UU Minute #58

Charles Chauncy, Universalist, and Jonathan Mayhew, Unitarian

Charles Chauncy rejected such Calvinist doctrines as total depravity and predestination. Chauncy was also a universalist. Chauncy completed his major theological work, The Mystery Hid from Ages and Generations, in 1765, but for 20 years could not bring himself to publish it. Finally, late in life, anonymously, he published his book: 400 pages of biblical support for universal salvation, that God wills and ensures the salvation of all humanity.

Charles Chauncy is understood by most scholars to have had an Arian Christology.

Quick review of Christology.

In the first three centuries after Jesus’ death, Christian churches understood Jesus in a variety of ways. In particular, there was a split between those who said he was the equal of God and those who didn’t. At the Council of Nicea in 325 Arius and his supporters were outvoted, and Trinitarianism was established as Orthodoxy – though the Arian form of Christianity continued for a few more hundred years among some of the European peoples that succeeded the Roman Empire.

Fausto Sozzini went a step further than Arius, arguing that Jesus was not the equal of God, AND was not divine – though he was worthy of worship.

English Unitarian Theophilus Lindsey went further still, taking the position that only God Yahweh was worthy of worship.

Among the Congregationalist Churches around the Boston area in the 18th century, this sequence seemed to be repeating. Jonathan Mayhew, minister to Boston’s West Church, and 15 years younger than Charles Chauncy, went a step further than Chauncy had. Mayhew was clear and outspoken in rejecting the Trinity and upholding the strict unity of God.

Mayhew also opposed all creeds, arguing that there can be no greater authority than private judgment in religion.

NEXT: King's Chapel and James Freeman, part 1

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