Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chauncy on Edwards

One of the things that stunned me reading David Barton's article on Romans 13 was that he mistakenly believed Jonathan Mayhew (a principle ideological proponent of the American Revolution) was part of Jonathan Edward's "Great Awakening" movement, when the opposite is true; Mayhew was a chief theological opponent of Edward's "evangelical" like Christianity. Keep that in perspective when Barton rattles off names of people "responsible" for American independence: John Adams, Samuel Cooper, Jonathan Mayhew, Charles Chauncy, and George Whitefield. Barton says they are all "Christians," and indeed they all thought of themselves as "Christians." However, with the exception of Whitefield, they were all theological unitarians, whose "Christianity" (if it's even fair to term their theological system "Christian" since it denies the Trinity; most evangelicals don't think it is) was a different animal than that of the "orthodox."

This is big; if one wants to fully understand the political-theological driver behind the American Founding, one must understand this theological system and how it differed from both Deism and orthodox Christianity. These elite figures played extremely important roles in positing the "revolutionary" ideas that trickled their way down to the masses.

With that, check out this book of the correspondence of Richard Price, another key influence on the American Founding and expositor of a "rational Christianity" that was theologically unitarian and opposed to evangelical "fatalism." The correspondence sheds light on ideas going on in the minds of the elite who drove the American Founding:

The Doctrine of Fatalism, asserted and maintained in a book printed by Mr. Edwards, a minister in New-England, and reprinted in London a few years ago, has, by the assistance of some who were friends to these sentiments, unhappily taken a large spread, especially in the Colony of Connecticutt. The book I herewith send you (which is the only one I have as yet been able to procure) contains the whole of what the Propagators of Fatalism have to say in its defence, as it is the product of all their heads put together.1 I believe you never saw the Supreme Being, in any book, so explicitly and directly made the author and planner of moral evil. 'Tis to me astonishing that any man who professes a regard to the Deity, as these men do, should be able to speak of him as so ordering and disposing things as that moral evil should certainly be introduced into the world, and that it is desireable it should be, and for the greater good too, though great numbers on account of it shall suffer everlasting punishment. Nothing, as I imagine, could be said worse of the Prince of the power of the Air. I should be glad to have your th[oug]ts, when at leisure, upon this performance, especially that part of it which relates to the introduction of sin into the world, by the ordering and disposal of God, and for the good of the creation. This performance is supposed by too many to contain the truth, and to exhibit it in an unanswerable way.

The "Mr. Edwards" was the "Jonathan Edwards" of Great Awakening fame.


King of Ireland said...


I think his problem was with Calvinism more than Christianity. I think Darwin had the same problem. It was fatalism they were against more than anything else. I am too!

bpabbott said...

King, I'm confused. What is the problem associated with "Darwin"? Do you imply his contribution to the biological sciences, or Social Darwnism, or something else?

King of Ireland said...

No, he was going by the Calvinistic way of looking at nature that seemed fatalistic to him. I think it was more or less that God created everything perfect and harmonious. When he saw things that did not jive with that it sent him down the path he went.

Many seem to want to use his work to disprove God. He believed in God and was some sort of Christian I believe. That was my point. It is my chief objection to Frazer's doctrine on Romans 13: Fatalism.

bpabbott said...

I think fatalism is quite a conundrum ... hence, I'm not a fan.

Scientific causality doesn't bother me so much, because it is not (as some believe/understand it to be) equivalent to determinism.

In any event, if you have a link you can provide me with regarding Darwin's thoughts on this subject, I suspect I'd find it interesting.

King of Ireland said...

I read it somewhere and I cannot remember where. I am explaining what it said horribly too. But it did make sense to me.

I think most people who have a problem with Christianity really have a problem with Calvinism. Ed Brayton's blog has two posts about this subject this week.