Deism

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Deism deeply influenced the intellectual world of Enlightenment France and England from the late seventeenth through the early eighteenth centuries, before losing cultural significance and declining. To the Enlightenment thinkers, human reason replaced the Bible and tradition as the authority for the way ultimate reality was understood.

 

Autonomous human reason also replaced the Bible and tradition as the authority for morality. In the early years, Deists placed confidence in the universality of human nature. Therefore, people using logical reasoning would tend to agree on what was right and wrong. 

 

Deists reject the biblical notion of the Fall and assume that the present universe is in its present, normal, created state. Therefore, one can derive one’s values from clues from the natural order, often referred to as “Natural Law.”

 

Deists believe that God created the universe, and then stepped back to let it run. It is a “closed” universe that does not experience divine intervention or miraculous events. People become like cogs in the clockwork mechanism of the universe.  

 

Paraphrase: Sire, J. (2009) The Universe Next Door. 5th ed. (pp. 64-65) IVP Academic

 

Survey Questions:

- What is Prime Reality? What is really real? - Deists believe that a transcendent God, a First Cause, created the universe but then left it to run on its own.

 

- What is the Nature of the World? - The cosmos God created is determined, because it is created as a uniformity of cause and effect in a "closed" system; no miracle is possible.

 

- What is a Human Being? - Human beings, though personal, are part of the clockwork of the universe.

 

- What Happens at Death? - Human beings may or may not have a life beyond their physical existence.

 

- Why is it possible to know anything? - Through our innate and autonomous human reason and the method of science, we can not only know the universe, but we can infer at least something of what God is like.

- How do Deists know Right from Wrong? - Ethics is intuitive or limited to general revelation; because the universe is normal, it reveals what is right.

 

- What is the Meaning of Human History? - History is linear, for the course of the cosmos was determined at creation. Still, the meanings of the events of history remain to be understood by the data unearthed and made available to historians.

 

- What personal, core commitments are consistent with your worldview? – Deists may reflect on their commitment to a somewhat personal God and determine their goals in accordance with what they believe God would be pleased with.

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