Friday, August 05, 2011

Accusations of Deism:

One interesting thing I've discovered in this many year long investigation of the American Founding and religion is the orthodox clergy were likely to make accusations of "Deism" to folks whom they suspected didn't meet their standard of orthodoxy. Usually the charge was false in the sense that the accused was not a "strict Deist" (one who 1. believed in a remote clock-maker God; 2. categorically rejected the possibility of revelation; and 3. self consciously rejected the "Christian" label). However most often the accused, indeed, didn't meet strict "orthodox" standards. To which the orthodox clergy responded "well then, this theological system is no better than Deism" or perhaps as William Wilberforce noted, a "halfway house to infidelity."

I've noted Founding Father William Livingston as a less than well known figure who fit this description. And indeed, he was so accused. As Livingston himself wrote:

It is well known that some have represented me as an Atheist, others as a Deist, and a third sort as a Presbyterian. My creed will show that none have exactly hit it. For all which reasons, I shall cheerfully lay before you the articles of my faith. * * *


Livingston then humorously details his "creed" which is really an anti-creed, rejecting, among other things, the concept of creedalism itself, orthodoxy, ecclesiastical authority, and (of course) sectarianism. All in the name of the Bible and "Christianity," of course.

7 comments:

goose said...

Important not to forget is Livingston wrote this when he was 20 years old in 1753; a far cry from his Governorship of New Jersey, and as a trustee of Princeton U.

After leaving New York, Livingston was an active Presbyterian. His daughter was a Presbyterian, who married John Jay, and he entrusted his son's education to John Witherspoon at Princeton.

Most evangelicals reject creeds, given the clergy that write them are not inspired, contradicting the Scriptures. WM affirmed this point:

"[T]he Use of Creeds, which is the construction of the Clergy upon the Scriptures." p. 390.

The creed of Anathanius (sp?) is a catholic document that claims catholicism is the only true faith. Anti-catholicism--rampant to the colonials--is more likely the smoking gun for the quote in question; not criticism of the Trinity, given Livingston affirmed biblical inerrancy which indisputably affirms (John 1, Acts 20:28, II Cor 5:19, Micah 5:2, Rom 9:5, et al) the Deity of Christ, and the Tri-unity of the Godhead (Gen 1:26, Col 2, Phil 2:6-9, Isa 48, John 4).

Jonathan Rowe said...

Goose;

You don't know enough about these terms and principles of logic to make such a comment.

The Athanasian creed -- affirmed by the way, by the vast majority of evangelicals -- affirms the small c "catholic" church, which AGAIN, is a concept affirmed by the vast majority of evangelicals given the Bible speaks of Christ's "church."

Likewise YOU may say that scripture affirms the Triunity of God, but other Bible believers (like Livingston!) disagree. And they tend to be the ones who disagree with orthodox creeds! The whole reason why Sola Scriptura affirming evangelical Christians ALSO tend to EMBRACE orthodox creeds is to CLARIFY just how THEY understand and interpret the Bible; because without such creedal clarification you can get lots of Bible believing, Jesus is Savior believing "Christians" who do not affirm the Trinity. [Why don't you look up and see if your church has a creed and run this issue by your pastor; I bet he'll agree with everything I've written so far, after the first short paragraph which was a gentle personal criticism of you.] Case in point William Livingston and lots, lots, lots of other examples.

See my posts on Trenchard and Gordon, coming very soon.

goose said...

The Athanasian creed -- affirmed by the way, by the vast majority of evangelicals -- affirms the small c "catholic" church, which AGAIN, is a concept affirmed by the vast majority of evangelicals given the Bible speaks of Christ's "church."

That Evangelical Protestants would affim "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith." cannot be highlighted enough.

Evangelicals affirm the Trinity in the Creed, not the catholic faith of the creed's author,(nor greater faith than I have in St. Athanasius!). Catholicism was Athanasius' faith. Likewise, you may find a small amount of Evangelical Lutherans that affirm Athanasius' creed, but they do not affirm the catholic faith of works. Scarcely will you find any non-denominational church affirming any creed over the Scriptures. It is the Scriptures that are listed in their Statements of faith.

Likewise YOU may say that scripture affirms the Triunity of God, but other Bible believers (like Livingston!) disagree.

Where does Livingston say he denies the Tri-unity of God or Deity of Christ?

Jonathan Rowe said...

Well I may use your comments for a new post. But think clearly about what you asserted: "Catholicism was Athanasius' faith." St. Athanasius was born around 296-298, Alexandria, Roman Egypt Died May 2, 373. Most anti-Roman Catholic evangelicals I know claim the Roman Catholic Church didn't exist at that time (though they often have a hard time telling me WHEN they think the church against which Luther rebelled actually came into existence). Indeed the vast majority of evangelical orthodox Trinitarians I encounter (Gregg Frazer for existence) will note, like Luther, though they don't feel in communion with the church against which ML rebelled, they DO feel in communion with the churches that wrote the Nicene and Athanasian creeds.

And that's because most evangelicals embrace the concept of small c "catholicism" (which really just means "universal" as in "universal" church; though not to be confused with theological universalism) in regards to catholicity of Christ's "Church." They just disagree that the "Church" whose Bishop of Rome is the Pope is the authentic "catholic" church. These evangelicals are thus fond of calling that church the ROMAN church and not the Roman CATHOLIC church.

If you can't feel communion with the "church" circa 300AD, which btw, was peddling the idea of "catholicism" at that time, then you sound like a unitarian! They were the ones who rejected the way the early church peddled "catholicity" in its establishment of creeds and they indeed associated all of those early orthodox creeds (Athanasian, Apostles, Nicene) and Trinitarianism itself with Roman Catholicism.

If you have a well educated and competent pastor, he'd understand and affirm what I've just written. Run it by him.

Though, you aren't alone among evangelicals in not understanding this. This isn't easy stuff.

goose said...

like Luther, though they don't feel in communion with the church against which ML rebelled, they DO feel in communion with the churches that wrote the Nicene and Athanasian creeds.

Catholicism started in the 4th century. The first Bishop of Rome was regionally elected after Constantine came to power. The burnings at the stake started centuries before Nicea. Christians were not in communion with those who murdered them. My Pastor, would not affirm anything you've written.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Why don't you tell me who your pastor is so I can search your church website. Sorry but I don't trust your relaying what your pastor would affirm. I'd like to see the evidence myself because I've concluded most lay-evangelicals don't fully understand what their churches are all about, their histories and that includes YOU. The ministers and elders do; that's why they are ministers and elders (like Gregg Frazer an elder).

So Roman Catholicism started sometime in the 4th Cen.? The 300s? Are you sure you know when the first Bishop of Rome was "regionally elected"? What relationship does Roman Catholicm have to the Nicene, Apostles and Athanasian Creeds? (All formulated around that time; during the 3rd and 4th Centuries.) And which does your church affirm or reject?

Please clarify.

goose said...

Instead of Nicea, it should have read Trent.

The catholic church in the 4th century began the exact persecution of Christians that increased centuries later. These persecuted Christians were called: Albengensians, Waldensians, Lollards, Hussites etc.

It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict.
--EDICT OF THESSALONICA, FEB, 27, 380 AD.

My recollection is the Athanasian creed is no longer a part of Rome's liturgy.

Along with the danger history reflects by merging a nation with religion, and that of Protestantism's historical position of catholicism, your assumptions of William Livingston is of serious concern.