be held and advocated, if asserted to be a part of the religious doctrines of those advocating and practising them. But nothing is further from the truth. Whilst legislation for the establishment of a religion is forbidden, and its free exercise permitted, it does not follow that everything which may be so called can be tolerated. Crime is not the less odious because sanctioned by what any particular sect may designate as religion.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Congress can pass laws which are favorable to Christianity in the whole and detrimental to other religions. The justification behind this answer requires a much lengthier response, but I think that it is better examined in light of the conflict between Christians and Mormons over the laws of marriage."

Where does Congress get the enumerated power to do this?

Your example of polygamy is something that doesn't directly target or favor "Christianity" over "Mormonism," but rather speaks of incidental effects. And I'm not even sure why you consider Mormonism not "Christian" given your apparently generous understanding of "Christianity" (that you constructed to try to capture as many of the Founders and their influences). Mormons believe in the Gospels too.

As it currently stands Congress has the power to pass laws that incidentally favor Mormonism over Christianity.

Congress could ban coffee if it wished.

jimmiraybob said...

Then I assume that outlawing stoning, slavery, snake handling, and denying medical care to children are detrimental to Christianity?

So yes, you have pointed out that there are instances where specific sectarian practices may be outlawed.

I don't see where your example has exactly impinged on or been detrimental to the general growth and practice of Mormonism.

Jon Rowe - "And I'm not even sure why you consider Mormonism not "Christian" given your apparently generous understanding of "Christianity" (that you constructed to try to capture as many of the Founders and their influences)."

I wouldn't worry, I'm guessing that when its advantageous they'll be back in the fold.

jimmiraybob said...

As to Joseph Story, there's, of course, more to the quote that you presented (comm. §1871).(1)

I'll round out the quote in another comment below for reference. And, if you read the whole subset of commentary on the first amendment it becomes apparent that the principal upon which the first amendment rests is far more general than to referee between cranky Christian sects (although, at the time of the framing, that was the immediate concern).

Its a response to the pernicious effects of unrestrained ecclesiastical and religious bigotry - what he calls the "demon of persecution" in his commentary §1872.

While sectarian in the narrower sense can refer to intra religion fractions, in the broader sense it refers to different religions (or even philosophies) - as in the sectarian violence we often see in the Middle East or India between different religious factions.

The purpose of the first amendment, given consideration of Story's complete commentaries, was/is to provide protection to the citizens against religious-based bigotry and persecution so that, "...the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship." (Comm. §1873)

1) see Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States Volume III @

http://books.google.com/books?id=1CATAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

jimmiraybob said...

[I have added some definition from the 1828 Webster's dictionary and bolded the omitted part.]

§1871 (p. 728). The real object of the amendment was, not to countenance [jrb – favor, encourage, support, aid], much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.

It thus cut off the means of religious persecution, (the vice and pest of former ages,) and of the subversion of the rights of conscience in matters of religion, which had been trampled upon almost from the days of the apostles to the present age. (1 – original footnote) The history of the parent country had afforded the most solemn warnings and melancholy instructions on this head; (2 – original footnote) and even New-England, the land of the persecuted puritans, as well as other colonies, where the Church of England had maintained its superiority, would furnish out a chapter, as full of the darkest bigotry and intolerance, as any, which could be found to disgrace the pages of foreign annals. (3 – original footnote) Apostacy, heresy, and nonconformity had been standard crimes for public appeals, to kindle the flames of persecution, and apologize for the most atrocious triumphs over innocence and virtue. (4 – original footnote)

1) 2 Loyd’s Deb. 195.
2) 4 Black. Comm. 41 to 59.
3) Ante, Vol. I. § 53, 72, 74.
4) See 4 Black. Comm. 43 to 59.

jimmiraybob said...

§1872 (p. 728-729). Mr. Justice Blackstone, after having spoken with a manly freedom of the abuses in the Romish church respecting heresy; and, that Christianity had been deformed by the demon of persecution upon the continent, and that the island of Great Britain had not been entirely free from the scourge, (1 – original footnote) defends the final enactments against nonconformity in England, in the following set phrases, to which, without any material change, might be justly applied his own sarcastic remarks upon the conduct of the Roman ecclesiastics in punishing heresy. (2 – original footnote) “For nonconformity to the worship of the church,” (says he,) “there is much more to be pleaded than for the former, (that is, reviling the ordinances of the church,) being a matter of private conscience, to the scruples of which our present laws have shown a very just, and Christian indulgence. For undoubtedly all persecution and oppression of weak consciences, on the score of religious persuasions, are highly unjustifiable upon every principle of natural reason, civil liberty, or sound religion. But care must be taken not to carry this indulgence into such extremes, as may endanger the national church. There is always a difference to be made between [next page: toleration and establishment.]

1) “Entirely”! Should he not have said, never free from the scourge, as more conformable to historic truth?
2) 4 Black. Comm. 44.46 – His words are: “It is true, that the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the Canonists went, at first, no further, than enjoining penance, excommunication, and ecclesiastical deprivation for heresy, though afterwards they proceeded to imprisonment by the ordinary, and confiscation of goods in pios usus. But in the mean time they had prevailed upon the weakness of bigoted princes to make the civil power subservient to their purposes, by making heresy not only a temporal, but even a capital offence; the Romish Ecclesiastics determining, without appeal, whatever they pleased, to be heresy, and shifting off to the secular arm the odium and drudgery of executions, and which they themselves were too tender and delicate to intermeddle. Nay, they pretended to intercede, and pray in behalf of the convicted heretic, ul citra mortis periculum sentia circum eum moderator, well knowing, at the same time, that they were delivering the unhappy victim to certain death.” 4 Black. Comm. 45, 46. Yet the learned author, in the same breath, could calmly vindicate the outrageous oppressions of the Church of England upon Catholics and Dissenters with the unsuspecting satisfaction of the bigot.

jimmiraybob said...

§1872 cont. (p. 730). toleration and establishment.” (1 – original footnote) Let it be remembered, that at the very moment, when the learned commentator was penning these cold remarks, the laws of England merely tolerated protestant dissenters in their public worship upon certain conditions, at once irritating and degrading; that the test and corporation acts excluded them from public and corporate offices, both of trust and profit; that the learned commentator avows, that the object of the test and corporation acts was to exclude them from office, in common with Turks, Jews, heretics, papists, and other sectaries; (2 – original footnote) that to deny the Trinity, however conscientiously disbelieved, was a public offence, punishable by fine and imprisonment; and that, in the rear of all these disabilities and grievances, came the long list of acts against papists, by which they were reduced to a state of political and religious slavery, and cut off from some of the dearest privileges of mankind. (3 – original footnote)

1) 4 Black. Comm. 51, 52.
2) 1 Black. Comm. 58.
3) 1 Black. Comm. 51 to 59. – Mr. Tucker, in his commentaries on Blackstone, has treated the whole subject in a manner of most marked contrast to that of Mr. J. Blackstone. His ardour is as strong, as the coolness of his adversary is humiliating, on the subject of religious liberty. 2 Tuck. Black. Comm. App. Note G. p.3, &c. See also 4 Jefferson’s Corresp. 103, 104; Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia, 264 to 270; 1 Tuck. Black. Comm. App. 296.

jimmiraybob said...

In reference to my comment above regarding the term sect, I probably should have highlighted this in JS's comm. 1872 (above):

"... in common with Turks, Jews, heretics, papists, and other sectaries;..."

jimmiraybob said...

Thus, it took a Constitution and subsequent amendments to keep us from brutalizing and killing ourselves over same-religion sectarian jealousies and bigotries in order to even form a United States. As JS put it,

“It was under a solemn consciousness of the dangers from ecclesiastical ambition, the bigotry of spiritual pride, and the intolerance of sects, thus exemplified in our domestic, as well as in foreign annals, that it was deemed advisable to exclude from the national government all power to act upon the subject.”

And yes, as a nation (and eventually even within the states) we pretty much have managed to manage the urge toward holy war. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that, as the nation’s and state’s increasingly numerous citizens became more religiously diversified, our view of the first amendment establishment and exercise clauses have broadened to resemble the fuller general principle of freedom of conscience, whereby the exigencies of the colonies have been replaced by the exigencies of a nation.

jimmiraybob said...

James Madison to Doctor JACOB DE LA MOTTA

Montpellier, Aug., 1820

Sir,—
I have received your letter of the 7th inst. with the Discourse delivered at the Consecration of the Hebrew Synagogue at Savannah, for which you will please to accept my thanks.

The history of the Jews must forever be interesting. The modern part of it is, at the same time so little generally known, that every ray of light on the subject has its value.

Among the features peculiar to the Political system of the U. States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to every religious Sect. And it is particularly pleasing to observe in the good citizenship of such as have been most distrusted and oppressed elsewhere, a happy illustration of the safety & success of this experiment of a just & benignant policy. Equal laws protecting equal rights, are found as they ought to be presumed, the best guarantee of loyalty & love of country; as well as best calculated to cherish that mutual respect & good will among Citizens of every religious denomination which are necessary to social harmony and most favorable to the advancement of truth. The account you give of the Jews of your Congregation brings them fully within the scope of these observations.

I tender you, Sir, my respects & good wishes

wsforten said...

Jon,

The power to pass laws in recognition of the Christian ideal of marriage as opposed to the Mormon ideal is enumerated to Congress in Article I, Section 8. The definition of marriage has direct application to the power to lay and collect taxes, to establish rules of naturalization and laws regarding bankruptcies, to offer patents and copyrights, to make rules for the armed forces and to exercise legislation in Washington D.C. Each of these areas is affected to some degree or another by the definition of marriage, and thus, Congress has the authority to establish such a definition for the purpose of implementing laws subject to this section of the Constitution.

Additionally, Article IV, Section 3 grants Congress the power to "make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States." It was under the authority of this specific provision that Congress declared in 1882 that no polygamist could vote or hold office in the territory of Utah. The Supreme Court upheld that law with the following statement from Murphey v. Ramsey:

in ordaining government for the territories and the people who inhabit them, all the discretion which belongs to legislative power is vested in Congress, and that extends beyond all controversy to determining by law, from time to time, the form of the local government in a particular territory and the qualification of those who shall administer it. It rests with Congress to say whether in a given case any of the people resident in the territory shall participate in the election of its officers or the making of its laws, and it may therefore take from them any right of suffrage it may previously have conferred, or at any time modify or abridge it, as it may deem expedient.

In regards to my distinction between Mormonism and Christianity, I would like to make a couple of points that I hope will clear up any confusion that I may have generated in regards to my definition of Christianity. The determination of who is and who is not a Christian rests upon the prescription given in I Corinthians 15:1-4:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

The only belief that is identified in Scripture as being necessary for one to be a Christian is the belief that Jesus Christ died as a sacrifice for our sins and then rose again three days later.

This is not merely a formula which I constructed in order to rescue the reputations of the founding fathers as you suggest. This passage of Scripture is widely recognized by New Testament scholars (including non-believers) as the most essential creed of the Christian church. All one has to do in order to receive forgiveness from his sins and become a child of God who will inherit eternal life is trust that Jesus Christ paid the price for his sins through His death on the cross and believe that He rose again from the dead three days later. Anyone who has done this is a Christian according to the Bible.

wsforten said...

This brings us to question of whether Mormons are Christians.

(Before proceeding further, let me mention that I use the term "Mormons" in reference to those individuals who agree with the Mormon church in regards to the method of obtaining eternal life. I am not using this term to refer to everyone who happens to attend a Mormon church.)

The reason that I do not consider Mormons to be Christians is that they do not believe the Gospel which is given in I Corinthians 15:1-4. You claimed that Mormons believe in the Gospels, and by that I assume that you are referring to the content of the four books Mathew, Mark, Luke and John all of which include the account of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. However, while I am sure that Mormons would claim to believe everything in those four books (and even everything in the entire Bible) to be true, the simple fact of the matter is that they reject a single, crucial element of the Gospel as it was explained in I Corinthians 15.

You see, Mormons do not believe that Christ died for our sins. They agree with Christians that Christ died for something, but they identify that something as the provision of a general revelation and not as the atonement for sin. Christ's atonement for sin is the centerpoint of Christianity, but according to the doctrines of Mormonism, there is no real atonement for sin. Bruce McConkie, one of the 12 apostles of the Mormon church, explained this in his book Mormon Doctrine where he wrote:

1. Unconditional or general salvation, that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law, consists in the mere fact of being resurrected. In this sense salvation is synonymous with immortality; it is the inseparable connection of body and spirit so that the resurrected personage lives forever.

This kind of salvation eventually will come to all mankind, excepting only the sons of perdition ...

But this is not the salvation of righteousness, the salvation which the saints seek. Those who gain only this general or unconditional salvation will still be judged according to their works and receive their places in a terrestrial or a telestial kingdom. They will, therefore, be damned; their eternal progression will be cut short; they will not fill the full measure of their creation, but in eternity will be ministering servants to more worthy persons.
[emphasis added]

This is the kind of "salvation" which Mormons believe was provided by Jesus through His death on the cross. They teach that nearly all men receive this kind of salvation, but they also teach that this salvation is insufficient to atone for one's sins. McConkie continued in order to explain how Mormons believe that one can receive atonement for his sins:

wsforten said...

2. Conditional or individual salvation, that which comes by grace coupled with gospel obedience, consists in receiving an inheritance in the celestial kingdom of God. This kind of salvation follows faith, repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost, and continued righteousness to the end of one’s mortal probation. (D. & C. 20:29; 2 Ne. 9:23-24.)...

3. Salvation in its true and full meaning is synonymous with exaltation or eternal life and consists in gaining an inheritance in the highest of the three heavens within the celestial kingdom. With few exceptions this is the salvation of which the scriptures speak. It is the salvation which the saints seek. It is of this which the Lord says, “There is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.” (D. & C. 6:13.) This full salvation is obtained in and through the continuation of the family unit in eternity, and those who obtain it are gods. (D. & C. 131:1-4; 132.)

Full salvation is attained by virtue of knowledge, truth, righteousness, and all true principles. Many conditions must exist in order to make such salvation available to men. Without the atonement, the gospel, the priesthood, and the sealing power, there would be no salvation. Without continuous revelation, the ministering of angels, the working of miracles, the prevalence of gifts of the spirit, there would be no salvation. If it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration, there would be no salvation. There is no salvation outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, pp. 1-350.)
[emphasis mine]

Notice the admission that this "full salvation" is not obtained through the death of Christ in atonement for our sins but rather through one's own "continued righteousness to the end of one’s mortal probation." Thus, Mormons believe that salvation from sin does not exist. One must avoid sin altogether and live a life of complete righteousness in order to obtain the salvation unto eternal life which is spoken of in Scripture. Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth president of the Mormon church also explained this teaching in his book Doctrines of Salvation in which he wrote:

None shall receive eternal life save it be those who keep the commandments of the Lord and are entitled thus to enter into his presence

And later in the same book, he wrote:

Salvation comes by grace, faith, and works. Unless a man will adhere to the doctrine and walk in faith, accepting the truth and observing the commandments as they have been given, it will be impossible for him to receive eternal life, no matter how much he may confess with his lips that Jesus is the Christ, or believe that his Father sent him into the world for the redemption of man … So it is necessary, not merely that we believe, but that we repent, and in faith perform good works until the end; and then shall we receive the reward of the faithful and a place in the celestial kingdom of God. [emphasis mine]

And the twelfth president of the Mormon church, Spencer W. Kimball directly condemned the Gospel of Christianity when he wrote the following in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness:

One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.

No clearer statement of the non-Christian character of Mormonism is necessary. The belief that salvation comes solely by grace through the sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ is the defining characteristic of Christianity. It is expressly stated to be so in Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The Mormon denial of salvation by grace through faith in the Gospel is a direct denial of any association between Mormonism and Christianity.

wsforten said...

Jim,

I think that you may have overlooked a few important distinctions. First, and foremost, it is important to remember that the First Amendment contains two distinct clauses relating to religious freedom: the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. These two clauses are not equivalent ways of saying the same thing. Rather, they are separate and unique statements regarding the actions of the federal government in the realm of religion. This distinction is evident in the Davis v. Beason decision as well as in the Commentaries of Joseph Story. In both instances, a distinction is recognized between the prohibition against establishing a single sect of Christianity as the national religion and the guarantee of the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of one's own conscience.

In § 1873 of Story's Commentaries (which was curiously absent from your quotation), Justice Story noted the following:

It was under a solemn consciousness of the dangers from ecclesiastical ambition, the bigotry of spiritual pride, and the intolerance of sects, thus exemplified in our domestic, as well as in foreign annals, that it was deemed advisable to exclude from the national government all power to act upon the subject. The situation, too, of the different states equally proclaimed the policy, as well as the necessity of such an exclusion. In some of the states, episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in others, presbyterians; in others, congregationalists; in others, quakers; and in others again, there was a close numerical rivalry among contending sects. It was impossible, that there should not arise perpetual strife and perpetual jealousy on the subject of ecclesiastical ascendancy, if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment. The only security was in extirpating the power.

This extirpation was accomplished through the establishment clause of the First Amendment, and it is evident that Story is here referring only to Christian sects. But this is not the end of this section of the Commentaries. Story continues with:

But this alone would have been an imperfect security, if it had not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion, and a prohibition (as we have seen) of all religious tests. Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions; and the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship.

According to Justice Story, the security provided by the establishment clause, while sufficient for preventing the selection of a national church from among the various sects of Christianity, was insufficient to secure what he identified in § 1870 as "the rights of conscience." The security of these rights required the additional language found in both the free exercise clause of the First Amendment and the religious test clause of the Constitution. It is only in light of those two clauses that Story mentioned non-Christian religions. And, in fact, his reference to the "sectaries" of other religions is confined specifically to the context of the religious test clause in § 1870 as well as § 1843. In both of these instances, Story was quoting Blackstone's comments in regards to the test acts in England, and he explained that such discrimination is contrary to the religious test clause in the American Constitution. Thus, it is primarily the religious test clause and not the First Amendment which permits non-Christians to take part in the governing of our nation.

wsforten said...

Now, to turn back toward the point of the discussion, let me also suggest that you have overlooked the distinction between the government protecting the rights of conscience and its maintaining a neutral indifference in the realm of religion. These are two wholly different concepts, and Justice Story addressed that difference in § 1865 of his Commentaries where he wrote:

the right of a society or government to interfere in matters of religion will hardly be contested by any persons, who believe that piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well being of the state, and indispensable to the administration of civil justice. The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion, the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to him for all our actions, founded upon moral freedom and accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues;--these never can be a matter of indifference in any well ordered community. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive, how any civilized society can well exist without them. And at all events, it is impossible for those, who believe in the truth of Christianity, as a divine revelation, to doubt, that it is the especial duty of government to foster, and encourage it among all the citizens and subjects. This is a point wholly distinct from that of the right of private judgment in matters of religion, and of the freedom of public worship according to the dictates of one's conscience.

And again in § 1870 we find him saying:

But the duty of supporting religion, and especially the Christian religion, is very different from the right to force the consciences of other men, or to punish them for worshipping God in the manner, which, they believe, their accountability to him requires ... The rights of conscience are, indeed, beyond the just reach of any human power. They are given by God, and cannot be encroached upon by human authority, without a criminal disobedience of the precepts of natural, as well as of revealed religion.

It was from the platform of this distinction between supporting the Christian religion and protecting the rights of conscience that Justice Story launched into his explanation of the real object of the First Amendment. Thus, if we are to understand his comments on this amendment, it is imperative that we not neglect the distinction with which those comments are introduced.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Lol. So Mormons have an unorthodox understanding of the atonement. So too do all of those Arians you would like to rescue as Christians.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And where for that matter does John Locke express such belief in the atonement. He believed apparently that Jesus was Messiah, but evinced no belief in the Trinity or Atonement.

wsforten said...

"So Mormons have an unorthodox understanding of the atonement. So too do all of those Arians you would like to rescue as Christians."

That is incorrect. My contention is not that Mormons have an unorthodox view of atonement but rather that they deny any atonement for one's sin whatsoever.

As for the Arians, perhaps you could provide a quote from Arius to demonstrate that he had an erroneous view of the atonement.

"And where for that matter does John Locke express such belief in the atonement."

I'll just let Locke answer that question for himself:

He might have taken notice of these words in my book, (page 9 of this vol.) “From this estate of death, Jesus Christ restores all mankind to life.” And a little lower, “The life which Jesus Christ restores to all men.” And p. 109, “He that hath incurred death for his own transgression, cannot lay down his life for another, as our Saviour professes he did.” This, methinks, sounds something like “Christ’s purchasing life for us by his death.” But this reverend gentleman has an answer ready; it was not in the place he would have had it in, it was not where I mention the advantages and benefits of Christ’s coming. And therefore, I not having there one syllable of Christ’s purchasing life and salvation for us by his death, or any thing that sounds like it: this and several other things that might be offered, show that I am “all over socinianized.” A very clear and ingenuous proof, and let him enjoy it.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I can't believe you think Locke's words are any closer to a correct concept of atonement as what Mormons believe.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And you are flat out wrong that Mormons deny the atonement. Google Mormons and atonement and increase your learning.

wsforten said...

That's quite simple. Locke agreed that Christ laid down His life for our transgressions. Mormons do not agree with this. Therefore, Locke's view of the atonement was more correct than that of the Mormons.

AS for your suggestion that I "Google Mormons and atonement and increase your learning," I must say that I am disappointed to hear you suggest such a thing. Surely you must realize that there is more to scholarship than mere "Googling."

Jonathan Rowe said...

Yes they do. And if you took my advice and looked at their actual websites you'd see it and increase your learning. Both Mormons and Locke hold to an unorthodox view of the atonement.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Let me clarify my remarks. Because of the way he wrote it's difficult to determine exactly what Locke believed. I'm not convinced Locke believed in any concept of atonement. But if he did his commentary on the book of Romans demonstrates he rejected the orthodox understanding. See OFT recent post on the matter.

jimmiraybob said...

wsforten – “Now, to turn back toward the point of the discussion,…”

The thesis under discussion is whether the first amendment applies only to Christians which is prompted by Bryan Fischer’s statement (1):

"…it means today exactly what it meant in 1789, which means that by the word ‘religion’ in the First Amendment, the founders meant Christianity."

wsforten – “In § 1873 of Story's Commentaries (which was curiously absent from your quotation)…”

There’s nothing to be curious about. I cut off where I did to preserve a little bandwith for someone else…I’m jesting a bit. But seriously, there’s no sinister intent as I reference the entirety of the section regarding the first amendment as follows:

“And, if you read the whole subset of commentary on the first amendment …”

And then I provided a link to the commentaries so that anyone could follow up (2). That is more in the way of opaqueness than had been previously provided.

wsforten – “Thus, it is primarily the religious test clause and not the First Amendment which permits non-Christians to take part in the governing of our nation.

Without diagnosing, eisegesising, every last nuance of what Story was saying, this comment leads us back to the fundamental problem of why matters of religion had to be expunged from the national government in the first place (3) – to allow a functional national government (or at least as close as we could get). It was necessary in order to allow Christian to sit with Christian without leading to civil-holy war as well as to make it possible for non-Christians to participate. I know that your eyes must glaze over and your mind blink out at the list of barbarous and atrocious behavior based solely on religious animosities noted by Story, but that is the fundamental reason that the framers, working when Joseph Story was a 10-year old boy, had to separate religion and governance at the national level.

It is apparent that Story is writing from a Christian perspective when interpreting the framer’s actions and even he does not contend that the constitution and its amendments apply only to Christians, especially in perpetuity – or, more narrowly, the first amendment which is the thesis being discussed here. There is no exclusion of other religions or even irreligion, either implied or explicitly stated, to keep them from having a place at the national governing table. And, face it, there is nothing explicit or even readily implicit that even suggests religious inclusion or exclusion. The fact remains and will continue to remain, that if the framers had intended “religion” to mean “Christian” or “Christian sects” they would have spelled it out quite clearly. Fischer and his defense team here have to go outside of the document and creatively invent meaning in order to come to this conclusion.


cont. below

jimmiraybob said...

To summarize, the former colonies had a religion problem. Christians were persecuting other Christians, and rather severely. [Of course, and as Story points out on numerous occasions, this divisive intolerance and bigotry also had a long pedigree in the old world story.] That was the exigency that they, the founders and framers faced. Religion-based bigotry and persecution is what they needed to overcome in order to work together in their time. And the citizen population then consisted mostly of individuals identifying with one or another Christian sect. In that sense, Story is correct – the framers were responding to their exigencies (of their time and place). In that sense, and that sense being that the application of the first amendment, even Fischer is right to some extent in that the founders-framers had to make peace between the Christians possible and so naturally the amendment (and other religion clauses) was in practice applicable to the cranky and exclusionary activities of the Christians that dominated within the various states. But Fischer fast forwards to today to make a claim not inherent in the document or supported by the prevailing founding-framing vision – that it was meant for Christians then and now.

Who thinks that the founders-framers were all such dim bulbs as to think there was no future and that other religions wouldn’t be a part of the mix as the nation grew? The first clue would have been the growth of Judaism at the time of the founding-framing – and who is such a dim bulb as to think that Judaism is a sect of Christianity (or was thought of as such at the time) (4).

Again, they could have clearly spelled out their expectations of the future nation in clear and unambiguous language that the constitution and amendments (specifically the 1st amendment since it’s the subject of discussion) were only to apply to Christians.

Story even concedes that there were things that would need to be worked out in the future:

§1869 (p. 727). It yet remains a problem to be solved in human affairs, whether any free government can be permanent, where the public worship of God, and the support of religion, constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable way. The future experience of Christendom, and chiefly of the American states, must settle this problem, as yet new in the history of the world, abundant, as it has been, in experiments in the theory of government.

It is certainly self-evident that things have changed a bit since the 18th century as the experiment has continued to run its course. Today we have a larger and more religiously diverse citizen population. But the fundamental principles of inclusion that the framers laid out remain – an equal place at the governing table – the civil realm – regardless of religious preference. While the national table was not envisioned to be necessarily godless, it was left to the individual sitting at the table to represent – as I think the kids would now say – by contributing in accordance with their derived ethics and morality. And yes, that does include the Mahometan, the Jew and the infidel. [Again, there is nothing implicit or explicit in the constitution or the amendments declaring America to be a defender of Christendom – this was explicitly recognized by and an explicit concern of the more enthusiastic Christians of the time.]

So far, America is still standing and has as permanent a government as any government can be (and certainly when considering the old Christendom). And Christianity has done fine – as the American Family Association says on their website (5), in disagreeing with Bryan Fischer’s 1st Amendment assessment, Christianity can stand on its own.

cont, below

jimmiraybob said...

To reduce the fundamental principle of freedom of conscience and religious freedom to a narrow and exclusionary law in order to claim Christian exceptionalism and privilege mocks the vision of the founders-framers and opens the door to the evil and ills of religious bigotry and persecution that the framers fought against (which I assume is the point). Perhaps in a world in which fundamental principles are discarded it would be prudent for the national government to pass laws requiring non-Christians to wear special identifying clothing (maybe different colored stars sewed to clothing that would identify specific offenses against Christendom) or live in specially designated zones (we could call them ghettoes – that would also be traditional) or special taxes (more tradition). Did I just sense Bryan Fischer’s ears perking up?

And you say, “Oh jimmiraybob, you’re being silly. We lived in a Christian nation right up to the Jefferson administration …FDR administration …Everson …the Civil Rights Act …hippies and the rock n roll …Roe v. Wade (insert marker of choice) and this never happened.” And I say, thank goodness for the no test clause and the first amendment and not having taken the chance. Thank you founding fathers and framers.

Of course, the most likely result of narrow interpretation and an explicit Christian hegemony in national government would be exclusion from the process and the creation of a special class of citizenry to be merely tolerated (hopefully*) in their own country. Did I just sense Bryan Fischer’s ears perking up again?

[On a side note, it would be entertaining if you guys tried working this line for a while, “By the word ‘conscience’ in every statement made by the founders-framers, they really meant ‘Christian affiliation and/or affirmation [e.g., freedom of Christian affiliation/affirmation (unapproved faux Christian sects need not apply)"].

*Let’s see, what happened to Mormons back in the good old-thyme days? Weren’t they killed and driven into exile?

1) clip available @

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/11/right-wing-radio-host-bryan-fischer-says-first-amendment-only-protects-christians/

2) see Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States Volume III @

http://books.google.com/books?id=1CATAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

3) This is not me reading into Story’s commentary this is directly from Story’s commentary.

4) James Madison to Doctor JACOB DE LA MOTTA

Montpellier, Aug., 1820
Sir,—

I have received your letter of the 7th inst. with the Discourse delivered at the Consecration of the Hebrew Synagogue at Savannah, for which you will please to accept my thanks.

The history of the Jews must forever be interesting. The modern part of it is, at the same time so little generally known, that every ray of light on the subject has its value.

Among the features peculiar to the Political system of the U. States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to every religious Sect. And it is particularly pleasing to observe in the good citizenship of such as have been most distrusted and oppressed elsewhere, a happy illustration of the safety & success of this experiment of a just & benignant policy. Equal laws protecting equal rights, are found as they ought to be presumed, the best guarantee of loyalty & love of country; as well as best calculated to cherish that mutual respect & good will among Citizens of every religious denomination which are necessary to social harmony and most favorable to the advancement of truth. The account you give of the Jews of your Congregation brings them fully within the scope of these observations.

I tender you, Sir, my respects & good wishes

5) I’ll leave it to the interested reader to chase this down since I’ve lost track of the link.

wsforten said...

Perhaps it would help if you would provide a few quotations from Mormon websites that you think are more authoritative in regards to Mormon doctrine than the books which I have already cited.

As for Locke, I agree that he is often difficult to understand, but I fear that such understanding is made much more difficult than it really is for the simple reason that so many people read more about Locke than they read from Locke. If you want to know what Locke believed about the atonement, then you should read everything that he wrote on that topic and not just the single passage cited by OFT. If you were to read just a little bit further in the same commentary that OFT cited, you would find statements from Locke such as:

Therefore‡ as, by one§ offence, (viz.) Adam’s eating the forbidden fruit, all men fell under the condemnation of death: so, by one act of righteousness, viz. Christ’s obedience to death upon the19 cross* , all men are restored to life† . For as, by one man’s disobedience, many were brought into a state of mortality, which is the state of sinners‡ ; so, by the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous, i. e. be restored to life again, as if they were not sinners.

And

St. Paul, pursuing his design in this epistle, of satisfying the gentiles, that there was no need of their submitting to the law, in order to their partaking of the benefits of the gospel, having, in the foregoing eight verses taught them, that Adam’s one sin had brought death upon them all, from which they were all restored by Christ’s death, with addition of eternal bliss and glory, to all those who believe in him; all which being the effect of God’s free grace and favour

Now, whether or not these are orthodox statements regarding atonement depends on whose definition of orthodoxy you accept, but it is certain from these statements that Locke did believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins in agreement with the Gospel stated in I Corinthians 15.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Unlike Locke, the Mormons actually SAY they believe in the ATONEMENT.

http://mormon.org/faq/atonement-of-christ

"It is impossible to put into words the full meaning of the Atonement, which is the most important and most transcendent event in the history of the world. Through His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, the Savior atoned for our sins. This is the good news for all people!"

What neither Locke nor the Mormons, apparently believe is that an Jesus Christ, an Incarnate God, made an INFINITE Atonement to satisfy the INFINITE transgression against an INFINITE God.

If Locke did believe in the "atonement" then it supports my contention that both Locke and the Mormons held to an unorthodox notion of the concept.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Here is another:

"Atonement of Jesus Christ

"As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for sins, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him or her to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of carrying out the Atonement for all mankind. Because of His Atonement, all people will be resurrected, and those who obey His gospel will receive the gift of eternal life with God."

http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=968539b439c98010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=bbd508f54922d010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

OR:

http://tinyurl.com/lqf87gn

Jonathan Rowe said...

And both the Mormons & Locke were in good company with John Adams:

-- Major Greene this Evening fell into some conversation with me about the Divinity and Satisfaction of Jesus Christ. All the Argument he advanced was, "that a mere creature, or finite Being, could not make Satisfaction to infinite justice, for any Crimes," and that "these things are very misterious."
(Thus mystery is made a convenient Cover for absurdity.) --

http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/82/Diary_of_John_Adams_February_13_1756_1.html

wsforten said...

Jim,

You are still ignoring the distinctions between the various religion clauses.

wsforten said...

Thank you for providing those quotations, Jon. Now, we seem to have a bit of a contradiction between the sources which you referenced and those which I referenced, but if we look at the context of the first of your quotes, it becomes apparent that there is no contradiction at all. You quoted the first paragraph on that page which does appear to claim that Mormons believe that Christ died for our sins as stated in I Corinthians 15. However, the last paragraph on that page explains that when the first paragraph spoke of Christ atoning for our sins, it didn't the same thing as Paul did in I Corinthians 15. Here is what is found in the last paragraph:

Jesus Christ did what only He could do in atoning for our sins. To make His Atonement fully effective in our individual lives, we must have faith in Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized and confirmed by one having authority, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, obey God’s commandments, receive sacred ordinances, and strive to become like Him. As we do these things through His Atonement, we can return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father forever.

Notice the similarities between this paragraph and the statements which I previously referenced from an apostle and two presidents of the Mormon church. It is statements like these which demonstrate that Mormons do not teach that Christ died for our sins in the same sense in which that phrase is used in Scripture. According to the Bible, Christ's death provides believers with atonement for their sins, but according to the Mormon church, Christ's death provides Mormons with the opportunity to work for their own atonement. They believe that they have the ability to "do these things through His Atonement" and that anyone who does not do these things "will, therefore, be damned" "no matter how much he may confess with his lips that Jesus is the Christ, or believe that his Father sent him into the world for the redemption of man."

All of this demonstrates that the Mormon church rejects the doctrine of justification by faith and substitutes in its place the doctrine of justification by works. This justification by works was expressly condemned by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians wherein he wrote:

If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed ... Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified ... I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Thus the Bible directly condemns and calls accursed those who preach as Elder Christofferson did in the June 2001 edition of the Ensign that:

Justification and sanctification are accomplished by the grace of Christ, which grace is a gift to man based on faith. But our moral agency is also a necessary element in this divine process ... To receive the gift we must act in the manner He has ordained.

Such statements are incompatible with Christianity, and it is interesting to note that Locke devoted the first 25 paragraphs of his Reasonableness of Christianity (as well as several sections of his commentaries) to the task of refuting the doctrine of justification by works. Locke was an avid proponent of the idea of justification by faith in the death of Christ for our sins and His subsequent resurrection.

wsforten said...

Now, you also mentioned that neither Locke nor Adams believed that Christ had to make "an INFINITE Atonement to satisfy the INFINITE transgression against an INFINITE God." However, the belief that Christ's sacrifice had to be infinite is not stated anywhere in the Bible as a necessary requirement in order for someone to be a Christian. I am not saying that Christ's sacrifice did or did not have to infinite in order for Him to atone for sins. I am simply saying that belief in the infinity of His sacrifice is not a requirement for one to be a Christian. Do you know of any passages of Scripture which may disagree with me on this point?

Jonathan Rowe said...

Rather than get into the sophistry and hair splitting, I'll simply note: Mormons believe in an unorthodox understanding of the Atonement. If John Locke and John Adams believed in the Atonement at all, their understanding was likewise unorthodox (given you need to believe God Himself Atoned in order to have an orthodox understanding of the doctrine, which John Adams clearly rejected and Locke seemed to).

The problem with going back and forth with you on Bible is that your understanding of the Good Book is just one of 27,000 different possibilities.

jimmiraybob said...

First, as to § 1873 of Story's Commentaries that you quoted above, the first part being,

” It was under a solemn consciousness of the dangers from ecclesiastical ambition, the bigotry of spiritual pride, and the intolerance of sects, thus exemplified in our domestic, as well as in foreign annals, that it was deemed advisable to exclude from the national government all power to act upon the subject.”

Madison and the federalists initially claimed the position that the new constitution would not grant any power to act upon religion. This, of course, became contentious and an anti-federalist rallying point. Eventually Madison and the federalists yielded and Madison undertook the development of the amendments. The next part of Story’s comment on the necessity of making this claim more explicit,

”The situation, too, of the different states equally proclaimed the policy, as well as the necessity of such an exclusion. In some of the states, episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in others, presbyterians; in others, congregationalists; in others, quakers; and in others again, there was a close numerical rivalry among contending sects. It was impossible, that there should not arise perpetual strife and perpetual jealousy on the subject of ecclesiastical ascendancy,… “

Then the last part of the first paragraph frames the solution,
”… if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment. The only security was in extirpating the power.”

And by extirpate, I feel safe in assuming that Story meant the complete eradication of the possibility of establishment and its attendant ills; to root out and to destroy wholly the possibility of religious establishment. (1) Obviously, at this point, Story is indicating that mere assurances [the Federalist case] were not adequate.

To this you say,

“This extirpation was accomplished through the establishment clause of the First Amendment,…”

cont. below

jimmiraybob said...

But Story did not say this. In order to extirpate the threat posed by “the bigotry of spiritual pride”, among others, Story said,

“But this [jrb - federalist assurances] alone would have been an imperfect security, if it had not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion, and a prohibition (as we have seen) of all religious tests. Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions; and the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship.”

Let me abstract the most relevant part, ”…if it had not been followed up by a declaration of …

1) 1st Amendment exercise clause: ”…the right of the free exercise of religion, and

2) Religious test clause (Article VI, paragraph 3): a prohibition (as we have seen) of all religious tests.

BOTH, in Story’s telling, were necessary to protect against religious bigotry and persecution. And, these were assurances guaranteed to all American citizens under the jurisdiction of the Constitution.

The distinctions you make are your constructs and not the author’s – Story’s. And remember, Story is interpreting and commenting on events that had happened when he was 10 years old. His commentaries are not making law and his observations only serve to give a snapshot of historical events – as he sees them. You are drawing conclusions that the author isn’t.

In reality, there are no caveats in the Constitution pertaining to in- and out-religious or philosophical sects or denominations or between religions or philosophies. In Story’s own telling, establishing inequality was unjust and certainly beyond the concerns and responsibilities of the national government.

cont. below

jimmiraybob said...

As I’ve said, the founders-framers of the nation-constitution were responding to the exigencies that they were faced with, which, in this case, was religious bigotry and persecution in the immediate post-colonial American experience. And, given the prevalence of Christian religious belief and practice and the associated bigotries and intolerance among the various Christian sects at the time, it’s not unreasonable to see these immediate concerns referenced in Christian (sectarian) terms. But that Christian on Christian persecution at the time was the result of the cause; namely, religious bigotry and prejudice.

The principle of defending the citizen from unjust persecution based on religious bigotry and prejudice is the same whether the reflected bigotry and resultant persecution is between rival Christian sects or between sects of different religions or philosophies (let’s imagine Christians wanting to ban the construction of Islamic mosques for instance).

Any broader reading of the period and the founders-framers easily reveals what cherry picking and manipulation of quotes does not, that the fundamental principle underlying the cause was to protect individual equality and protect the individual against unjust persecution based on personal conscience (or even expression if looking to a later part of the 1st).

They were incorporating general and inalienable rights and freedoms to all men who had been created equal. Your special pleading, in the form of historical invention, for a Christian exceptionalism (2), is the height of the sectarian arrogance that Story highlights as a threat to national accord. I assume that you cannot see this.

Again I ask. Show in indisputable and clear language, the explicit and authoritative claims made by the framers and ratifiers (not someone else putting words in their mouths, and no pulpit claims) that they forgot to make explicit in this the most important document to guide a new nation, that the 1st Amendment is meant for Christians and Christian sects only – only – and, in perpetuity. And show that this was the prevailing contemporary constitutional vision. At that point you’ll begin to make a creditable argument.

Secondly, if the 1st amendment was meant only the Christian sects, that would put the new national government in charge of defining Christianity and determining who was Christian and who wasn’t. Can you imagine? This can’t be done today even with a couple of millennia of effort on the front end (although in the olde thyme days the power of the sword and the auto-da-fé came in handy but still proved indecisive). If you think that this wasn’t also a concern of the time of the founding and framing then you haven’t done any reading. Your position is just plain inconsistent and contrary to the facts.

That being said, may your new year be a good year.

1) Webster’s 1828 Dictionary @

http://webstersdictionary1828.com/

EX'TIRPATE, verb transitive [Latin extirpo; ex and stirps, root.]

1. To pull or pluck up by the roots; to root out; to eradicate; to destroy totally; as, to extirpate weeds or noxious plants from a field.

2. To eradicate; to root out; to destroy wholly; as, to extirpate error or heresy; to extirpate a sect.

3. In surgery, to cut out; to cut off; to eat out; to remove; as, to extirpate a wen.

2) Why not just go with a “hey, we were important and here’s why” approach instead of always trying to eat the whole thing. Maybe a New Year’s resolution?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr. Fortenski, I love your work on Locke, much deeper than the rest of us who have glossed on it. I do think y'd benefir from the work of Kim Ian Parker, who shares your view of a quite "Christian" not "enlightenment Locke.

However, as we see here, Locke's view is still heterodox

http://tinyurl.com/lma56rp

he's not quite with the usual view of the Atonement because he's not with the concept of original sin.

[I do think you got the better of the Joseph story debate. Basically, although the Founders were open to the possibility that someday Judaism or Hindooism or Mohametism might number more than 0.0001% of the population, their real-world concern was Protestant sectarianism. [Even the Catholics were numerically insignificant.]

wsforten said...

Rather than get into the sophistry and hair splitting, I'll simply note: Mormons believe in an unorthodox understanding of the Atonement. If John Locke and John Adams believed in the Atonement at all, their understanding was likewise unorthodox (given you need to believe God Himself Atoned in order to have an orthodox understanding of the doctrine, which John Adams clearly rejected and Locke seemed to).

The problem with going back and forth with you on Bible is that your understanding of the Good Book is just one of 27,000 different possibilities.


You keep insisting that the Mormons, Locke and Adams all held to an unorthodox view of the atonement, but I'm not sure what you consider to be orthodox. According to the Catholics, all protestants are unorthodox. According to the each of the protestant sects all other sects are unorthodox. And according to the Baptists both Catholics and protestants are unorthodox. Orthodoxy is a very subjective field of study, so it may be possible that the Mormons, Locke and Adams are all equally unorthodox in their view of the atonement from the perspective of your system of orthodoxy. That being the case, it would be helpful in this discussion (and I'm sure that it would be helpful in future discussions as well) if you would explain what system of orthodoxy you are comparing these people to when you denounce them as being unorthodox.

Jonathan Rowe said...

The orthodox view of the Atonement is not difficult to understand -- it's again what all of those sects that hold to the Nicene Minimum believe: That Jesus, AS GOD INCARNATE made the Atonement. The sacrifice had to be OF an infinite God because mans' sins are against an INFINITE God.

And btw, I am not "denouncing" anyone as "unorthodox," because I don't consider that a term of derision.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And as I read your analysis of Mormon doctrine along with the words of the Mormons themselves, it seems your problem with them is they don't believe in salvation through "grace" alone.

Regardless how you want to spin it, the Mormons themselves say in what was reproduced here that they believe in some COMBINATION of works and grace for salvation.

Which is exactly what the key Founders and their philosophical influences that you'd like to rescue as "Christian" believe.

Ben Franklin for instance. And yes, I'm aware of his letter to Whitefield where he said he didn't think his works earned him salvation.

That doesn't mean he held to salvation by grace alone, simply because that's not what he believed.

He believed perhaps in some combination of grace and works. Perhaps that he was going to purgatory for a while because his works weren't good enough.

But works were clearly part of Franklin's salvation scheme:

"I think vital Religion has always suffer’d, when Orthodoxy is more regarded than Virtue. And the Scripture assures me, that at the last Day, we shall not be examin’d what we thought, but what we did; and our Recommendation will not be that we said Lord, Lord, but that we did GOOD to our Fellow Creatures. See Matth. 26."

http://www.historycarper.com/1738/04/13/opinions-should-be-judged-of-by-their-influences/

Also:

"... Faith is recommended as a Means of producing Morality: Our Saviour was a Teacher of Morality or Virtue, and they that were deficient and desired to be taught, ought first to believe in him as an able and faithful Teacher. Thus Faith would be a Means of producing Morality, and Morality of Salvation. But that from such Faith alone Salvation may be expected, appears to me to be neither a Christian Doctrine nor a reasonable one. And I should as soon expect, that my bare Believing Mr. Grew to be an excellent Teacher of the Mathematicks, would make me a Mathematician, as that Believing in Christ would of it self make a Man a Christian.

[...]

"Morality or Virtue is the End, Faith only a Means to obtain that End: And if the End be obtained, it is no matter by what Means."

http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/63/Dialogue_between_Two_Presbyterians_1p.html

So when Mormons say, "Salvation comes by grace, faith, and works," they might as well be quoting Ben Franklin.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I confess I didn't get through the entire debate on Joseph Story; but I know of the controversy and will reiterate my observations:

1. It's not clear what Joseph Story means by "Christianity." As we have seen, Story himself was a theological unitarian and universalist. He himself arguably wasn't a "Christian" according to (as Richard Price put it) "the commonly received ideas of Christianity."

2. The "real purpose" may shed light; but that's still no substitute for the original meaning of the actual text of the Constitution. Further, there may be more than one "real purposes" of various clauses and laws, particularly this one.

3. The original meaning of the text of the Constitution doesn't support the notion of "Christianity only." The text uses the term "religion" not "Christianity" and as noted in the original piece, the Founders were aware of other "religions" besides Christianity.

Indeed, Phillip Munoz, no leftist revisionist he, told me and and a group of folks (mainly conservatives & a hell of a lot more important than me) that Story's reading of the history of the framing and ratification is inaccurate, that it is "loaded" towards a "Massachusetts" view.

So putting together items 1-3 perhaps Story wanted to see a theological liberal unorthodox religious left establishment for the nation.

Art Deco said...

I am sure the librarians at Grove City College would be happy to instruct Warren Throckmorton as to the optimal use of your time and appropriate source evaluation and search strategies.

Tom Van Dyke said...

But works were clearly part of Franklin's salvation scheme:

"I think vital Religion has always suffer’d, when Orthodoxy is more regarded than Virtue. And the Scripture assures me, that at the last Day, we shall not be examin’d what we thought, but what we did; and our Recommendation will not be that we said Lord, Lord, but that we did GOOD to our Fellow Creatures. See Matth. 26."


FTR, it's hard to see where Mt 26 applies. I think he means Matthew 25, the parable of the sheep and the goats, and is used against the "faith alone saves" theology.

Matthew 25:31-46
New International Version (NIV)
The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


wsforten said...

Thank you for providing that explanation, Jon. I will gladly admit that, if the Nicene Creed is the standard of orthodoxy, then neither Locke nor Adams nor Franklin were orthodox in that sense. But then again, neither is any Baptist who has ever lived. You see, near the end of the Nicene Creed we find the statement "I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins." This statement is an acceptance of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration which is not found in the pages of Scripture, and it has been one of the primary points of division between Baptists and Catholics for more than 1800 years.

Baptists teach that the remission of sins comes not through baptism but rather through faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. We read of this in Romans 3:25 where the Bible refers to Christ as "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God." It was this point of contention that earned the Baptists their name, for the Catholics used to label them with the pejorative of anabaptist on the grounds that the Baptists required those who had been baptized at birth by Catholics to be baptized again if they left the doctrines of Catholicism and accepted the truth of the gospel. Thus they were called anabaptists or "those who baptize again." And thus Baptists do not adhere to the "orthodoxy" of the Nicene Creed.

Do you think that Baptists should not be considered Christians?

Now, it is interesting that you have introduced Benjamin Franklin into the discussion. We've discussed Franklin's beliefs in the past, and you know that I think Franklin was a Christian. I assume that is part of the reason that you dismissed his letter to Whitefield right off the bat. In that letter, Franklin directly denied the charge which you have brought against him, and I've cited that letter in the past to demonstrate the error of your position. Nevertheless, I'll play along and demonstrate your mistake without quoting the letter to Whitefield in 1753.

Let's start ten years prior to the letter to Whitefield and consider a letter which Franklin wrote to his sister in 1743. In that letter, Franklin stated that his view of morality and its role in religion was the same as that which was presented on pages 367 - 372 of a new book by Jonathan Edwards entitled Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England. Have you ever read this section of Edwards' book to see what Franklin claimed to believe about morality?

wsforten said...

This section of Edwards' book begins with:

But another thing I would mention, which it is of much greater importance that we should attend to, and that is the duty incumbent upon God’s people at this day, to take heed, that while they abound in external duties of devotion, such as praying, hearing, singing, and attending religious meetings, there be a proportionable care to abound in moral duties, such as acts of righteousness, truth, meekness, forgiveness, and love towards our neighbour; which are of much greater importance in the sight of God than all the externals of his worship...

The internal acts and principles of the worship of God, or the worship of the heart, in love and fear, trust in God, and resignation to him, &c. are the most essential and important of all duties of religion whatsoever; for therein consists the essence of all religion. But of this inward religion there are two sorts of external manifestations or expressions. To one sort belong outward acts of worship, such as meeting in religious assemblies, attending sacraments and other outward institutions, honouring God with gestures, such as bowing, or kneeling before him, or with words, in speaking honourably of him in prayer, praise, or religious conference. To the other sort belong expressions of our love to God, by obeying his moral commands, self-denial, righteousness, meekness, and christian love, in our behaviour among men. The latter are of vastly the greatest importance in the christian life.


Along with this distinction between two types of "outward acts of worship," this section of Edwards' book also contains a reference to Matthew 25 which Tom correctly identified as the passage which Franklin likely intended to reference in the letter to his father which you cited. In regards to this passage of Scripture, Edwards wrote:

When the Scripture directs us to show our faith by our works, it is principally the latter sort are intended; as appears by Jam. ii from ver. 8, to the end, and 2d chap. ver. 3, 7-11. And we are to be judged, at the last day, especially by these latter sort of works; as is evident by the account we have of the day of judgment, in the 25th of Matt.. External acts of worship, in words and gestures, and outward forms, are of little use, but as signs of something else, or as they are a profession of inward worship. They are not so properly showing our religion by our deeds; for they are only showing our religion by words, or an outward profession. But he that shows religion in the other sort of duties, shows it in something more than a profession of words, he shows it in deeds. And though deeds may be hypocritical, as well as words; yet in themselves they are of greater importance, for they are much more profitable to ourselves and our neighbour. We cannot express our love to God by doing any thing that is profitable to him; God would therefore have us do it in those things that are profitable to our neighbours, whom he has constituted his receivers. Our goodness extends not to God, but to our fellow-Christians. The latter sort of duties put greater honour upon God, because there is greater self-denial in them. The external acts of worship, consisting in bodily gestures, words, and sounds, are the cheapest part of religion, and least contrary to our lusts. The difficulty of thorough, external religion, does not lie in them. Let wicked men enjoy their covetousness, their pride, their malice, envy, and revenge, their sensuality and voluptuousness, in their behaviour amongst men, and they will be willing to compound the matter with God, and submit to what forms of worship you please, and as many as you please. This was manifest in the Jews in the days of the prophets, the Pharisees in Christ’s time, and the Papists and Mahometans at this day.

wsforten said...

I'll refrain from quoting further and simply recommend that go to https://archive.org/stream/somethought00edwa#page/367/mode/1up and read the entire section for yourself. Should you do so, you will find that one of the greatest Christian theologians in all time held to the same view of morality and good works as that expressed by Franklin in his 1738 letter to his father. Edwards expounded on the very same passage of Scripture which Franklin intended to reference and proclaimed that religion is better served by virtue and good deeds than by the mere words of orthodoxy. Edwards claimed that it is those whose faith is evident by their deeds who will enter heaven rather than those who, like the Pharisees in Scripture, falsely claim to prove their faith by their words. Thus, Franklin and Edwards agreed in their view of morality and its value to Christians.

Do you think that Jonathan Edwards should not be considered a Christian?

Oh, and by the way, you know as well as I do that Franklin's "Dialogue between Two Presbyterians" was satirical. The paragraph which you quoted was stated by a character identified simply as S, and the only way to attribute the claims of either S or T to Franklin is to identify Franklin as a Presbyterian. Nevertheless, it should be noted that in this dialogue, S made the statement, "I suppose you think no Doctrine fit to be preached in a Christian Congregation, but such as Christ and his Apostles used to preach," and a few paragraphs later, he said, "Our Saviour was a Teacher of Morality or Virtue, and they that were deficient and desired to be taught, ought first to believe in him as an able and faithful Teacher." If these are the opinions of Franklin himself, then this dialogue marks the first recorded instance that I know of in which he referred to Jesus as the Savior and as the Christ. And it was only a few days later that Franklin wrote: "Christ by his Death and Sufferings has purchas’d for us those easy Terms and Conditions of our Acceptance with God, propos’d in the Gospel, to wit, Faith and Repentance."

Jonathan Rowe said...

"In that letter, Franklin directly denied the charge which you have brought against him, and I've cited that letter in the past to demonstrate the error of your position."

Strawman alert. I'm not sure what charges you are referring to. In the letter to Whitefield Franklin never says he believed men are saved by grace alone (that's the only charge I think I brought against him here). But rather Franklin didn't believe his good works merited himself infinite happiness.

wsforten said...

Well, if you're gonna force me to quote the letter anyway, then I'm happy to oblige. Here is what Franklin wrote to Whitefield:

You will see in this my notion of good works, that I am far from expecting to merit heaven by them. By heaven we understand a state of happiness, infinite in degree, and eternal in duration: I can do nothing to deserve such rewards. He that for giving a draught of water to a thirsty person, should expect to be paid with a good plantation, would be modest in his demands, compared with those who think they deserve heaven for the little good they do on earth. Even the mixt imperfect pleasures we enjoy in this world, are rather from God’s goodness than our merit: how much more such happiness of heaven!

As you can see, Franklin was not merely stating that he "didn't believe his good works merited himself infinite happiness." He was saying that the very idea of obtaining heaven through good works was preposterous.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Should you do so, you will find that one of the greatest Christian theologians in all time held to the same view of morality and good works as that expressed by Franklin in his 1738 letter to his father. Edwards expounded on the very same passage of Scripture which Franklin intended to reference and proclaimed that religion is better served by virtue and good deeds than by the mere words of orthodoxy. Edwards claimed that it is those whose faith is evident by their deeds who will enter heaven rather than those who, like the Pharisees in Scripture, falsely claim to prove their faith by their words. Thus, Franklin and Edwards agreed in their view of morality and its value to Christians."

The problem with this is that you cherry pick and try to fit a square peg into a round hole.

No, I'm sorry, Jonathan Edwards was never so un-discerned on doctrinal matters that he would say:

"What an Arminian or an Arian is, I cannot say that I very well know; the Truth is, I make such Distinctions very little my Study; ..."

Likewise I know the orthodox, "grace alone saves" view of how good works demonstrate a saving faith, but that it's the faith or grace alone that saves. I imagine, that's Edwards' point.

The problem is, that's not Franklin's point. At least not in the letter to his father.

"I think vital Religion has always suffer’d, when Orthodoxy is more regarded than Virtue. And the Scripture assures me, that at the last Day, we shall not be examin’d what we thought, but what we did; and our Recommendation will not be that we said Lord, Lord, but that we did GOOD to our Fellow Creatures. See Matth. 26."

Franklin clearly says, here, ACTIONS or WORKS is more important than belief, faith or orthodoxy.

So this letter supports my contention that Franklin apparently believed in some combination of faith and works for salvation.

And you, once again, shot and missed.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"As you can see, Franklin was not merely stating that he 'didn't believe his good works merited himself infinite happiness.' He was saying that the very idea of obtaining heaven through good works was preposterous."

No he was saying the notion of meriting Heaven by WORKS ALONE was not correct.

I also think you miss the overall context of his letters to Whitefield and his sister.

Because Franklin had earlier taken a position that works mattered greatly in the salvation scheme, he started to be accused of holding the position that works earned salvation.

He then sought out to correct that error.

It does not follow that Franklin believed men are justified through faith or grace alone, which is a position he never evinced taking.

Tom Van Dyke said...

FTR, the Epistle of James, Chap 2

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.


The theological weeds get pretty tall, esp among Calvinists

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/qas/if-justification-faith-alone-how-can-we-apply-jame/

and if there's one thing we know about him, Ben Franklin had no time for such theological hair-splitting.

Jonathan Rowe said...

That's a good point Tom. When I noted

-- Likewise I know the orthodox, "grace alone saves" view of how good works demonstrate a saving faith, but that it's the faith or grace alone that saves. I imagine, that's Edwards' point. --

I imagined the very explanation that RC Sproul provides in the link you gave. It's a way of reconciling that difficult passage of James with the notion that men are justified through faith alone.

The problem is there is more than one way to skin a cat and interpret the Bible. And that passage of James could also be interpreted to mean that good works, along with faith are necessary for justification.

Ben Franklin did indeed clarify his position that he rejected the notion that men are justified by their "good works" alone. The reason he needed to make that clarification is because he was, for good reason, relating to things he had said, developing a reputation as someone who endorsed a "works alone" justification scheme.

And that's because of statements like what I reproduce below where he clearly rejects that men are justified through faith alone.

"But that from such Faith alone Salvation may be expected, appears to me to be neither a Christian Doctrine nor a reasonable one."

http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/63/Dialogue_between_Two_Presbyterians_1p.html

So synthesizing all this, it appears Franklin endorsed a justification scheme exactly like what the Mormons would later endorse:

"Salvation comes by grace, faith, and works,"...

wsforten said...

Jon,

How do you know that the words of S. in the "Dialogue between Two Presbyterians" are the words of Franklin?

Jonathan Rowe said...

WS: You are starting to play Leo Strauss, deconstructionist games. This same method is used to prove John Locke was a secret atheist.

Tom Van Dyke said...





Franklin also cites Mt Matthew 7:16-27, especially verse 26:

"But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand"

according to this paper

http://home.uchicago.edu/~ahkissel/papers/franklinreligion.html

Not sure I agree with the paper but the copious crossreferencing of Franklin with Bible verses should be helpful in this debate.

wsforten said...

It's a perfectly honest question. I have no problem with speculating that the words of S. might convey the thoughts of Franklin at this point in time, but if you're going to be dogmatic in claiming that these words are definitely Franklin's view on morality in spite of multiple contradictory statements made mere days later, then I would like to know how you can be so certain of that claim.

As far as I can tell, the only thing we know for sure about the origin of the quote that you provided is that it was stated by one of the characters in a religious satire published anonymously in Franklin's paper.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"in spite of multiple contradictory statements made mere days later"

He doesn't contradict the claim:

"But that from such Faith alone Salvation may be expected, appears to me to be neither a Christian Doctrine nor a reasonable one."

Jonathan Rowe said...

"But then again, neither is any Baptist who has ever lived."

This isn't true. There may be some/many Baptists that don't accept the Nicene Creed. But some/many do.

But your point is a red herring anyway. Baptists do hold to orthodox Trinitarian beliefs and have such creeds like the Philadelphia Confession of Faith which hold to the orthodox doctrine of the Atonement. That it had to be an Infinite God who made the Atonement.

wsforten said...

Come now, Jon. You claim that Franklin never contradicts the claim "that from such Faith alone Salvation may be expected, appears to me to be neither a Christian Doctrine nor a reasonable one." But to quote merely this sentence alone is insufficient to support the case which you are attempting to make. The word "such" in this sentence begs the question of what kind of faith Franklin is here speaking of. The answer to that question is that he is here referring to faith that does not produce good works. That this kind of faith is insufficient for salvation is expressly stated in James chapter 2 where we read that "faith without works is dead." And in the case of Abraham we find that "faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect." This is the view of faith which Franklin defended in his "Defense of Mr. Hemphill's Observations," in his letter to George Whitefield and in his letter to his sister; and if we attribute the words of S. to Franklin, then those words must be examined in light of this view of faith.

That this actually was Franklin's view of faith is abundantly evident from his "Defense of Mr. Hemphill's Observations" which was written mere days after the "Dialogue between Two Presbyterians" and which should thus be considered as conveying Franklin's view at the same point in life as the "Dialogue" if the words of S. are considered to be those of Franklin. In the "Defense," we find Franklin making the following observation:

Let us then consider what the Scripture Doctrine of this Affair is, and in a Word it is this: Christ by his Death and Sufferings has purchas’d for us those easy Terms and Conditions of our Acceptance with God, propos’d in the Gospel, to wit, Faith and Repentance: By his Death and Sufferings, he has assur’d us of God’s being ready and willing to accept of our sincere, tho’ imperfect Obedience to his reveal’d Will; By his Death and Sufferings he has atton’d for all Sins forsaken and amended, but surely not for such as are wilfully and obstinately persisted in. This is Hemphill’s Notion of this Affair, and this he has always preach’d; and he believes, ’tis what no wise Man will contradict.

This paragraph reveals to us the nature of the conflict in which Franklin was then engaged. He is defending a distinction between those whose faith leads them to a sincere obedience of the commands of Scripture and those whose faith does nothing to change their willful persistence in violating those commands. Those whose faith leads to repentance, Franklin identifies as Christians while those whose faith produces no virtue whatsoever, Franklin rejects as being no Christians at all. This is the view of the relationship between faith and works that Franklin conveys throughout his "Defence of Mr. Hemphill's Observations."

A few paragraphs later we find Franklin presenting the following conclusion:

If then Christ has shed his Blood to save such as wilfully continue in their Sins, and obstinately persist in a vicious Course of Action, then in Order to evidence our Trust and Reliance upon the Merits and Satisfaction of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must continue quietly in a State of Impenitence and Wickedness, and promise ourselves Favour and Acceptance with God, notwithstanding all our Sins.

This again reveals the nature of Franklin's position. He is not claiming as the Mormons do that one must perfectly adhere to all of God's commandments in order to merit eternal life with the Father. He is arguing that those who have truly placed their faith in Christ will not willfully continue in their sins but will rather evidence that faith with good works. Franklin explains this in even clearer detail in the next paragraph where we read:

wsforten said...

when Christians sincerely endeavor to obey God’s Commands, and perform their Duty really and affectionately, tho’ very imperfectly; to rely then and depend upon the Merits and Satisfaction of Christ for our final Acceptance with God, is undoubtedly not only the Duty, but the Comfort of all Christians. This is a Trust and Reliance founded upon the Gospel. But when Men continue in a vicious Course of Action, and imagine that God, notwithstanding their impenitence, will save them at last, and that because of the Merits and Satisfaction of our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, provided they at particular Times, when they happen to fall into a Paroxysm of Devotion, confidently declare their Trust and Dependence thereupon, and apply them to themselves, as our unmeaning Authors sometimes talk; when Sinners, I say, trust and rely upon this; it is a foolish, presumptuous and extravagantly unreasonable Reliance, and it is obvious to the meanest Capacity (our Authors still excepted) that such a Dependance is no way founded upon the Gospel. Besides, such a Trust and Reliance as this, is to injure and affront the great Redeemer of Mankind in the most extravagant manner imaginable; as if he came from Heaven, as if he suffer’d so much, not to lead Sinners to Repentance, but to encourage them in their Impenitence.

Here we see Franklin expressing that Christians have a duty to obey God but that their salvation ultimately rests on the "Merits and Satisfaction of Christ." In contrast to the true Christian, Franklin presents those who obstinately refuse to obey the commands of God while occasionally declaring with words only that they have faith in Christ. These whose faith consists merely of words without any evidence of works Franklin denounces as being no Christians at all. That this is the view which Franklin is defending is clearly stated by him a few paragraphs later where he writes that "Saving Faith, in Hemphill’s Sense, is always attended with suitable Effects; that is, with Piety and Virtue, or Love to God and Mankind."

Thus it is evident that Franklin's view of the relationship between faith and works was greatly different than that of the Mormons. Franklin viewed works as the product and evidence of faith in the merits of Christ's sacrifice while Mormons view works as the means of meriting eternal life with the Father on one's own. In Mormonism, Christ's death merely granted immortality to all human souls (except, of course, for those identified by the church as "sons of perdition") leaving each of us with the opportunity to conform to the commands of Scripture and escape damnation. According to Franklin, however, Christ's death provides those who truly believe on Him (as evidenced by their repentance and good works) with an unearned merit that satisfies the justice of God. The two could not be more clearly distinct.

wsforten said...

In regards to the acceptance of the Nicene Creed by Baptists, can you point me to a single Baptist confession of faith which acknowledges "one baptism for the remission of sins"? This doctrine of baptismal regeneration is the specific point of the Nicene Creed which I identified as being incompatible with Baptist beliefs. Are you claiming that there are Baptists who actually accept this doctrine?

Jonathan Rowe said...

-- Come now, Jon. You claim that Franklin never contradicts the claim "that from such Faith alone Salvation may be expected, appears to me to be neither a Christian Doctrine nor a reasonable one." --

You are unbelievable. Not only does Franklin not contradict this statement but he has loads of other statements that support the idea that he didn't believe in salvation through faith.

All you are doing is dumping words in an attempt to explain away what Franklin clearly said: He didn't believe men are justified through faith alone, but rather good works were necessary for salvation.

There is more than one way to interpret James chapter 2. And I understand other sects that don't share your understanding of that provision endorse Franklin's understanding that good works are necessary along with grace for salvation.

Perhaps a Roman Catholic could chime in; I think this is their understanding.

Franklin also shared their belief in Purgatory.

It obviously wasn't from the "Magesterium" that Franklin to his beliefs, but rather from his rationalistic interpretation of the faith.

wsforten said...

Yes, there is more than one way to interpret James chapter 2 just as there is more than one way to interpret what Franklin wrote in his defense of Hemphill. It is obvious that I interpret Franklin to have been saying one thing, and you interpret him to have been saying something completely different. But does this multiplicity of interpretations mean that there is no way to accurately determine what Franklin actually intended to say? Not at all. It may be difficult to understand Franklin while drawing only from a few selected quotes, but when one studies Franklin's writings in detail and in context, it becomes possible to determine whether a given interpretation is right or wrong. This process of comparing any given interpretation of Franklin with a detailed study of his writings is a rationalistic process, and the same process can be applied to Scripture to weed out the false interpretations of that collection of writings as well.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And I think it's clear that YOUR interpretation is false. You are reading into Franklin's words what YOU WANT HIM to believe, not what he ACTUALLY SAYS.

HE ACTUALLY says faith alone is not sufficient for salvation. And that contradicts what you'd LIKE him to believe.

My interpretation has the superiority of reading Franklin's words WITHOUT contradiction.

It's possible to believe in some combination of grace -- the Merits and Satisfaction of our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ -- plus good works as necessary for salvation.

So there's no necessary contradiction. The same goes for for Franklin wrote to Whitefield and his sister. There he does not say men are justified by grace alone, just that you need more than good works.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And again, I'm no expert in Roman Catholic justification. But what is being preached here by Franklin and Hemphill seems to parallel their grace-works justification scheme.

You have an initial conversion where you are forgiven and then there are terms and conditions (i.e., necessary WORKS) for maintaining your salvation. And if you are deficient in that end, grace can then step in and make you right with God. You have to constantly maintain your salvation by practicing good works and continuing to ask for and get forgiveness when your works are not sufficient.

If at the very end you aren't right with God, perhaps perhaps purgatory (which he doesn't mention here but does in the 1780s).

The emphasis in what is reproduced below is mine.

"Tho’ Hemphill, upon farther Reflection, will own that Justification, in the Sense above, is not a Privilege so peculiarly belonging to the first Christians, but that it may be applicable now-a-days; yet this will not at all answer their foolish Design, because the Case is exactly the same with that of the first Christians, or those converted from Judaism or Gentilism to Christianity, at the first Propagation of it. What Hemphill means, is this; Suppose an Indian, for Instance, now converted to Christianity, Justification in the Sense above might as well be apply’d to him, as to the first Christians: If the Reason of Things continue the same, God Almighty, according to the Christian Scheme of Religion, would forgive our suppos’d Indian, upon his Conversion, all his past Sins, as he did the Sins of the first Christians upon their Conversion, or upon Account of their believing in Jesus Christ. Now the Question with respect to our new Convert, or new Christian, is, What are the Terms or Conditions of his final Acceptance with God? In Hemphill’s Opinion, and according to his Notions of Christianity, a sincere Endeavour to conform to all the Laws of true Goodness, Piety, Virtue, and universal Righteousness, or the Laws of Morality both with respect to God and Man, are the Terms of his final Acceptance with God; and when he fails in any Instances, a sincere Repentance and a renew’d Endeavour, begging divine Assistance, to practise the contrary Virtues; and when our Convert, and all other Christians, have thus endeavour’d sincerely to conform to the Laws of Piety and Virtue, tho’ their Obedience be attended with many Imperfections, they will, as Christians, or as Believers in Christ Jesus, be accepted of by God, according to the christian Scheme of Religion, the Imperfections of their Virtue will be forgiven upon account of the Merits and Satisfaction of Christ, as was before observ’d. So that what Hemphill farther says (as in the Extract) is still true, if rightly understood, viz. that all Hopes of Happiness but what are built upon Purity of Heart and a virtuous Life, are, according to the Christian Scheme, vain and delusory. That is, all Hopes of Happiness to Christians, as such, consider’d separately and distinctly from the Practice of the Moral Virtues, are vain and delusory. If these Gentlemen assert the contrary, they must infallibly run into Antinomianism, how angry soever, they may appear to be at the Charge. Now, how justly the Accusation of Hemphill’s denying our Justification by Faith is founded upon the Extracts before us, is obvious to every body. The first Extract has nothing to do with us at all, who were all along educated and instructed in the Christian Religion; the second has been shewn to contain in it the Terms or Conditions of our Acceptance with God, as Christians, for Christ’s Sake, or upon Account of his Merits and Satisfaction.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Franklin also says that the heathen who has never heard of Christ MAY be saved through, at least in very important part, his good works. And then transitions into a hope for universal salvation though Christ's universal atonement.

He's saying that people who have never heard of Christ can use their good conscience to work to save themselves, and perhaps, in some mysterious way, they benefit from the grace of Christ's atonement, even though they never actually got a chance to know of Christ.

"They who have no other Knowledge of God and their Duty, but what the Light of Nature teaches them; no Law for the Government of their Actions, but the Law of Reason and Conscience; will be accepted, if they live up to the Light which they have, and govern their Actions accordingly. To this our stern Authors answer, Will the Heathen be accepted of God, by living up to the Light which they have, and governing their Actions accordingly? then, say they, there is no need of Christ’s Merits and Satisfaction, in order to our Acceptance with God. Well concluded! Pray, how came these Rev. Gentlemen to know that the Heathen, living up to the Light of Nature, may not have an Interest in the Merits and Satisfaction of Christ, or that they may not be accepted of God upon account thereof. The Merits of Christ’s Death and Sufferings may be so great as to extend to the Heathen World, they may reap the Advantages of it, tho’ they never had an Opportunity of hearing of him, provided they make a good Use of their Reason, and other Principles of Action within them. And to say otherwise is actually to lessen and diminish the Merits of the Redeemer of Mankind: The Holy Scriptures represent his Mission as a general Benefit, a Benefit which Regards all Men, and in Fact, tell us that Christ dyed for all. And can any imagine that our good God, as is here suppos’d, will eternally damn the Heathen World for not obeying a Law they never heard of; that is, damn them for not doing an Impossibility. Surely none can imagine such a thing; except such as form their Ideas of the great Governor of the Universe, by reflecting upon their own cruel, unjust and barbarous Tempers, as our Authors seem to do. If God requir’d Obedience to an unknown Law, Obedience to the Gospel from those that never heard of it, or who never were in a Capacity or Circumstances of being reasonably convinc’d of it, it would be in the first Place manifest Injustice; for surely, Promulgation or Publishing of a Law must be allow’d necessary, before Disobedience to it can be accounted criminal. It is utterly impossible to reconcile the contrary Notion with the Idea of a good and just God; and is a most dreadful and shocking Reflection upon the Almighty. In the next Place, we should find the Mission of our Saviour so far from being a general Benefit, as the Scripture teaches, that on the contrary it would be but a particular one, distributed only to the smallest Part of Mankind: But, which is more, this Mission of our Saviour wou’d be a very great Misfortune and Unhappiness to the greatest Part (three Fourths) of Mankind. For it is probable, that without this Necessity of Obedience to an unknown Law, many would be able to save themselves by a good Use of their Reason and the Light of Nature; whereas by the Mission of our Redeemer, and the Imposition of an unknown Law, a Law which they could not observe (I mean what is peculiar to Christianity) they are reduc’d to an utter Impossibility of being sav’d. I do not think that these Observations can be contradicted without saying Things very injurious to the Deity, and therefore erroneous. Agreable to the general Notion here advanc’d are the Sentiments of St. Paul in Rom. 4:15 where he says, For where no Law is there is no Transgression. And Rom. 5:13 Sin is not imputed when there is no Law. See also Rom. 2:14, 15."

wsforten said...

That's rather dogmatic. Do you think that is possible to be equally dogmatic that some interpretations of Scripture are wrong?

Tom Van Dyke said...

There is more than one way to interpret James chapter 2. And I understand other sects that don't share your understanding of that provision endorse Franklin's understanding that good works are necessary along with grace for salvation.

Perhaps a Roman Catholic could chime in; I think this is their understanding.


If you read Cavinist bastians like oldlife.org, you see the Calvinist vs. Catholic argument replayed ad infinutum, the doctrines of "justification.'

I find it endlessly boring but Franklin is replaying it--specifically in that he's rejecting the Calvinist view [his parents were Calvinists].

Thus I read

But that from such Faith alone Salvation may be expected, appears to me to be neither a Christian Doctrine nor a reasonable one.

as a specific refudiation of sole fide, "faith alone saves."

If you want to get into the tall weeds of Protestantism vs. Catholicism, just google "justification" and the number of hits will choke you. But Franklin here is more discussing certain Protestant concepts, not "Christian" ones in the larger sense.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Just ran across this. The Council of Trent was convened in 1545 to answer the theological challenges of the Reformation.

http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/11/st-clement-of-rome-soteriology-and-ecclesiology/
_____________
In Catholic soteriology, only when faith is informed by the internal habit of agape in the soul is faith living faith, and hence justifying faith. The Council of Trent declared:

“For faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body. For which reason it is most truly said that faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 20) and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity. (Gal 5:6, 6:15)11

If any one saith that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema."
___________________
The topic of "justification" makes my eyes glaze over, but it's huge with some Protestants, even 500 years later.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

Yup, Franklin's view here seems closer to that of the Roman Catholic's than to Calvinists OR other NON-Calvinist Protestant understandings that hold to "faith alone" saves.

As noted before -- and as our good friend Dr. Frazer notes in his book -- Franklin thought good works were a NECESSARY component for salvation, but NONETHELESS insufficient to merit eternal happiness. (I just reread this portion of his book last night.)

Though, Franklin's "Protestant" God is chiefly defined by his BENEVOLENT nature.

If you read Franklin's writings where he notes he doesn't deserve Heaven, but expects to get it anyway, often he doesn't even mention it's his hope in Christ on which he's relying or expecting to get into Heaven, but rather God's benevolence.

Though it did appear from reading of the Hemphill affair, Franklin saw Christ's death as a Supreme Act of Benevolence, so much so that it may well have saved all of humanity.

You see him rejecting the notion not of just "limited atonement" but also of the idea that you had to actually accept Christ to be saved because most of the world had never heard of him. And it would be unjustly cruel and unfair if Christ died only for converts who had good fortune of hearing his name.

Tom Van Dyke said...

As noted before -- and as our good friend Dr. Frazer notes in his book -- Franklin thought good works were a NECESSARY component for salvation, but NONETHELESS insufficient to merit eternal happiness.

The theology of the "justification" wars is impenetrable to those outside them, methinks. When Trent writes

or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God

it's referring to the Calvinist meme that God "elects" people for salvation via "irresistible grace." The Catholic or Arminian position is that you have to say "yes" to God, and accept his grace, forgivenness and salvation.

Calvinism disputes the role [or soteriological existence of] free will. This is part of Franklin's rejection of it, for as we know he's very big on personal responsibility. He hates most "wicked Christians" and no doubt the concept of

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinomianism

[As I said, these are verrry tall weeds.]

wsforten said...

I apologize for the delayed response, but the paragraphs that you referenced from Franklin's defense of Hemphill do not reveal the kind of belief system that you are attempting to attribute to Franklin. Let's start with the following statement:

What are the Terms or Conditions of his final Acceptance with God? In Hemphill’s Opinion, and according to his Notions of Christianity, a sincere Endeavour to conform to all the Laws of true Goodness, Piety, Virtue, and universal Righteousness, or the Laws of Morality both with respect to God and Man, are the Terms of his final Acceptance with God

Notice how Franklin avoids saying that one's final acceptance with God is based on his obedience to the Law. Instead of this, he claims that one's acceptance is based merely on "a sincere Endeavour" to do so. This alone marks Franklin's belief system as very different from that of the Mormon system which requires perfect obedience and not merely the endeavour to obey. But Franklin continues. He recognizes that those making this endeavour will always fail in the attempt, but he also recognizes that, in spite of their failures:

when our Convert, and all other Christians, have thus endeavour’d sincerely to conform to the Laws of Piety and Virtue, tho’ their Obedience be attended with many Imperfections, they will, as Christians, or as Believers in Christ Jesus, be accepted of by God, according to the christian Scheme of Religion, the Imperfections of their Virtue will be forgiven upon account of the Merits and Satisfaction of Christ

Here Franklin clearly states that one's final justification with God is based on the "Merits and Satisfaction of Christ." According to his view, when one becomes a Christian, he is required to make a sincere attempt to live in accordance with God's Word, but one's failure to actually accomplish that attempt will still be forgiven on account of the merits and satisfaction of Christ. Those who do not make a sincere attempt to obey God, however, are rejected as if they were not Christians at all.

This leads us to Franklin's summary that:

all Hopes of Happiness to Christians, as such, consider’d separately and distinctly from the Practice of the Moral Virtues, are vain and delusory.

In other words, anyone who claims to be a Christian but who has no moral virtues is merely deluding himself and is not really a Christian at all. This summary, of course, confirms exactly with what we find in James chapter 2 as has already been pointed out. There we read that those who claim to have faith in God but do not have any good works to prove that claim are trusting in a dead faith and are not Christians at all.

wsforten said...

We could go further and notice that this view is also taught in other passages of Scripture, for we read in Matthew 7:15-20:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Here we are told by Christ Himself that it is the fruits or the good works of Christians that shows us who really is a Christian and who is not. Those claiming to be Christians who produce good works are to be accepted as real Christians, but those whose claim of Christianity is accompanied with evil works are rejected as non-Christians. And this is further emphasized in Matthew 18:15-17 where we find:

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Here we see that when a Christian sins, he is expected to repent of his sin and seek forgiveness knowing that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." But if one who is thought to be a Christian refuses to repent of his sins, then he is to be considered a heathen and not a Christian. Thus, the Bible confirms exactly what Franklin proclaimed in his defense of Hemphill. Anyone claiming to be Christian who does not make any attempt to live a virtuous life is delusory.

As for Franklin's view of the salvation of those who have never heard the gospel, he here states nothing more than what has been proclaimed by hundreds, if not thousands, of Christian theologians. The idea that those who never hear will still be permitted to enter heaven has been very popular among Christians for centuries. This is consistent with the view that children and those who are mentally handicapped who die before they are able to understand the gospel are permitted to enter heaven. I disagree with this view on the grounds that I do not think that anyone who is capable of understanding the gospel has ever been permitted by God to die before having a chance to hear the gospel and respond to it. However, I do not know of a single, published Christian author who has expressed agreement with me in this regard. The majority of the Christian community is split basically in half between the view expressed by Franklin and the view held by the Calvinists. To claim that Franklin's view of the salvation of the heathen marks him as a non-Christian is to deny the Christianity of nearly half the Christians living today.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Notice how Franklin avoids saying that one's final acceptance with God is based on his obedience to the Law. Instead of this, he claims that one's acceptance is based merely on "a sincere Endeavour" to do so. This alone marks Franklin's belief system as very different from that of the Mormon system which requires perfect obedience and not merely the endeavour to obey."

I never said Franklin said you had to perfectly obey the law to merit acceptance with God. Rather that his system of justification is one of both faith and works.

Likewise, though I am no expert on Mormon theology, I don't trust your representation of what they claim to believe.

They said on the very sources that I reproduced that they, like Franklin, claim both works, faith and grace necessary for salvation.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Those who do not make a sincere attempt to obey God, however, are rejected as if they were not Christians at all.

"This leads us to Franklin's summary that:

-- all Hopes of Happiness to Christians, as such, consider’d separately and distinctly from the Practice of the Moral Virtues, are vain and delusory. --

"In other words, anyone who claims to be a Christian but who has no moral virtues is merely deluding himself and is not really a Christian at all. This summary, of course, confirms exactly with what we find in James chapter 2 as has already been pointed out. There we read that those who claim to have faith in God but do not have any good works to prove that claim are trusting in a dead faith and are not Christians at all."

No, you are distorting and putting words into Franklin's mouth that he never said. Now knock it off or I am close this thread.

He says, based on the very Indian hypothetical, that you become a "Christian" -- and are a "Christian" -- and if you don't CONDUCT YOURSELF WITH YOUR BEHAVIOR PROPERLY you mess with your justification. It's a denial of Sola Fide and an affirmation of a faith plus works scheme, where good works are a VITAL component in salvation, even if insufficient and in need of something else.

wsforten said...

Well, why don't we look at that particular sentence one phrase at a time? Franklin said:

all Hopes of Happiness to Christians, as such, consider’d separately and distinctly from the Practice of the Moral Virtues, are vain and delusory.

By the first phrase, "all Hopes of Happiness to Christians," I believe that we both understand Franklin to be referencing the hope that Christians have of spending eternity with God in Heaven.

I see the phrase "as such" as being a modifier of the word "Hope" in the previous phrase. This tells us that Franklin is referring to this hope as merely a hope and not using it, as it is sometimes used in Christian circles, as synonym for certainty.

The next phrase is "consider’d separately and distinctly from the Practice of the Moral Virtues." From this phrase, we can see that Franklin is referring to a hope that is not accompanied by good works. He is speaking of a hope that exists separate from such virtues.

The final phrase, "are vane and delusory," tells us that Franklin viewed this type of hope to be a false hope. Anyone who claims to have hope that he will spend eternity in heaven but who never produces any good works as a result of that hope has a false hope. This is what I think that Franklin is saying.

But let me make sure that I understand your view correctly. Are you saying that Franklin believed that a Christian had to first put his faith in Christ, then do the best that he could to obey the Law of God and then trust in Christ to allow him into heaven in spite of his shortcomings? Is that an accurate statement of what you think that Franklin is saying?

Jonathan Rowe said...

Franklin is saying a whole lot of things in that very long defense of Hemphill.

The most important thing one could do for one's future state was to PRACTICE VIRTUE. Franklin/Hemphill even make Jesus' death into a virtue practicing event.

"That the ultimate End and Design of Christ’s Death, of our Redemption by his Blood, &c. was to lead us to the Practice of all Holiness, Piety and Virtue, and by these Means to deliver us from future Pain an Punishment, and lead us to the Happiness of Heaven, ..."

That's the bottom line of Fraklin's defense of Hemphill.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I also think that Franklin thought perhaps there were some human beings who could save themselves through the practice of virtue. However, he didn't he was such a human being OR that, human nature being what it is, the vast majority of humans could do this.

He thought Jesus' teachings perfectly republished the law of nature as discovered by reason, with improvements thereof. Therefore, modeling Jesus' perfect conduct would lead to more souls better off in the future state.

But somehow -- I don't think he completely understood the mystery -- a Supreme Act of Benevolence or Grace led to a happier ending for most people who didn't deserve eternal bliss.

But anyway, if we want to word parse, here Franklin speaks supportingly of the idea that some, indeed even "many" folks could save themselves through the practice of virtue, in theory:

"For it is probable, that without this Necessity of Obedience to an unknown Law [Rowe: the unknown law is the duty to put your faith in Jesus or else be damned!], many would be able to save themselves by a good Use of their Reason and the Light of Nature; ..."

The whole point of Jesus, coming, according, is to help men to better practice the virtue of living up to the natural law and, where men stumble, to represent the benevolence of God in the assurance that he won't make most men miserable for eternity.

That's how I understand Franklin's defense of Hemphill.

wsforten said...

But even in regards to those who have never heard the gospel, Franklin grounds his opinion on the efficacy of Christ's death. He says:

The Merits of Christ’s Death and Sufferings may be so great as to extend to the Heathen World, they may reap the Advantages of it, tho’ they never had an Opportunity of hearing of him

I think that Franklin erred in assuming that there are people who never have the opportunity to hear the gospel, but the important point is that even in this regard, Franklin recognized that the heathen cannot earn heaven as a result of their own merit but rather the merit obtained for them through the death of Christ must be applied by God on their behalf.

wsforten said...

By the way, this is vastly different from the Mormon view which is explained by Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation:

COMPLETE OBEDIENCE BRINGS ETERNAL LIFE. But to be exalted one must keep the whole law ... to receive the exaltation of the righteous, in other words eternal life, the commandments of the Lord must be kept in all things

And LDS President Spencer W. Kimball said in The Miracle of Forgiveness:

This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us. In his Sermon on the Mount he made the command to all men: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Franklin recognized that the heathen cannot earn heaven as a result of their own merit but rather the merit obtained for them through the death of Christ must be applied by God on their behalf."

No Franklin's comments are not so dogmatically certain and narrow as this.

Rather he seems, like the Mormons, open to the possibility that a heathen who never heard of Jesus MIGHT be able to save himself when he wrote

"For it is probable, that without this Necessity of Obedience to an unknown Law, many would be able to save themselves by a good Use of their Reason and the Light of Nature; ..."

But Jesus comes in and perfectly models and teaches the law of nature and He and the Father extend benevolent grace to save more folks anyway.

This is not unlike the Mormons works & grace scheme.

It might not be exactly like it; but it's not "sola fide" either.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Notice how Franklin says PROVIDED, which ADDS works to the grace scheme.

"The Merits of Christ’s Death and Sufferings may be so great as to extend to the Heathen World, they may reap the Advantages of it, tho’ they never had an Opportunity of hearing of him, provided they make a good Use of their Reason, and other Principles of Action within them."

Bold face mine. Jesus in this sense is a "savior" by perfecting moral rationalism. I think thing Dr. Frazer understates it when he says it means he was just a "great moral teacher" but it's not "orthodox Trinitarian" sola fide either.

wsforten said...

Well, I think that we've exhausted all possibility of agreement on this point, so let me shift gears slightly. I've been trying to find the defense of Christianity published by Dr. Foster which Franklin mentioned at the end of this section. I've been able to ascertain that the work was entitled "The Usefulness, Truth, and Excellency of the Christian Religion defended against the Objections contained in a late Book, entitled, 'Christianity as Old as the Creation.'" Would happen to know if this work is available online anywhere?

wsforten said...

Never mind, I found it. I had the word "religion" where I should have had "revelation."

Jonathan Rowe said...

From what I've been able to glean about Dr. Forster, he was a unitarian. So it's no surprise Franklin would turn to him.

He was also, like Franklin, virtue centered.

Revelation has its utility in providing a short cut for ordinary -- as Locke would term them "ignorant" -- men to figure out what via reason alone very wise philosophers could prove via their superior reasoning skills.

We also see this sentiment echoed in James Wilson.

It's still part of an overall virtue centered, works oriented notion of Christianity.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Remember the context is what USE is Christianity if heathen men who live up to the law of nature will be saved anyway?

The answer is MORE MORALITY, MORE VIRTUE and MORE CONFORMANCE to the law of nature as discovered by reason because of revelation's shortcut.

In the end Jesus/revelation leaves the state of men's souls better off in a utilitarian sense.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Blogger Jonathan Rowe said...
From what I've been able to glean about Dr. Forster, he was a unitarian. So it's no surprise Franklin would turn to him.


Perhaps but perhaps you should skim through it first.

http://tinyurl.com/kx9aj9h

It's an argument AGAINST the magnum opus of the seminal "Christian deist" Matthew Tindall, which mainly argued against the need for revelation.

I notice it claims the NT is inerrant. First things first.

As for his treatment of "our blessed Savior" and "the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost," see p. 145. Socio-historically speaking, this cannot be called anything but "Christian," regardless of the taller weeds of Jesus' divinity.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Yes Tom it's a theologically liberal unitarian defense of "revelation." That even if Christianity is a "republican of the law of nature" -- as Tindal argues -- and as I understand Forster AGREES and says IT IS -- revelation is nonetheless necessary and useful (and true) because it IMPROVES upon the original understanding of natural religion.

Tindal's argument, as I understand, is Christianity, because it's "merely" a republication of the law of nature, is superfluous. Therefore, revelation is not important.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I understand Forster AGREES and says IT IS -- revelation is nonetheless necessary and useful (and true) because it IMPROVES upon the original understanding of natural religion.

Tindal's argument, as I understand, is Christianity, because it's "merely" a republication of the law of nature, is superfluous. Therefore, revelation is not important.


Yes, and Foster's is the same Thomistic view repeated by James Wilson, that >natural theology" [natural law and revelation ["the Bible"] both come from the "same adorable source" [God].

Blogger wsforten said...
I apologize for the delayed response, but the paragraphs that you referenced from Franklin's defense of Hemphill do not reveal the kind of belief system that you are attempting to attribute to Franklin.


If I make make a FORMAL observation, I agree that these should not be necessarily taken as Franklin's beliefs.

He believed Rev. Hemphill was getting railroaded, and his purpose was simply to add clarity, to show Hemphill wasn't saying anything heretical.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

I think WSForten was making a different point than you are.

If I understand you (Tom) it's that Franklin was acting like Hemphill's attorney in "A Defense of Mr. Hemphill’s Observations" and not necessarily expressing his own personal religious convictions.

You disagree that I argue from the premise that "A Defense of Mr. Hemphill’s Observations" seemingly really represents Franklin's personal convictions.

Bill, on the other hand, is, or at least was arguing, likewise, "A Defense of Mr. Hemphill’s Observations" indeed expresses Franklin's real personal convictions. But that such were what he (Bill) understands to be "biblical Christianity." And since, as it were, biblical Christianity teaches "sola fide," that's what Franklin tries to impart in "A Defense of Mr. Hemphill’s Observations."

And it's my rejection of Bill's understanding that led him to assert, "but the paragraphs that you referenced from Franklin's defense of Hemphill do not reveal the kind of belief system that you are attempting to attribute to Franklin."

I don't think I am. I think Franklin's "A Defense of Mr. Hemphill’s Observations" is completely compatible with his "Dialogue between Two Presbyterians" which rejects sola fide.

"But that from such Faith alone Salvation may be expected, appears to me to be neither a Christian Doctrine nor a reasonable one."

Tom Van Dyke said...

If I understand you (Tom) it's that Franklin was acting like Hemphill's attorney in "A Defense of Mr. Hemphill’s Observations" and not necessarily expressing his own personal religious convictions.

You disagree that I argue from the premise that "A Defense of Mr. Hemphill’s Observations" seemingly really represents Franklin's personal convictions.


Yes, my point is indisputable. He is defending Hemphill against a theological lynching.

Whether Franklin agreed with Hemphill must remain a matter of speculation. All I can say is that I defend the fundies a a lot from their critics, and clarify their positions against their critics' distortions, although I don't agree with those beliefs.

I write far more on clarifying the beliefs of others in public fora, and hardly ever about my own personal beliefs, which I reserve for private correspondence with my friends and intimates.

So too, we should not combine Franklin's public essays with his private letters. I assure you, there are many people [see my pals at Darryl Hart's comment boxes] who have no frigging clue as to my personal beliefs, based on reading my public comments.

Their guesses are all over the Christian dartboard. And off it! Several darts hit the lampshade...

wsforten said...

Let me clarify my position a bit. When I cite the "Defence of Mr. Hemphill's Observations" as conveying the opinions of Franklin, I am referring primarily to the portions of that document in which Franklin makes dogmatic claims regarding the content of Scripture or otherwise identifies his statements as being something that "no wise Man will contradict." It is my opinion that these sections can be correctly identified as expressions of Franklin's own opinions.

Having read back through my postings here, I noticed that I neglected to point out that we can better understand Franklin's position on faith and works if we consider the position that he was arguing against. Franklin stated the contrary opinion as being that:

when Men continue in a vicious Course of Action, and imagine that God, notwithstanding their impenitence, will save them at last, and that because of the Merits and Satisfaction of our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, provided they at particular Times, when they happen to fall into a Paroxysm of Devotion, confidently declare their Trust and Dependence thereupon, and apply them to themselves, as our unmeaning Authors sometimes talk; when Sinners, I say, trust and rely upon this; it is a foolish, presumptuous and extravagantly unreasonable Reliance, and it is obvious to the meanest Capacity (our Authors still excepted) that such a Dependance is no way founded upon the Gospel. Besides, such a Trust and Reliance as this, is to injure and affront the great Redeemer of Mankind in the most extravagant manner imaginable; as if he came from Heaven, as if he suffer’d so much, not to lead Sinners to Repentance, but to encourage them in their Impenitence.

Thus, the position that Franklin was arguing against was the view that men could continue in a "vicious course of action" occasionally uttering words of their trust in the atonement of Christ while never once repenting of their sins and still be considered Christians. This view is often identified today as what is called "Easy Believism," and it is rejected by the vast majority of Christian theologians on grounds very similar to those presented by Franklin.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Thank you for clarifying Bill.

And also thank you for pointing our attention to Rev. Foster. Very interesting stuff in his sermon. And I wonder who else was influenced by it.

If I properly understand what Foster wrote, because of the shared premises between him and Tindal, theirs was quite a friendly debate and Tindal gave his props to Foster's position (in spite of their points of disagreements).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thus, the position that Franklin was arguing against was the view that men could continue in a "vicious course of action" occasionally uttering words of their trust in the atonement of Christ while never once repenting of their sins and still be considered Christians

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinomianism

I am referring primarily to the portions of that document in which Franklin makes dogmatic claims regarding the content of Scripture or otherwise identifies his statements as being something that "no wise Man will contradict." It is my opinion that these sections can be correctly identified as expressions of Franklin's own opinions.

VERY Straussian. And pretty solid reasoning. [BTW, I think the below applies very much to John Locke.]

http://slawkenbergius.blogspot.com/2007/09/considerations-on-methodology-for.html

"In Persecution and the Art of Writing, Leo Strauss described a compelling method of reading texts, illustrating it with three well-chosen examples. Texts, Strauss says, if they are written by philosophers, do not have a simple, unitary audience. The goal of the philosopher is to reach an audience of potential philosophers with his work, and teach them--it is an attempt to do with writing what could no longer be done with direct teaching. But the substance of the teaching is not universally acceptable: it contains dangerous and unpalatable truths. If these become associated with the philosopher's name, he will be in grave physical danger.

Thus, the philosopher adopts a set of writing techniques that allows him to camouflage dangerous ideas in an innocuous external form--and his target audience, his pupils, will be weeded out based on whether they can see through the subtle inconsistencies and contradictions of the text to the underlying non-public teaching.

This form of hermeneutics is challenging, but also immensely valuable. It allows us to pay close attention to the tensions between author and audience, and the political implications of these tensions. It gives us a way of undermining accepted narratives of intellectual history, and a way of re-evaluating philosophical works, potentially extracting something new from them. Finally, it acts as a prophylactic for a simplistic interpretation of any philosopher, since it forces close reading "against the grain."

wsforten said...

Nah, it's just plain common sense. If you write something, and your audience is not sure whether you are giving your own views or merely correcting a misunderstanding of someone else's opinion, your audience can at least rely on the simple fact that if you claim that everyone with intelligence agrees with a certain point, then that point is most likely one that you agree with.

The same is true of my writings as well, but I think that Jon occasionally fails to recognize that. And perhaps that is my fault for not being more clear to begin with. I'm sure that our discussion of Locke over at OFT's blog would have proceeded much differently if I had made it clear from the outset that I was merely correcting common misunderstandings regarding Locke's arguments and not necessarily voicing my agreement with them.