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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Bill Fortenberry's book on Benjamin Franklin

Mr. Fortenberry believes Benjamin Franklin was a Christian. I suppose everyone has a right to their opinion, but his assertion is not my main contention because I always assumed like everyone else the case was cut and dry. I appreciate the time Mr. Fortenberry took to compile all of Franklin's views on Christianity and his interpretation of Franklin's words. Because there are no clear smoking guns on his faith like in the case of Thomas Jefferson, his faith is up for serious debate. However I disagree with many observations in the book. Some of his comments concerning Franklin's beliefs include:

"Here Franklin provides a brilliantly simple argument against Calvinism..Franklin solved this dichotomy by presenting the third option of a sovereign God having the power to give men freedom. His [Franklin's] question, "Is not even his infinite Power sufficient for this?" places the Calvinist in a quandry.

It could never be a quandry(sp) especially as to salvation there is no question whatsoever what the new testament says, with many scriptures affirming man's inability to choose God:

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.."
John 6:44.

The word "unless" means just what it says; no one can choose Christ without the Father allowing it. Therefore man has no freewill to believe in God. God must initiate salvation by changing the heart to repent and believe.

Yes, God has the power to give men freedom, but Franklin never understood salvation starts before God created the earth:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved."
--Ephesians 1:3-6

Theoretically, no one can choose because God chose who He wanted already.  

Fortenberry questions if God could give man freewill. He did. Adam had freewill and he failed. God's perfect, immortal representative failed and sin passed to all men. Read Romans 5-9. 

Franklin and Fortenberry claim that "God requires of Christians are such that they all produce happiness in this life."

This statement appears unbiblical in that happiness comes from knowing what Christ did for you, not about happiness in life. There are many Christians throughout the centuries which have been always miserable in their physical circumstances, but their hearts are filled with joy. John 13:17 is about joy in the Lord, not of circumstances in this world.

Fortenberry claims the Westminster Confession does not refer to the new birth because children are saved by birth. This is an argument from silence. It is true because the Confession is correct. Children are saved at birth, but the Confession also refers to the new birth which does elicit an emotional response of some sort.

Fortenberry then admits Franklin believed as Locke did, viz, that all that is required is belief that Jesus is the messiah. In John 6 to 17 Jesus is clearly telling the disciples  over and over by various examples that He is God and to believe it.

Franklin claims that creeds and confessions of faith should not be required for salvation. This has always been the view of heretics and immature Christians. Not all of them, but most. They use this to depart from the essentials of the faith, especially when the creeds are so obvious, even quoting scripture verses for support.

On p. 112 fortenberry defends Franklin attacking the church for ostracizing heretics, yet Paul did the same thing.

Fortenberry then goes on to show Franklin and the southern baptists deny original sin, rejecting Rom 5:12-21. Condemnation is clearly guilt because it is linked to Adam.

To compare Franklin with John MacArthur is strange to say, in that most, if not all Christians, believe Jesus's lordship in everything. Franklin's view of conversion is questioned because he was making excuses for himself, speaking of children and such, but Whitefield knew he wasn't saved and told him to repent and turn to Christ. In fact, pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie testified he didn't feel anything accepting Christ, but days later, he felt great joy in Christ. 

Calling yourself a Christian and Jesus Christ as "Our saviour" means nothing. Saying "My Saviour" is quite different. Although writing "God called the four Apostles out of the fisheries" is clearly calling Jesus God. Whether or not it's authentic is debatable. On p. 227 Fortenberry claims Whitefield believed every Christian had to have an emotional experience to be a Christian. Not so if he believed children were saved.

The final point made in this book is doubting essential biblical truths, like Franklin did about the person of Christ that can still make one a Christian if all the minimum to believe is Jesus is Messiah. The gospel of John refutes that notion, along with 1 John, because Jesus tells the disciples over and over that He is God, period! He tells Philip "if you've seen me, you've seen the Father." A born again believer will not doubt that Jesus Christ is God. Neither will there be doubts about the deity of the holy spirit. 

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