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The early nineteenth century

Page history last edited by Jackie Kinealy 15 years, 6 months ago

Summary of Today's Topic


   The relationship between religion and plurality was tense in the early nineteenth century. Two main European schools of thought, Christianity and basic theism, dealt with the conept of plurality differently.


Some fundamental Christian beliefs are incompatable with the plurality of worlds, espcially the most basic Christian belief--that Christ came to Earth to save everyone. If there are multiple worlds, why would Jesus come to die here?  Some say life exists only on Earth and Jesus came to the only living planet in the Universe. Others say that Christ redeemed the whole universe and all planets with his death, and still others believe that Christ goes from world to world redeeming them individually. Another responce is to say Earth is the only planet requiring redemption. Finally,  some say that this is an insoluble problem to which we cannot find an answer. On the other hand, theism does not base its beliefs on Jesus, but rather a more general divine force. Because of this,  theism is less threatened by pluralism. In fact, theism tends to support pluralism because it freed God from any particular attachment to Earth. Both Christianity and theism are, however, threatened by Darwinism.


     Thomas Chalmers was part of the evengelical movement of the 19th century, which encouraged greater focus on a  personal God and a life of prayer and devotion, rather than overrational theology. Chalmers wrote seven discourses on plurality and Christianity with the goal of using the debate to preach the message of Christ  In his discourses he tries to show that Paine is making a false problem and that a person can believe in both Christianity and pluralism, with his overall goal of inspiring the listeners/readers to become more Christian. Chalmers says that there are a couple of different possible answers- one that Christ redeems the universe, one that sin only occurs on Earth, and that he just doesn't know because it is an insoluble problem. He ponders the question, why would God pay such attention to one tiny dust speck within this huge universe? As stated, it's important to note that he rejected Paine's dilemma of plurality and Christianity being incompatible and argues that God cares for all parts of His creation even if the Earth is a tiny fraction of the universe. In regards to all parts of his creation, Chalmers believed that there are miniture worlds as well as large worlds that God looks over. He makes it a point that we have to accept what astronomy tells us about the Earth and the heavens, even if it contradicts parts of our personal beliefs.


     Thomas Dick was a teacher who retired early and became a prolific writer.  All of his books regarding astronomy also talked about plurality.  He was a very strong proponent of life on the moon and a very strong proponent of plurality in general. He even gives the populations of each planet according to how he has generated them using math which totals to approximately 21 trillion inhabitants within the universe. When speaking of inhabitants on the moon he says, "For although we may never be able to distinquish the inhabitants of the moon, (if any exist), yet if we can trace those effects which can flow only from the operations of intelligent agents, it would form a omplete demonstration of their existence, on the same groud on which a navigator concludes an unknown island to be inhabited, when he percieves human habitations, and cultivated fields."



Today we also had two presentations in class, one on the Great Moon Hoax and one on Smith and White.  Click on the links for a full summary of the presentation.

Comments (1)

mrb683@truman.edu said

at 12:45 pm on Sep 19, 2008

Thank you for giving a synopsis of Chalmers' Discourses, because I had a terrible time getting through them when I read the chapter.

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