Wednesday, June 15, 2016

William Livingston, The Moravians, Primitive Christianity

In my last post I noted the Moravians might be like the Quakers in their belief in simplistic primitive Christianity. I crossed out that parenthetical clause because after researching them further, I'm not so sure. I don't know enough about them yet to make that assessment.

I do know that William Livingston, who loved the Quakers, also defended the Moravians. The Moravians were viewed as "heretics." Livingston was an anti-heresy hunter.

That was the point of "primitive Christianity." As George Washington once put it, "[I]n religion my tenets are few and simple."

It was this doctrinal indifference that permitted religious pluralism to flourish in the American Founding. That's the thesis to  Chris Beneke's "Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of American Pluralism."

Beneke argues that Livingston's proposed Christianity was "devoid of theological content." To Livingston "Christ was the promised Messiah" whose moral instruction ought to be followed. But the contents of that instruction could be "contained in a sheet of paper."

This was "primitive Christianity."

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