An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Butler, Joseph

(May 18, 1692-June 16, 1752). Bishop and opponent of deism. He was born in Wantage, England, to Presbyterian parents. In 1714 he left the Presbyterians, joined the Church of England, and entered Oriel College, Oxford. Butler was ordained priest in 1718. From 1719 until 1726, he was the preacher at Rolls Chapel, London. From 1726 until 1738, he held a variety of positions, and on Dec. 3, 1738, he was consecrated Bishop of Bristol. On Oct. 16, 1750, he was translated to become Bishop of Durham and remained there until his death. Butler's major publication was The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature (1736), which is the leading orthodox answer to the English deists. In the Advertisement to the book, he acknowledged that it is “taken for granted by many persons that Christianity is not so much as a subject of inquiry; but that it is, now at length, discovered to be fictitious,” and “a principal subject of mirth and ridicule.” Butler refuted this claim and argued that there are reliable grounds for not doubting Christianity. He insisted that nature is no more reliable than revelation, and that “probability is the very guide of life.” Butler died in Bath. He is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on June 16.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.