Sunday, June 9, 2013

Was Locke the First Liberation Theologian?

That question brings to mind the legendary Princeton scholar Paul E. Sigmund, who is one of the foremost scholars on both liberation theology AND John Locke (I may be wrong; but I think he sees a connection.)

As I noted earlier, I don't see this part of the Declaration of Independence as coming from Calvinist resistance theology:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
This is Lockean and it is revolutionary. Lino Graglia, who last I checked wasn't particularly religious (at least he wasn't when he wrote what follows), draws the necessary connection between God and revolutions:
"What [the Declaration of Independence] is, of course, is a document meant to justify revolution -- that is, illegal action. Having no human law to rely on -- being in defiance of authority -- revolutionaries necessarily come to rely on the law of God, who, happily, rarely issues a protest."

40 comments:

wsforten said...

It strikes me as very interesting that Mr. Graglia failed to recognize that the Declaration consists of a list of the king's violations of British law. One line in particular: "He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us" is a specific reference to the famous Calvin's Case of 1608. In Calvin’s Case, the court stated that:

As the subject oweth to the King his true and faithful ligeance and obedience, so the Sovereign is to govern and protect his Subjects, to rule and protect the subjects: so as between the Sovereign and subject there is a dual and reciprocal tie, because just as the subject is bound in obedience to the king, so the king is bound to the protection of the subject; and therefore allegiance is properly so called from ligando (tying) because it contains within itself a two-way tie.

So to read Graglia's statement that the founders had "no human law to rely on" was quite a shock. I'm curious as to what he thinks of this correlation to Calvin's Case.

Mark in Spokane said...

I think that the Declaration is both a revolutionary document and a legal brief defending the original rights of Englishmen held by the colonists. The revolutionary part was designed to appeal largely to those overseas who might support the Cause -- the French and the Dutch, particularly, but also friendly voices in England. The legal brief, though, was the critical part in terms of establishing that the Patriots were not in fact throwing off the law but trying to defend it. In the Patriot view, the Crown in Parliament were the true revolutionaries and the ones who were acting illegally. The Patriots were exercising a right long acknowledged in English practice (from the Barons who forced the Magna Carta to the Glorious Revolution) to use force to resist unlawful actions by the King. In is in precisely this way that the American Revolution was, to use the phrase of M.E. Bradford and Russell Kirk, "a revolution not made but prevented."

The Crown in Parliament acted illegally, and that is what justified American Independence, after all American acts to preserve the Union with Great Britain failed (Olive Branch Petition, etc.). But the Americans never argued or accepted that they acted illegally. Graglia is simply wrong in his assertion. He needs to read more Russell Kirk and more of the Founders themselves in the period leading up to the Revolution.

This is why so much of the argument about whether Christians can disobey the government via revolution misses the boat in regard to the American Revolution. The Americans weren't the rebels, and the Americans weren't the ones trying to subvert the law. The Americans were defending their traditional rights and liberties, and the law that they had known and embraced under the protection of the Crown. When the Crown withdrew its Protection, their obligation to the Crown ceased. Thus, a revolution not made but prevented.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's true the missing link is between religious freedom and civil rights. But Presbyterianism [Calvinistic] does indeed make that argument. Key is the nature of sovereignty, whether God gives it to the king or to the people.

"From "What is Presbyterianism?", Charles Hodge, 1855

This is the reason why civil liberty follows religious liberty. The theory that all Church power vests in a divinely constituted hierarchy, begets the theory that all civil power vests, of divine right, in kings and nobles. And the theory that Church power vests in the Church itself, and all Church officers are servants of the Church, of necessity begets the theory that civil power vests in the people, and that civil magistrates are servants of the people. These theories God has joined together, and no man can put them asunder. It was, therefore, by an infallible instinct, the unfortunate Charles of England said, “No bishop, no king;” by which he meant that if there is no despotic power in the Church, there can be no despotic power in the State; or, if there be liberty in the Church, there will be liberty in the State.

But this great Protestant and Presbyterian principle is not only a principle of liberty, it is also a principle of order.


wsforten said...

Let me quickly address Jon's opening question of "Was Locke the First Liberation Theologian?" I'll refrain from asking for a definition of liberation theology for the moment and simply point out that Locke's philosophy of government is very similar to that which was advocated by Augustine in The City of God. For example, Augustine defined a state as, "an assemblage of reasonable beings bound together by a common agreement." If we were to discover this definition among the writings of the founding fathers instead of those of Augustine, most people would conclude that it is a reference to Locke's social contract. The fact that this statement predates Locke by 1300 years demonstrates that his theories of government have always been a part of Christian theology.

Jonathan Rowe said...

WS:

That, apparently, is the "consent of the governed" part -- the "democratic" part in "liberal democracy." What about the "liberal" part? And what about the part where citizens get to revolt if those ends aren't met?

BTW: Paul Sigmund told me he sees Locke as a liberal Thomist.

wsforten said...

Do you remember reading Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From a Birmingham Jail? He cited both Augustine and Aquinas as teaching the responsibility of Christians to refuse compliance with unjust laws.

Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all." Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.

King was referencing Augustine's book On Free Choice of the Will which I must confess I have not read. However, this same concept can be found predating Augustine in the writings of Origen. His work Contra Celsus contains this statement:

For as those persons would do well who should enter into a secret association in order to put to death a tyrant who had seized upon the liberties of a state, so Christians also, when tyrannized over by him who is called the devil, and by falsehood, form leagues contrary to the laws of the devil, against his power, and for the safety of those others whom they may succeed in persuading to revolt from a government which is, as it were, "Scythian," and despotic.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I see Dr. King's "vision" and actions as more in accord with liberation theology than with traditional (meaning "conservative"?) orthodox Christianity.

wsforten said...

I'm not critiquing King's theology. I only mentioned him to show that Augustine taught resistance to unjust laws. I do not have a copy of Augustine's work on the free will to quote from the original source, so I offered a well known citation in its place. I recognize that a citation of a quote is not as conclusive as an original source quotation hat's why I also provided the statement from Origen.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I may have spoken to soon. It seems to me there is a fine line between resistance to certain laws and revolt. Again back to the notion that part of the DOI is revolutionary, part is legal.

The idea that you obey God not man, but do so while not revolting but remaining subject to the civil legitimacy of the tyranny is in accord with traditional biblical teachings.

That means that you don't resist arrest and you do accept the civil legitimacy of the punishment, even if tyrannical. I may be wrong; but I'm pretty sure King did this.

King also probably had other aspects of his teachings that were revolutionary in nature. But I'm no expert on King.

jimmiraybob said...

wsforten - " However, this same concept can be found predating Augustine in the writings of Origen. "

An it predates Origen in the writings of Cicero - de Legibus.

Augustine was well educated in the Classical Greek and Roman literature as well as philosophy - especially the Neoplatonic system. He was particularly well versed and fond of Cicero.

wsforten said...

Jim,

Augustine actually devoted several chapters to refuting Cicero's definition of a commonwealth before providing his own "social contract" definition in its place. More to the point, however, I recognize that the concept of justified resistance to tyranny predates Origen. In fact, one of the best examples of the theological justification of revolution against tyrants can be found in the third chapter of the book of Judges where the Bible says:

when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera ... Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh. And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab ... And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly.

wsforten said...

Jon,

Before we proceed further, let me point out that at the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence this was a moot point. According to British law, the colonies were made independent with the king's acceptance of the American Prohibitory Act in December of 1775. From that point on, there was no longer any question about whether the colonists could justify a rebellion against their king. They no longer had a king, and the ensuing war was not a rebellion but rather a war of defense against a foreign invader.

Nonetheless, the question is still worthy of discussion, and I would like to know more of your thoughts on this topic. Do you agree that the doctrine of "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God" predates Locke and has been advocated by various Christian theologians throughout the history of the church?

jimmiraybob said...

It should be remembered that Augustine was a worldly person(1) in search of a transcendent philosophical system much akin to Neoplatonism (Plotinus and Porphyry). He flirted for 9-10 years with Manicheaism before deciding later in his life, via Ambrose, to settle into more orthodox Christianity which he felt was a more fertile ground for the transcendence he was looking for. His work, thereafter, incorporated much non-Christian philosophy into what he felt was the crude Christian texts and anthropomorphism available at the time.(2)

To be a little more complete on the relationship between Augustine's and Cicero's take on unjust laws:

The purpose of positive laws is to provide for "the safety of citizens, the preservation of states, and the tranquility and happiness of human life." In this view, "wicked and unjust statutes" are "anything but 'laws,'" because "in the very definition of the term 'law' there inheres the idea and principle of choosing what is just and true."[23](3)

Overall, when it comes to Augustine, or Aquinas, much of their thinking on the formulation of the state and its obligations and relationship to the people is imported from classical Greek and Roman sources.

1) Another famous quote, "Lord, grant me celibacy....but not yet."

2) See Peter Brown's Augustine of Hippo

3) This is a Wiki short cut since I don't have time to get further into it. Although I've posted more authoritative citation to this in the past - and possibly TVD has too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law#cite_note-23

jimmiraybob said...

RE: 3) This is a Wiki short cut since I don't have time to get further into it. Although I've posted more authoritative citation to this in the past - and possibly TVD has too.

The citation is to quotes from Cicero's de Legibus

wsforten said...

Jim,

I am not saying that I agree with everything that Augustine wrote. There is much that he said that I disagree with. I am primarily arguing against Jon's false dichotomy of Calvin vs. Locke. My position is that the view of government expressed in the Declaration of Independence predates both men and can be found in Christian writings throughout the history of the church.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God"

It's not "resistance" to tyrants. It's REBELLION to tyrants.

wsforten said...

Thank you for pointing that out, Jon. Would you mind clarifying what the difference is between resistance and rebellion?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Nonetheless, the question is still worthy of discussion, and I would like to know more of your thoughts on this topic. Do you agree that the doctrine of "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God" predates Locke and has been advocated by various Christian theologians throughout the history of the church?

I don't have it. John Knox, perhaps. Aquinas starts to consider it, but doesn't get there.

http://www.hyoomik.com/aquinas/regicide.html

You still need some illegitimacy [which the Declaration alleges] not just mere tyranny. Rejecting the absolutist view of Romans 13 doesn't mean pitching it altogether.

wsforten said...

Tom,

Did you notice my reference to Origen praising those "who should enter into a secret association in order to put to death a tyrant"?

Lee said...

I skimmed a couple of chapters of Augustine--I hate to make a hasty judgement, but he comes across as more polemical than philosophical. I understand why the founders expressed praise for Cicero far more frequently than for Augustine.

In book XIX chapter 21, Augustine notes Cicero's definition of republic in terms of its object--the good of the people, and as assembly by right and community of interests. This definition accords with Aristotle's identification of legitimate governments, but differs in important ways from Locke. Augustine contests this definition in a long chain of "reasoning," saying right means justice, justice means giving everyone their due. But the Roman republic did not give worship due to the one true god. Therefore, the Roman Republic is not a true republic. His reasoning reminds of that spoof on logic that asserts 1. God is love, 2. love is blind 3. Ray Charles is blind, 4. Therefore, Ray Charles is God.

Lee said...

Then in Book XIX chapter 24 he gives his gives own peculiar definition of a republic which he says is the only definition which would justify the Romans calling their regime a republic: "an assemblage of reasonable beings bound together by a common agreement . . . " -- followed by the part wsforten left out--"as to the objects of their love." (not exactly Locke either.) Augustine then asserts that the objects of love of any people reveals their character. He concludes that the Roman republic proved to be as base as any other of the cities of the ungodly. Not very helpful to the men assembled in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776, or in 1787. IMHO

Tom Van Dyke said...

Tom,

Did you notice my reference to Origen praising those "who should enter into a secret association in order to put to death a tyrant"?


Run with it. But Origen, like Tertullian, although respected, isn't always normative Christian theology. You certainly don't have Aquinas cool with a "secret association in order to put to death a tyrant" 1000 years later.

IMO, it takes the Calvinists to turn theory into action, and if you dig around, it turns out even they regretted beheading Charles I. That crossed the line.

wsforten said...

Actually, Aquinas wrote:

A tyrannical government is not just, because it is directed, not to the common good, but to the private good of the ruler, as the Philosopher states (Polit. iii, 5; Ethic. viii, 10). Consequently there is no sedition in disturbing a government of this kind, unless indeed the tyrant's rule be disturbed so inordinately, that his subjects suffer greater harm from the consequent disturbance than from the tyrant's government. Indeed it is the tyrant rather that is guilty of sedition, since he encourages discord and sedition among his subjects, that he may lord over them more securely; for this is tyranny, being conducive to the private good of the ruler, and to the injury of the multitude.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Who is "the Philosopher"?

Jefferson never cited Aquinas; but they both cited "the Philosopher."

Tom Van Dyke said...

Aristotle. Averroes [Ibn Rushd] and the Islamic tradition called him that first, although apparently Aristotle's Politics used by Aquinas had not been translated into Arabic. The Islamic political tradition is more influenced by Plato's Republic, according to this

http://tinyurl.com/lrkromj

[IIRC, Jefferson hated Plato. Too anti-egalitarian.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

I thought Plato was the first communist.

Joe Winpisinger said...

I tried to comment yesterday and it did not go through. Most of what I was going to say has been said. Mainly that Locke is a Protestant Scholastic and that Jefferson's words in the DOI sound just like Aquinas and Bellarmine. Since Jefferson probably never read them it shows that not much had changed in Christian political theory no matter how much change in sotierology.

I also like JRB's point that this all really started with Cicero. He was declared a righteous pagan by the church and thus a lot of what he thought made it into later Western political theory.

Little known is that he references Moses and the Hebrews in his seminal work when giving references to his theory of mixed govt...

jimmiraybob said...

JW = "Little known is that he references Moses and the Hebrews in his seminal work when giving references to his theory of mixed govt..."

Citation?

jimmiraybob said...

Here's a relevant AC post that Jon made last November regarding Cicero's Republic and Christian Arguments for Rebellion against Tyrants.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2012/11/ciceros-republic-and-christian.html

There's a link to an essay that includes an examination of Augustine's use of Cicero.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mainly that Locke is a Protestant Scholastic and that Jefferson's words in the DOI sound just like Aquinas and Bellarmine. Since Jefferson probably never read them...

However, he did have a copy of Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, which directly argued against Bellarmine's argument against the Divine Right of Kings. So Jefferson DID have access to Bellarmine. As did Locke, since as you've pointed out before, Locke's FIRST Treatise on Government is a rebuttal of Patriarcha!

Filmer is sort of our Rosetta Stone, where we can decode all the arguments before it and after it.



Great to see you, Joe.

wsforten said...

Jim,

I think that Forster was mistaken in the conclusions that he drew about Augustine's adoption of Cicero's philosophy of government. Augustine actually argued against Cicero's view by proving that it is inconsistent with both itself and the Scriptures. He then presented a more properly Christian view of government which he demonstrated to be superior to Cicero's. There are very few resources online which recognize this distinction, but the book Love and Justice in Political Theory: A Study of Augustine's Definition of the Commonwealth can be found here:

http://archive.org/stream/lovejusticeinpol00frib#page/n2/mode/1up

jimmiraybob said...

wsforten - "...Cicero's view by proving that it is inconsistent with both itself and the Scriptures."

I would assume that Cicero's work, done in the 1st century BCE, would need reconciling with Christian scripture and the 5th century CE Church, but can you point to where Augustine discusses Cicero's internal consistency.

wsforten - "...he [Augustine]demonstrated [his political system] to be superior to Cicero's."

Who's view is this? Did Augustine claim this or is this a general Christian assessment (of course, from a strictly Christian perspective the nod would have to go with Augustine) or are you saying that it was superior?

The founders and framers were generally quite enamored with Cicero and his writings and I don't recall any mention of Augustine. Or Aquinas for that matter.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The founders and framers were generally quite enamored with Cicero and his writings and I don't recall any mention of Augustine. Or Aquinas for that matter.

Or Suarez or Bellarmine, because they're Catholics. Quoting Catholics would have been like quoting Nazis.

Instead, they quote their surrogates such as the Anglican Thomist Rev. Richard Hooker, or the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, who took much of his work from Jesuit Francisco Suarez.

As we see from Algernon Sidney here, who begrudgingly [sneeringly!] acknowledges the work of the Catholic Scholastics ["Schoolmen"] in the development of the modern concepts of liberty:

"Tho the Schoolmen were corrupt, they were neither stupid nor unlearned: They could not but see that which all men saw, nor lay more approved foundations, than, that man is naturally free; that he cannot justly be deprived of that liberty without cause, and that he doth not resign it, or any part of it, unless it be in consideration of a greater good, which he proposes to himself."

What we forget is that Aquinas wrote circa 1250--250 years before the Reformation and 500 years before the American revolution! Western thought flows through Aquinas, not around him.

wsforten said...

Jim,

I think that the source that I cited would help answer your questions.

jimmiraybob said...

TVD - "Western thought flows through Aquinas, not around him."

It's well known that you take your assumed duties as gatekeeper of western knowledge very seriously and you would be right in this assertion if you weren't so wrong.

Since you are so invested in being Aquinas' agent and have proven to be impervious to anything contrary to your running narrative there's no discussion to be had. But, do have a good night.

jimmiraybob said...

wsforten - "I think that the source that I cited would help answer your questions."

I was hoping that you could sum up your argument.

wsforten said...

Augustine showed that Cicero's definition of a commonwealth was such that it would deny the existence of any human commonwealth, and he corrected Cicero's definition by providing his own which would apply equally to every commonwealth. This critique begins with chapter 21 of book 19 of The City of God where we read:

if we are to accept the definitions laid down by Scipio in Cicero's De Republica, there never was a Roman republic

Then in chapter 24, we find:

But if we discard this definition of a people, and, assuming another, say that a people is an assemblage of reasonable beings bound together by a common agreement as to the objects of their love, then, in order to discover the character of any people, we have only to observe what they love. Yet whatever it loves, if only it is an assemblage of reasonable beings and not of beasts, and is bound together by an agreement as to the objects of love, it is reasonably called a people; and it will be a superior people in proportion as it is bound together by higher interests, inferior in proportion as it is bound together by lower. According to this definition of ours, the Roman people is a people, and its good is without doubt a commonwealth or republic. But what its tastes were in its early and subsequent days, and how it declined into sanguinary seditions and then to social and civil wars, and so burst asunder or rotted off the bond of concord in which the health of a people consists, history shows, and in the preceding books I have related at large. And yet I would not on this account say either that it was not a people, or that its administration was not a republic, so long as there remains an assemblage of reasonable beings bound together by a common agreement as to the objects of love. But what I say of this people and of this republic I must be understood to think and say of the Athenians or any Greek state, of the Egyptians, of the early Assyrian Babylon, and of every other nation, great or small, which had a public government. For, in general, the city of the ungodly, which did not obey the command of God that it should offer no sacrifice save to Him alone, and which, therefore, could not give to the soul its proper command over the body, nor to the reason its just authority over the vices, is void of true justice.

jimmiraybob said...

These are interesting chapters and, of course, I have some thoughts about them. Given my work load these days I don't know that I can get back in a timely manner. Suffice it to say that if not this time then next - having read here for a number of years I count on these things to be somewhat cyclical.

Just one quick thing though. When Augustine writes, "...the imperial city to which the republic belongs..." I find myself wondering if he's conflating the republic which Cicero was writing to defend (1st century BCE) or the dreaded imperial Roman system that replaced it and that was contemporaneous with himself (4th-5th century CE). He was, after all, writing to an audience that lived under the imperial yoke and probably had little to no memory of the republic.

Certainly, the "imperial city" was no republic and I think that Cicero would agree.

jimmiraybob said...

Opps, the above quote is from Chapter 21.

wsforten said...

Jon,

In light of your previous distinction between resistance and rebellion, let me share this little nugget that I found today in the writings of Isaac Backus:

"Charles claimed a right to impose laws and taxes upon the people without their consent, and Laud endeavored to cover and enforce the same with religious pretences; and because they drove on furiously in that way, until both of their necks were broken, arbitrary teachers have canonized them for saints and martyrs, and have stigmatized resistance to such power with the odious name of Rebellion."

http://books.google.com/books?id=e9cpAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA184