By J. Rixey Ruffin
William Bentley, pastor in Salem, Massachusetts from 1783 to his loss of life in 1819, was once not like somebody else in America's founding new release, for he had come to specified conclusions approximately how top to keep up a standard knowing of Christianity in an international ever altering through 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 was once as an alternative 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 intrude in nature after the Resurrection. In adopting this sort of place, Bentley had driven his religion so far as he might towards rationalism whereas nonetheless, he notion, calling it Christianity. yet this publication is as a lot a social and political background of Salem within the early republic because it is an highbrow biography; it not just delineates Bentley's principles, yet maybe extra very important, it unravels their social and political effects. 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 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 multinational and dissent, the ideological politics of republicanism and classical liberalism, and the social gathering politics of Federalism and Democratic-Republicanism. In bringing to mild the interesting existence and regarded one among early New England's best historic figures, Ruffin deals a clean point of view 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
Bentley offered a different theory about the means to salvation. The central idea of his Arminianism is that grace can be earned, that humans are capable of acts that please God and thus reconcile the actors of them to God. The sinfulness humans suffer from is not an immutable state of depravity but instead a tendency toward immorality, one that can be overcome by following the morality that Christ preached. Humans, in short, are ﬂawed but wellmeaning creatures of free will and goodness fully able, should they choose, to satisfy and reconcile themselves to God through the type of behavior enjoined by Christ.
Thrice the English Protestants had fought the French Catholics, and after each, negotiators had signed a treaty leaving matters much as before. And now Bostonians were ﬁghting again, a war that had only recently turned in their favor. Victories at Louisbourg, Fort Frontenac, and Fort Duquesne in 1758 had emboldened the colonists to again attack the fortress on the St. Lawrence. The Bentley family, like most in eighteenth-century Boston, knew well of war. The paterfamilias had left England in 1711 to come to America to ﬁght the French in the second of the colonial wars.
But he did publish a sermon, one delivered just before an execution of a condemned rapist, and he also wrote a theologically infused letter to the Gazette, so it is possible to get a fair approximation of how he conceived the human condition and the Christian duty. The cornerstone of Calvinism was belief in humanity’s alienation from God as remnant from the Fall. The imputation of Original Sin has left everyone as much in need of redemption as were the ﬁrst pair after their expulsion from Eden.