Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine Age of Reason

Deism in Brief

Deists, Unitarians, and Socinians are all products and heretics of the Protestant Reformation. Their opponents labeled the them (anti-Trinitarian) Christians after the old heresies such as Ebionites and Arians. The Socinians were well praised and read by people like John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Isaac Newton, and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

Socinians, Unitarians and Deists all reject the following Orthodox Christian theology:

  • The doctrine of the Trinity is false because there is no Scriptural evidence for it.
  • Jesus was human, though an exceptional human, not God in any manner.
  • Jesus' death was not an atonement for our sins nor did God demand that someone suffer for our sins.
  • The following doctrines are false: original sin, predestination of the elect, the inherent depravity of human beings, and eternal damnation.
  • The "faith alone" doctrine of Protestants.

See the following:
Socinians, Original Sin, Calvinism, The Trinity

In England, Deism was critically concerned with the origins of religion, but positive in moral and religious affirmation. Early English Deists believed that the Bible contained important truths, but they rejected the concept that it was divinely inspired or inerrant. They were leaders in the study of the Bible as a historical (rather than an inspired, revealed) document. Lord Herbert of Cherbury (d. 1648) was one of the earliest proponents of Deism in England. In his book "De Veritate," (1624), he described the "Five Articles" of English Deists:

  • belief in the existence of a single supreme God
  • humanity's duty is to revere God
  • linkage of worship with practical morality
  • God will forgive us if we repent and abandon our sins
  • good works will be rewarded (and punishment for evil) both in life and after death.

The Christian Church abandoned the historical Jesus in favor of Paul, a man that never even Jesus. His idea of a "Christ" was preferred over the basic teachings of Jesus best illustrated by the Sermon on the Mount. The Deist/Unitarian view of Jesus is similar to the Muslim or Jewish view.

The Christian definition of Deism that "God created the universe then went away..." is wrong. To quote another Deist' website:

Deism, as we define it, is a belief in a loving creator, an ultimate, eternal being, who is omnipresent and omniscient and perfectly good, but not omnipotent. This definition, with important qualifications, has substantial basis in philosophical history, despite the all-too widespread impression that the deistic creator is indifferent to its creation. The popular analogy for the deistic god is a supernatural watchmaker who may for all we know be fascinated by its handiwork, but is definitely not emotionally involved.

That analogy, however, is a simplistic historical caricature. It has been truly said that history is written by the victors. This is clearly the case with deism, since the popular notion of what it means has been disseminated in a culture dominated by the Christian religion. Let us attempt to set the record straight here. Contrary to popular Christian propaganda, ultimate reality ("god" if you prefer) as conceived by deism is not impersonal at all, merely non-omnipotent, hence non-controlling, and thus not in a position to provide people with the miracles on demand for which they so often yearn.

Many American Deist' positions are clearly compatible with basic Christian, Jewish, and Muslim precepts. A cursory reading of Thomas Paine establishes that we are not atheists, as sometimes accused of by Christians because atheists misuse our beliefs to attack God. Deists instead held a deep belief grounded in reasoned analysis that God exists, and that atheism is to be resisted no less than is religious fanaticism.

English/American Deism was more concerned with ethics and morality but rejected irrational dogma manufactured by the church based on Paul alone. This put Jesus the man as a moral teacher over the disembodied Christ of Paul's vision interpreted through St. Augustine then through Calvin and Luther. English/American Deists placed reason over revelation and accept revelation (or intuition perhaps) if supported by reason. They kept Jesus, rejected Paul. Paul was in many ways like Mohammed, a messenger of revelations from what he claimed was God. But how much was Paul and how much, if anything, was from God? How could we know?

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Religion and History

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