Adams thinks Dupuis is really smart and makes points that need answering. Adams makes clear he believes in special revelation and in Christianity founded on such.
The issue is whether Adams believes the Bible -- and given unitarians are Protestants, the Protestant canon -- though it contains true revelation, has nonetheless been corrupted and contains errors. Below quotes Dr. Gregg Frazer (Fortenberry's bete noire) discussing Adams' quotation:
His theistic rationalism, like that of the other key Founders, was a sort of middle ground between protestantism and deism. For example, his complaint that “millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation” to make “the most bloody religion that ever existed” would not please either camp. Deists could not countenance the recognition of legitimate revelation, and Christians would not appreciate either the characterization of parts of Scripture as “fables, tales, legends” or the use of the “most bloody religion” label.You can read Fortenberry's link that features the original exchange between Adams and Van der Kemp and make up your mind for yourself.
Fortenberry tries to argue of Adams that this exchange (or apparently anything else Adams wrote) does not reveal he thought the Bible had errors. I think Frazer's analysis is correct.
In the exchange of letters Adams notes as he did numerous times that he thought there were "corruptions" of Christianity that needed to be purged. The unitarian Joseph Priestley coined that term and he defined the corruptions as follows: 1. Original Sin; 2. The Trinity; 3. The Incarnation; 4. The Atonement; and 5. Plenary Inspiration of the biblical canon.
Adams may not have agreed exactly with Priestley (or Jefferson or anyone else). Though the connection is relevant because these unitarians thought of themselves as continuing in the tradition of Protestant reformers. They just didn't think the original reformers went far enough. Now in the age of Enlightenment, Christianity ought to reform further in that direction.
Fortenberry attempts to punt with an answer I've often seen: When the founders talked smack about problems in Christianity, they were referring to Roman Catholicism only.
This is an error with a kernel of truth. Yes, the Roman Catholic Church typified everything that was corrupt, superstitious and violent about "Christianity." But Protestants also had those problems. And indeed, those problems, as the narrative goes, derived from the Catholic Church that the original reformers didn't satisfactorily purge. The Trinity, for instance, is labeled a Roman Catholic fabrication.
And yes, the Protestant canon itself contains corruptions. I've noted before Adams discussing what he saw as "error[s]" and "amendment[s]."
When and where originated our Ten Commandments? The Tables and The Ark were lost. Authentic copies, in few, if any hands; the ten Precepts could not be observed, and were little remembered.
If the Book of Deuteronomy was compiled, during or after the Babilonian Captivity, from Traditions, the Error or Amendment might come in there.
-- John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, Nov. 14, 1813.Much more demonstrates that texts Protestants view as canonical John Adams thought corrupted. I will provide a bit. Below are two smoking gun quotations where Adams criticizes the King James Bible. Pay special attention to the second one where Adams discusses his thoughts on the different "canons."
We have now, it seems a National Bible Society, to propagate King James's Bible, through all Nations. Would it not be better, to apply these pious subscriptions, to purify Christendom from the corruptions of Christianity, than to propagate these corruptions in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America!
-- John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, Nov. 4, 1816.
What do you call “The Bible”? The Translation by King James the first? More than half a Catholick.? ... “The Bible a Rule of Faith.”! What Bible? King James’s? The Hebrew? The Septuagint,? The Vulgate? The Bibles now translated or translating into Chinese, Indian, Negro and all the other Languages of Europe Asia and Affrica? Which of the thirty thousand Variantia are the Rule of Faith?
-- John Adams to John Quincy Adams, March 28, 1816.This fits my thesis that Roman Catholicism, to men like Adams, was the source of the problem, but much of what Protestantism embraced, like the canon of the King James Bible, was corrupted by Roman Catholicism.
(On a different note, Adams' letter to JQA, dated 3/28/1816 has a lot more to it. There Adams explicitly rejects the orthodox Protestant doctrine of justification by faith or faith alone in favor of a works based justification scheme. Plus more. Perhaps later we will do an in depth exploration of it.)