Or: What was John Locke up to, anyway?
By Tom Van Dyke
OK, Having read Reading and Listening to the Great Thinkers Part Un... What a minute, you did read it, din't you? If you didn't, that's OK, go back and check it out. We'll wait.
[Da-da-dee... No really, no time pressure. Take your time. Read it twice. It was written and re-written at least four times...]
OK, welcome back. Now you know the drill. What's wrong with this cover?
Hehe. That's right. John Locke published The Reasonableness of Christianity anonymously, too.
Why would he do such a thing?
The first answer is that he didn't want the Holy Rollers to come down on his head, although they did anyway and eventually figgered out Locke wrote it. A well-founded fear, then.
The second answer is that John Locke was a genuine philosopher; philosophers take no conventions for granted. They test and prove, and most importantly, ask the Big Questions over and over. Locke asks these questions until the end of his life, his studies and thoughts increasingly concentrating on theology, and his next set of answers are interrupted only by death.
It's indisputable that Locke ends up with some answers that conflict with the prevailing Christian orthodoxy of England in the late 1600s. But what is his purpose in writing The Reasonableness of Christianity? To reform the prevailing theology? Who is his audience?
I submit it's the "cool guys," the intellectuals, the "philosophers," those who find Christianity a bit too quaint and are repulsed by vociferous self-appointed defenders of the faith like the aforementioned John Edwards.
If you google "tom van dyke" and find his various writings on politics and faith, you won't find arguments claiming the Christian religion is true. But you might find him [me] clearing up misconceptions about it, arguing against either cementheaded interpretations of Scripture or against cementheaded ridicule of them. I might not argue for Christianity or even the existence of God, but I do freely argue for their possibility as truth.
My audience? I don't frequent the sites dominated by orthodoxers like John Edwards; come to think of it, neither did the apostle Paul. I find such folks tend to be beyond reason, or even feeling, nor do I see any point in debating the subtleties of dogma. When at an advanced age, Ben Franklin was quizzed about the divinity of Jesus, he replied he'd find out soon enough. Well, I'm not quite of advanced age, but I find his answer satisfying.
And so, I write for the "cool guys" [and gals] in fora like this one, simply asking them to keep the Big Questions open in their minds and hearts. It would be the philosophical thing to do. Whatever Locke's faith was, he would not argue from it, because one man's faith is another man's nonsense.
If you were to collect and title my own canon, you might title it something like The Reasonableness of Christianity. When you read John Locke, think of me now and then. When I write, I think of him.