Deism – Enlightened Emptiness

The Rev. Fr. D. S. Bosworth, Ph. D.
Deism is the belief in a supreme being, who remains unknowable and untouchable. God is viewed as merely the “first cause” and underlying principle of rationality in the universe. Deists believe in a god of nature -- a noninterventionist creator -- who permits the universe to run itself according to natural laws. Like a “clockmaker god” initiating the cosmic process, the universe moves forward, without needing God’s supervision. Deism believes that precise and unvarying laws define the universe as self-operating and self-explanatory. These laws reveal themselves through “the light of reason and nature.” Reliance on the power of reasoning exchanges faith for human logic. Here are some examples of deist reasoning:
God is identified through nature and reason, not revelation. Deists who believe in God, or at least a divine principle, follow few if any of the other tenets and practices of Christianity, Judaism, or any religion believing in a personal God. Any deist god is an eternal entity whose power is equal to his/her will.
Some deists believe in Jesus Christ, while others do not. Most deists give regard to the moral teachings of Jesus.
The Bible is not accepted as the infallible Word of God. Deists refute evidence of Jesus’ incarnation of God on earth. They deny the credibility of any writings from the Apostles or any “Spirit-inspired” writings.
Deism has no creed, articles of faith, or holy book. Neither Satan nor hell exists, only symbols of evil which can be overcome by man’s own reasoning.
Man is qualified to decide what reasonable path to follow regarding morals. Deists refer to themselves as “freethinkers.”
Deists reject revelations and visions. There is no place for the nonsense of miracles and prophecies in an enlightened deist’s life.
Deism has no need for ministers, priests, or rabbis. All an individual requires is their own common sense and the ability to contemplate their human condition.
Deism – A Stepping Stone to Atheism
Since the latter part of the 18th century, deism used science to justify its stance. Scientists, like Sir Isaac Newton, were able to elaborate more and more to explain how the universe and everything around us worked. Many of the mysteries that man attributed to God, yielded simple mechanistic explanations. The increase in knowledge spurred the decline in religious faith among the intellectual elite. As a philosopher and mathematician, Descartes reduced God to a “mathematical abstraction.” Reason pushed faith off into the realm of mythology and superstition, while deism quickly deteriorated into atheism (belief in no God at all). Science seemed to engage in a centuries-old battle with religion for the mind of man. Life became a product of blind change -- a cosmic game of chance played throughout time.
Deism – Something Missing
Humanity continues to spend billions of dollars on ventures such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Man is still passionately pursuing his origins, attempting to understand God’s design in creation. Dr. Patrick Glynn, Harvard University graduate and associate director at George Washington University, concludes that, “Physicists are discovering an unexplainable order to the cosmos . . . psychologists, who once considered belief in God to be a sign of neurosis, are finding that religious faith is a powerful elixir for mental health.” Like love, spirituality can’t be intellectually or mathematically proven, but our emotions tell us there is a dimension to life that transcends the logical, physical realm. What is it that missing ingredient?
Knowledge and reason are of little value if not utilized wisely. Wisdom is the key ingredient that deism lacks. While man tries to attain enlightenment, God provides a transformation (Romans 12:2). By disregarding faith and divine revelation from God, deism forfeits wisdom (Proverbs 2:2–6). The deist doubts the true Source of all knowledge and understanding (Isaiah 11:2; Colossians 2:2–3). By disengaging themselves from the Creator, “freethinking” deists limit knowledge (Jeremiah 10:12–14).
Dr. Gerald L Schroeder (MIT-trained in physics and biology) has published articles in Time, Newsweek, and Scientific American. He marvels at the wisdom encoded in our DNA and vast human consciousness. “There is a brilliant design in the brain, and to make it requires the nature of our universe, which means we need a metaphysical force, a potential not composed of time, space, or matter that created the time space, and matter of our universe.” God is touchable and knowable. He is never “far from any one of us . . . For in him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:22–27).
True of course, but still we need to be cautious.

It should be remembered that at the other extreme there are the intolerant well meaning Faithful, who are without patience, who are quick to categorize anyone into an "ism", and forget themselves the struggles they have endured to attain that step of faith they are now on on the faith ladder. They forget the Fathers struggled themselves, one falling back to debauchery only to regain it by reclimbing the very same steps he had taken. These look down and criticize those below not realizing doing so is itself a deficiency of Faith. Faith is a humbleness, not bragging,boisterous or proud and non-accusatory, and as it progresses, self analysis and awareness becomes more of a priority.

It is often forgotten that there requires God's ingredient to the Faith recipe, and what may seem has a deficiency may be a manifestation of the withholding of this one element, now being criticized by the enlightened, an was meant as a temporal test to the people he was exposed to. Our movement may take many forms. Some were gifted to see it immediately, some are to be started from point zero, not believing at all, some will start out not believing and hostile to boot, (St. Paul).

The true test of faith is proven through a person's virtue. A Faithful may claim a degree of it, but prove it is in reality a few notches deficient in what he thinks he's gained.

Last weeks homily spoke of these skills that each was gifted with, and we learned that even in the crucial skill of discernment, that ability to unmask evil to see what it really is, is also given in degrees dependant on God's will.

With so many variables, we have the Church who supports these now deficient but changing people and is tolerant to the point of allowing some guidlines to it's flock. Of the six levels of certainty a Catholic may have, the last is the most permissible. From his book The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Dr. Ludwig Ott writes:

Sententia Probabablis - Theological opinions of lesser grades of certainty are called probable, more probable, well-founded. Those which are regarded as being in agreement with the consciousness of Faith of the Church are called pious opinions (sententia pia). The least degree of certainity is possessed by the tolerated opinion (opinio tolerata), which is only weakly founded, but which is tolerated by the Church. (Example: Rigorist (strict) view of "No Salvation Outside the Church", or the existence of Limbo.)