Theistic rationalism is a hybrid of natural religion, Christianity, and rationalism, in which rationalism is the predominant element. According to Henry Clarence Thiessen, the concept of theistic rationalism first developed during the eighteenth century as a form of English and German Deism. The term "theistic rationalism" occurs as early as 1856, in the English translation of a German work on recent religious history. Some scholars have argued that the term properly describes the beliefs of some of the prominent Founding Fathers of the United States, including George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, and Thomas Jefferson.
Theistic rationalists believe natural religion, Christianity, and rationalism typically coexist compatibly, with rational thought balancing the conflicts between the first two aspects. They often assert that the primary role of a person's religion should be to bolster morality, a fixture of daily life.
Theistic rationalists believe that God plays an active role in human life, rendering prayer effective. They accept parts of the Bible as divinely inspired, using reason 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.
|“||Both Shaftesbury and the Deists wanted to preserve theology while freeing it from supernaturalism; both denied the occurrence of miracles; both called for free criticism of the Bible and questioned the absoluteness of its authority; both shared a distrust of sacramental and priestly religion; and both stressed the importance of morality in religion. However, despite this broad area of agreement, Shaftesbury did not identify himself unreservedly with the developing Deistic movement, and he expressed some serious doubts about certain aspects of it...The Deists were wrong if they relegated God to the status of a Prime Mover without subsequent contact with the universe; Deity must be conceived as being in constant and living interaction with the creation; otherwise the concept is "dry and barren."||”|
- "Founding Creed (archived)". The Claremont Institute. January 2005. Archived from the original on April 24, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
Compare: Thiessen, Henry Clarence (December 1979). "The Possibility and Divisions of Theology". Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 17. ISBN 0-8028-3529-5.
Pantheistic rationalism is represented in Anaxagoras and the Stoics, and theistic rationalism appeared first in the form of English and German Deism in the eighteenth century.
- "C.F.A. Kannis, Internal History of German Protestantism Since the Middle of Last Century, trans. Theodore Meyer (1856), p. 146."".
- Smith, Gary (September 2006). "George Washington and Providential Agency". Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-19-530060-2.
- Smith, Gary (December 2006). "Will the Real George Washington Please Stand Up?". Grove City College - The Center for Vision and Values. Retrieved 2008-01-14.[permanent dead link]
- Gregg L. Frazer, "The Political Theology of the American Founding" (Ph.D. dissertation), Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California, 2004, pp. 11-12; also Frazer, The Religious Beliefs of America's Founders: Reason, Revelation, Revolution (University Press of Kansas, 2012)
- Frazer, "The Political Theology of the American Founding" p. 6.
- Frazer, "The Political Theology of the American Founding" pp. 243-47.
- Stanley Grean, Shaftesbury's Philosophy of Religion and Ethics: A Study in Enthusiasm (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1967, pp. 61-62.
- Gouverneur Morris, Theistic Rationalist[permanent dead link], Gregg L. Frazer
- Conyers Middleton, Progenitor of Theistic Rationalism, Jonathan W. Rowe
- The Definition of Theistic Rationalism, Dispatches from the Creation Wars, Ed Brayton
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