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, used to be not like someone else in America's founding new release, for he had come to exact conclusions approximately how top to take care of a standard realizing of Christianity in an international 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, one who provided new and radical claims in regards to the energy of God and the attributes of Jesus. Drawing on over one thousand of Bentley's sermons, J. Rixey Ruffin lines the evolution of Bentley's theology. Neither liberal nor deist, Bentley was once as an alternative what Ruffin calls a "Christian naturalist," a believer within the biblical God and within the crucial Christian narrative but additionally in God's unwillingness to intrude in nature after the Resurrection. In adopting one of these place, Bentley had driven his religion so far as he might towards rationalism whereas nonetheless, he inspiration, calling it Christianity. yet this booklet is as a lot a social and political background of Salem within the early republic because it is an highbrow biography; it not just delineates Bentley's rules, yet might be extra very important, it unravels their social and political results. utilizing Bentley's extraordinary diary and an unlimited archive of newspaper money owed, tax files, and electoral returns, Ruffin brings to lifestyles the sailors, widows, captains and retailers who lived with Bentley within the japanese 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 additionally 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 celebration politics of Federalism and Democratic-Republicanism. In bringing to gentle the interesting lifestyles and considered considered one of early New England's finest ancient figures, Ruffin bargains a clean viewpoint 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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It would be an interesting summer for Bentley and his auditors. How would he, born into an artisan’s family, raised by middling-sort grandparents, and educated at an elite institution, be accepted in a town committed to social distinctions in the midst of a revolution that eroded their very assumptions? And how would he fit into the town’s ministerial community, one already wracked by dissent and suspicion? ’’36 In 1778, it was just the sort of situation for a young man to avoid, but now, five years later, William Bentley needed a pulpit, and he could hardly afford to be so choosy.

It was no easy matter to stop an enemy vessel on the high seas, imprison her men in the hold, and assign a prize crew to sail her back into port for auctioning, but the rewards were high for those who were successful. And if captains did not earn as much from a sale as did the actual owners of the ships they commanded, they earned much more than they would have in peacetime commerce. 36 As a group, the proprietors were much wealthier than the members. 37 Though members had the vote, it was the proprietors who wielded the real power at the East Church.

Meaning had already become implication, implication perception, and perception accusation. And so the supposedly ignorant irrationalists would remain at odds with the supposedly prideful humanists in a war of words as well as ideas that continued through Bentley’s life and well beyond. The conflict was not unique to the East Church even in Bentley’s day, but rarely elsewhere did two opponents clash from the same pulpit and for the favor of the same congregation. It was a conflict as geographically broad as the Anglo-American world, but the church on the corner of Main and Hardy in Salem provides a glimpse of what one small part actually looked like from the perspective of the people who were living it.

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