Thursday, June 29, 2006

Theism and Deism

This post is primarily to set up a point in the one that will appear above it.
I tried fitting this in the other post--but it felt too forced.

In this post I am presenting a general broad definition of these two worldviews.
I acknowledge there is a lot of variation among those who hold these views--and I can't cover them all here.

Theism is a view that says there is a God (or gods.) Christianity is theistic. While there are those who would call themselves Christians who are not theists, if we look at it biblically & historically, all Christians are theists. The reverse is not true, for not all theists are Christians.

Theism goes beyond just believing there is a God/gods. It speaks to the nature of God. The Bible says there is a God, and that there is one God, and so Christianity is not merely theistic, but monotheistic.

In his book "The Universe Next Door", James Sire outlines several world views, starting with theism and deism. He lists characteristics of Christian theism-
God is infinite, personal, transcendent (beyond us, otherly), immanent (He is with us), omniscient, sovereign, and good. From there he points out the Christian view of God's relationship to the world and people. God created the Universe and cares for it. He is involved in His creation.

Deism is different. There are many variations of deism, but in general to the deist, God is otherly but not with us. The song, "From a Distance" is often used as an example of deism. God is "watching us from a distance." He is not directly involved. Some deists do believe in a personal god, but that god is distant. He may watch, but he doesn't get involved-or perhaps he cannot.

For many deists "Reason" replaces a personal god. God is impersonal to them. He is more of an "it" or a "force." He started things rolling, but lets it run itself.
The deist god is not sovereign. Whether this god is good is a relative concept.

I have heard deism described as "God without the baggage." While I do not want to ascribe motives to others, it seems likely many deists hold to their beliefs to have some comfort from belief in God, or they make some sense of the world by this belief. Yet they do not want a god who has claims on their lives. So they have a god who, if he watches us (for many deists would say he does not watch us), it is "From a Distance."

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Blogger David said...

In light of your post, and looking forward to the coming national holiday, I feel the need to further explore what it means to be, as we claim in the pledge of allegiance "One Nation under God."

Thomas Jefferson was not only one of the key persons in constructing our constitution, he was also a deist.

The words, "Under God" have certainly sparked debate in many circles.

Thanks also for the comment on my post concerning abortion. It is another touchy subject where Christian teaching and government collide.

12:32 PM  
Blogger pilgrim said...

I'm looking forward to that post if you do that.
I'd also be looking at it from a Canadian perspective-as out national anthem has the line-"God kepp our land, glorious and free"
Could/would a deist god do that?

Yet Canada is not really a "Christian" nation.

I've heard many of the US's early leaders were deists--but most notably Jefferson.

Thanks for stopping by.

1:02 PM  

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