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Enlightenment, The 

The Enlightenment understanding of reason was based in the natural sciences, and it was characterized by skepticism concerning the NT miracles. This skepticism concerning the miracles was expressed in David Hume's Essay on Miracles(1748), which noted the absence of contemporary analogs of miracles, and concluded that no human testimony could establish the reality of such events without analogs. The Enlightenment was critical of the idea of supernatural revelation, and viewed the contingent truths of history as much less significant than the necessary truths of reason. The Bible was not distinguished from other literary forms on the basis of divine revelation, and it was considered in light of the same forms of textual analysis as other works of literature. Jesus was understood as merely different in degree from other human beings relative to certain qualities. He was understood to be a great moral teacher of enlightened truths, not a supernatural redeemer. Jesus' death was understood as a supreme moral example of self-giving. His death and resurrection were minimized in importance relative to his teaching and example. The Enlightenment understanding of Jesus inspired the "quest" for the historical Jesus who was believed to be concealed behind the NT accounts. The Enlightenment also rejected the doctrine of original sin, and the Christian doctrine of redemption. 




Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
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