Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ben Franklin on Protestant Purgatory and Hopeful Christian-Universalism

He believed in both. This was Franklin's correspondence with Mrs. Partridge on Ben Kent. All three of them, apparently, believed in Purgatory. We see how the Protestant Purgatory in which they believed, accordingly, fits with Protestant Christian-Universalism:

All souls will eventually get into Heaven; some just take longer to get there in the "cosmic, settling of accounts" sense. The bad, definitely have to spend some time in purgatory to work off (or something?; purging, like a sick patient who has to suffer before she feels better?) bad karma, or in Judeo-Christian parlance, "sin." I'm not exactly sure what it means when Franklin below speaks of souls not going right to Heaven, but rather, "some place where souls are prepared for those regions."

But he clearly believed in such a place. To see his entire words in context, it's from his letter to "Mrs. Partridge. On the Death of Ben Kent.—Orthodoxy. (extract.) Philadelphia, Nov. 25, 1788."
"You tell me our poor friend Ben Kent is gone, I hope to the regions of the blessed; or at least to some place where souls are prepared for those regions! I found my hope on this, that though not so orthodox as you and I, he was an honest man, and had his virtues. If he had any hypocrisy, it was of that inverted kind, with which a man is not so bad as he seems to be. And with regard to future bliss, I cannot help imagining that multitudes of the zealously orthodox of different sects, who at the last day may flock together, in hopes of seeing each other damned, will be disappointed, and obliged to rest content with their own salvation. Yours, &c. B. Franklin."
Apparently being "honest" and "virtuous" counts for hope of salvation, according to Franklin.

4 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

All three of them, apparently, believed in Purgatory.

As your title indicates, Jon, Franklin uses the word "hope"*

You tell me our poor friend Ben Kent is gone, I hope to the regions of the blessed; or at least to some place where souls are prepared for those regions! I found my hope on this, that though not so orthodox as you and I...

Franklin describing himself as "orthodox" here is probably the interesting part!

He's no doubt being tongue-in-cheek, but he's also saying that the late deceased dead guy was a good man and hopefully that counts for something with God.

_____________

*Few people know it, but the Catholic catechism prays--"hopes" if you will--that all men will be saved. It's not a belief, but it is a hope and a prayer for God's mercy.

http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=464332

Although few--even Franklin, I'm sure--would be surprised or particularly sad if Hitler is in hell. But what makes this Franklin quote so great is that it's really not right to delight in seeing somebody else go to hell.

And with regard to future bliss, I cannot help imagining that multitudes of the zealously orthodox of different sects, who at the last day may flock together, in hopes of seeing each other damned, will be disappointed, and obliged to rest content with their own salvation.

Sincere and irreverent at the same time. There's not an atheist or a Christian in this world who can't benefit from hearing what he has to say.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Agreed.

American said...

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Tom Van Dyke said...

Exc, Mr. American. Sure enough, Franklin cited that verse

http://tinyurl.com/kckrkbu

although his KJV used "charity" for "love."