Saturday, July 25, 2015

Was Benjamin Rush Arminian?

According to Jon Rowe's post on American Creation website he is. But what does Rush have to say about it? Considering the plentiful writings from the Doctors pen, which are filled with theological musings, you would think Rush would show his hand throughout, and those particular quotes would be posted for everyone to see, with Rush explaining his views on the basics of Calvinism: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints. Or maybe those writings don't exist. Be that as it may, none of these essential truths of the Bible are given as evidence. In light of this understanding, Rowe writes "Rush was influenced by the lens of God's benevolence when he rejected Calvin's God and in turn to Rush's conversion to Arminianism terminated."


The question is, what is Arminianism and how does it differ from Calvinism? Without getting into the theology of Jonathan Edwards, which Rowe refers to in his piece, there is no connection presented between the two. The only clue the article gives about Rush's Arminianism is the biblical concept of freewill; something the bible explicitly denies man has; either in soteriology or in anything else because man is born in sin (Psalm 51), and sin is involved in every decision man makes, including the good works he thinks he does, since his motives are always toward darkness (John 3). Even our love is tainted.


On the contrary, it appears Rush was a pseudo calvinist his entire adult life. His belief in the salvation of all people is bizarre, considering Christ's very words that hell is eternal, "The worm never dies" in Mark 9:44.


In A Sense of Deity (Chicago, 1991), 84, 88, John M. Kloos Jr. emphatically claims Rush was a Calvinist. He writes that while Jonathan Edwards "professed natural ability, but moral inability," Rush "posited a natural and collective inability." Kloos Jr. goes on to explain Rush's goal to bring Christian morality to the republic, with the highest form of ethics.


Not to mention, Henry F. May's seminal work The Enlightenment in America, written in 1976, opened the eyes of scholars to just how prevalent Calvinism was in the forming of the United States. So much so that Calvinists thought Thomas Paine was a Christian. Yet, May believed Rush's Calvinism so influential, he wrote Rush "disliked even more than Hume's teaching, the compromising, watered-down Calvinism of most of the Common Sense philosophers...a believer in Original Sin and Divine Grace" and that he only modified his Calvinism "in one respect only" becoming a universalist.


May writes, "Rush could sound as determinist as Edwards." Rush believed the "Being that created our world never takes his hand, nor his eye, for a single moment, from any part of it." (D. J. d'Elia, Pennsylvania Magazine, XXXIII, 1966, 187-203).


May sources Rush's work The Influence of Physical Causes Upon the Moral Faculty, which shows Rush's reliance on second causes for all of man's problems; disease, memory loss, etc.


Moreover, In The Universalist Movement in America 1770-1880, Ann Lee Bressler also claims Rush was an evangelical Calvinist and remained a believer in original sin and divine grace (p. 19). I will admit Rush thought knowledge was progressing and would make man better and less evil and in that sense he was a child of the enlightenment. Rush probably believed in Original Sin, but I'm not convinced he believed in total depravity in the biblical sense of Romans chapter 3. It is also obvious if Rush was a Universalist, which he became from his belief in Calvinism, then he rejected unconditional election. Rush rejected every point of biblical TULIP, in exchange for a pseudo Calvinist TULIP, while even his belief in divine grace and original sin wasn't biblical.


Rush claimed his universalism was from the bible, not from reason or human knowledge, or rather Rush was influenced by heretical writers and twisted the scriptures to fit the human reason he had read. This is why the founding clergy spoke out against heretical authors. It leads to heresy, as well as corrupting of the church. In the end Rowe is incorrect in his conclusion given it wasn't Arminianism that led Rush to universalism; it was his perusal of the five points, especially limited atonement, Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the Saints. In fact, earlier colonial Calvinists had become universalists before him. Rush mistakenly took John 3:16 out of context as well as some other verses, to neglect the larger revelation. Then he twisted grace to apply to everyone and he already adhered to perseverance and combined it all together. Such was the path of Benjamin Rush who wrote in The Road to Fulfillment, The Law of Truth:
And truth indeed is infinite, for there is a truth about everything. But if in our search for truth we fater and fear to go forward because we fear to go astray, here are a few directions to help us. First, we must state clearly to ourselves the problem that puzzles us. If this does not bring the answer, search the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, to see if we can find the answer. But we must be sure that the answer is in accord with the whole body of our Saviour's teaching. If we are still in doubt, pray for guidance by the Holy Spirit, quieting the mind in readiness to receive the answer..The ultimate truth is embodied in Jesus Christ, in His life, His example, and His Teachings.

16 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, one can argue sola scriptura that Christ died to save all men, not just Calvinism's predestined "Elect."

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. —Romans 5:18
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. —Colossians 1:19-20
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. —Philippians 2:10-11
For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. —Romans 11:32


&c. This does not require a rejection of Calvin's premises, only his conclusions.

This is why the founding clergy spoke out against heretical authors. It leads to heresy, as well as corrupting of the church.

I don't know who the "founding clergy" were, nor how to tell them from the "founding heretics." Some sort of list would be helpful, I suppose, although the next question would be how much to credit the clergy [Muhlenberg, Mayhew] and how much to credit those who despised them [Paine, Jefferson].

Our Founding Truth said...
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Our Founding Truth said...

Tvd, the reformers already refuted the "all" "whosoever" and "world" passages in scripture. It's too bad most of the church hasn't learned from the synod of dort. There r several verses that support limited atonement; mant more than the few arminians give. I'll give u the main one Jesus gives in John 12:32, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself." The word "peoples" is italicized, so its inserted by the translators and not in the original. Jesus affirmed all that are drawn are raised up (John 6:44) and of those raised up, He will lose none (John 6:39).

The all cannot be all. The all is the elect. If all was all, everyone would be saved without having faith because the sin of lacking faith would be atoned for as well. Then u would have universalism.

There r so many verses where all is a certain group within a group, etc. Moreover, there are more than three greek words for world so the context needs to be understood. Calvinists like myself used to be Arminians.

The context of world in John 3:16 is in the next verse, which most xtians disregard to examine.

Jesus said "I do not pray for the world, but for those whom you have given me." John 17:9. If Jesus doesn't pray for the whole world, why would He die for it? If Jesus died for every single person, think how much He failed at His mission; most people go to hell, but of course, He didn't fail and He lost none "The Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost" Luke 19:10. He cannot and did not fail. Also, check Acts 2:39, Romans 10, 11, 12, Eph 2:1, etc. for various contexts of those words.

The "all" in the second part of Romans 5:18 is the elect and the translator references john 12:32 right below it giving the context.

You know all things are not reconciled on earth as u mention in Colossians 1:20, especially animals, including lions.

You quote Romans 11:32, but the second "all" is clearly the elect because the first "all to disobedience" refers to Israel.

John Calvin was a pure genius. The greatest Frenchman that ever lived. He helped form a Christian republic and if u wanted to leave u could. If u blasphemed God, u were in big trouble and I've read pro servetus scholars who say he mocked Jesus big time, in front of everyone, and he was aware of the penalty in Geneva. Why he went there is a mystery. He could have reached Italy through another route.

Most of the framers had Calvin's Institutes, including Madison, Martin, Wolcott, et al.

It took me a while to go through Rush's turn to universalism but I think I see his methodology.

A lot of the words the clergy used are clues to their theology.

Jonathan Rowe said...

It would have been nice if you quoted me right (you didn't).

As for my assertion, I basically paraphrase Rush's own words:

"At Dr. Finley’s school, I was more fully instructed in those principles by means of the Westminster catechism. I retained them without any affection for them until about the year 1780. I then read for the first time Fletcher’s controversy with the Calvinists, in favor of the universality of the atonement. This prepared my mind to admit the doctrine of universal salvation, which was then preached in our city by the Rev. Mr. Winchester. It embraced and reconciled my ancient Calvinistical and my newly adopted Arminian principles. From that time I have never doubted upon the subject of the salvation of all men. My conviction of the truth of this doctrine was derived from reading the works of Stonehouse, Seigvolk, White, Chauncey and Winchester, and afterwards from an attentive perusal of the Scriptures. I always admitted with each of those authors future punishment, and of long duration."

Calvinism->Arminianism->Universalism.

Rejecting limited atonement in favor of universal atonement is one of the distinctive differences between Calvinism & Arminianism.

Our Founding Truth said...

Not sure what I missed, but the fact is Rush rejected all the aspects of Calvinism, but not from believing arminianism like u say, "Rush was influenced by the lens of God's benevolence when he rejected Calvin's God and in turn to Rush's conversion to Arminianism terminated." If in fact this is what u mean.

His belief in universalism did not derive from freewill. It came from his unbiblical view of the atonement, election, irresistible grace and Perseverance. I don't believe he was arminian, but he clearly wasn't a Calvinist.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Blogger Our Founding Truth said...
Tvd, the reformers already refuted the "all" "whosoever" and "world" passages in scripture. It's too bad most of the church hasn't learned from the synod of dort. There r several verses that support limited atonement; mant more than the few arminians give. I'll give u the main one Jesus gives in John 12:32, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself." The word "peoples" is italicized, so its inserted by the translators and not in the original. Jesus affirmed all that are drawn are raised up (John 6:44) and of those raised up, He will lose none (John 6:39).


And I gave you Biblical arguments to the contrary. It still fascinates me to see fundamentalist Christians argue the Bible against the Bible. That's usually an atheist trick. You just furthered their point.

Our Founding Truth said...

You gave me an incorrect interpretation of words, the same as misinterpreting any other piece of literature. One interpretation is true, the other is false. They cannot both be true.

That certain people misinterpret literature incorrectly is no fault of the ones who do. Did you know Thomas Aquinas affirmed Predestination?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Blogger Our Founding Truth said...
You gave me an incorrect interpretation of words, the same as misinterpreting any other piece of literature. One interpretation is true, the other is false. They cannot both be true.

That certain people misinterpret literature incorrectly is no fault of the ones who do. Did you know Thomas Aquinas affirmed Predestination?


Yes, but not the way you do.

As for your interpretation of the Bible being the only possible right one, the Reformation has created "right ones" by the sackful. I was showing your readers just that. One of you may be right; perhaps none of you. But you all can't be.

Our Founding Truth said...

You are off the subject. We are talking about atonement. Calvin restored the one and true biblical interpretation of limited atonement. I proved it through the context of the word "all" in john 12:32. The "all" in that verse cannot be everyone, but a select few. There are many verses where "all" refers to a few. Same with"world" and "whosoever."

Tom Van Dyke said...

Calvin restored the one and true biblical interpretation of limited atonement

Sez you.

There are many verses where "all" refers to a few. Same with "world" and "whosoever."

Sez you. Sounds a rather tortured if not perverse reading of plain words.


Our Founding Truth said...

English words have various words in greek.

Our Founding Truth said...

The authorized version says, "will draw all men unto me". Does that exclude women and children?

Tom Van Dyke said...

That's silly, Jim.

Besides, the word "men" doesn't even appear in the original Greek text. The universalists argue "all" means 'all," while frankly, the Calvinists who argue "all" doesn't mean "all" have the far tougher job of it.

Thus "sola scriptura" rides a very fine edge, because we have the same exact passage saying the exact opposite thing to two different sects of people. How to break the tie is beyond the historian's purview.

Our Founding Truth said...

The verse says "will draw all to myself" which proves my point even more. Is everyone drawn to Jesus? The bible says no, so it can't be every person. Every person drawn is saved and everyone isn't saved. The logic is perfect as well. If every person, then Jesus failed much more than He succeeded, because the gate to destruction is wide and most people go to hell, and the doctrine of the bible is flawed and inconsistent because Isaiah says the Messiah will accomplish all that He sets out to do.

Same as John 3:16, the word for "world" is kosmos, which has 7 different meanings.

The context of john 12:32 clearly does not mean every single person. If u can't discern it in the context of the rest of the verses concerning the atonement, there's no other way to correctly interpret any literature.


Our Founding Truth said...
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Blogger Our Founding Truth said...
The verse says "will draw all to myself" which proves my point even more. Is everyone drawn to Jesus? The bible says no, so it can't be every person.


I'm always amazed when fundamentalists argue the Bible against the Bible.