Shaun Doyle – Deism and Divine Revelation

What is deism? In essence, it’s a belief in a divine creator of the universe and a rejection of ‘revealed religion’. Deists reject claims that God has revealed Himself to particular people in particular times and places (i.e. special revelation, such as e.g. the Bible or the Koran claim to be). Instead, deists believe the creator is known solely through reason and experience. Deists in the 18th century were the prime movers behind deep time thinking, including James Hutton, the so-called ‘father of geology’ (see St Hutton’s Hagiography). Moreover, the father of uniformitarianism, Charles Lyell, who had a massive impact on Darwin (see Darwin, Lyell and Origin of Species), was also a deist (see Charles Lyell’s hidden agenda — to free science “from Moses”).

There is general agreement among deists that, after the initial creation, miracles never happen and the creator doesn’t ‘intervene’ in the cosmos or human lives. Beyond this, however, there is much diversity among deists about the nature of the creator and how we should relate to ‘it’. However, despite this diversity, the basic attitudes of deism give us a clear way to test the broad ideology. We can ask of it a simple question: is general revelation enough?

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