June 16: [George Berkeley and] Joseph Butler, Bishops and Theologians, 1753, 1752
June 16, 2011 28 Comments
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About this commemoration
George Berkeley was born in Ireland in 1684, educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and ordained to the priesthood in 1721. As Dean of Derry, beginning in 1724, he developed an interest in the churches in colonial America as well as concern for the conversion of Native Americans to the Christian faith.
He sailed for America, reaching Newport, Rhode Island, in January, 1729, settling on a plantation nearby, Whitehall, while awaiting the resources to start a college in Bermuda. When his plans failed, he gave Whitehall and his personal library to Yale College and returned to Ireland where he became Bishop of Cloyne in 1734. Berkeley College at Yale, Berkeley Divinity School, and the City of Berkeley, California, are named for him.
Berkeley was a major philosopher of his time and among his achievements was the theory of immaterialism—individuals can only directly know objects by the perception of them—an idea that would inﬂuence Hume, Kant, and Schopenhauer.
Joseph Butler, once called “the greatest of all the thinkers of the English Church,” was born in Berkshire in 1692, into a Presbyterian family. His early education was in dissenting academies, but in his early twenties he became an Anglican. He entered Oxford in 1715 and was ordained in 1718.
Butler distinguished himself as a preacher while serving Rolls Chapel, Chancery Lane, London, and then went on to serve several parishes before being appointed Bishop of Bristol in 1738. He declined the primacy of Canterbury, but accepted translation to Durham in 1750. He died on June 16, 1752 in Bath, and his body was entombed in Bristol Cathedral.
Butler’s importance rests chieﬂy on his acute apology for orthodox Christianity against the Deistic through prevalent in England in his time, The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature, 1736. He maintained the “reasonable probability” of Christianity, with action upon that probability as a basis for faith. Butler’s was a rational exposition of the faith grounded in deep personal piety, a worthy counterpoint to the enthusiasm of the Wesleyan revival of the same period.
I Holy God, source of all wisdom: We give thanks for thy servants George Berkeley and Joseph Butler, who by their life and work strengthened thy Church and illumined thy world. Help us, following their examples, to place our hearts and minds in thy service, for the sake of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II Holy God, source of all wisdom: We give thanks for your servants George Berkeley and Joseph Butler, who by their life and work strengthened your Church and illumined your world. Help us, following their examples, to place our hearts and minds in your service, for the sake of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Preface of a Saint (1)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.