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The early nineteenth century

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Saved by Audrey Zimbelman
on September 23, 2008 at 10:10:22 am

Summary of Today's Topic


   The idea of religion and plurality coexisting proved a sticky one in the early nineteenth century. Two main European schools of thought, namely Christianity and basic theism, interact with the conept of plurality differently. Christianity is threatened by plurality or at least experiences tenisons with plurality. There are some basic responses to this tension found by different people over the years: one response is to deny pluralism and state that life exists only on Earth, a second response is the say that Christ redeemed the universe at the same moment with his sacrifice, a third response is that Christ goes from world to world redeeming them, a fourth response is to say that sin occurs only on Earth and only Earth would need to be redeemed, and a final response is that this is an insoluble problem and we just don't or can't know.  Theism on the other hand, which does not believe in a specific God but rather some form of generic divinity, experiences little threat from pluralism--and it even tends to support pluralism because it believes in a god that does not interact with the world, thus freeing the 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, within this movement they were attempting to focus on a more personal God and trying to get away from overrational theology and to focus more on a life of prayer and devotion. He wrote 7 discourses on plurality and Christianity with his overrall goal to use the debate to preach the message of Christ  In his discourses he is trying 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."

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