Faustus Socinus and a naturalistic Christianity
Faustus Socinus, also known as Faust Paolo Sozzini and sometimes as Faust Socyn, died on this day, March 4, 1604.
It is fair to identify it with a naturalistic current within the Christian tradition, with Socinus focusing on the pure humanity of Jesus, and a religion that arises with this understanding.
I like to share something about him most every year, sometimes on his birthday, sometimes on the anniversary of his death.
It is worth noting…
Faustus was born in Siena in Tuscany on December 5, 1539.
He was educated at home and soon came under the influence of his uncle Celso, who encouraged the boy’s seeking intellect, as well as another of his uncles, Lelio, a humanist thinker, intellectual and increasingly anti-Trinitarian Renaissance.
When he inherited a small fortune, Faustus began more formal studies at the Academia deli Intronati, there he showed talent in law as well as a poet. Early in 1561 he came under suspicion of holding Lutheran views and thought it wise to move on.
The following year he was writing against the divinity of Christ and the idea of an immortal soul. He returned to Italy and for a time kept his developing views to himself while working as a lawyer. Faust then moved to Basel where he embarked on a serious study of the Bible. From there he thought it wise to move to Transylvania, which for a brief glorious time was the center of intellectual and spiritual freedom in Europe. There he consulted the anti-Trinitarian theologian Francis David. They argued over the use of traditional theological language applied to the new radical Unitarianism.
And from there Faustus moved to Poland. And here he fell with the Polish Brethren. Unitarian Universalist minister and historian Mark Worth tells us that the Brethren, or more formally, the Minor Reformed Church of Poland, was “a Unitarian denomination…Its principal theologian was Faustus Socinus…so they are known to history as of Socinians.
“The Socinians rejected the Doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, rejected the doctrine of Hell, argued for the separation of church and state, and rejected military service.” They indeed became the first Christian association, after the Ebionites in Antiquity, to believe in a naturalistic Jesus.
With this, many doors would be opened.
The church lasted for nearly a hundred years, until, as Mark tells us, “In 1658 the Socians were given the choice of converting to Catholicism, going into exile, or being executed.”
Among the most important things about the Polish Brethren was the press which they established at Racow, which spread socialist teachings throughout Europe, and which many years later would be critical, especially by its unitary character. Catechism to the formation of Anglophone Unitarianism.
The streams of influence from Faustus Socinius would continue through Unitarianism and influence those seeking a naturalistic Christianity to this day…