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Theism vs. Deism

Theism vs. Deism


This lesson defines and differentiates Theism, as the belief in a personal God, from Deism, the belief in a non-personal, providential deity who orders and sustains the universe, but with whom no personal relationship is possible.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this tutorial on theism and deism. Theism posits a personal god, who has a relationship with human beings. So this is the idea of god as the old man in the clouds. Who is personally involved in the affairs of human beings. We could also just put a little lightning bolt there to remind us to keep ourselves in line. Because this god is always watching us and is very involved in everything that people do.

Next deism is a belief in a non-personal god. Sometimes called the clockmaker god, which comes from a natural theologian named William Paley. Deism is the belief in a non-personal god, who manages the universe through the laws of nature. Things like gravity and so forth. So this is a non-personal who sets up the universe and then let's say go its own way.

There are also examples of theism in Western and non-Western religions. This is a verse from the Qur'an. "Do you not see that Allah has created the heavens and the Earth with truth?" And of course, there's references to creation scattered throughout the Qur'an. This is just one of many.

But we can also find the same idea in Hinduism. This is a somewhat monotheistic passage from the Atharva Veda, one of the most authoritative scriptures of Hinduism. "Verily, he is one single, indivisible, supreme, reality."

Two different kinds of deism that we might mention-- Newtonian Deism and Jeffersonian Deism. So Newtonian Deism is the William Paley watchmaker god that we mentioned before in Paley's Natural Theology. So God sets up the universe and just keeps it-- let's it go its own way.

Next, Jeffersonian Theism. In Jeffersonian Theism, providence guides projects that are worthy. Ethical projects that are worthwhile, God is actively involved in them.

So independence from the British would be an example of a project that is so worthwhile that God would just want to be involved in that. And make it play out in the right way. So these are two examples of types of deism. And they both have their roots going as far back as the ancient world and ancient stoicism.

Thank you for watching this tutorial on theism and deism. We said that theism is a belief in a personal god who has a relationship with human beings. And that deism is a belief in a non-personal god, who insures the proper functioning of the universe, but does not interact with human beings correctly.

We give examples of theism in Islam and Hinduism. And we contrasted between Newtonian Deism, which posits a watchmaker god, who sets the universe running and then stands back. And then Jeffersonian Deism-- the belief that God has a providencial interest in the affairs of human beings.

Terms to Know

The belief in an impersonal god who created and oversees the universe, but who neither has nor desires to have a personal relationship with human beings.


The belief in a personal god who seeks to have a personal relationship with all or some human beings.