Sunday, January 24, 2016

James Pitt on the Christian Deist view of Justification

Dr. Joseph Waligore's article convinced me that the English Christian-Deist James Pitt is the likely source of theological inspiration for Ben Franklin in his dealings with the Samuel Hemphill affair.

In those writings Franklin rejects among others, the orthodox Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide, that men are justified through faith alone. As Franklin wrote:
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.
Other writings of Franklin indicate he didn't like perhaps Thomas Jefferson did, believe in a "works alone" scheme of justification. But rather, simply Franklin rejected "faith alone." The conclusion is Franklin believed in some mysterious combination of faith and works, or perhaps, faith, grace and works, for salvation.

James Pitt wrote something strikingly similar. From Dr. Waligore's paper:
Pitt agreed that many biblical passages emphasized faith, but he disagreed with the traditional Protestant doctrine that people were justified by faith alone. Instead, Pitt reinterpreted these passages to say that faith was always related to virtue. To Pitt, faith meant “Faith of a moral nature; not a Sett [sic] of speculative Opinions; not Faith absolutely considered in itself; but Faith as it relates to Virtue.” He explained that true faith was a belief that God had ordered the universe so that morally good people would be rewarded in the next life. Pitt thought Christ came to teach this belief, and so he wrote, “This Faith in Jesus Christ, as the Messiah, or Sent of God, is a supernatural Means of believing in God, or acknowledging the Truth of this practical Proposition, That God will finally make Good Men happy.”64
Everything about what Franklin wrote relating to the Hemphill affair saw not just "faith" but "faith in Jesus Christ" as a means as opposed to an end.  Though faith in Jesus was the best means out of all of them.

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