By J. Rixey Ruffin
William Bentley, pastor in Salem, Massachusetts from 1783 to his demise in 1819, was once not like a person else in America's founding iteration, for he had come to particular conclusions approximately how most sensible to take care of a conventional realizing 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 residing, yet he-and in New England he alone-also preached a rational Christianity, person who provided new and radical claims in regards to the energy 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 in addition in God's unwillingness to intervene in nature after the Resurrection. In adopting this type of place, Bentley had driven his religion so far as he may towards rationalism whereas nonetheless, he proposal, 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 possibly extra vital, it unravels their social and political results. utilizing Bentley's amazing diary and an unlimited archive of newspaper money owed, tax documents, and electoral returns, Ruffin brings to lifestyles the sailors, widows, captains and retailers who lived with Bentley within the japanese parish of Salem. A Paradise of cause is a research of the highbrow and tangible results of rational faith in mercantile Salem, of theology and philosophy but additionally 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 celebration politics of Federalism and Democratic-Republicanism. In bringing to gentle the interesting lifestyles and considered one in every of early New England's best ancient figures, Ruffin deals a clean viewpoint at the formative negotiations among Christianity and the Enlightenment within the years of America's founding.
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Additional resources for A Paradise of Reason: William Bentley and Enlightenment Christianity in the Early Republic
He never warmed to his fellow tutors, and the three professors had problems of their own: Wigglesworth, a declining interest in divinity among students; Samuel Williams (Winthrop’s successor), a pattern of debt that would end in a forgery scandal; and Sewall, the alcoholism that would force his resignation in 1785. 24 And Bentley, it seems, resented them in return. ‘‘Do not fancy therefore that the tutor’s life is pleasant and happy,’’ he copied from one of his readings. ’’25 The continued exposure to the spoiled sons of Boston’s wealth was reafﬁrming his sense of social inferiority.
And contra the Arminians, Calvinists were not unreasonable; they just deﬁned reason differently. But it was too late for subtlety. Meaning had already become implication, implication perception, and perception accusation. And so the supposedly ignorant irrationalists would remain at odds with the supposedly prideful humanists in a war of words as well as ideas that continued through Bentley’s life and well beyond. The conﬂict was not unique to the East Church even in Bentley’s day, but rarely elsewhere did two opponents clash from the same pulpit and for the favor of the same congregation.
Everyone who wished to open his mind with a love to God and man’’ would be welcome. This was not to be understood as removing all standards, and he meant it when he said he did not want the ‘‘hoaring monster . . drunkard . . cruel extortioner . . 17 Baptism was more problematic and, as it turned out, more important. Early in the seventeenth century, New England churches had offered baptism to the children only of the converted. Though it had no saving power per se, they ﬁgured, baptism was not without some linkage to Christ, a cleansing perhaps or a preparation for the cleansing that conversion brings and so rightfully due only to those infants whose parents were already converted and who were thus most likely to be so themselves.
A Paradise of Reason: William Bentley and Enlightenment Christianity in the Early Republic by J. Rixey Ruffin