By J. Rixey Ruffin
William Bentley, pastor in Salem, Massachusetts from 1783 to his demise in 1819, used to be not like somebody else in America's founding new release, for he had come to specified conclusions approximately how most sensible to take care of a standard knowing of Christianity in an international ever altering by means of the forces of the Enlightenment. Like a few of his contemporaries, Bentley preached a liberal Christianity, with its benevolent God and salvation via ethical dwelling, yet he-and in New England he alone-also preached a rational Christianity, one who provided new and radical claims concerning the strength of God and the attributes of Jesus. Drawing on over one thousand of Bentley's sermons, J. Rixey Ruffin lines the evolution of Bentley's theology. Neither liberal nor deist, Bentley used to be as a substitute what Ruffin calls a "Christian naturalist," a believer within the biblical God and within the crucial Christian narrative but additionally in God's unwillingness to intervene in nature after the Resurrection. In adopting one of these place, Bentley had driven his religion so far as he may towards rationalism whereas nonetheless, he concept, calling it Christianity. yet this ebook is as a lot a social and political heritage of Salem within the early republic because it is an highbrow biography; it not just delineates Bentley's principles, yet probably extra very important, it unravels their social and political outcomes. utilizing Bentley's outstanding diary and an unlimited archive of newspaper money owed, tax files, and electoral returns, Ruffin brings to existence the sailors, widows, captains and retailers who lived with Bentley within the japanese parish of Salem. A Paradise of cause is a learn of the highbrow and tangible results of rational faith in mercantile Salem, of theology and philosophy but in addition of ideology: of the social politics of race and sophistication and gender, the ecclesiastical politics of firm and dissent, the ideological politics of republicanism and classical liberalism, and the occasion politics of Federalism and Democratic-Republicanism. In bringing to mild the interesting existence and regarded considered one of early New England's best old figures, Ruffin bargains a clean standpoint at the formative negotiations among Christianity and the Enlightenment within the years of America's founding.
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Extra info for A Paradise of Reason: William Bentley and Enlightenment Christianity in the Early Republic
He resigned. And he did so after pressure was brought to bear not from the handful of members but from the larger, more prestigious, and wealthier group of pew proprietors. To be certain, the members did not like Diman either, and whenever they did vote, they voted against him. But they did not take the lead in the whole affair; the proprietors did. 28 In line with other churches, the East Church had many more female members than male ones—the membership was around 90 percent female—but also in line with the policies of other churches, these women could not vote.
Let the threatenings as well as promises of the Gospel be often the subjects of your preaching,’’ he told Bentley that day. ‘‘Fear not the faces of men; 32 1783–1791 but fear God, to whom you must give account. Let it be your constant care and endeavour to convince and convert sinners, and to stir up saints to the greatest zeal and diligence in the divine service. . ’’3 Whatever Diman thought about this advice, it meant nothing to Bentley: he did not fear God, he had no interest in stirring anybody to zeal, and he did not believe in Satan.
And none of the earlier representatives of the faith side had taken so much time to explain how their version was reasonable, too. By the time William Bentley assumed the pulpit, both sides were operating fully under the assumptions that they were part of the Enlightened age. And both were right. But to say that both sides insisted on a reasonable God is not to say that both insisted on similar kinds of reason or a similar relationship of God to it. They did not. And therein is the point: their insistence on a reasoning God made both sides modern, but their differing versions of that reasoning set them down separate and hostile tracks into and through that modernity.
A Paradise of Reason: William Bentley and Enlightenment Christianity in the Early Republic by J. Rixey Ruffin