Deism is a name given to "natural" religion beginning in the 17th century CE (Common Era or Christian Era). Deism is based on the premise that the world and humankind are governed by natural laws, and that truth can be discovered through human observation, experience, and reasoning.
The name "Deism" comes from the Latin word "Deus" which means "God." Deists believe that the world was created by an intelligent Creator, usually called "God." Deists do not presume to describe God but infer the existence of God from the "intentional design" observed in the natural world and human nature.
Deism, or "natural" religion, is different from "revealed" religions which claim to be based on "truths" that have been "supernaturally revealed" exclusively to an individual, such as Moses, Muhammad, or Paul of Tarsus.
Moses claimed that God spoke to Moses on a mountain. Muhammad claimed that an angel, Gabriel, spoke to Muhammad. Paul of Tarsus claimed that Jesus, after his death, spoke to Paul. Paul wrote, "The gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation from Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12).
Actually, the "gospel" which Paul claimed was supernaturally "revealed" to him is very different from the "gospel" that Jesus preached. Jesus, as a Jew, taught that true religion consisted of belief in God as Creator, and love for God and "neighbor" as God's basic laws (or "commandments") for humankind. Jesus expanded the definition of "neighbor" to include everyone, even those who are viewed as "enemies."
Jesus called for repentance by people when they failed to love, and he illustrated the meaning of love, repentance, and forgiveness in stories called "parables." Jesus preached his "gospel" (good news) that the "Kingdom of God" would become a reality on earth as God's laws (commandments) are obeyed by humankind.
During the time of Jesus, the Jews were ruled by the Romans. The Romans viewed Jesus as a Jewish revolutionary calling for a new "kingdom," so Jesus was crucified, the usual punishment for revolutionaries. Jesus was wounded by a spear during six hours on a cross but he survived his brief crucifixion, and met with his disciples for some days before disappearing from history. His Jewish disciples believed that Jesus would return to rule the world as God's "messiah" or "christos" (Greek), meaning "anointed one" or "king."
Since the Jews were not expecting their "messiah" to be crucified, a Jew named Paul, from Tarsus, claimed that Jesus' crucifixion was necessary to atone for the sins of humankind. Paul used the story of "Adam" in the Hebrew book of Genesis to claim that Adam's disobedience to God had brought humankind under a death sentence from God. Paul claimed, in his "gospel," that Jesus died as a "sacrifice" on the cross to pay the death penalty on behalf of humankind. Paul believed that Jesus was God's divine "Son" who had no sins of his own so his death could atone for the sins of others.
According to Paul, God resurrected Jesus from death and designated him to be "lord" (ruler) of all humankind. Paul claimed that individuals who accepted Jesus as "lord" (ruler) and believed that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead would be "saved" from sin and its death penalty. Paul expected Jesus to return to earth and rule the "Kingdom of God."
The Christian church eventually adopted Paul's theology and required members to accept the doctrines of original sin (depravity of human nature), virgin birth and divinity of Jesus (so he would be without sin), sacrificial death of Jesus on a cross (to atone for sins of others), resurrection of Jesus (as proof of his messiahship), and eternal damnation in "hell" for anyone who was not a Christian.
In the seventeenth century, in England, "Christianity" was defined by the Church of England in the Thirty-nine "Articles of Religion" adopted in 1571. It was against the law for anyone to question the doctrines of the church. The English deists considered themselves to be Christians but they opposed the doctrines that came from Paul's theology and trinitarian creeds written by church councils in the early centuries of Christianity.
I have written a number of essays, published on this web page, describing the history and beliefs of Christian Deism in which the human Jesus is viewed as a great teacher of Deism. Christian Deists reject the theology of Paul and the trinitarianism created by church councils.
I hope you will find these essays to be interesting and helpful.
With best regards,
aka "Brother John"
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