The Development of Modern Deism – Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte – article

The Development of Modern Deism

Jan van Den Berg | Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte


Deism did not die after the last English deist of the eighteenth century closed his eyes. In England, in America, and on the continent it continued its way. Deism has struggled itself out of a negative image into a modem concept of viewing the world. It has never been dead, it made a comeback. The looseform of definition may have helped this development. Asking for the development ofmodem deism we can use the six categories used by Antoine Vergote to define deism: the rejection of religious authorities, the rejection of divine revelation, the rejection of an interventionist God, a universally inclusive ecumenism, a leaning towards cosmological models of explaining the world, and the sixth characteristic: the repulsion experienced towards the idea that a loving father accepts the death of his son as a basisfor the salvation of all mankind. This deism, not a movement, but an evaporation of a misty religious nebulosity, has since times been on the march. The articles in The Wall Street Journal online and in the New Statesman are telling signals. Modem means of communication will do the rest. Many modern Christians, including myself, are sensitive to the arguments. It is not without reason that the criticism of this modem deism has especially comefrom evangelical sides. Butfor those Christians who have passed by the many-sided ways of the Enlightenment it will open ‘a never ending divine horizon of all reality’.


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