Sunday, October 5, 2014

Waligore: "Christian deism in eighteenth century England"

Dr. Joseph Waligore's article on "Christian deism in eighteenth century England" was just published online in the the International Journal of Philosophy and Theology. You can view it online at his website here. There's lots of great stuff. I'll highlight:
The key to seeing how Christian deists could claim to be both Christian and deist is realizing that their deism was not a form of Enlightenment rationalism; these deists did not emphasize science and reason to such a degree that they denied any true religious feelings. ...

As will be discussed in detail later, I have shown that almost all of the well-known English deists believed in an active God who did miracles and revelations.   The majority of these deists even believed in continuing direct divine inspiration or the belief that God led people through signs or placed thoughts in people’s minds.  Thus a deist should not be defined as someone who believes in an inactive, distant deity.  A better definition of a deist is a thinker who believed in God, but used reason to prove that clerical Christianity was wrong about God’s nature and the way God related to humanity.  The vast majority of deists said natural religion was the true religion and thought it had more authority than the clerical interpretation of the Christian revelation.   (Natural religion, or the religion of nature, is the religion people can arrive at through natural means alone, without supernatural revelation.)   ...

[A] Christian deist is defined as a deist who not only said he was restoring pure Christianity, but also showed his commitment to this project by focusing his theological works on his interpretation of Christianity.  This definition makes it more likely that only thinkers who sincerely considered themselves Christians are included. This paper focuses on three eighteenth-century English thinkers, Thomas Morgan, Thomas Amory, and Matthew Tindal. ...

All three of these writers emphasized knowing God by reason, and used reason to examine traditional Christian doctrines.  They attacked the clerical interpretation of Christianity and argued for total freedom in religious matters.  They did not agree that Jesus taught the traditional Christian doctrines of the Trinity, original sin, or the atonement. ...

3 comments:

Daniel said...

Thanks for the excerpts. The entire article is worth reading.

Glenn Hefley said...

that's quite a leap and very .. um... at odds with the writings I've found on this subject -- being the original letters and diaries of people of that time. There were deist churches at that time, I'm sure you are aware of this, which also would disagree with your suggestion that deist = christian by default. Strongly disagree in fact.But.. good luck in your study. may you discover what you are looking for.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Glenn: Yours is not a very good comment, IMO.