Monday, July 6, 2015

An Attack on Scholars

Check out my new post at Ordinary Times. A taste:
... And indeed, I just verified the footnotes and sources on pages 72-74 of The Search For Christian America. They are all accurate as is their assertion “The God of the founding fathers was a benevolent deity, not far removed from the God of eighteenth-century Deists or nineteenth century Unitarians.”
One caveat, if “Deism” is understood as the cold, distance watchmaker, it would be misleading. However the God of the 18th Century American and English “Deists” was chiefly “Christian-Deism.” Indeed, it’s hard to imagine describing a cold, non-intervening watchmaker as “benevolent” as the authors do (and the Founding Fathers did). Further, the God of the nineteenth century Unitarians (at least for most of that century) was understood as a “Christian” deity with a consequent denial of the Trinity and affirmation of unorthodox understandings of biblical texts and doctrines.


Tom Van Dyke said...

The God of the unitarians was still Jehovah. The Trinity stuff is details.

"Deism" in this context is a misnomer.

Jonathan Rowe said...

But the assertion of the 3 authors is still accurate.

Christian-Deism, Unitarianism, a non-Trinitarian "Jehovah" who may be understood as "the Great Spirit" to unconverted Native Americans or Allah to Muslims.

Tom Van Dyke said...

An umbrella term that conceals more than it reveals. "Lumping," they call it--a rather lazy exercise. The Jehovah of the Bible is more than the Deist God or that of the 19th c. Unitarians [of the later ones, anyway].

"The same wonder-working deity" IS Jehovah. To call him anything else clouds the issue.

May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivering the Hebrews from their Egyptian Oppressors planted them in the promised land—whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent nation—still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven and to make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah.
G. Washington, letter to the Jews of Savannah

Jonathan Rowe said...

We can call Him "The Great Spirit" as GW did twice.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jehovah is most accurate. Anything else dilutes the actual truth. Why we would want to do that, I don't know.

Actually, we know exactly why some try to do it. "Judeo-Christian" is a neologism from the 20th century, but it's more descriptive precisely because it avoids the 18th century connotations of "deist."

Jonathan Rowe said...

From what I remember -- Brad's classic analysis of Peter Lillback's laudable categorization of the terms GW used for God and the times he used them -- GW used the term "Jehovah" for God only once (when addressing to the Jews) and "the Great Spirit" twice (when addressing the unconverted Native Americans).

The best, most accurate terms for such God are those LCD ones like "Providence" and "God," and nothing more precisely NOT to make the God words pregnant with more exclusive meaning than their inclusive nature intends them to be.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The monotheistic, providential, creator and Final Judge is the Abrahamic God. To call him something else is dishonest. Now, Jefferson deformed him into something unrecognizable, but Jefferson was "a sect onto himself." The other top "deist," Ben Franklin, has a God that's quite recognizable.

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? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that "except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it." I firmly believe this...

True that Franklin struggled with the details of Biblical revelation and with the attendant doctrines, but his is clearly no other God than Jehovah.