Friday, April 20, 2012

John Locke - Christian Theologian

John Locke's latter works were primarily on theological subjects which include:

Essay Concerning Toleration (published in 1689) Locke wrote this work privately in 1667 and eventually published the work in 1689 as A Letter Concerning Toleration. The work was published anonymously. To openly criticize and challenge the Anglican church at that time would place his life in immediate danger. Openly challenging the established government Church of England was often met with brutal oppression.

The Anglican Church and its 39 Doctrinal Articles were the standard for all religious faith in Britain under English law. Every British subject was required by law to attend Anglican Church services. Persecution of Dissenters which included death was the consequence for those who opposed the Anglican requirements.
John Locke objected to the establishment of specific church doctrines by law and enforced by the Crown. He firmly argued for a separation of the Church from the state.
He urged the Anglican clergy to be tolerant to those Christians who did not adhere to the doctrines of the Church of England. His position was attacked by defenders of the established Church of England so he responded with A Second Letter Concerning Toleration in 1690 and A Third Letter for Toleration in 1692. Both of these works were published anonymously.
John Locke's latter theological subjects which include:

(1695) The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures

(1695) A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity

(1697) A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity

(1697) A Common-Place-Book to the Holy Bible This book was a re-publication of what Locked called:
(1676) Graphautarkeia, or, The Scriptures Sufficiency Practically Demonstrated

(1707) Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians This work was published posthumously in 1707.

John Locke urged the Church of England to reform itself thus allowing the inclusion of members of other Christian denominations. Hence, this would be inclusive of Dissenters. This proposition was included in his work Reasonableness of Christianity. Locke urged the Church of England to place less emphasis upon liturgy, structure, and church hierarchy, and forms of church discipline. He urged the Church of England to place emphasis upon the major doctrines of Christianity such as one's personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Locke firmly defended Christianity against attacks of secularists, and skeptics. Secularists argued that one must reject Divine revelation for truth could be established through reason. His Reasonableness of Christianity evoked strong virulent criticism from secularists and rationalists. Hence, he took up the pen to write A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity (1695) and A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity (1697).

John Locke was the author of the Two Treatises of Government or "Two Treatises of Government: In the Former, The False Principles and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, And His Followers, are Detected and Overthrown. The Latter is an Essay concerning The True Original, Extent, and End of Civil-Government") which he published anonymously in 1689.

In the first treatise, John Locke invoked 1,349 references from the Holy Bible. He invokes the Bible 157 more times in his second treatise. As John Adams acknowledged:

The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence. . . . were the general principles of Christianity. .  Now I will avow that I then believed (and now believe) that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God. . . . In favor of these general principles in philosophy, religion, and government, I [c]ould fill sheets of quotations from . . . [philosophers including] Locke – not to mention thousands of divines and philosophers of inferior fame.”

Previous generations readily recognized the Christian principles which permeated Locke's writings. John Locke was actually considered to be a Christian theologian! Richard Watson includes John Locke as a Christian theologian in his work: Theological Institutes: or a View of the Evidences, Doctrines, Morals, and Institutes of ChristianityLocke included repeated references to the Holy Scriptures and to God in his writings and made specific works defending Christianity. 

The First Tract of Government was written in 1660 and was followed by Second Tract of Government written in 1662. Eventually, they were published in 1689 as Two Treatises of Government. John Locke brilliantly refuted Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha. Filmer attempted to produce biblical support to justify the errant doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings in his treatise.

He followed up his first treatise in which he refutes the Divine Right of Kings with his second treatise in which he presents the rudimentary principles that define the proper role, purpose, and operation of sound government. Many of those principles had been enacted during the rule of Lord Cromwell and eventually under the reign of William and Mary.

Questions Concerning the Law of Nature was written in 1664. Locke asserts that reason and Divine revelation are fully compatible and NOT enemies for the Law of Nature came from God. Although this work wasn't published, several of the concepts argued in the work appear in his other writings.

English theologian Richard Price affirms the fact that Anglican apologists sought to malign him and to lessen his influence.

[W]hen . . . Mr. Locke’s Essay on the Human Understanding was first published in Britain, the persons readiest to attend to it and to receive it were those who have never been trained in colleges, and whose minds, therefore, had never been perverted by an instruction in the jargon of the schools. [But t]o the deep professors [i.e., clergy and scholars] of the times, it appeared (like the doctrine taught in his book, on the Reasonableness of Christianity) to be a dangerous novelty and heresy; and the University of Oxford in particular [which trained only Anglicans] condemned and reprobated the author.”

The bigoted motives behind the attacks on John Locke's Christian beliefs were not unnoticed by the Founders of our Republic. The founders vigorously defended Locke from false and malicious charges.

James Wilson, signer of the Declaration of Independence declared:

I am equally far from believing that Mr. Locke was a friend to infidelity [a disbelief in the Bible and in Christianity]. . . . The high reputation which he deservedly acquired for his enlightened attachment to the mild and tolerating doctrines of Christianity secured to him the esteem and confidence of those who were its friends. The same high and deserved reputation inspired others of very different views and characters . . . to diffuse a fascinating kind of lustre over their own tenets of a dark and sable hue. The consequence has been that the writings of Mr. Locke, one of the most able, most sincere, and most amiable assertors of Christianity and true philosophy, have been perverted to purposes which he would have deprecated and prevented [disapproved and opposed] had he discovered or foreseen them.

Thomas Jefferson agreed with Wilson for he studied both Locke's treatises on government and his theological works. Thomas Jefferson summarizes Locke's view of Christianity affirming that he was not a deist.

Locke’s system of Christianity is this: Adam was created happy and immortal…. By sin he lost this so that he became subject to total death (like that of brutes [animals]) – to the crosses and unhappiness of this life. At the intercession, however, of the Son of God, this sentence was in part remitted…. And moreover to them who believed, their faith was to be counted for righteousness [Romans 4:3,5]. Not that faith without works was to save them; St. James, chapter 2 says expressly the contrary [James 2:14-26]…. So that a reformation of life (included under repentance) was essential, and defects in this would be made up by their faith; i. e., their faith should be counted for righteousness [Romans 4:3,5]…. The Gentiles; St. Paul says, Romans 2:13: “the Gentiles have the law written in their hearts,” [A]dding a faith in God and His attributes that on their repentance, He would pardon them; (1 John 1:9) they also would be justified (Romans 3:24). This then explains the text “there is no other name under heaven by which a man may be saved” [Acts 4:12], i. e., the defects in good works shall not be supplied by a faith in Mahomet, Fo [Buddha], or any other except Christ.”

The charges that Locke was a deist and freethinker have been trumpeted for three centuries. Those false charges originated from his advocating major reforms within the Church of England. As I indicated, Locke proposed a separation of church from the Crown of England. Furthermore, he sought to extend religious toleration to Christians of other denominations. Hence, he was accused of deism and being irreligious by Anglican apologists who were offended by his criticism. 

Locke published his treatise On Civil Government in 1689 in this important work he asserted:

"[The] great and Chief End, therefore, of Men uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under Government, is the preservation of their property...
For men being all the Workmanship of one Omnipotent, and infinitely wise Maker: all the Servants of one Sovereign Master, sent into the World by his Order, and about his Business, they are his Property, whose Workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure...
Those Grants God made of the World to Adam, and to Noah, and his Sons...has given the Earth to the Children of Men, given it to Mankind in common...
God, who hath given the World to Men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best Advantage of Life and Convenience."

Locke wrote on natural law and natural rights in his Two Treatises on Government, August 23, 1689:

"The obligations of the Law of Nature cease not in society, but only in many cases are drawn closer, and have, by human laws, known penalties annexed to them to enforce their observation.
Thus the Law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions conformable to the Law of Nature, i.e. to the will of God, of which that is a declaration, and the fundamental Law of Nature being the preservation of mankind, no human sanction can be good or valid against it.

In 1690, he wrote in The Second Treatise on Civil Government:

"Human Laws are measures in respect of Men whose Actions they must direct, albeit such measures they are as have also their higher Rules to be measured by, which Rules are two, the Law of God, and the Law of Nature; so that Laws Human must be made according to the general Laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive Law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made."

John Locke wrote paraphrase of the books of Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians. 

In 1695, he wrote A Vindication of Reasonableness of Christianity.

"He that shall collect all the morals of the philosophers and compare them with those contained in the New Testament will find them to come short of the morality delivered by our Savior and taught be His disciples: a college made up of ignorant but inspired fishermen...
Such a law of morality Jesus Christ has given in the New Testament, but by the latter of these ways, by revelation, we have from Him a full and sufficient rule for our direction, and conformable to that of reason. But the word and obligation of its precepts have their force, and are past doubt to us, by the evidence of His mission.
He was sent by God: His miracles show it; and the authority of God in His precepts can not be questioned. His morality has a sure standard, that revelation vouches, and reason can not gainsay nor question; but both together witness to come from God, the great Lawgiver.
And such a some as this, out of the New Testament, I think, they would never find, nor can anyone say is anywhere else to be found...
To one who is persuaded that Jesus Christ was sent by God to be a King and a Savior to those who believe in Him, all His commands become principles; there needs no other proof for the truth of what He says, but that He said it; and then there needs no more but to read the inspired books to be instructed.
Our Savior's great rule, that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, is such a fundamental truth for the regulating of human society, that, by that alone, one might without difficulty determine all the cases and doubts in social morality."

John Locke declared:

"The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. - It has God for its author; salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture for its matter. - It is all pure, all sincere; nothing too much; nothing wanting."

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