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 new release, for he had come to specific conclusions approximately how top to take care of a conventional knowing of Christianity in a global ever altering by way 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 1000 of Bentley's sermons, J. Rixey Ruffin lines the evolution of Bentley's theology. Neither liberal nor deist, Bentley used to be as an alternative 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 kind of place, Bentley had driven his religion so far as he may towards rationalism whereas nonetheless, he concept, calling it Christianity. yet this ebook 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 principles, yet might be extra vital, it unravels their social and political results. utilizing Bentley's amazing diary and an enormous archive of newspaper bills, 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 in addition 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 occasion politics of Federalism and Democratic-Republicanism. In bringing to mild the interesting lifestyles and considered considered one of early New England's finest old figures, Ruffin deals a clean standpoint at the formative negotiations among Christianity and the Enlightenment within the years of America's founding.
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Additional info for A Paradise of Reason: William Bentley and Enlightenment Christianity in the Early Republic
A situation as awkward as this could hardly last for long, and in the spring of 1785 events began moving toward a resolution. ’’19 Diman again refused to accept this, the decision of his own church, and from there things fell apart rapidly. Accusations and recriminations ﬂew back and forth, some issues about religion and some not, some predating Bentley and some very much about him. Diman accused the church of intentionally underpaying him, and they responded with charges of mismanagement of charity funds; Diman said the parish had encouraged ‘‘new doctrines and fatal innovations,’’ while they said he had been obstructing their obvious desires by refusing to accept the young assistant they selected.
The unconverted nonmember parishioners could, if themselves baptized, have their children baptized under the Half-Way Covenant but were not in any event given Communion. This two-tier system of members and parishioners was typical for established parishes in New England, and although these distinctions played important roles in the schisms of other churches elsewhere, the story of Diman’s expulsion centers instead on a third subset of church participants, one with no formal ecclesiastical deﬁnition but with a great deal of power nonetheless.
Joshua Bentley, it turns out, would live for thirty-six more years, and not for one day was he more than a hair’s breadth from abject poverty. John Pynchon and Harrison Gray Otis thought themselves Bentley’s superiors, and no doubt many of his other students thought the same. ’’27 But if he was not at the top of the strata, neither was he at the bottom. Instead he was trapped in some ill-deﬁned middle zone, accepted by no group as its own, disdainful of the working life of his father and forced to bear with grace the condescension of those who might admire his ability to read Virgil but did not embrace him as their equal.