Senior Fellow: March–July 2021
Research Project: Questioning the Traditional Sources of Religious Truth in Enlightenment England
Late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England witnessed several attacks on the politically demarcated boundaries of faith. Unitarians like Stephen Nye and Arthur Bury, the empiricist philosopher John Locke, the natural philosopher Isaac Newton and his associates William Whiston and Samuel Clarke, and deists and freethinkers such as John Toland, Anthony Collins, and Matthew Tindal rejected ecclesiastical tradition, denounced the pagan, Platonic, and scholastic corruptions of Christianity, and exposed priestcraft. Despite their different aims and methods, their Christian primitivism led them to reinterpret the early documents of Christianity and thus to relocate the source of belief from public authority to the epistemological criteria of individual reason, conscience, and scholarship. This research project will focus on these heterodox authors’ attempts to rediscover primitive Christianity, their Socinian and Arminian influences, their intellectual context, and their different conclusions concerning the Christian religion and the relationship between God and humanity. The analysis will also consider the impact of their historical, hermeneutical, and theological reflections on subsequent generations of heterodox thinkers, particularly on the deists and sceptics of the mid-eighteenth century.
Diego Lucci is a professor of philosophy and history at the American University in Bulgaria.