Friday, May 28, 2010

John Locke on "Christian-Deism"

Here.

As men, we have God for our King, and are under the law of reason: as christians, we have Jesus the Messiah for our King, and are under the law revealed by him in the gospel. And though every christian, both as a deist and a christian, be obliged to study both the law of nature and the revealed law, that in them he may know the will of God, and of Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent; yet, in neither of these laws, is there to be found a select set of fundamentals, distinct from the rest, which are to make him a deist, or a christian. But he that believes one eternal, invisible God, his Lord and King, ceases thereby to be an atheist; and he that believes Jesus to be the Messiah, his king, ordained by God, thereby becomes a christian, is delivered from the power of darkness, and is translated into the kingdom of the Son of God; is actually within the covenant of grace, and has that faith, which shall be imputed to him for righteousness; and, if he continues in his allegiance to this his King, shall receive the reward, eternal life.

28 comments:

Pinky said...

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Thanks for posting that quotation from John Locke. I'm sure it's going to get some mileage.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

As Locke uses the term here, it appears all Christianity is deistic, hence "Christian deism" is a redundancy.

bpabbott said...

Re: "it appears all Christianity is deistic"

Given the five Common Notions of early Deism, I agree.

Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Van Dyke said...

If I read the surrounding material correctly, it seems that Locke ties deism necessarily to a belief/acknowledgment of "natural law" theory. Opens a new dimension---opinions sought on this---especially since Locke seems to add the dimension of "divine will" to the law of nature.

Interesting link. [See also p. 85 on "self-evident," angry footnote vs. Strauss p.31.]

bpabbott said...

Minor quibble, but it wasn't Locke who tied "divine will" to the law of nature.

Lord Herbert Cherbury (1538-1648) did so a bit earlier than John Locke (1632-1704).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, and the later Schoolmen before that, viz. the link provided. The point being that natural law picks up a divine will dimension, more than a mere "natural theology."

bpabbott said...

Re: "The point being that natural law picks up a divine will dimension, more than a mere "natural theology.""

ahh ... ok. I was interpreting the "will" metaphorically.

King of Ireland said...

This seems to say that Christians are Deists, in that they believe in the God of nature, and followers of Christ(Christians) when they believe in the revealed law.

This ties in with law of nature and natures God which is a Christian term. I do not think they used the term Deist in canon law though.


I agree with Ben that based on the 5 things he gave earlier there is no difference.

More interesting to me personally but not that germane to political theology is why one cannot come to know God(salvation) through general revelation. Most of the world has never heard of the Bible. That is why I ask. In other words, Aquinas and company may have some western bias and did not take their thoughts to their logical conclusions for the nations of the world.

Who knows? Good post though Jon.

Pinky said...

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What I seem to get out of it is not that Christians are Deists; but, that Deists can be Christians. Yet, they aren't necessarily so.
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When I was a child, during the late thirties and early forties, in a church of vanguard Fundamentalism,there were debates regarding Old Testament teachings as being what Jesus came against.
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Pinky said...

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John Locke statement that Christians "...be obliged to study both the law of nature..." makes me think of what the apostle Paul has to say in Romans chapter one, verse twenty, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.".
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Good support for Deist thinking.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

James Wilson, Founder, Supreme Court justice, and one of the top 3 Framers of the Constitution:

"But when I say that, in free states, the law of nations is the law of the people; I mean that, as the law of nature, in other words, as the will of nature's God, it is indispensably binding upon the people, in whom the sovereign power resides; and who are, consequently, under the most sacred obligations to exercise that power, or to delegate it to such as will exercise it, in a manner agreeable to those rules and maxims, which the law of nature prescribes to every state, for the happiness of each, and for the happiness of all.

How vast--how important--how interesting are these truths! They announce to a free people how exalted their rights; but, at the same time, they announce to a free people how solemn their duties are.

If a practical knowledge and a just sense of these rights and these duties were diffused among the citizens, and properly impressed upon their hearts and minds; how great, how beneficial, how lasting would be their fruits!"


How many "modern" people today would find this oppressive, if not alien??!!

bpabbott said...

Re: "How many "modern" people today would find this oppressive, if not alien??"

Between few and none I hope.

King of Ireland said...

Pinky,

In my view the God of nature is found in Romans 1 and 2. Locke wrote a commentary on Romans I will go look up what he wrote on these verses. I think I did look it up once. But I cannot remember what it says. Aquinas called this general revelation. Meaning we use are reason but it reason written on man's heart by God.

I think he felt that sin messed up the things the part of our reason that could connect with God, sotierology if you will, but that the part that could perceive the natural law in regards to human conduct was uninjured.

This is where some say Locke differed but I do not see it. He certainly believed in original sin. Amos goes into this a great deal but I think I lost the book and it was so complicated I forgot a lot of what he said about it.

Pinky said...

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Thank, I am looking forward to reading more from you on this.
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One of the books I am reading is The March of Unreason by Dick Taverne. He names Locke as the father of liberal democracy. And, is quoting him in the area where I am focused.
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Pinky said...

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http://www.amazon.com/March-Unreason-Science-Democracy-Fundamentalism/dp/0199205620

King of Ireland said...

Romans 2:14-15

14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)


Locke on verse 14:

"14 - M» tsfur uc«7ic, "having not the law,'' or not having a law. The apostle by the word law, generally, in this epistle, signifying a positive law, given by God, and promulgated by a revelation from heaven, with the sanction of declared rewards and punishments annexed to it, it is not improbable, that in this verse, (where, by the Greek particle, he so plainly points out the law of Moses) by rajuot, without the article, may intend law in general,in his sense of a law, and so this verse may be translated thus: " for when the Gentiles, who have not a law, do by nature the things contained in the law ; these, not having a law, are alaw to themselves." And so ver. 12," As many as have sinned, being under a law,shall be judged by a law." For though, from Adam to Christ, there was no revealed, positive law, but that given to the Israelites; yet it is certain that,by Jesus Christ, a positive law from heaven is given to all mankind, and that those to whom this has been promulgated, by the preaching of the Gospel, are all under it, and shall be judged by it."

There was nothing in his notes for Romans 1:18-19 and nothing about 2:15. He seems to think that those who do not have the Bible will be judged by the laws of nature. This is where I wonder if he thinks they can live up to it. Or are they screwed because they never heard?

In other words, back to Jon's citation here, how do the "Deists" reconcile with God? He seems to believe is original sin so hard to say?

King of Ireland said...

I think what Paul is saying here is that those gentiles that listen to their conscience can find God. After all, Abraham did not have a bible if Moses wrote Genesis. Though I think Abraham wrote part of Genesis.

Just my two cents. But very germane to the whole revelation vs. reason debate.

Tom Van Dyke said...

One of my personal favorites, Tom West, on Locke, touching on many of the points raised here.

http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=WT01F1

King of Ireland said...

page 85 of Tom's link states that Locke and Aquinas both thought that "the first principle of reason" are self evident but that Locke thought differed in that he did not think they were inate.

Amos goes into this and disagrees. Very complicated issue. He says people misinterpret Locke.

He certainly was no atheist though. He ever stated that should be banned from academia.

King of Ireland said...

From Tom's second link:

"This is easily understood. If, as the Founders argued, the law of nature commands self-preservation and liberty, then it implies that we have a right to our own life and liberty, and a duty not to take away the life or liberty of others."

Locke's entire argument from imago dei via Jesus:


Love God and your neighbor as yourself.

THE FOUNDATION OF THE RATIONAL CHRISTIAN WEST.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, imago Dei is the Book of Genesis; Jesus needn't be dragged in.

I had two purposes here

a) To point out that Locke's use of "deism" includes not only natural law, but natural law as "God's will," a much "Christian thought" view than a bland assessment of "deism" would indicate.

b) Also, although Locke rejects "innate" ideas, this minor philosophical point is often exploited by frankly "secular" analysts like Leo Strauss and this fellow to de-Christianize Locke and create a split with Christian thought and traditional [Aquinas] natural law---so much so that the "secular" narrative denies Locke even supports the idea of natural law!

This is the discussion out there.

Now, I don't accept the "secular" Locke, but even if the Strauss-types are correct, American Founders like Alexander Hamilton [in The Farmer Refuted] and James Wilson [see quote above] by no means saw Locke as anything but Christian and in accord with traditional natural law [ala Rev. Richard Hooker].

When these Americans read Locke's words as cited in Jon's original post here, they clearly read them as an endorsement of traditional natural law theory.

And Ben, I think if King took Locke's or James Wilson's words on one of his expeditions into the leftosphere, they'd call him a religious fanatic.

Dan said...

I'm no scholar, but it seems that everyone with a belief in Deity, in whatever form that belief takes, have a common platform on which to build unity, rather than division among all mankind.

This is an idea which is desperately needed in today's world.

King of Ireland said...

"Jesus needn't be dragged in."

What many do not realize is why Jesus stated that he did not come to abolish the law but fulfill it he was stating that he was not adding anything new but confirming and clarifying the old in the face of the perversions of the time. So you are absolutely correct to say that he does not need to be dragged into political theology based on natural law.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I believe Jesus was speaking of the Mosaic Law. My understanding of this passage is that Jesus universalized it, applying it to all men, Gentiles and not just Jews.

According to Ashcraft, in his "LetterLocke argues that Christ's fulfillment of The Law gets rid of a lot of the excuses for religious persecution found in the Old Testament.

"Claiming that the phrase "Hear O Israel" (Deuteronomy 5:1) "sufficiently restricts the obligations of the law of Moses to that people," he specifically relieves his readers from the duties of the Decalogue.

I would agree with Ashcraft provisionally: Locke's regard of "Honor thy father and mother" goes only as far as childraising via natural law.

Theologically, this would be a more modern interpretation and a break with the past. It's also a feature of unitarian Christianity, that the Mosaic Law was sort of an early and transitional version of God's will, for the Jews only. Jesus Christ would not demand intolerance or persecution.

Further, Locke [contra Hooker] wants to separate the modern state from echoing the governments and politics of the Old Testament and the Jewish people. It's unclear, however, how much our Founding era caught this deviation.

King of Ireland said...

"Further, Locke [contra Hooker] wants to separate the modern state from echoing the governments and politics of the Old Testament and the Jewish people"

Aquinas did too from what I have read.

As far as all the ceremonial law not being needed I believe that part of the "fulfillment" and that legalistic Jewish interpretations of this stuff missed the point.
Aquinas goes through this in detail. I have read parts of it but not all of it.

King of Ireland said...

Yes I believe Jesus was speaking of the law of Moses. I should have been more clear.

Pinky said...

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Seems as though someone would put Jesus' words in the context of what was going on during the Nicene Conference when the Bible was made official.
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