Saturday, March 27, 2010

Benjamin Rush on Confucianism, Islam and Christianity:

See here:

Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mahomed inculcated upon our youth, than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place, is that of the New Testament.


Rush was an interesting character. He was an orthodox Trinitarian Christian and said certain things which sound "Christian Nation" like. Yet, his orthodox Christianity was liberal and enlightened for the era. He was a theological universalist, believing all men would be saved through Christ's universal (as opposed to limited) atonement. And he thought the New Testament abolished the death penalty.

Rush described his creed as "a compound of the orthodoxy and heterodoxy of most of our Christian churches."

One thing that interests me about Rush's first quotation is his idea that Confucianism "reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments...." That was the deistic or theistic minimum that many key and non-key Founders -- not just the heterodox rationalist unitarians, but some/many orthodox figures as well -- believed most if not all world religions adhered to.

This was the idea of "natural religion" -- that all good men of all religions believe in Providence and a future state of rewards and punishments. That man's "reason" discovered this. And, as it were, such Providentialism existed beyond the Abrahamic, traditionally thought of monotheistic religions.

The way natural religion "fit" with Christianity was the Jewish and Christian scriptures helped to further clarify what man could discover from reason alone.

I question whether it's sound theology to "find" monotheism outside of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions (broadly defined). But they did. John Adams "found" Providentialism in, among other places, Hinduism and Greek God worship. Hinduism perhaps could be thought of as monotheistic. I've heard some Hindus argue their thousands of gods are really manifestations of the one God of the universe. This seems like Trinitarian logic taken to its ultimate extreme (instead of three manifestations of one God, it's thousands).

Also, for obvious reasons [Western Civ. has Greco-Roman along with Judeo-Christian origins AND the FFs highly venerated such Greco-Roman noble paganism], the way the Founders' universal monotheism fit with classical Greece and Rome interests me.

It may be a stretch to say, as John Adams did, Zeus worship is a "Christian principle." However, what about the ancient philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates or the Stoics of Rome like Cinncinatus, Cicero and Seneca?

It is my (albeit limited) understanding that many of these wise Ancients did not worship the city gods like Zeus or his Roman moniker Jupiter. Isn't that what Socrates was executed for?

Yet, they weren't atheists either? They did believe in some kind of metaphysical Providence?

So men like Aristotle, Socrates, Cicero and Seneca perhaps could be said to have worshipped the God of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures without knowing more about Him.

That's one way to view it.

I rarely, however, hear the evangelical promoters of the "Christian Nation" thesis expounding theology like this. Roman Catholics, maybe.

Evangelicals are more likely to say Aristotle, Cicero, the Hindus and Confucians DIDN'T worship the God of the Bible, were/are in a state of spiritual darkness period.

The Founders would have disagreed.

7 comments:

Our Founding Truth said...

Rush said he venerates "every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity[Yahweh], or a state...." He was a universalist, not a Deist.

Did Rush write about Confuciusism having attributes of the true God?

Also, I believe Providence is strictly Christian. The actual meaning of the word is "God's will." This term is moored in the Christian God and foreknowlege in general.

John Adams is not representative of the Framers, and should be abandoned as a dichotomy. Adams is not "they."

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT: You add in "Yahweh" to Rush's comment on the Deity and claim "Providence" as an exclusively Christian concept.

However, the context of Rush's quote indicates that HE BELIEVED Islam and Confuciusism worshipped the "Deity" or "Providence" and believed in a future state of rewards and punishments.

Our Founding Truth said...

I don't believe is including confucius as the Deity, but venerates confucius as having God's attributes only. Confuciusism is ancestor worship, and could be paganism.

Rush despises paganism:

"I anticipate nothing but suffering to the human race while the present systems of paganism, deism, and atheism prevail in the world."
-to Noah Webster, July 20, 1798

I don't hold much weight to it.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT: Rush in his very words reproduced above tells us he includes Confucianism with Islam as teaching worship of "the Deity" and a future state of rewards and punishments.

I don't see why you avoid the OBVIOUS conclusion. Here is what Daniel, an attorney, wrote in the comments section at American Creation:

There is a very good argument to be made that the opinions of "Mahomed" concerning the attributes of the Deity have some similarity to those of Christianity. But to recommend the opinions of Confucius because they reveal "the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments" is to demonstrate ignorance. Rush's statement is interesting in his acceptance of other religions and recognition of truth outside of Christianity. But, he is just throwing out names. He hasn't spent any time learning the content of the opinions he refers to.

Our Founding Truth said...

All I'm saying is Rush claims other religions exhibit ATTRIBUTES of THE Deity. I concur with Rush; there may be other religions that have the same attributes as Yahweh.

KevinQC said...

Isn't all truth God's truth? That means any little bit of truth in any myth or religion is the voice of God speaking to man throughout our history and in all our cultures. The ultimate revelation being the Word made flesh in Christ Jesus.

Our Founding Truth said...

Thank you for clarifying that for me, however, Confucius may have taken parts of the true revelation to fit his own little philosophy. Various religions adopt the truth from the true God; Jesus Christ, as He said himself. "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me."
-John 14:6

and

"Before Abraham was, I AM."
-John 8:58