Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chauncy on Edwards:

One of the things that stunned me reading David Barton's article on Romans 13 was that he mistakenly believed Jonathan Mayhew (a principle ideological proponent of the American Revolution) was part of Jonathan Edward's "Great Awakening" movement, when the opposite is true; Mayhew was a chief theological opponent of Edward's "evangelical" like Christianity. Keep that in perspective when Barton rattles off names of people "responsible" for American independence: John Adams, Samuel Cooper, Jonathan Mayhew, Charles Chauncy, and George Whitefield. Barton says they are all "Christians," and indeed they all thought of themselves as "Christians." However, with the exception of Whitefield, they were all theological unitarians, whose "Christianity" (if it's even fair to term their theological system "Christian" since it denies the Trinity; most evangelicals don't think it is) was a different animal than that of the "orthodox."

This is big; if one wants to fully understand the political-theological driver behind the American Founding, one must understand this theological system and how it differed from both Deism and orthodox Christianity. These elite figures played extremely important roles in positing the "revolutionary" ideas that trickled their way down to the masses.

With that, check out this book of the correspondence of Richard Price, another key influence on the American Founding and expositor of a "rational Christianity" that was theologically unitarian and opposed to evangelical "fatalism." The correspondence sheds light on ideas going on in the minds of the elite who drove the American Founding:

The Doctrine of Fatalism, asserted and maintained in a book printed by Mr. Edwards, a minister in New-England, and reprinted in London a few years ago, has, by the assistance of some who were friends to these sentiments, unhappily taken a large spread, especially in the Colony of Connecticutt. The book I herewith send you (which is the only one I have as yet been able to procure) contains the whole of what the Propagators of Fatalism have to say in its defence, as it is the product of all their heads put together.1 I believe you never saw the Supreme Being, in any book, so explicitly and directly made the author and planner of moral evil. 'Tis to me astonishing that any man who professes a regard to the Deity, as these men do, should be able to speak of him as so ordering and disposing things as that moral evil should certainly be introduced into the world, and that it is desireable it should be, and for the greater good too, though great numbers on account of it shall suffer everlasting punishment. Nothing, as I imagine, could be said worse of the Prince of the power of the Air. I should be glad to have your th[oug]ts, when at leisure, upon this performance, especially that part of it which relates to the introduction of sin into the world, by the ordering and disposal of God, and for the good of the creation. This performance is supposed by too many to contain the truth, and to exhibit it in an unanswerable way.

The "Mr. Edwards" was the "Jonathan Edwards" of Great Awakening fame.

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