Who were the Deists and were they guilty of a “Procrustean distortion” of Christianity? Questions for Discussion: Lesson 35A- Chapter 31 “Deists Try to Transform Protestant Theology” from The Story of Christian Theology by Roger E. Olson
1. Nutshell history: we cite a post-reformation movement and you cite the distinctive “how” of the movement; that is, how were they attempting to reform the reformation? 1- Arminius and the Remonstrants? 2- The Pietists? The Puritans? The Methodists? Deism/natural religion?
2. A student in your Sunday school class says, in a puzzled tone, “I can recall my history teacher in high school, when he was talking about the time of the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution, saying that most of the people of this period were Deists, and that meant they thought God had basically abandoned the world, he was kind of AWOL we called it in the Army, and they thought that miracles don’t really happen and the supernatural is just so much superstition. Was he right?” How will you respond?
3. What was Deism’s view of religious authority? How would you distinguish their view from that of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and the Anabaptists?
4. Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury published a “little book” that caused a big furor. Why? What were his 5 “Common Notions of Religions”?
5. What was distinctive in John Locke’s Christian writings, particularly The Reasonableness of Christianity? Why was his effort the source of controversy?
6. Locke triggered some intense reactions when he published his A Discourse of Miracles. What was so “radical” about his understanding of miracles? Which Christian doctrines did his work undermine?
7. Olson, alluding to a Greek mythological character, says the Deists were guilty of a “Procrustean distortion” of Christianity. What did he mean by this? What was the content of the distortion? Who are cited by Olson as having some parallels in their theologizing to the Deists?
8. How would you sum up the “legacy of Deism”?
See Lecture 35B for Correlated Readings
Bible Verses for Reflection