When someone labels themself or someone else a deist they depend upon the definition they have accepted for that word. But there are often several definitions for the same word and those definitions may differ or even become obsolete over time. Then there is the application of a word within the context of its use.
A deist who supposedly believes in deism is defined today as "a person who believes that God created the universe and then abandoned it".
Or a more freeing definition would be The belief that God has created the universe but remains apart from it enough to permit His creation to administer itself through natural laws. This approach allows an element of choice within the Natural law.
Some people might assume that a deist rejects the supernatural aspects of religion, such as belief in revelation in the Bible, and only stresses the importance of ethical conduct.
Some religious ideologies have created doctrines that teach that " ethical conduct" is not a part of salvation but only what you say you believe. This seems contradictory to the teaching of Christ about being a doer of the word. It also seems to contradict the teachings of Paul who has longlists of people who will not inherit the kingdom because of what they are doing.
While these conflicting ideas continue to entertain the imagination of people seeking the comforts of religious philosophies others opposed such doctrines and were labeled deists. But to comprehend exactly what it might mean to be labeled a "deist" you would have to also understand what the "natural law" is and what the word "supernatural" actually means.
To believe that God is entirely "apart" from creation would eliminate any and all motivation to pray. That does not seem to be the case with many of the past who have been labeled deists.
If "natural law" consists of "an observable law relating to natural phenomena" the view of the deist was extremely limited to crude telescopes and microscopes. Today what is "observable" has vastly expanded to the point where the Mysteries of the Universe, Quantum mechanics, and DNA and Gene Expression are less and less labeled supernatural but simply apart of the creator's creation. Even Heaven and hell become not supernatural but simply natural unseen dimensions in a vast universe of "many mansions".
That would mean that natural law is not only "a body of unchanging moral principles regarded as a basis for all human conduct" but is also the hand of God extended universally through all of His creation beyond our often short sited observations.
What many deists may have been in rebellion against was the almost witchcraft or sorcery like approach to religion where the wave of the hand or magical phrases and incantations alter the laws of the universe.
The conflict between religion defined as a duty and religion defined as what one "thinks about a supreme being", which is an opinion, always allows the creeping in of superstition over reason, allegiance to a doctrinal opinion over the truth, worshipping the creation's opinion, which is our imagination, over the Creator, which is the definition of idolatry.
There many opinions about what deism is supposed to be or mean. Perhaps the first use of the term deist is in Pierre Viret's Instruction Chrétienne en la doctrine de la foi et de l'Évangile (Christian teaching on the doctrine of faith and the Gospel, 1564), reprinted in Bayle's Dictionnaire entry Viret. Viret, a Calvinist, regarded deism as a new form of Italian heresy. Viret wrote (as translated from the original French):
- "There are many who confess that while they believe like the Turks and the Jews that there is some sort of God and some sort of deity, yet with regard to Jesus Christ and to all that to which the doctrine of the Evangelists and the Apostles testify, they take all that to be fables and dreams... I have heard that there are of this band those who call themselves Deists, an entirely new word, which they want to oppose to Atheist. For in that atheist signifies a person who is without God, they want to make it understood that they are not at all without God, since they certainly believe there is some sort of God, whom they even recognize as creator of heaven and earth, as do the Turks; but as for Jesus Christ, they only know that he is and hold nothing concerning him nor his doctrine."
But words have different definitions which may change from time to time and from realm to realm. It is clear that many who would be called or even call themselves Deists reverenced and promoted the teachings of Jesus but may have opposed the institutions that were posing as His Church.
I have heard people say the "Founding Fathers" were mostly deists. But were they deists according to the modern definitions of the word?
A few prominent Founding Fathers were anti-clerical Christians such as Thomas Jefferson, who constructed the Jefferson Bible which contained everything Jesus said but cut out a lot of commentary which had been interpreted by some of those Churches to suit their own purposes.
When I first quoted this definition some said I was redefining words. But this was a common definition.
Benjamin Franklin was another who was called a deist but has been called a "Christian Deist". Benjamin Franklin was not only tolerant but supportive of all religions that promoted moral character and individual and Social Virtues. He was raised a Puritan in Boston, Massachusetts but seems to have identified himself as a Deist. He had a perception of virtue and moral responsibility.
Deism was a movement of the Enlightenment age.
French, English and German Deism differed from each other. In Europe some saw divine intelligence behind the complex and wondrous beauty of the natural world but did not believe that God intervened in human activity. Revelation and prophecy along with miracles were questioned by many deists but not universally. Deism appealed to those who opposed any group of vain clergy and would necessitate an anti-clerical Christian position.
Organized religion was not viewed by Deists as necessary for good people but then many of the religious institutions were becoming more interested in the loyalty of their members than the righteousness of Christ's teachings.
Thomas Paine challenged institutionalized religion in The Age of Reason'. He speaks of a Christian fraud and a neglect of the Creator in the views of Christians. But his views and interpretations of the Bible were dependent upon what was posing as Christianity at that time. Paine was also said to be a deist yet he quoted the Bible extensively in his pamphlet Common Sense.
He drew from 1 Samuel 8 arguments against the Crown and tyranny. Samuel, who was not a deist by any definition, was speaking to God and prophesying to the people what kind of government they would have if they elected men to exercise authority rather than follow their God given conscience.
Paine even went so far as to say:
- “Where, Say Some, is the king of America? I’ll tell you, Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the royal brute of Great Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honours, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on divine law, the Word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the People whose right it is.” 
Churches at that time were sectarian and denominational based on doctrines produced by men and their private interpretation of what they imagined the scriptures said.
Ministers of these churches often dictated what people were to believe and would set denomination against denomination. This was part of the shift of the meaning of Religion from the fulfillment of a duty to God and your fellowman to what you think about God which began with a collaboration between churches and rulers of men.
There was an anti institutional Churchanity among men who opposed the basics of Christ's teachings by dividing the people which had failed to love and forgive and care for the needy but instead produced inquisitions, ostracized people and even beat and hanged them for nothing more than what they believed.
Christ only established one Church bound by not only mutual love but even commanded them to love their enemy. In Fact if a Church is not established by Jesus Christ and conformed to these basic doctrines out of the mouth of Christ it does not meet the legal definition of a Church. It is not anyone's right to create an institutional Church to impose private interpretations upon others but it is everyone's right to conform to the virtue of God manifested in the life and character of Christ.
Thomas Paine opposed the authoritarian nature of uniform church doctrines imposed upon society by these man-made institutions but he and many others failed to recognize the purpose of the Church and the practice of Pure Religion.
False religion has been distracting and misleading people in many ways.
Men had already began to alter the meaning of words like Religion which was the duty to care for the widows and orphans or needy of society by charity alone. The Church was the appointed corpus of Jesus, who was a king. His Church was to facilitate that Daily ministration through faith, hope and charity and the Perfect law of liberty.
Ironically Paine proposed later in life to create a property tax administered by government which would exercise authority over the people but could provide for old age benefits of those who had no family to care for them.
Paine wrote in the Age of Reason of Deism and Religion. He thought that at least the Quakers saw things clearer admitting that they were close to understanding the liberty bestowed on man but considered them to drab and colorless.
- "How different is this to the pure and simple profession of Deism! The true Deist has but one Deity, and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in endeavoring to imitate him in everything moral, scientifical, and mechanical."
- "The religion that approaches the nearest of all others to true Deism, in the moral and benign part thereof, is that professed by the Quakers; but they have contracted themselves too much, by leaving the works of God out of their system. Though I reverence their philanthropy, I cannot help smiling at the conceit, that if the taste of a Quaker could have been consulted at the creation, what a silent and drab-colored creation it would have been! Not a flower would have blossomed its gayeties, nor a bird been permitted to sing." AGE OF REASON by Thomas Paine, "TO MY FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA"
But had Paine simply forgiven the drab and colorless nature of Quakers he would have never been tempted to force his neighbor to contribute to his welfare through men who would call themselves Benefactors but exercise authority by compelling a tax to provide social Welfare. This was one of the primary purposes of Religion and the Church. To call on governments of authority to provide for the needy was a Charitable Practices nor Pure Religion. It was Covetous Practices that makes men Merchandise.
Paine was not opposed to Christian principles as he understood them but did oppose that institutional religious system produced by men and their substituting doctrinal ideologies of men for the simplicity of Love and Pure Religion.
- "As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me as a species of Atheism— a sort of religious denial of God. It professes to believe in a man rather than in God. It is a compound made up chiefly of Manism with but little Deism, and is as near to Atheism as twilight is to darkness. It introduces between man and his Maker an opaque body, which it calls a Redeemer, as the moon introduces her opaque self between the earth and the sun, and it produces by this means a religious, or an irreligious, eclipse of light. It has put the whole orbit of reason into shade." AGE OF REASON by Thomas Paine, "TO MY FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA"
Clearly Paine and many others then and now missed the essence of Christ's appointed Church and did not understand the Corban of Christ. Had more churches focused on the daily ministration through charity and less on dividing the people into sectarian groups based on private interpretation Paine might have embraced such a church.
The Church was not a system compelling people to conform to anything but its Ministers and the Elders should be striving to conform to the righteousness of God. All who come in the Name of the Lord should be sacrificing regularly in charity and attending to the Weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith which include caring for the needs of our neighbors and the widows and orphans of our society through Pure Religion in matters of health, education, and welfare. We are NOT to do so by the Covetous Practices of modern governments.
The Way of Christ was like neither the way of the world nor the governments of the gentiles who depend on benefactors who exercise authority. Christ's ministers and true Christians do not depend upon systems of social welfare that force the contributions of the people like the corban of the Pharisees which made the word of God to none effect. Many people have been deceived to go the way of Balaam and the Nicolaitan and out of The Way of Christ.
The Christian conflict of the first century Church appointed by Christ was because they would not apply to the fathers of the earth for benefits but instead relied upon a voluntary network providing a daily ministration to the needy of society through Faith, Hope, and Charity by way of freewill offerings of the people, for the people, and by the people through the perfect law of liberty in Free Assemblies according to the ancient pattern of Tuns or Tens.
"Follow me!" —Jesus the Christ.
- One of the most important things to do is to become involved in a network of Charitable Practices. Everyone should want to join a Living Network of Love and Charity.
- If you think you have a calling to be a Minister of God or you might want to dedicate your life to Christ as an Ordained Minister of His Holy Church, contact us to start the process of discipleship and become the benefactors who exercise only love, NOT authority.
The Founding Fathers also created an institution made by man. These men may have been the Fathers of a government institution but were not yet Fathers of the people. To say the Founding Fathers held beliefs very similar to those of deists might be fair but we would have to look at the similarities and essential differences of a deist at that time since there is a wide variety of philosophical deism and an even wider array of what might call itself "Christian".
The definition of the word Deist was so general back in the 1700's it did not mean what people suggest it means concerning those men who might have been called or identified themselves as Deists.
- "The name Deist was applied rather generally in the eighteenth century to all persons who did not belong to some recognized Christian denomination." A History of English Literature by Fletcher, Robert Huntington (1885 - 1972).
- "Prior to the 17th century the terms ["deism" and "deist"] were used interchangeably with the terms "theism" and "theist", respectively. ... Theologians and philosophers of the seventeenth century began to give a different signification to the words... Both [theists and deists] asserted belief in one supreme God, the Creator... . But the theist taught that God remained actively interested in and operative in the world which he had made, whereas the Deist maintained that God endowed the world at creation with self-sustaining and self-acting powers and then surrendered it wholly to the operation of these powers acting as second causes." Orr, John (1934). English Deism: Its Roots and Its Fruits. Eerdmans. p. 13.
Gregg Frazer a historian argues that the America's Key Founders, Neither Christians nor Deists. He gives evidence that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, Morris, Madison, Hamilton, and George Washington supporters or followers of a hybrid "theistic rationalism".
Theistic rationalism is a mix of natural religion, Christianity, and rationalism. Madison knew that the religious principles of the Bible and Christ were essential to the success of the nation yet deist and atheist finger pointers try to suggest that the founders were indifferent to God and his precepts.
Theistic rationalists believe natural religion, Christianity, and rationalism typically coexist compatibly, with rational thought balancing the conflicts between religion and what was claiming to be Christianity at that time,
Sense "Natural Religion is "religion, especially deism, based on reason rather than divine revelation. While Christ says he will build his Church on the revelation of faith that does not mean that right reason and nature will not verify the truth of that revelation.
In the 1700 the Deist's view of the universe and its mysteries was "based on reason" but their view at that time was limited. We had no view of Epigenetics nor Quantum mechanics and the Mysteries of the Universe. So they did not believe in miracles reported in the past but miracles happen every day but based on our finite view of nature we often do not see the whole truth and the reason for it. Miracles are reasonable once we understand the reason. They are natural for those who are faithful to Natures God.
While the modern Deist thinks God to be indifferent the "Theistic rationalists believe that God plays an active role in human life, rendering prayer effective." So, this form of 1700 Deism does not allow one to accept the - "belief that God has created the universe but remains apart from it..."
A deist that renders prayer effective does not believe God remains apart and would not qualify as a modern deist and to call them one would be irrational.
The traditions or rules and ordinances of society that set morality are either a product of right reason or revelation. Cannon law is defined as divine will or right reason. In truth divine will is based on revelation and right reason is codependent.
These deists are opposed to more modern views and accept parts of the Bible as divinely inspired, using reason and therefore personal revelation resulting from prayer and virtues including humility as their criterion for what to accept or reject.
Their belief that God intervenes in human affairs and their approving attitude toward parts of the Bible distinguish theistic rationalists from Deists to the point where if you chose to label them as deist today would be a deception.
There are always some people that want to label important or influential people as deist so that they can use that label to write off those who are connected to religion, specifically organized religion. But organized religion does not mean authoritarian religion. It means people organize themselves in a way that they may practice Pure Religion rather than apply to Benefactors who exercise authority one over the other there by their government Corban making the word of God to none effect.
Natural theology, once also termed physico-theology, is a type of theology that provides arguments for the existence of God based on reason and ordinary experience of nature. This distinguishes it from revealed theology, which is based on scripture and/or religious experiences, and also from transcendental theology, which is based on a priori reasoning or what was traditionally accepted before.
The modern scientific Creationist who uses science rather than revelation to present his position is practicing Natural theology. While revelation may be sufficient for him he may understand that others need help with their unbelief.
What is based on scripture?
Whose version is correct?
Even if you use only the 1611 version of the King James Bible there will be thousands of different opinions asserted by readers and students about meanings, doctrines and dogmas expressed. The price of freedom is choice and choice in a free society produces some chaos.
- The scientific Quantum connections within nature may allow for a natural revelation from one universe or realm to another. This would mean that Revelation is a part of the natural world and therefore a part of the process of coming to "right reason".
All interpretations are private unless they are divinely inspired. So the Bible itself is not a standard except possibly on paper. The private interpretations of people who may or may not be divinely inspired or even rational and even if they are rational, are all the facts obtainable to reason with? This has resulted in over 40,000 denominations.
Who is right?
And how do you know?
There seems to be a line of prejudice due to a myriad of opinions and factors concerning religion and what is rational. We must settle on definitions of words in order to understand. What is Religion and how are we using the term?
Samuel Adams stated, on August 1, 1776 within one month of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “Our Union is complete; our constitution composed, established, and approved. You are now the guardians of your own liberties. We may justly address you, as the decemviri did the Romans, and say: ‘Nothing that we propose can pass into law without your consent.’ Be yourself, O Americans, the authors of those laws on which your happiness depends."
The binding forces of society determines the nature of that society. A free society does not use force or contractual or even covetous means to keep the people together but provide the liberty of choice. A free society is a voluntary society and anything else is not free.
Others were accused of being Deist even back then with more general definitions of the word.
M. de Montesquieu was accused of being a deist also to which Thomas Nugent responded in 1752:
- "The author first complains of his being charged both with espousing the doctrines of Spinoza, and with being a Deist, two opinions directly contradictory to each other. To the former of these he answers, by placing in one view the several passages in the Spirit of Laws directly levelled against the doctrines of Spinoza; and then he replies to the objections that have been made to those passages, upon which this injurious charge is founded."
de Montesquieu new that a deist was simply someone who was an advocate of natural religion and had already argued the point saying that "Christianity is the perfection of natural religion" saying that to "believed that a blind fatality governed the universe" would make one an Atheists.
Altering the definition of words has been a ploy of deceivers and manipulator from the beginning. Changing the meaning of words just slightly can steer whole societies in another direction. That Sophistry has brought societies to choices of self destruction. Deism did not mean what many suggest it means today the same is true of Religion. Even the the purpose of the Church and the practices of Christian has been altered just as the Constitution itself.
While most of the Founders were baptized and listed on church rolls and married in Churches to practicing Christians and frequently attended services of Christian churches there were many who were critical of their practices. In public statements, most invoked divine assistance.
- "All Deists were in fact both critical and constructive Deists. All sought to destroy in order to build, and reasoned either from the absurdity of Christianity to the need for a new philosophy or from their desire for a new philosophy to the absurdity of Christianity. Each Deist, to be sure, had his special competence. While one specialized in abusing priests, another specialized in rhapsodies to nature, and a third specialized in the skeptical reading of sacred documents. Yet whatever strength the movement had—and it was at times formidable—it derived that strength from a peculiar combination of critical and constructive elements." —Peter Gay, Deism: An Anthology, p. 13
As we see Thomas Paine wrote a criticism of priests but all priests are not the same. Even that office has changed:
- "As priestcraft was always the enemy of knowledge, because priestcraft supports itself by keeping people in delusion and ignorance, it was consistent with its policy to make the acquisition of knowledge a real sin." —The Age of Reason, Part 2, p. 129
This is simply not true especially to apply the word "always". There certainly were priests who stifled knowledge over the centuries but the role of priests included preserving and imparting knowledge for centuries. They recorded information, maintained libraries, taught millions of people. There has always been an apostasy church and false Christianity.
Constantine and his followers claimed to be Christian too. Learn more about the meaning of words ad different times in history to prevent deception and misleading of sophists.
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- Deism being defined as "The belief that God has created the universe but remains apart from it and permits his creation to administer itself through natural laws."
- Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, written prior to the American Revolution.
- Matthew 20:25-26 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
Mark 10:42-43 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
Luke 22:25-26 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
- : Romans 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
- 1 Corinthians 11:14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
- 2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
- Romans 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
- The Translator to the Reader by Thomas Nugent.
- : "Before I conclude this first part, I am tempted to make one objection against him who has made so many; but he has so stunned my ears with the words follower of natural religion, that I scarcely dare pronounce them. I shall endeavour however to take courage. Do not the critic's two pieces stand in greater need of an explication, than that which I defend? Does he do well, while speaking of natural religion and revelation, to fall perpetually upon one side of the subject, and to lose all traces of the other? Does he do well never to distinguish those who acknowledge only the religion of nature, from those who acknowledge both natural and revealed religion? Does he do well to turn frantic whenever the author considers man in the state of natural religion, and whenever he explains any thing on the principles of natural religion? Does he do well to confound natural religion with Atheism? Have I not heard that we have all natural religion? Have I not heard that Christianity is the perfection of natural religion? Have I not heard that natural religion is employed to prove the truth of revelation against the Deists? and that the same natural religion is employed to prove the existence of a God against the Atheists? He has said that the Stoics were the followers of natural religion; and I say, that they were Atheists, since they believed that a blind fatality governed the universe; and it is by the religion of nature that we ought to attack that of the Stoics. He says that the scheme of natural religion is connected with that of Spinoza; and I say, that they are contradictory to each other, and it is by natural religion that we ought to destroy Spinoza's scheme. I say, that to confound natural religion with Atheism, is to confound the proof with the thing to be proved, and the objections against error with error itself, and that this is to take away the most powerful arms we have against this error." Spirit of Laws - Constitution Society
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