A Paradise of Reason: William Bentley and Enlightenment by J. Rixey Ruffin

By J. Rixey Ruffin

William Bentley, pastor in Salem, Massachusetts from 1783 to his loss of life in 1819, was once not like someone else in America's founding iteration, for he had come to special conclusions approximately how most sensible to keep up a conventional figuring out of Christianity in a global ever altering via the forces of the Enlightenment. Like a few of his contemporaries, Bentley preached a liberal Christianity, with its benevolent God and salvation via ethical dwelling, yet he-and in New England he alone-also preached a rational Christianity, person who provided new and radical claims in regards to the strength of God and the attributes of Jesus. Drawing on over 1000 of Bentley's sermons, J. Rixey Ruffin strains 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 intrude in nature after the Resurrection. In adopting the sort of place, Bentley had driven his religion so far as he may towards rationalism whereas nonetheless, he suggestion, calling it Christianity. yet this e-book is as a lot a social and political historical past of Salem within the early republic because it is an highbrow biography; it not just delineates Bentley's rules, yet possibly extra vital, it unravels their social and political results. utilizing Bentley's amazing diary and an unlimited archive of newspaper bills, tax documents, and electoral returns, Ruffin brings to lifestyles the sailors, widows, captains and retailers who lived with Bentley within the jap parish of Salem. A Paradise of cause is a learn of the highbrow and tangible results of rational faith in mercantile Salem, of theology and philosophy but in addition 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 lifestyles and considered one among early New England's finest historic figures, Ruffin bargains a clean standpoint 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

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For many of Tileston’s students, his was all the formal instruction they would ever receive. 22 a paradise of reason Others, about 13 percent, went on to the North Grammar School, where they would begin a seven-year curriculum in Latin and Greek. 11 It was a world in which he felt at home, one to which he could escape and mend the splitting of his soul between the worlds of his father and grandfather every day worsened by the events outside his window. Paine’s revolutionary sympathies are not completely clear, since he had no formal role in town politics and being a miller saved him from taking a public stand during the non-importation crises.

There is no reason to conclude that the proprietors were trying to weaken the Christianity in their church, much less remove it, any more than Bentley was. But they were seeking to free themselves from a form of Christianity they no longer could accept. The Revolution allowed them to take what was a drastic and unusual step. After all, lots of ministers in New England churches wore out their welcome but were not removed, since Congregationalist ministers expected—and were 42 1783–1791 expected—to serve for life, barring irreconcilable differences or gross misconduct, and it occasioned much sorrow and acrimony whenever an ecclesiastical council was convened to expedite a dismissal.

25 It was a promise he did not need to keep for long: ten days later Diman was out. Whatever he convinced himself about his lack of responsibility, Bentley was in fact very much responsible, for even putting aside the pulpit prodding, it was only with his arrival that the church took action to remove a man with whom they had long been at odds. Understanding the reason they did so—and how and why they did it when they did—requires a close look at who made up the congregation. In terms of secular class distinctions, the men in the church occupied the full range of social places in a seaport town.

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