Introduction: the importance of deist theology

Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth

in Deism in Enlightenment England

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780719078729
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781703304 | DOI:
Introduction: the importance of deist theology

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The two episodes of the Tinkler Ducket trial illustrate the contemporary and frequent modern perception of deism and deists in England. The deists seemed to be godless, enemies of Newtonian philosophy, and a disruptive force in society. This chapter explores the question of who they really were. Any study of deism must be sensitive to conceptions of eighteenth-century intellectual thought, known as Enlightenment. The monarchy, the Church of England, and Newtonian natural philosophy, endorsed the institutions that characterise the establishment of the five deists in England. The chapter also explores the changing meaning of ‘Enlightenment’ in England changing its meaning, and revisits what it meant to be deist in this environment. It explains that deists in England absolutely believed in a particular view of God and this led to a deist theology. This theology supported both their political and their natural philosophical writings. Furthermore, the chapter presents a portrait of deism in England by examining the writings of five specific deists: John Toland, Anthony Collins, Matthew Tindal, Thomas Morgan and Thomas Chubb and aims to demonstrate the crucial importance of theology to their work.

Keywords: Enlightenment; deists; theology; England; Newtonian philosophy

Chapter.  6278 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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