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A Historical Bibliography> Table of Contents> European Beginnings

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The Sixteenth-Century Challenges to Trinitarianism

Michael Servetus

Socinianism and the Polish Brethren

The Unitarian Tradition

Ferenc (Francis) David

The Enlightenment and the Emergence of Deism in Modern Europe


The Sixteenth-Century Challenges to Trinitarianism

The emergence of atheism in the West did not occur suddenly, but began as an attack upon the almost universal presence of Christianity as the state supported religious establishment and the pervasiveness of laws concerning dissent from the assumed truth of the Roman Catholic Church. That dissent began with the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther challenged the authority of the Pope and began to create space in which similar challenges could be made. The relative success of that challenge as aided by the distraction provided by the movement of Turkish troops through Hungary along the Danube River to the gates of Austria.

Of the various challenges, that begun by a few voices dissenting from the Christian doctrine of the Trinity would prove most crucial. Defined in the early centuries of the post-Constantinian Church, the Trinity had become a distinguishing point of orthodox Christianity and a key element in the doctrine of salvation. To remove the Trinity meant revising the understanding of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the operation of Divine grace. While Protestantism challenged church organization, the non-Trinitarians challenged the intellectual structures through which Christianity operated.

The opponents of the trinity also offered their challenged in the name of reason. Most assuredly, Luther claimed reason as an allay in his defense at the Diet of Worms but the anti-Trinitarians used reason as the hammer to batter a doctrine they found unbelievable. Again, from the perspective of subsequent changes, that approach would prove definitive. Protestantism would carry the day, at least in northern and western Europe, in the sixteenth century, but the modest gains of the non-Trinitarians and the miniscule structures they established in Eastern Europe, would survive and take advantage in the new freedoms which appeared as the Medieval consensus cracked apart.


Allen, Don Cameron.  Doubt’s Boundless Sea: Skepticism and Faith in the Renaissance.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1964.

Cox, John D. Seeming Knowledge: Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007. 355 pp.

Grimm, Harold J. The Reformation Era, 1500-1650. New York: The MacMillan Company 1954.

Guana, Max. Upwellings: First Expression of Unbelief in Printed Literature of the French Renaissance. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (November 1992. 322 pp.

Popkin, Richard H. Popkin, and Arjo Vanderjagt, eds. Skepticism and Irreligion in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1993. 374 pp.  

Singer, Dorothea Waley. Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought; With Annotated Translation of His Work On the Infinite Universe and Worlds. New York:  Henry Schuman, 1950. Posted at:

Williams, George Huntston. The Radical Reformation. 3d ed. Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, vol. 15. Kirksville, Mo.: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1992. 1516 pp.

Febvre, Lucien. The Problem of Unbelief in the 16th Century: The Religion of Rabelais. Trans. by Beatrice Gottlieb. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985. 552 pp.

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Michael Servetus

Early doubts about the Trinity developed for Spanish physician Michael Servetus (1511-1542) from observances that the doctrine was an obstacle to the conversion of Jews and Muslims. Upon reading the Bible, he was startled by its lack of any mention of the Trinity. In 1531, he published his conclusions in a small volume, De Trinitatis Erroribus (or On the Errors of the Trinity). It appears he hoped to win over the leaders of the protestant Reformation to his cause. Following the publication of his second volume, Dialogorum de Trinitate (or Dialogues on the Trinity), in 1532, he found himself being hunted by both Catholics and Protestants. He hid for several years in Paris under a pseudonym, and eventually settled in Vienne, France where he quietly practiced medicine, and worked on what would become his most substantive theological treatise, his major theological treatise, Christianismi Restitutio (or The Restoration of Christianity), published in 1553.

His sending Reformer John Calvin a copy led to his downfall. He was arrested at Vienne, escaped to Geneva, was arrested again, tried and convicted, and executed by fire at the stake. English editions of Servetus’ writings are found in: The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, translated by Earl Morse Wilbur (1932); Michael Servetus, A Translation of His Geographical, Medical, and Astrological Writings, translated by Charles Donald O'Malley (1953); and The Restoration of Christianity, translated by Christopher Hoffman and Marian Hillar (2007).

The list below is limited to English-language sources. A much larger body of work exists in Spanish and other European languages. I appreciate Marian Hillar looking over the list and making suggestions for its improvement.

Primary Sources

O’Malley, Charles Donald.  Michael Servetus: A Translation of His Geographical, Medical, and Astrological Writings with Introductions and Notes. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1953. 208 pp.

Servetus, Michael. Restoration of Christianity: An English Translation of Christianismi Restitutio.

 Trans. by Christopher A. Hoffman and Marian Hillar. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2007. 409 pp.

-----. Thirty Letters to Calvin & Sixty Signs of  the Antichrist by Michael Servetus. Trans. from Christianismi restitutio by Christopher A. Hoffman and Marian Hillar. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2010. 175 pp.

-----. Treatise Concerning the Supernatural Regeneration and the Kingdom of the Antichrist by Michael Servetus. Translated from Christianismi restitutio by Christopher A. Hoffman and Marian Hillar. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2008. 302 pp.

-----. Treatise on Faith and Justice of Christ's Kingdom [from  Christianismi restitution]. Trans. by Christopher A. Hoffman and Marian Hillar. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2008. 95 pp.

-----. The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity: On the errors of the Trinity; seven books. A.D. MDXXXI; Dialogues on the Trinity; two books; On the righteousness of Christ's kingdom; four chapters. A.D. MDXXXII. By Michael Serveto, alias Reves. Trans. and ed. by Earl Morse Wilbur. Harvard Theological Studies #16. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932.

Secondary Sources

Bainton, Roland H. Hunted Heretic: The Life and Death of Michael Servetus, 1511-1553. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. 1953. 270pp. Rev. ed. 2004

Benson, George. A Brief Account of Calvin's Burning Servetus for an Heretic. London: J. Noon, 1743.

Chauffepié, Jacques Georges de.  The Life of Servetus. London, Printed for the author, and sold by R. Baldwin, 1771.

Clardy, Brian K. Michael Servetus: Intellectual Giant, Humanist and Martyr. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. 2002. 304pp.

Cuthbertson, David. A Tragedy of the Reformation, being the authentic narrative of the history and burning of the "Christianismi restitutio," 1553, with a succinct account of the theological controversy between Michael Servetus, its author, and the reformer, John Calvin. Edinburgh, London: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1912.

De Marcos, Jaime. The Influence of Erasmus in Michael Servetus’ Works.  Villanueva de Sijena, Spain: Instituto de Estudios Sijenenses Miguel Servet, 2007.

Dibb, Andrew M. T. Servetus, Swedenborg and the Nature of God. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. 2005. 353pp.

Drummond, William Hamilton. The Life of Michael Servetus: The Spanish Physician, Who For The Alleged Crime Of Heresy, Was Entrapped, Imprisoned, And Burned, By John Calvin The Reformer. London: John Chapman, 1848. Rpt.: Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2010. 220 pp.

Fox, Arthur William. Michael Servetus. London: British & Foreign Unitarian Association, 1914.

Friedman, Jerome. Michael Servetus: A Case Study in Total Heresy. Geneva, Switz.: Droz. 1978. 154 pp.

-----. "Michael Servetus: Unitarian, Antitrinitarian, or Cosmic Dualist?" Proceedings of the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society (1985-86).

Fulton, John F., and Madeleine E. Stanton. Michael Servetus: Humanist and Martyr: With a Bibliography of His Works and Census of Known Copies. New York: Herbert Reichner. 1953. 98 pp.

-----, Lawrence Goldstone, and Nancy Goldstone. Out of the Flames: The Remarkable Story of Michael Servetus and One of the Rarest Books in the World. New York: Broadway Books. 2002.

Goldstone, Robert, and Nancy Goldstone. Out of the Flames: The Remarkable Story of a Fearless Scholar, a Fatal Heresy, and One of the Rarest Books in the World. New York: Broadway Book, 2002. 368 pp.

Gomes, A. W. “De Jesu Christo Servatore: Faustus Socinius on the Satisfaction of Christ,” WTJ 55 (1993): 209-31.

Hillar, Marian. The Case of Michael Servetus (1511-1553): the Turning Point in the Struggle for Freedom of Conscience. Lewiston. NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1997.

-----, and Claire S. Allen. Michael Servetus: Intellectual Giant, Humanist, and Martyr. Lexington, KY: University Press of America, 2002. 304 pp.

Hirsh, Elizabeth F. "Servetus and the Early Socinians." Proceedings of the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society (1985-86).

Hughes, Peter. “In the Footsteps of Servetus: Biandrata, David, and the Quran,” The Journal of Unitarian Universalist History 30 (2006-2007): 57-63.

An Impartial History of Michael Servetus, Burnt Alive at Geneva for Heresie. London: Printed for A. Ward, 1724.

Kinder, A. Gordon. Michael Servetus. Baden Baden, Germany: V. Koerner, 1989. 167 pp.

Larson, Martin Alfred,  Milton and Servetus; a study in the sources of Milton's theology. Menasha, Wis.: The Modern Language Association of America, 1926.

Mackall, Leonard Leopold. Servetus Notes. New York:  P. B. Hoeber, 1919.

Odhner, Carl Theophilus.  Michael Servetus: his life and teachings. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1910.

Reed, Clifford M., ed., A Martyr Soul Remembered: Commemorating the 450th Anniversary of The Death of Michael Servetus.  Prague: International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, 2004.

Riliiet, Albert, Calvin and Servetus: the Reformer's Share in the Trial of Michael Servetus Historically Ascertained. From the French with notes and additions by Rev. W. K. Tweedle. London: Paternoster, 1846. 245 pp. Rpt.: Edinburgh, London: J. Johnstone, 1946.

Rives, Stanford. Did Calvin Murder Servetus? Charleston, SC: BookSurge Publishing, 2008. 606 pp.

Sigmond, George Gabriel. The Unnoticed Theories of Servetus, a dissertation addressed to the Medical Society of Stockholm. London: Printed for J.H. Burn, 1826.

Willis, Robert. Servetus and Calvin; a Study of an Important Epoch in the Early History of the Reformation. London: H. S. King & Co., 1877.

Wright, Richard. An Apology for Dr. Michael Servetus: Including an Account of His Life, Persecution, Writings and Opinions. Wisbech: Printed and sold by F.B. Wright, 1806.

Zweig, Stefan. Right to Heresy. Castellio against Calvin. Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul. Boston: Beacon Press, 1951.

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Socinianism and the Polish Brethren

Narrowly speaking, the term Socinianism refers to the non-Trinitarian approach to Christianity developed and perpetuated in the sixteenth century by Laelius Socinus (1526-1562) and his nephew Faustus Socinus (1539-1604), both natives of Sienna, Italy. They were the leading lights of a secret society formed among Roman Catholics in the mid-sixteenth century in the diocese of Venice. Members of the group initially assembled to discuss the doctrine of the Trinity, and then acted to promote a non-Trinitarian form of the faith. Laelius was the first to publish his non-Trinitarian views, which included the idea of two separate creations by God. The Italian society would be disbanded, and its members forced to leave Venice. They fled to Poland.

After Laelius’ death in 1562, Faustus eventually associated with the Polish Brethren, a dissenting minority of non-Trinitarians from the Calvinist Reformed tradition that had established themselves in Rakow, Poland, in the 1560s. He led many to adopt the peculiar expression of non-Trinitarian view originally espoused by Laelius and influenced the text of the “Racovian Catechism” published in 1605. It was non-Trinitarian and also rejected the notion of the pre-existence of Jesus Christ prior to his birth as a baby in Palestine.

The Polish Brethren existed until the middle of the seventeenth century when their community was suppressed and scattered. Some fled to England and became one source of contemporary Unitarianism in the English-speaking world. The term “Socinianism,” used in reference to the Polish Brethren, emerged in England in the seventeenth century as the publications from Rakow were circulated among the British dissenting churches. 

For additional sources see the bibliographies by Sand and Wilbur cited below.


Hillar, Marian. “From the Polish Socinians to the American Constitution.” A Journal from the Radical Reformation. A Testimony to Biblical Unitarianism 3, 2 (1994): 22-57.

Kot, S. Socinianism in Poland: The Social and Political Ideas of the Polish Anti-Trinitarians in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Boston: Beacon Press, 1957.

Levytsky, O. “Socinianism in Poland and South-West Rus.” AUAas 3, 1 (1953).

McLachlan, H. John.  Socinianism in Seventeenth-Century England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951.

Sand, Christoph. Bibliotheca antitrinitariorum. 1684. Reprint, Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii  olskiej Akademii Nauk, Biblioteka pisarzy reforma cyjnych, 6. Varsoviae [Panstwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe], 1967. 316 p. Facsimile reprint of the 1684 ed. 
The Bibliotheca antitrinitariorum is a biographical dictionary with entries on anti-Trinitarian writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (to 1684). Benedict Wiszowaty added material on the history of Polish Socinianism.

Wilbur, Earl, comp. A Bibliography of the Pioneers of the Socinian-Unitarian Movement in Modern Christianity, in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland. Rome, Edizioni di stroia e letteratura, 1950.

-----. A History of Unitarianism. Vol. 2: Socinianism and its Antecedents. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1945.

Williams, George H. History of the Polish Reformation and Nine Related Documents. Trans. by Stanislas Lubieniecki. Harvard Theological Studies 37. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995.

-----. The Polish Brethren Documentation of the History & Thought of Unitarianism in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth & the Diaspora, 1601-1685. Pts. I & II. 2 Vols.Harvard Theological Studies 30. Scholars Press, 1980.

-----. The Radical Reformation. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962.

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The Unitarian Tradition

The modern Unitarian tradition traces its existence to the various groups that challenged the idea of the Trinitarian deity espoused by both Roman Catholics and Protestants as essential to traditional orthodox faith. The primary community was located in Transylvania (then a part of Hungary, but since the end of World War I a part of Romania). A non-Trinitarian form of Christianity emerged at several locations in Eastern Europe as Protestantism spread eastward from Germany and Switzerland. In 1566, Ferenc David (1510-1579), leader in the Reformed Church began to preach non-Trinitarian views and developed a large following. It found a number of converts not only among the German-speaking Saxon communities, but also among the Hungarian Székely people.

The Unitarian movement was given early recognition and hence some degree of protection by the Edict of Torda, issued by the Transylvanian Diet and Prince John II Sigismund (1540-1571) in 1568. After John’s death, the edict was withdrawn and both Catholics and Protestants turned on the Unitarians. David was arrested and died in prison.

Unitarian ideas emerged among various dissenting denominations in the British Isles beginning in the seventeenth century. Their progress was hindered in that it was against the law to openly deny the Trinity. That law remained on the books, though openly disobeyed in places, until the passing of the Unitarian Relief Act in 1813.  While Unitarian views had spread among the Baptists and Presbyterians, it was not until 1774 that Theophilus Lindsey (1723-1808) formed a separate Unitarian Church.  Among the early people associated with that church was the pioneering scientist Joseph Priestly (1733- 1804), who would migrate to the American colonies, as much for his political as his religious views.

Unitarians and Universalists emerged across Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and efforts begun in the 1920s to unite them and to protect them from persecution.

In spite of the hostile environment, the church survived through the centuries, including the suppressive Marxist regime following World War II, and in the twentieth century was rediscovered by the American and British Unitarians. In 1995, it became a charter member of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists.


Allen, Joseph Henry An Historical Sketch of the Unitarian Movement since the Reformation. New York: 1894.

Balazs, Mihaly and Keseru, Gizella, eds. Gyorgy Enyedi and Central European Unitarianism in the 16th-17th Centuries. Budapest: Balassi Kiedo, 1998.

Cheetham, Henry H. Unitarianism and Universalism: An Illustrated History. Boston: Beacon Press, 1962.

Cooke, George Willis. Unitarianism: its origin and history.  Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1890.

Cornish, Louis C., ed. The Religious Minorities in Transylvania. Boston: The Beacon Press, Inc., 1925.

Ferencz, Joseph. “The First International Unitarian Publication.” Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society 14, Part II (1968): 72-77.

----- and Szasz, John. “When Hungarian Unitarianism Was Born.” Proceedings of the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society 17, Part I (1970-72): 57-63.

Ferencz, Jozsef. Hungarian Unitarianism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Chico, CA: Center for Free Religion, 1990.

-----. A Short Account of the Unitarian Church in Hungary, Compiled under the Auspices of the Right Rev. Bishop Ferencz. Budapest: Jokai, 1907.

Fretwall, John. Three Centuries of Unitarianism in Transylvania and Hungary. New York: The Inquirer, 1876.

Gellerd, Imre. A Burning Kiss from God to Preach Truth: Four Centuries of Transylvanian Unitarian Preaching. Chico, CA: Center for Free Religion, 1990.

-----. A History of Transylvanian Unitarianism Through Four Centuries of Sermons. Chico, CA: Center for Free Religion, 1999.

Gellerd, Judit. Prisoner of Liberte: Story of a Transylvanian Martyr. Chico, CA: Uniquest, 2003.

-----, ed. Ending the Storm: UU Sermons on Transylvania. Chico, CA: Center for Free Religion, 1996.

-----, ed. 425 Years: In Storm, Even Trees Lean on Each Other: Unitarian Universalist Sermons on Transylvania. Chico, CA: Center for Free Religion, 1993.

-----, ed. Guidebook for Unitarian Universalist Partner Churches. Chico, CA: Center for Free Religion, 1997.

Harris, Mark W. The A to Z of Unitarian Universalism. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2009. 616 pp.

Hewett, Phillip. Racovia: An Early Liberal Religious Community. Providence, RI: Blackstone Editions, 2004.

Hill, Andrew McKean. A Liberal Religious Heritage: Unitarian and Universalist foundations in Europe, America and elsewhere. London: Unitarian Publications, n.d.

-----, Jill K. McAllister, and Clifford M. Reed, eds. A Global Conversation: Unitarians/ Universalists at the Dawn of the 21st Century. Prague: Council of Unitarians and Universalists, 2002.

Howe, Charles A. For Faith and Freedom: A Short History of Unitarianism in Europe. Boston: Skinner House Books, 1997.

Kovacs, Lajos. “The Unitarian Church in Rumania, Its History and Message for Today.” Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society 14, Part II (1968): 55-67.

Lindsey, Theophilus. The Apology of Theophilus Lindsey, M.A. on resigning the vicarage of Catterick, Yorkshire. Dublin: Printed for T. Walker, 236 pp.

-----. An Historical View of the State of the Unitarian Doctrine and Worship, from the Reformation to our own times. . .  London: printed for J. Johnson, 1783. 563 pp.

Lorinczy, Dionysisus. “The Hungarian Unitarian Church, Part I.” Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society 3 (1923): 20-39.

-----. “The Hungarian Unitarian Church, Part II.” Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society 3 (1924): 120-134.

McLachlan, John. “Links between Transylvania and British Unitarians from the Seventeenth Century Onwards.” Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society 17, Part II (1980): 73-79.

Parke, David B. The Epic of Unitarianism: original writings from the history of Liberal Religion. Boston: Beacon Press, 1960.

Ritchie, Susan. “The Pasha of Buda and the Edict of Torda: Transylvanian Unitarian/Islamic Ottoman Cultural Enmeshment,” The Journal of Unitarian Universalist History 30 (2005): 36-54.

Short, H. L. “Torda and World History.” Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society 14, Part II (1968): 68-71.

Tagert, M. Lucy. The Hungarian and Transylvanian Unitarians. London: Unitarian Christian Publishing Office, 1903.

“Transylvanian Unitarianism Bibliography.” Posted at

Wlbur, Earl Morse A Bibliography of the Pioneers of the Socinian-Unitarian Movement in Modern Christianity in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland. Rome: Edizioni di stroia e letteratura, 1950.

-----. A History of Unitarianism. Vol 1. Socinianism and its Antecedents. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1945.

-----. A History of Unitarianism. Vol. 2. In Transylvania, England and America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1952.

-----. Our Unitarian Heritage: an introduction to the history of the Unitarian Movement. Boston: Beacon Press. 1925.

Williams, George H. History of the Polish Reformation and Nine Related Documents.  Trans. by Stanislas Lubieniecki. Harvard Theological Studies 37. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995.

-----. The Polish Brethren Documentation of the History & Thought of Unitarianism in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth & the Diaspora, 1601-1685. Pts. I & II. 2 Vols.Harvard Theological Studies 30. Scholars Press, 1980.

-----. The Radical Reformation. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962.

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Ferenc (Francis) David (c. 1510-1579)

Ferenc Dávid (usually called in English Francis David,) was a leading voice of non-Trinitarian Christianity of Eastern Europe during the first generation of the Reformation. A Catholic priest, he moved to the Lutheran Church and then the Reformed church, before emerging as a non-Trinitarian. He is recognized as the founder of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania. He began his questioning of the Trinity with doubts about the propriety of talk about the personhood of the Holy Spirit and ended up questioning a variety of Christina ideas about the divinity of Jesus and the possibility of miracles. He died in prison.

David wrote a large number of works, most in Latin or Hungarian, and most remain to be translated into English.


Balázs, Mihaly. Early Transylvanian Antitrinitarianism. Baden-Baden & Bouxwiller: Éditions Valentin Koerner, 1996.

Balazs, Mihaly. Ferenc David. Bibliotheca Dissidentium: Repertoire des non-conformistes religieux des seizieme et dis-septieme siecles/edite par Andre Seguenny. T. 26: Ungarlandische Antitrinitarier IV. Trans. by Judit Gellerd. Baden-Baden; Bouxwiller: Koerner, 2008.

Erdo, Janos. “The Biblicism of Ferenc David,” Faith and Freedom 48, Part I, (1995): 44-50.

Erdo, John. “The Foundations of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church.” Faith and Freedom 23, Part II (1970): 61-70.

-----. “Light Upon Religious Toleration from Francis David and Transylvania.” Faith and Freedom 32, Part II (1979): 75-82.

-----. Transylvanian Unitarian Church: Chronological History and Theological Essays. Trans. by Judit Gellerd. Chico, CA: Center for Free Religion, 1990.

Ferencz, Jozsef. In Memoriam F. D. Founder and First Bishop of the Unitarian Church of Hungary. 1510-1910. Budapest: Karolyi Gyorgy Printing Office, 1910.

Gellérd, Imre. A History of Transylvanian Unitarianism through four hundred years of sermons. Trans. by Judit Gellérd. Kolozsvár: Unitarian Printing House, 1999. 311 pp.

-----. 'Truth liberates you': The Message of Transylvania's First Unitarian Bishop, Francis David. Chico, CA: Center for Free Religion, 1990. 104 pp.

Gellérd, Judit. “Francis Dávid's Epistemological Borrowings from Henry Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim.” Posted at

-----. “Unitarians in Transylvania.” A paper presented at Earl Morse Wilbur History Colloquium, Berkeley, CA: Starr King School for Ministry, January 20-22, 1994./ Posted at .

Varga, Bela. Francis David: What has endured of his life and work? Budapest: Kiadja a Magyar Unitarius Egyhaz, 1981. 39 pp.

Wlbur, Earl Morse A bibliography of the pioneers of the Socinian-Unitarian movement in modern Christianity in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland. Rome, Edizioni di stroia e letteratura, 1950.

-----. A History of Unitarianism. Vol 1. Socinianism and its Antecedents. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1945. Vol. 2. In Transylvania, England and America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1952.

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The Enlightenment and the Emergence of Deism in Modern Europe

The Enlightenment, beginning in the seventeenth century and reaching its zenith in the eighteenth century, is marked by the rise of the scientific method in observing the world and the demand of scientists that they be allowed to observe the world using their rational talents and reach conclusions without reference to any prior conclusions dictated by revelation, which in this case meant conclusions drawn from the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

The religious/philosophical aspect of the Enlightenment was centered upon the Deist controversy. Deism was a theological position, primarily articulated by academics and other intellectuals who were nominally members of the established church of their country of residence (as opposed to being members of a dissenting religious group such as the Unitarians) but who advocated a theology that stripped Christianity of essential affirmations. So serious and central were the Christian doctrines altered that critics were justified in branding the Deists as holding another religion, though a number of critics went further and began to label them atheists, the deity of the Deists being so distant and irrelevant as to be practically nonexistent.

Deists affirmed one God, but denied any Trinitarian understanding. That denial also necessarily included a denial of any divinity to Jesus Christ. They also denied the occurrence of miracles (God’s breaking the laws which established the regularities of the natural world in response to an individual need or request), the efficacy of intercessory prayer, the value of devotional activity, and the idea of God’s providence (caring oversight of the world). God’s distance from the world s/he created also meant that revelation did not occur and hence the Bible had no authority.  The articulation of these positions appeared gradually as did the working out of the implications.

The Deist position would appear in rudimentary form in the writings of Edward Herbert, Baron of Cherbury (1583-1648), Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704) and be developed in the writings of Anthony Collins (1676-1729), John Toland (1670-1722), Matthew Tindal (1657-1733), Thomas Chubb (1679-1747), and Peter Annet (1693-1769). By the 1720s, the thrust of the Enlightenment thought would be found in France where Deistic themes had been pioneered by Protestant thinker Pierre Bayle (1674-1706) and . The Enlightenment and all its aspects would then be articulated in all its aspects by the likes of the Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach (1723-1789), Marquis de Montesquieu (1688-1755), Denis Diderot (1713-1784), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), and Voltaire. In Great Britain, The Enlightenment would be carried forth by Adam Smith (1723-1790), David Hume (1711-1766), and Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Toward the end of the century, it would influence a generation of revolutionaries in America, including the likes of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, and Elihu Palmer.

The German phase of the Enlightenment is usually dated from the mid-seventeenth century, its first major figure being Gottfried Wilhem Von Leibnez, (1646–1716). German Deists included most notably Christian Wolff (1679-1754), Johann Christian Edelmann (1698--1767), and Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768), and the deist movement reached its zenith in the careers of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) and Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832). Deism was also influential of the founding of Reform Judaism, most notably in the thought of Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786)

In the early nineteenth century, Deism would largely decline and be superseded by Unitarianism and atheistic Freethought (such as appeared among Percy Brysshe Shelley and the other romantic poets).


Becker, Carl L. The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1932. 2nd ed. 2003. 196 pp.

Berlin, Isaiah, ed. Age of Enlightenment: The Eighteenth Century Philosophers.  Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1956. 657 pp. Rpt New York: New American Library, 1962, 282 pp.

-----. The Proper Study of Mankind, edited by Henry Hardy and Roger Hausheer, New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1997.

–––,. The Roots of Romanticism, edited by Henry Hardy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Bookchin, Murray. The Spanish Anarchists—The Heroic Years, 1868-1933. New York: Harper, 1978.

Cassirer, Ernst. The Philosophy of the Enlightenment. Trans. by Fritz C. A. Koelln and James P. Pettegrove. Princeton, NJ: Princeton 1951 366 pp.  Rev. ed. 2007. 392 pp.                

Chisick, Harvey. Historical Dictionary of the Enlightenment. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005. 512 pp

Collins, James. God in Modern Philosophy. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1959. 476 pp.

Delon, Michel. Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. 2 vols. London: Routledge, 2001. 1480pp

Derkx, Peter. “Modern Humanism in the Netherlands.” In Annemie Halsema & Douwe van Houten, eds. Empowering Humanity: State of the Art in Humanistics. Utrecht, Netherlands: De Tijdstroom uitgeverij, Utrecht, 2002, pp. 61-79.  Posted at

Farrar, Adam. A Critical History of Freethought in Reference to the Christian Religion. New York: D. Appleton 1988.

Gay, Peter. Deism: An Anthology. New York: Van Nostrand, 1968.

-----. The Enlightenment: A comprehensive anthology. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985. 829 pp.

-----. The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995. 532 pp.

-----. The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996. 744 pp.

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 Hampshire, Stuart, ed. The Age of Reason: The Seventeenth-Century Philosophers. New York: Mentor Books, 1956.

Hampson, Norman. The Enlightenment Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1961. 678 pp.

Hazard, Paul. The European Mind, 1680–1715. Translated by J. Lewis May. London: Hollis and Carter, 1953.

Himmelfarb, Gertrude. The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. 284 pp.

Horkheimer, and Theodor W, Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment. Trans. by Edmund Jephcott. Ed. by Gunzelin Schmid Noerr. New York: The Seabury Press, 1972. 258 pp. Rpt,:  Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

Hunter, Michael, and David Wootton, eds. Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. 307 pp.

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-----.  Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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Leland, John. A View of the Principal Deistical Writers .1754. Rpt.: 2 vols. London: W. Baynes, 1808. Posted at  
The Presbyterian minister John Leland wrote the first historical survey of the movement.

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Schmidt, James, ed. What Is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

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Sutcliffe, Adam. Judaism and Enlightenment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 338 pp.

Wootton, David. "New Histories of Atheism." In Michael Hunter and David Wootton, ed.  Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992, 

Yolton, John W. et al. The Blackwell Companion to the Enlightenment. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 1991. 581 pp.

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