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A Paradise of ReasonWilliam Bentley and Enlightenment Christianity in the Early Republic$
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J. Rixey Ruffin

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195326512

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195326512.001.0001

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 Christian Naturalism

 Christian Naturalism

Chapter:
(p.61) 3 Christian Naturalism
Source:
A Paradise of Reason
Author(s):

J. Rixey Ruffin (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195326512.003.0005

William Bentley's Arminianism was hardly unique to him, but he also addressed other, more deep‐seated problems surrounding claims about God's attributes and God's power. These were problems that forced Christianity to confront reason in its formal sense, to answer the demands of ontology and epistemology, in short to account for both the Trinity that seemed contrary to the imperatives of rationalism and the providentialism that seemed contrary to the lessons of empiricism. Bentley's solution to the rational problem of the Trinity was to deny outright any divinity of Jesus (and of the Holy Spirit), a solution called Socinianism; his solution to the empirical problem of miracles and special providence was to argue that while God did indeed intervene in nature during the biblical era, in the post‐biblical ongoing present, He no longer does. God no longer needs to, since sending (the human) Jesus was the ultimate and thus last expression of God's will for humanity. And if Bentley's Arminianism was not uniquely his, these solutions—what one may call Christian naturalism—were. His Socinianism was a more stringent modification of the Trinity than was that of the “Unitarianism” of later New England (really Arianism), and no other cleric in Bentley's era came close to barring God from intervening in the natural realm.

Keywords:   ontology, epistemology, empiricism, rationalism, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Trinity, Arian, Socinianism, Unitarianism, providence, miracles, Christian naturalism

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