Friday, February 21, 2014

Evangelical Universalist on Charles Chauncy

This is from 2009, but still important given how Rev. Charles Chauncy influenced the American Founding. A taste:
Charles Chauncy was minister of First Church in Boston for decades. He was very influential and is best known as an opponent of the Great Awakening (standing against men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, et al). So that does not make him an obvious person for an evangelical to turn to for inspiration. 
However, Chauncy was a firm Bible-believing Christian and whilst he sadly came to doubt and then reject the classical doctrine of the Trinity we must stress that he did so because he believed it to be unbiblical (it was not uncommon in this period for Bible-based Christians to reject the Trinity as unbiblical). 
Anyway, of interest here is that Chauncy became a universalist because he believed it to be the only view consistent with Scripture. ...
It's true Chauncy did think Scripture taught both theological unitarianism and universalism; but he also thought the natural law discovered by reason taught such as well. And it was in combining reason and revelation that we arrive at such conclusions. (To some who believe Scripture teaches clearly both the doctrines of the Trinity AND eternal damnation, Chauncy's theology represents reason trumping revelation, and therefore is not "Christian," even though Protestant Christianity is an element of such creed.)

8 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

The assertion that

Chauncy's theology represents reason trumping revelation

is not supported by your source material:

to doubt and then reject the classical doctrine of the Trinity we must stress that he did so because he believed it to be unbiblical

Revelation [the Bible] trumped man's reason [the "classical" theology of the Trinity].

Tom Van Dyke said...

Further, I don't believe we have evidence of Chauncey explicitly rejecting the Trinity. [Neither does he explicitly endorse the concept, iirc.]

He's often described as a proto-unitarian, and indeed he seems to accept The Atonement, that Christ died for our sins, in his argumnt for universal salvation here:

http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/divineglory.htm

But to return—The offer of salvation being made to all, you argue the atonement, upon which that offer is grounded, must be complete and universal. That is, as you explain yourself, in virtue of the merits and death of Christ, all men are in a salvable state. This is the truth, but not the whole truth. The death of our blessed saviour rendered the salvation of mankind not only a possible thing, but actually secured it to them in event. In a sense, we are all justified, reconciled and saved. We are born into the world heirs of immortality. And the part, assigned us, is to acquire such habits, and improve in such graces, as shall fit us for the joys of heaven, at the resurrection day. Hence God is styled “the saviour of all men, especially of those that believe.” In consequence of the merits and sacrifice of Christ, eternal life is secured to every individual; though believers only will be first partakers of it. Others, who die in their sins must suffer the consequences of their disobedience, and be reduced to a proper temper of mind, before they can be rationally and immortally happy. But shall they perish forever? God forbid. The saviour of mankind (according to your confession) died for them, in common with others. An atonement is already made for their sins. And “through the obedience of one, the free gift hath come upon them to justification of life.” The consequence therefore, must be, that sooner or later, they also will reap the benefits of Christ’s mediatorial undertaking.

[BF mine.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

"The assertion that

"Chauncy's theology represents reason trumping revelation ..."

But I put that prefatory language in the clause that precedes the quote in there just for you.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ah, my bad. I was so used to reading to the contrary. Now we're getting somewhere! BTW--

It's true Chauncy did think Scripture taught both theological unitarianism and universalism; but he also thought the natural law discovered by reason taught such as well.

I believe natural law and soteriology [the mechanisms of salvation] are exclusive of each other. Natural law applies to this earth only; one needs revelation [Jesus, the Bible, etc.] to be saved. Chauncey's argument for universalism here is that all men are saved because Christ died for the sins of all men.

Tom Van Dyke said...

BTW, I believe Chauncy is arguing against Calvinism in the above link, which Chauncy descraibes as a "fatalism"--since God preordains who will be saved and who won't, nothing we do in this life makes a bit of difference.

Arminianism, on the other hand, maintains that God predestined, but not in an absolute sense. Rather, He looked into the future to see who would pick him and then He chose them. Jesus died for all peoples' sins who have ever lived and ever will live, not just the Christians. Each person is the one who decides if he wants to be saved or not. And finally, it is possible to lose your salvation (some arminians believe you cannot lose your salvation).

Basically, Calvinism is known by an acronym: T.U.L.I.P.

Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)

Unconditional Election

Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)

Irresistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)


http://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm

Jonathan Rowe said...

"I believe natural law and soteriology [the mechanisms of salvation] are exclusive of each other."

They may be; the term "natural" as used in this context means "discovered by reason"; accordingly, reason can discover substances or essences, even divine ones. Reason may discover an essence about the Almighty, that He is infinitely benevolent and, as it were, would never make anyone miserable for eternity.

Perhaps I should have wrote, "but he also thought natural RELIGION discovered by reason taught such as well."

As Chauncy put it in the link you provided,

"Which of our systems is best supported, let reason and scripture determine."

Or perhaps I just should have said "natural reason" or simply "reason."

Tom Van Dyke said...

There's the problem of "unassisted" human reason. The "assist" of course being the Bible or the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

The "natural" man can know nothing of the life after this world. [Or even if there is one!]

“And ALL FLESH shall see the salvation of God.”
Luke 3.6.


Sola scriptura, baby.

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