Sunday, May 22, 2016

Christianity Wthout Orthodoxy: William Livingston Might Hold the Key

To unlocking a certain strain of the "Christian" political theology of the American Founding.

While William Livingston was associated with a number of different denominations, he described himself as "more than half a Quaker." He did a satire on the 39 articles of faith of the Anglican church which amounts to an attack on orthodoxy, creeds and clericalism. He also slammed the Athanasian creed which led me to conclude Livingston was a unitarian. But that might have been a bridge too far on my part.

Rather it's more of a reductio ad absurdum of the individualism of biblical Protestantism that leaves it up to him to decide on what the faith means. The concept of Priesthood of all believers. But unlike many evangelical Protestants of today who pick an understanding and then claim all true believers will understand "this" is what the Bible means, and then they endlessly squabble, Livingston understood his approach would naturally lead to dispute and he embraced that reality.

He didn't care what other people believed on the "finer" points of Christianity. That is, he didn't care about "orthodoxy." No need to squabble.

It also "fits" with the individualistic nature of Enlightenment liberalism. Garry Wills' book that dealt with the matter had many inadequacies. But one strength was it noted Quakerism and unitarianism as the kinds of faiths that "fit" the age of Enlightenment which birthed the American Founding.

At least "fit" from the from the perspective of prevailing intellectual thought, ideals, and so on. There were plenty of unthinking masses who belonged to churches with not just orthodox creeds, but orthodox ministers who may have defended them.

Livingston, for instance, became associated with the Presbyterians. But it would be a mistake to conclude he was a TULIP Calvinist who defended the creeds and confessions of that church. In fact, he rejected all of it.

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