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:
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:
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.
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?
Religion and History
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