He was also younger brother of Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury, an inveterate duellist and the father of English Deism
. [Footnote: See below, p.
An America that was once largely Protestant and churchgoing has become more diverse and more secular; church membership rates have plummeted, and growing numbers of Americans call themselves "spiritual but not religious." In light of these changes, more and more critics are asking if ceremonial deism
has outlived its usefulness and if it ever had any.
In his thoughtful and important new book, Kerry Waiters delineates the metamorphosis from "the gloomy doctrines of Calvinism" to a "natural religion of Deism
." In London, a young Billingsgate printer's devil, Benjamin Franklin, "religiously educated as a Presbyterian," read anti-Deist tracts that "wrought an effect on [himl quite contrary to what was intended by them." The Deists' arguments for a natural religion based on the faculty of reason appeared to young Franklin "much stronger than the refutations; in short, [he] soon became a thorough Deist" (52).
Semler's defense of the edict is included; so too is a critical exchange between him and Andreas Riem (1789-1790), in which Semler set out an embryonic concept of progressive revelation; a 1786 essay opposing efforts at Protestant-Catholic reunion; a 1791 essay on Deism
; and a brief autobiographical account from 1784.
For students, Sire, a speaker and writer who has taught English, philosophy, and theology at universities and seminaries, introduces a variety of worldviews from a Western Christian perspective: theism, deism
, naturalism, Marxism, nihilism, existentialism, Eastern monism, New Age philosophy, and postmodernism.
Taken at face value, it is a lively, almost chatty narrative of a prominent British philosopher's intellectual pilgrimage from atheistic humanism to deism
and perhaps more.
Some British Calvinists, for instance, welcomed the apparent randomness as revealing God's free choice (like his free choice of whom to save or damn) as opposed to the mechanical Deism
of the 18th century--odd to us but historically true.
As for the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, the expression used is "Nature's God," a term of art from Enlightenment Deism
, not Christianity or Judaism.
Edwards, he argues, "dedicated his career to deism
's destruction" (34).
For some, it will be a shock to discover that the Declaration of Independence is a document that tries to arouse men to throw off the chains of traditional Christianity and embrace reason and the basic tenets of Deism
, which began in England in the late seventeenth century, was primarily a rebellion against revealed as distinct from natural religion.
The best of them are pious progressives, for whom, as for the author of the following Development and Peace Lenten prayer, deism
and leftism are indeed the two indispensable pillars of Gospel Christianity: