Shaftesbury's Reformation of the Reformation: Reflections on the Relation between Deism and Pauline Christianity

Journal of Religious Ethics 6 (2):257 - 278 (1978)
Shaftesbury's deism, widely representative of eighteenth-century liberal theology, may be profitably viewed as a reaction against Puritanism in particular and Pauline theology in general. Seen from this perspective, it implies, without explicitly asserting, a reduction of moral standards from the infinite conception of moral law characteristic of Protestantism. Shaftesbury showed no appreciation of the need for redemption or forgiveness, and changed the emphasis in religion from devotion to God above all else to a purely anthropocentric morality which God merely supported. But, in spite of the crudity of his theology and the dubious implications of his ethics, Shaftesbury sought to combat some of the harmful psychological effects to which Paulinism might lead when received in the wrong spirit, and manifested genuine religious insight in this effort.
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