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My new biography of Benjamin Franklin is now ‘in stock’ at Amazon and other retailers! As I was writing my 2014 biography of George Whitefield, and I dug deeper into Whitefield’s relationship with Franklin, I became convinced that there was more to the story of Franklin’s religious life than his simple description of himself as a ‘deist.’

It turns out that Franklin published more on religious topics than any other layperson in eighteenth-century America. He knew the Bible intimately, because of his immersion in the Puritan milieu of his parents. And though he clearly doubted essential doctrines of Christianity, such as Christ’s divinity, he maintained vital relationships with evangelical friends and relatives including Whitefield and his sister Jane Mecom, his closest sibling.

In other words, Franklin’s faith was an enigma. What else would you expect from a ‘deist’ who proposed that the Constitutional Convention of 1787 open its meetings with prayer?

Courtesy of Tony Reinke.

Courtesy of Tony Reinke.

Some endorsements and reviews of the book:

"A convincing portrait of Franklin's religion as ambiguous, elusive, enigmatic, and whimsical.  He appears in the pages of this welcome book as a forerunner of many later Americans who believe in God, trust in providence, but cannot embrace any particular Christian creed."--Mark A. Noll, author of In the Beginning Was the Word

"Was Benjamin Franklin a Christian? A polytheist? A skeptic? A deist? This lucid, engaging book offers a compelling new interpretation of Franklin's faith. A must read for anyone interested in the beliefs of the Founders."--Catherine A. Brekus, author of Sarah Osborn's World

"This illuminating and absorbing biography of Benjamin Franklin is the work of a perceptive historian and master storyteller. Thomas Kidd argues compellingly that Franklin’s religious experiences, from his Calvinist upbringing to adult relationships with Christians, are essential to understanding this man of science and reason."--Daniel L. Dreisbach, author of Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers

"This important book tells the story of religion's impact on Benjamin Franklin. As a fellow Philadelphian, I learned so much in Kidd’s book that I never knew, including fascinating details of the relationship of this Founding Father and the great evangelist George Whitefield."--Former Congressman Frank Wolf

"A highly accessible study of an enigmatic yet influential faith life."--Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

". . . Consider this lucid, economical, nonacademic work of scholarship a new cornerstone of Franklin studies."--Ray Olson, Booklist, Starred Review

I hope you will consider picking up a copy, in hardcover, Kindle, or Audible.


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One thought on “Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father”

  1. Tom Van Dyke says:

    “A convincing portrait of Franklin’s religion as ambiguous, elusive, enigmatic, and whimsical. He appears in the pages of this welcome book as a forerunner of many later Americans who believe in God, trust in providence, but cannot embrace any particular Christian creed.”—Mark A. Noll, author of In the Beginning Was the Word

    I still don’t think these guys get it. The New Testament does not specifically have Jesus claiming to be God, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity.

    But that doesn’t mean that Franklin disbelieved that Jehovah led the Hebrews out of Egypt.

    Franklin’s God is still indistinguishable from the “Judeo-Christian” God. He is none other than the God of the Bible, for there is no other such God in the human record.

    Dr. Mark Noll and his intellectual allies insist on missing the forest for the trees.

    I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?

    Franklin’s God is the God of the Bible, Mark, and no other. The rest is details. You too, Tommy. I hope your book makes that clear. “Judeo-Christian” is an unfortunate neologism, but it fully applies to the Founders, who each in their own way Feared the Lord.

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ThomasSKidd

Thomas S. Kidd, PhD


Thomas S. Kidd is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University, and the author of many books, including Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father  (Yale, 2017); George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father (Yale, 2014) and Baptists in America: A History with Barry Hankins (Oxford, 2015). You can follow him on Twitter and subscribe to his weekly author newsletter.

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