Sunday, January 24, 2016

James Pitt, Christian Deist

One of the English Deists featured in Dr. Joseph Waligore's article is James Pitt. He is noted as a possible influence on Ben Franklin's Christian Deism. Franklin was familiar with and published some of Pitt's work.

Quoting Pitt on the Trinity:
All those Controversies which have been so hotly agitated at the Expence of the Peace, and Blood of the Christian World, about the Person of Jesus Christ, concerning the Trinity, and a Thousand other Things, make us neither wiser nor better. We may embrace one Scheme, or t’other, or neither, as Evidence appears to us, and be equally good Christians, and faithful Subjects of the Kingdom of God.54
This mirrors Franklin's utter indifference towards that doctrine in his end of life letter to Ezra Stiles.

Later in the 19th Century, when such "heresy" could be preached openly in America with less controversy, we see the capital U Unitarians echoing such sentiments (while giving the spiritual credit to Unitarianism).

As James Freeman Clarke put it in 1838:
We are almost born Calvinists, Catholics, Swedenborgians, Universalists; for, as a man's nature is, so are his views of God and man, and thence, of religion; his nature develops, is modified, is changed, born again, and his elements of faith change likewise. If you would fix his faith, then, affect his spirit. And if you believe Unitarianism to be the truth, rest assured that the Catholic, and the Baptist, and the Presbyterian, and the Deist, while they are preaching in a Christian spirit, and aiding to spread that spirit, — are preaching Unitarianism. ...

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

What is missing in these posts is if Jesus wasn't/isn't God/divine/the Second Person of the Trinity, what is he? A lot is slipping through the cracks.

Jefferson saw him as the greatest of moral philosophers; Franklin was agnostic on Jesus's nature; some saw him as a prophet on par with, say Moses. Others--and this accounts for the majority of Founding era "unitarians," saw him as the Messiah, less than God Himself, but more than a mere man.

Or as John Quincy Adams--who is alternately described as [a] unitarian or not--put it in a letter to his mum on the controversy:

“That the Athanasian Trinity is clearly contained in the Scriptures, I have not been able to convince my own mind beyond a question; but if I must choose between that and the belief that Christ was a mere man, to be compared with Socrates, and must mutilate the New Testament to suit the critical scruples of Dr Priestley in order to maintain this creed, I have no hesitation in making my choice. I find in the New Testament Jesus Christ accosted in his own presence by one of His disciples as God without disclaiming the appellation. I see him explicitly declared by at least two other of the Apostles to be God, expressly and repeatedly announced, not only as having existed before the worlds, but as the Creator of the worlds without beginning of days or end of years. I see him named in the great prophecy of Isaiah concerning him the mighty God! and I cannot be entirely satisfied to be told that one of the expressions is merely a figure, that another may be an interpolation, and a third is not perhaps correctly translated; nor yet, as I am told by Mr. Channing, that solitary texts collected here and there may be found in the Bible to support any doctrine whatsoever.