Sunday, February 21, 2010

Locke, Noah and Man as the "Workmanship of God"

By King of Ireland with editorial suggestions by Jon Rowe.

Previously at American Creation, I asked two questions I think better frame the "Christian Nation" debate in clearer context. They are:

1. Which Christian ideas, if any, helped bring us into the modern world?

And:

2. Which Christian ideas, if any, derail us from progressing toward the modern world?
Jack Goldstone's essay at "Cato Unbound" arguing "a community of free individuals sovereign over a limited state" created the engineering culture that launched the modern world, inspired my posts here.

Goldstone wrote:

"What I believe is most critical to insist upon is the degree to which Europe itself had to repudiate central elements of its own history and culture — the absolute authority of hereditary rulers, the prohibition of diverse religious beliefs in any one society, the elevation of the rights and needs of political and social status elites above those of ordinary inhabitants — in order to develop and implement the idea of society as a community of free individuals sovereign over a limited state. Yet this was necessary if the marriage of engineering culture and entrepreneurship was to survive and flourish, and produce the economic and technological miracles of the last two centuries."
I argue that Christianity, properly understood, provided the fertile ground that launched modernity, promoting the the idea of the free sovereign individual. And as such, those who invoke the authority of "science" and "rationality" should be less hostile, as many of them oft-seem, to what I term "rational Christianity," a theological system that helped bring about science, rationality and political liberty.

In this vein, I argue "rational Christianity" and the "rational Judaism" that preceded it, grounds inalienable rights in the notion that man is the workmanship of God and His property. Genesis 1 first discussed this notion when God states man is made in His image. Later in Genesis, the idea is further expounded when God tells Noah it is wrong for man to murder man because he is made in God's image.

This notion was promoted by medieval Roman Catholic Canon Law, most notably by St. Thomas Aquinas, and later by the Anglican natural law theologian Richard Hooker. Citing Hooker, John Locke's Second Treatise directly influenced the Declaration of Independence.

Locke's Second Treatise stresses that inalienable rights exist because man is God's Workmanship and as such, His property.

With that, ladies and gentlemen, John Locke:

"This equality of men by Nature, the judicious Hooker looks upon as so evident in nature and beyond all question, that he makes it the foundation of that obligation to mutual love amongst men on which he builds the duties they owe one another, and from whence he derives the great maxims of justice and charity. His words are:

'The like natural inducement hath brought men to know that it is no less their duty to love others than themselves, for seeing those things which are equal, must needs all have one measure; if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire, which is undoubtedly in other men weak, being of one and the same nature : to have anything offered them repugnant to this desire must needs, in all respects, grieve them as much as me; so that if I do harm, I must look to suffer, there being no reason that others should show greater measure of love to me than they have by me showed unto them; my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be,imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to fbemward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.'

But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license; though man in that state have an uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for iw The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions; 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.

And, being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of Nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours. Every one as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he as much as he can to preserve the rest of mankind, and not unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another."

26 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Also relevant is Samuel Adams, Calvinist extraordinaire, in The Rights of the Colonists,
1772---and also a window into how the colonists understood Locke*---

"In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof
is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practised, and, both by
precept and example, inculcated on mankind. And it is now generally agreed among
Christians that this spirit of toleration, in the fullest extent consistent with
the being of civil society, is the chief characteristical mark of the Church.
Insomuch that Mr. Locke has asserted and proved, beyond the possibility of
contradiction on any solid ground, that such toleration ought to be extended to
all whose doctrines are not subversive of society..."


What we see here is that religious tolerance is becoming a "Christian" principle, even among the orthodox. If this is "rational" Christianity, then Christianity in America as a whole was becoming "rational," and "rational" no longer works as a dividing line from "orthodox."
_______________

*I say this because Locke also deviates from Aquinas and Hooker on natural law and indeed things like "honor thy father & mother." However, I don't see recognition of those deviations in the writings of James Wilson, Hamilton and Sam Adams.

King of Ireland said...

Tom,

I am not sure where the deviations are though I have heard it a lot. I do agree with your comment though and that is why I think the whole discussion over deist vs. orthodox is overblown. The political theology is most relevant.

Tom Van Dyke said...

According to Leo Strauss' close reading of Locke in the very passage you cite,

"The passage is used by Hooker for establishing the duty of loving one's neighbor as oneself; it is used by Locke for establishing the equality of all men. In the same context, Locke replaces the duty of mutual love, of which Hooker has spoken, with the duty of refraining from harming others, i.e., he drops the duty of charity."

In other words, Locke is not exactly following or even using Hooker faithfully. We, who are skimming, even carefully, would be oblivious to that fact, since few---even those who write our history books---read as closely as Strauss, and even fewer have read both Hooker and Locke with the care Strauss did. Especially Hooker.

At this point I just wanted to caution quoting Locke as faithfully following Hooker: he did not. Just to avoid overgeneralizations and assertions that aren't exactly supported by the facts, or by the actual Lockean text.


I am willing to argue, however, that the American colonists and Founders didn't quite penetrate Locke's deviation from Aquinas and Hooker, and read Locke more on the surface than in the subtleties.

And so, I do want to get to Christian charity and agape as principles inherent in the Founding. On that, that such things are inherent in the foundation of America's political theology, we agree. But Strauss puts a proper red flag here on claiming that it's Locke.

[See p. 216-222 in Strauss' Natural Right and History. Jon.]


But our concern as a history blog is more the Founders' understanding of Locke in an already Christian context, not from the more secular context of our modern worldview and penetrating scholarship, and indeed, the latter might have a better handle on the "real" Locke than the Founders did.

But for a contrary view, see this

http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/5/3/4/4/p153448_index.html

which I haven't read yet meself, but looks promising.

Joe Winpisinger said...

"The passage is used by Hooker for establishing the duty of loving one's neighbor as oneself; it is used by Locke for establishing the equality of all men. "

I would argue that they are one in the same theologically. My next post will probably look into the verse about loving God and your neighbor as yourself. It is out of reverence of God that one loves the image of God in self and neighbor.

As far as how Strauss takes it that would be an interesting study. If I can sell real estate the next few years I can make it to law school to study all this in depth. I might need a theology and law degree to really get to the bottom of this though.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And I realize I just got into the tall weeds, but it was just to point out that these discussions often get pulled into the tall weeds. And productive discussion ends.

Just like the Founders, I think.

They were quite aware of the tall weeds, whether it was theological doctrine or the fine points of political philosophy, and consciously avoided them.

Doctrine was far too divisive, and where Locke was too radical, men like James Wilson and John Witherspoon [perhaps the sharpest of the Founders along with Madison] and perhaps Hamilton and Sam Adams simply plowed through.

And Washington, too. The "old fox" who they could never pin down about his religious beliefs.

Americans love religion. Not just too much of it, and as unspecific as possible, if you please. Every ounce of specificity on doctrine loses you votes.

Joe Winpisinger said...

Tom,

I read some of the paper you cited contra Strauss. One thing that jumped out to me was the problems that Strauss had with the weakness of Christianity is the same as mine. I think it is the difference between the Augustine view that I feel devalues the "world" and the Locke view that I feel seeks to progress the world. Many people do not have a problem with the Bible it is fatalistic interpretations that are anti progress. This is the theme that is at the heart of my posts. I am having trouble articulating it and pointing out the difference.

I think it is time for me to start my theological writings again on my personal blog and sort all this out in my own mind.

As far as the history is concerned you are right the rubber meets the road with how those that influenced the DOI read Locke. Adams "defence of Constitutions" where he praises Ponnet and others including Locke seems to point to his thoughts. Jefferson is more elusive but I think his theology got vetoed in the sense that 3 God references were added. His use of interposition in clear in that he used many of the same arguments in the Kentucky Resolution of 1798.

The question is what type of interposition. Frazer claims not Calvin which is debatable. But the Ponnet and 1688 versions are similar to Jefferson's and Madison's thoughts in 1798 it seems on the surface. Much study ahead to get to the bottom of this. But for sure Barton's overall thesis about the real history not being taught has some weight despite his shitty evidence.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It is out of reverence of God that one loves the image of God in self and neighbor.


Yeah, that's it.

As Paul Tillich put it---who was no "orthodox" Christian theologian, but one who Founding-era unitarians would have completely dug---we do not love our neighbor because he is lovable. He is not.

Christians love their neighbor because he is made in the image of God, and they love God.

And it takes a helluva lot of work. Even friends betray you, as Jesus learned, eh?

This is what's missed in all this, the difference between "humanism" and Christianity.

As Charles Schulz put it, in the mouth of his prophet Linus, I love mankind, it's people I can't stand.

That was the Founding, man. Man is best when he is free, and that's the way God planned it. No more, no less.

Avoid the tall weeds. They did.

Joe Winpisinger said...

"Avoid the tall weeds"

I think this post does that in that it gets to the core of Christian thought that Jesus said summed up the commandments. It is simple yet complex. I enjoy wrestling with these ideas and how to practically live it out.

Pinky said...

.
I guess I can see how some of this talk attempts to make a connection between the Founding and certain Christian thought.
,
But, there was a line in the Goldstone quotation on which I'd like to read some comments here, "...in order to develop and implement the idea of society as a community of free individuals sovereign over a limited state.
.
Respect for the group seems to be one way of carrying out the commandment, i.e., Godly order to love one's neighbor.
.

Joe Winpisinger said...

Pinky I am not sure what you are asking? If you could clarify I can respond better. I am assuming it has something to do with the whole private public idea.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

If I may...hope it is not the "tall weeds", though..

Christian philosophy is useful for Christian commitment, which seems to be the goal of this post. But, I think using "Christian" philosophy to manipulate others to commit to a certain way of thinking or being in the world, is just that, unloving to the particular individual...no matter the "greater good" involved! And this is the private/public boundary, which must be respected, if we want to maintain our own liberty!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

In other words, you all seem to argue a "Divine Command" theory of moral development or ethical choice...

Pinky said...

,
In his statement, Goldstone alludes to the idea of community which is all neighbors in common unity with each other. I see that as a playing out of the idea of love people express for their neighbor.
.
Out of the idea comes the idea of the public as you say.
.
So, I was looking for more commentary on what Goldstone is saying in the whole of the quotation you have included.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

But, Pinky, out of the community comes the STATE...if it is NOT personal relations that keep it from being beaucratic...otherwise, law maintains the boundaries around the private and public.

The law in free society is to protect the right of the individual from intrusion into private life..that is, their choice of values for themselves and their families...and yet, does the State have a right to maintain a standard for societial flourishing...such as education, etc.?

Joe Winpisinger said...

Pinky,

My point is that this love of neighbor or community is grounded in love of man our of reverence for the workmanship of God in man.

As far a Goldstone's point:

He is saying that without the right perspective on the essentials of rights and the form of limited government that was crafted as the best protection of those rights the engineering culture that brought about the modern world would have never happened. I think he credits the elightenment with limiting the influence of ideas like the divine right of Kings and inherited aristocracy that held this back. Both of these have roots in Augustian type Christianity. I think the more rational brand of Christianity was actually the fertile ground.

Mainly with the inalienable rights and what they were grounded in. In other words there are two types of political theology that are historically Christian. In general one looks at Romans 13 and decides God has sent the tyrant and submits. The other looks at Romans 13 and realizes that God wants us to oppose the tyrant to protect the image of God in the men the tyrant seeks to oppress.

There it is sloppy and in general. I think Jon hits on this a lot.

Pinky said...

.
It seems to me that what you mean when you say, private, is what I mean when I say, personal.
.
Those two words, private and public, are confusing and need definition as words and terms are identified in contracts. Neither always means the same thing no matter how it is used; but, must be seen in context.
.
Think of personal, private, individual,and public enterprise. Each is a different use of the idea of enterprise. For example, Blue Cross is a private enterprise; whereas, Medicare is a public enterprise. Medicate Advantage is a combination of the two.
.
We the People speaks of the Public and not some individual.
.
Perhaps you'd like to cite some legal precedent for your claims about individualism?
.
You seem to be giving a negative connotation to the word, State. Do you mean to give the impression that the State is an undesirable entity? It's the way we do business as a people. Looks like you would champion every man for himself as in the King of England in the sixteenth century.
.
.

King of Ireland said...

Pinky stated:

"You seem to be giving a negative connotation to the word, State. Do you mean to give the impression that the State is an undesirable entity? It's the way we do business as a people. Looks like you would champion every man for himself as in the King of England in the sixteenth century."

It depends on what kind of state. Free individuals sovereign over a LIMITED STATE is one thing. A using the power of the state to oppress and enslave people is another. You have to read Goldstone's entire essay to see his point. Mine is simple:

Man made in the image of God was the foundation for inalienable rights as expounded upon by Locke. This idea is Christian and from the Bible. Since he had a heavy influence on the DOI I would argue that this idea influence the most foundational phrase of our republican about life, liberty, and property.

That was the point of this post. Modernity, progress, and Christianity do not have to be at odds with one another.

Joe Winpisinger/King of Ireland

Pinky said...

.
My last post was meant for Angie.
.
Joe, I'm tending to lean in your direction. Tending.
.
Do I understand correctly that the Divine Right of Kings was all about the Private right of the king to rule over the people?
.
Was not the Revolution an act of We the People in common unity with each other (in support of each other and in love toward each other and of their unalienable rights) against the private rights, privileges, and prerogatives assumed by the king?
.
Am I missing something?
,

Pinky said...

.
I'm thinking that the idea of community comes from the Great Commandment given by Jesus.
.
That is the sense that I tend to lean in Joe's direction.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Good KOI...and Pinky...

Community must also defer to some things as personal, period! And other things will vary from person to person depending on their personalities.

Personal means that the community respects the individuals within that community to have and maintain certain boundary markers...otherwise, there is enmeshment, not healthy identity development...and co-dependence...

If community means that individuals are supportive of each other in their individually defined endeavors, then fine,,,but not if community acts like a State that spies on the individuals within it...this "accountability" is cultish, not healthy relationships...a heatlhty community respects the right of difference of opinions, convictions and values in general..disclau

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
You asked me if I had any legal grounds to base my assumptions about the individual....yes, the Bill of Rights.

And many other specific precedents that have granted the individual liberty over another standard...Isn't this what civil liberties affirm?

Pinky said...

.
Just to write, "The Bill of Rights", doesn't make your point, Angie.
.
Even so, our context here is the Founding, right?
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And the Founding was all about We the People and against the excesses of private rights, privileges, and prerogatives.
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We can't change that because we want to promote the ideas of individualism.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

"We, the People" was a unifying principle during the Revolution, in opposition to an aristocracy. But, as everything evolves, "We, the people", now means in our present context of the "tea parties", we, the common people who are equal...against the intellectual elite.

The educated are not to oppress the "masses" or use the "masses" for their own benefit. That is the point today and it was Luther's conviction that the 'masses" under the domination of Catholicism would be "freed" by education.

Social identity changes depending on the individual's values and prioritizing of those values, as well as the historical context and need of a given society/people. So individuals may change from time to time, as to their priority.

How do you get someone to do what they don't want to do and yet do it willingly? That is the question for the elite or empowered.

King of Ireland said...

Pinky,

I think you are using a different use of the word individualism than most would understand. I speak not of license to run amok when I use that term. I am speaking more about ordered liberty. There is and always will be a tension between what is good for the individual and the group. I think Locke's words here, properly understood, help us achieve a proper context for that discussion.

This is especially important at a time when the "Tea Party' movement is taking off on the Ron Paul idea of back to the Constitution. To get back to it we have to under it, how it fit in with the ideals of the DOI, and to do both we have to understand how they thought back then. Otherwise it is all hype and nothing will change.

I think most agree we have gotten off track as a nation. The question is why? The devil is in the details.

King/Joe (I never remember to switch back to my other account so I will just sign everything with this so people realize Joe and KOI are one in the same)

Pinky said...

.
Come on, Angie.
.
Come on.
.
You know better than that.
.

Pinky said...

.
Well, I certainly appreciate your comments.
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But, the thought that "ordered" liberty is something the rich and or aristocracy is going to volunteer is a little stretched.
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Sure the individual is important. I am as important as anyone in that sense and so is everyone else. But, our system of government was put together to represent We the People.
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Even so, and of course, there were always those with major selfish goals and desires. They are there now and they were there then.
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But, the fact remains, the Revolution was against the excesses of private rights, privileges, and prerogatives of the wealthiest of men--the king of England,
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See how the Declaration lists his excesses?
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By the way, the problem of the rights, privileges, and prerogatives of private interests are what is being debated in congress today. Shall those rights trump the rights of We the People. Maybe I could write, We Individuals who make up We the People?
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