Rational theology of Benjamin Whichcote : father of the Cambridge Platonists
Roberts, James Deotis
In the history of the philosophy of seventeenth century England, empiricism overshadows idealism, and the theological treatment of the thought of "old priest and new presbyter" is given preference. The Cambridge Platonists have been woefully neglected by philosophers and theologians alike. In this study we are primarily concerned with the rational theology of Benjamin Whichcote and his thought as reflected in the writings of his disciples and successors. It is natural that since he is the father of the Platonists, any thorough treatment of his life and thought will cast light upon the entire movement and its collective influence. Our purpose in this study is to bring Whichcote from a place of relative obscurity to a point of observation where the real man and his thought may be seen and examined. This being the burden of this study, the obvious place to begin is with the man himself. The clue to Whichcote's influence is to be found in his contemporary setting. A critical examination of his posthumous writings are in order since some works ascribed to him are spurious. Standing as he does at the head of a movement, it is essential to find Whichcote's place in the history of thought. He was not a systematic philosopher or theologian, but this does not minimise the pervasive influence of his thought upon his disciples and successors. He is a rational theologian who recognises truth from all spheres, but his intention is an apology for the Christian faith.