Re: The state of suburban theology

From: Howard J. Van Till <>
Date: Sat Jun 12 2004 - 09:22:05 EDT

I had suggested:

> Perhaps Ted Davis can clarify for us the essence of deism and its
> relationship to the mechanistic view of nature.

Ted replied:

> I join Howard in calling for a return to a more traditional rel/science
> topic, and I thank him for inviting my comments on this one.
> In the past I've made several lengthy posts on "deism," about which a great
> deal can be said. I'll keep this short, esp since I really don't know
> exactly what lies behind the quotation Howard used (about suburban theology)
> to introduce this issue.
> Deism was the public theology of the Enlightenment (so called, it's
> obviously a self-serving term that I find inappropriate in some ways,
> nothing enlightened about slavery, indentured servitude, and colonialism for
> example). It emphasized many things, but above all I would say it emphsized
> these three things:
> (1) Special revelation is a misnomer; the Bible is a pack of fables and
> lies, except perhaps (I do say perhaps, thinking of Jefferson as an example)
> for the moral teachings of Jesus. But the prophecies, miracle stories
> (incl. those associated with the life and death of Jesus), and claims made
> by various persons to be speaking for God are all just so much gar-bage (my
> weak effort here to make an English word sound French, since much of the
> Enlightenment is properly associated with France, the rest mainly with
> Scotland.
> (2) God exists, God created the world and us (separately, in the minds of
> most Enlightenment thinkers, we did not evolve), and God is the source of
> natural law incl those moral tenets associated (by Jefferson for example)
> with natural law (such as our "inalienable" rights to property, liberty,
> etc., rights that all landowning white men ought to have). But God is
> absolutely not an absolute monarch; rather, God is a constitutional monarch;
> otherwise we get the kind of God who can be used to undergird absolute
> monarchies on earth. On earth, as it is in heaven. Thus, no miracles--God
> does not, indeed must not, break his own "laws."
> (3) No incarnation. This is just too scary an idea, it means that God
> really cares deeply about our condition (which is "fallen," not a very nice
> thing for enlightened men to contemplate) and, furthermore, it is closely
> associated with an angry God who doesn't like sin and who does something
> about it. But enlightened men don't sin, at least not against God, so they
> don't need redemption.
> To get a sense of my comments here, think of the contrast between (say)
> David Hume or Thomas Jefferson on the one hand; and George Whitefield on the
> other hand. Whitefiled bought the slavery part, I'll give you that; but
> otherwise he's not really much of an enlightenment person. Too much
> emotion, too much bother about sin and divine judgement. And too loud--you
> could hear him in Philadephia when he spoke in Camden, across the wide
> Delaware River. No moderation in that man.
> This is longer than I wanted, but enough I hope to get us going.

Ted, this clearly spells out your disgust with anything associated with the
Enlightenment. But we already knew how you felt about that.

What I was actually hoping to get from you was a sample of your scholarship
and your knowledge of deism's concept of the relationship of God to world
and its concept(s) of divine action in the world (minus all of your
judgmental commentary on the Enlightenment) .

Specifically, I am interested to know how deism is connected to the
mechanistic concept of the universe. For example, was the universe conceived
by deists to be such a self-sufficient machine that God -- if "God" is a
Being distinct from the universe and wishes to act in the universe -- must
interrupt or irruptively break into the stream of natural processes in order
to do so?

To focus even more, what is the relationship between today's supernatural
interventionism (say, as embodied in YEC and ID viewpoints, and as preached
from many suburban pulpits today) and deism?

Received on Sat Jun 12 09:42:39 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Jun 12 2004 - 09:42:40 EDT