We’re told Thomas Jefferson scissored out the portions of the New Testament he found objectionable. Not long ago I noticed an ad where someone was peddling copies of “The Thomas Jefferson Bible.” None for me, thanks.
He’s had nearly 200 years to regret that bit of presumptive foolishness.
Just because Jefferson said it does not make it right; just because he did it does not mean we should follow suit.
Best not to get our religion from someone who is an expert in one field–science perhaps? or math, biology, or novel-writing–but who is out of his territory when he speaks of God.
Once in a while a celebrity admits he has nothing to say on this subject. Benjamin Franklin, for instance.
Benjamin Franklin was as smart a man as early America produced. The range of his interests and the list of his accomplishments is mind-boggling. But no way does he qualify as a role model for husbands, an example for fathers, or our instructor in matters of the Spirit.
In a letter to Yale President Ezra Stiles shortly before his own death, Franklin wrote:
I believe in one God, creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable thing we can render to him is doing good to his children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion, and I regard them as you do, in whatever sect I meet with them. As to Jesus of Nazareth…I think the system of morals and his religion as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have…some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatise upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. (from Jon Meacham’s The Hope of Glory: Reflections on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross).
To someone giving us his personal creed–I believe this, I believe that–we would ask one question: “And what is your authority for believing this?” In taking positions on matters of the spirit world–God, salvation, satan, heaven, hell, and such–pooling our ignorance with one another accomplishes nothing. One should have good reasons for believing what he/she does.
And the other thing in Franklin’s letter that I find disturbing is his mild interest he shows in the biggest issue in the history of this small planet: Was Jesus Christ who He said He was? I appreciate that he does not “dogmatise” upon the subject, being ignorant of it, and likewise appreciate that he does not therefore recommend his views or lack thereof as the norm. He simply says at his age he will find out soon enough. One wonders how that turned out.
We do not buy our politics from Jane Fonda, our views on marriage from Pete Buttigieg, our religion from Tom Cruise, nor our belief on abortion from anyone who would say “This is my personal belief, but I would not want to impose that on anyone else.”
The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, “I know what I’m talking about. No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from Heaven,” while indicating Himself. He has the authority to speak of Heavenly things. He is a native. He knows. (John 3:11ff).
The question is How do we know He knows? Answer: His death-burial-resurrection established forever His credentials in these matters. No one else has ever died for the sins of mankind and done so voluntarily (see John 10:18 and 12:27), then been raised to life again with “many infallible proofs” (see Acts 1:3).
When Jesus speaks of Heaven, I will listen. When He talks of forgiveness, of judgment, of hell itself, He has my undivided attention.
Jesus Christ is the Authority for what I believe. He has my complete loyalty, my eternal devotion.
I am a Jesus person forever.