Re: The state of suburban theology

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Sat Jun 12 2004 - 15:02:43 EDT

Come on Howard this is a bit harsh on Ted!

I would insist following Bebbington and as expressed by Mark Knoll (Rise of
Evangelicalism 2004, p140) that Evangelicals were part of the Enlightenment.
Also the Scottish enlightenment was not as hostile to Christianity as
Voltaire etc..

A good example of strong enlightenment on Christianity is Lessing, both with
his views that a historical faith is out and his disturbing multi-faith play
Nathan the Jew.

Amajor problem is that Hume defined Miracle as something which breaks
scientific laws, Christians fell for that in their apologetics on miracles
and made a rod for all our backs. A miracle is a sign of God whether or not
it can be "explained" scientifically. Morris develops this with his First
and Second class miracles.

I have a high regard of many enlightenment figures and a rejection of the
anti-enlightenment fad of today. I like Buffon who was not a Deist but a
rather wayward and probably nominal believer who did not care to take his
Christianity to bed with him as his mistress was there! His exposition of
Genesis One is fascinating and very much in line with orthodox Prots and
Caths of his day. Trouble is , is that it is in French.

Now to close rather wickedly and without malice remember Erasmus Darwin's
quip about Coleridge's Unitarian faith, "Unitarianism is a feather bed to
catch a falling Christian". I think ED was very perceptive at this point and
Coleridge did move to a Trinitarian faith of a slightly broad Anglican type.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Howard J. Van Till" <>
To: "Ted Davis" <>; <>
Sent: Saturday, June 12, 2004 2:22 PM
Subject: Re: The state of suburban theology

> 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
> > 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
> > 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
> > example). It emphasized many things, but above all I would say it
> > 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
> > for the moral teachings of Jesus. But the prophecies, miracle stories
> > (incl. those associated with the life and death of Jesus), and claims
> > by various persons to be speaking for God are all just so much gar-bage
> > 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
> > most Enlightenment thinkers, we did not evolve), and God is the source
> > natural law incl those moral tenets associated (by Jefferson for
> > 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
> > 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
> > 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
> > thing for enlightened men to contemplate) and, furthermore, it is
> > 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
> > 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
> > 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
> > 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
> Enlightenment. But we already knew how you felt about that.
> What I was actually hoping to get from you was a sample of your
> 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
> 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
> 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
> from many suburban pulpits today) and deism?
> Howard
Received on Sat Jun 12 15:22:05 2004

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