Saturday, June 1, 2019

Law & Liberty Site: "John Locke and Political Hebraism"

By one DAVID CONWAY. Check it out here. A taste:
The Paradox of Locke’s Sources  
Of course, Hebrew Scripture forms but a part of Christian Scripture, so that Locke would not but have taken the Old Testament to be every bit as divinely revealed as the New Testament. However, it is still puzzling just why he should have drawn so much more heavily on Old Testament sources than he did on New Testament ones, especially in respect of illustrating quite universally applicable theses about the law of nature. ...
But there seems an answer to the puzzle:
At the time of the so-called “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 in which James ll was deposed in favor of Mary, his Protestant daughter, and her Protestant Dutch husband William (who also happened to be the son of the deposed king’s deceased elder sister), the chief theoretical apostle of the divine right of kings had been the royalist Sir Robert Filmer (1588-1653). Filmer had defended the doctrine in his essay Patriarcha, which was published posthumously in 1679 at the time of the Exclusion Crisis, in which a vain parliamentary attempt was made to prevent James’s succeeding his elder brother, Charles. 
In 1688, Locke and his fellow Whigs who sought to sideline James, were particularly exercised to do so by the birth, earlier that year, of James’s son, which would have ensured a Catholic succession. Since Filmer had justified the doctrine of divine right by appealing to Old Testament stories about God’s granting Adam dominion over other creatures, Locke had no alternative but to take on Filmer at the hermeneutical task of Biblical exegesis. ...
Locke discussed the Old Testament so much by necessity to answer Filmer's claims which centered on the Old Testament. 


Tom Van Dyke said...

Patriarcha was also written directly vs. Catholic Cardinal Robert Bellarmine's arguments against Divine Right of Kings.

The most interesting aspect of Patriarcha from a Catholic perspective is that the first pages discredit and attack the writings of St. Robert Bellarmine, who was one of the most eloquent and prolific defenders of freedom the Catholic Church has ever produced. It was customary that writers dealing with political and religious controversies begin their books by presenting their nemesis as an anti-thesis, which in Filmer's case was Bellarmine's position that political authority is vested in the people and that kings do not rule by divine right, but through the consent of the governed. This was a radical idea in the early 1600's, though it is widely accepted today.

In Patriarcha, Filmer quotes Bellarmine directly as follows: "Secular or Civil authority (saith he) 'is instituted by men; it is in the people unless they bestow it on a Prince. This Power is immediately in the Multitude, as in the subject of it; for this Power is in the Divine Law, but the Divine Law hath given this power to no particular man. If the Positive Law be taken away, there is left no Reason amongst the Multitude (who are Equal) one rather than another should bear the Rule over the Rest. Power is given to the multitude to one man, or to more, by the same Law of Nature; for the Commonwealth cannot exercise this Power, therefore it is bound to bestow it upon some One man or some Few. It depends upon the Consent of the multitude to ordain over themselves a King or other Magistrates, and if there be a lawful cause, the multitude may change the Kingdom into an Aristocracy or Democracy' (St. Robert Bellarmine, Book 3 De Laicis, Chapter 4). Thus far Bellarmine; in which passages are comprised the strength of all that I have read or heard produced for the Natural Liberty of the Subject." (Patriarcha, page 5.)

Jonathan Rowe said...

It's funny I was just discussing this on Facebook with a Catholic who is really "up" on the medieval as proto-liberal democracy thesis. I think he WAY overstates his case; but I don't know enough about it to respond without faking it.

He acts like practically all of the first part, the more radical part of the DOI comes from the Catholic middle ages thought, and that's it was included in the canon law, etc. That divine right of Kings was a Protestant novelty, etc.

I don't think that's accurate. Seems an overstatement. What I do *see* is Catholic figures like the schoolmen of Salamanca anticipating some of what would come later in liberal democracy (Locke, the DOI) and much of it being ignored by America's founders because of the anti-Catholic animus, spirit of the times.

The Founders got it from Locke and Sidney and the British sources.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's that entire vein that Brian Tierney specializes in. Since all this stuff is in medieval Latin, most historians are completely unqualified to evaluate it.

Remember that ecclesiastical courts, not civil [secular] ones handled all the details of everyday life. They had their source in canon law, not civil law. [In fact the civil law didn't really exist as such like we have today. "Common law" was developed piecemeal by judges, not legislators.]

Britain didn't abolish their ecclesiastical courts until the 1800s.

The underlying key concepts of the sovereignty of the people and consent of the governed predate the "secular" Enlightenment by many centuries. They were interfered with by the German princes hijacking the Lutheran movement and of course Henry VIII confiscating the entire Catholic Church in England. But it was the 2-pincer opposition of the Catholic Church and the Calvinists to the union of church and state that precipitated the idea of natural rather than political rights.

Look at Algernon Sidney in 1650 or so, commenting how the crown tried to discredit these ideas by limping Bellarmine and Calvin together!

This which hath its Root in common Sense, not being to be overthrown by Reason, he spares his pains of seeking any; but thinks it enough to render his Doctrin plausible to his own Party, by joining the Jesuits to Geneva, and coupling Buchanan to Doleman, as both maintaining the same Doctrin: tho he might as well have join'd the Puritans with the Turks, because they all think that one and one makes two. But whoever marks the Proceedings of Filmer and his Masters, as well as his Disciples, will ra∣ther believe that they have learn'd from Rome and the Jesuits to hate Gene∣va, than that Geneva and Rome can agree in any thing farther than as they are oblig'd to submit to the Evidence of Truth; or that Geneva and Rome can concur in any Design or Interest that is not common to Mankind.

These Men allow'd to the People a liberty of deposing their Princes. This is a desperate Opinion. Bellarmin and Calvin look asquint at it.

But why is this a desperate Opinion? If Disagreements happen between King and People, why is it a more desperate Opinion to think the King should be subject to the Censures of the People, than the People subject to the Will of the King? Did the People make the King, or the King make the People? Is the King for the People, or the People for the King? Did God create the Hebrews that Saul might reign over them? or did they, from an opinion of procuring their own Good, ask a King, that might judg them, and fight their Battels?

Jonathan Rowe said...

Yes Sidney was one of the key influences.

What's I'm genuinely interested in is the notion that the medieval church practically IMPLEMENTED Bellarmine's ideas. I have always operated and still operate under the (perhaps mistaken) assumption that the RC Church as it rules and ruled in a top down fashion was for the most part illiberal in how implemented policy. And that figures like the Schoolmen of Salamanca were very interesting, ahead of their time, thinkers somewhere way down in the bureaucracy who anticipated "concepts of the sovereignty of the people and consent of the governed" that ended up taking off like wildfire once the liberal democrats like Locke and America's founders helped to implement them.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Algernon Sidney is a perfect example of how the "secular Enlightenment" gets credit for ideas that were already embedded in Christian thought.

The Scholastics were well-known to all educated men. Note also that Sidney mentions the Calvinists ["Divines of the reformed churches"].

Tho the Schoolmen were corrupt, they were neither stupid nor unlearned: They could not but see that which all Men saw, nor lay more approv'd Foundations, than, That Man is naturally free; That he cannot justly be depriv'd of that Liberty without cause, and that he dos not resign it, or any part of it, unless it be in consideration of a greater good, which he proposes to himself. But if he unjustly imputes the Invention of this to School-Divines, he in some measure repairs his Fault in saying, This has bin foster'd by all succeeding Papists for good Divinity: The Divines of the reformed Churches have entertain'd it, and the Common People every where tenderly embrace it.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'm looking for more than "who got there first?" but also practical implementation. What I've come to see is that the medieval Catholic Church was a very big tent that stretched for long periods of time. Lots of interesting things can be found there. It's a huge mistake to just write it off as "dark ages." Though that's precisely what anti-Catholic animus which is part of zeitgeist of the American founding tends to do.

Even the notion of egalitarian utopia has medieval Catholic roots in Thomas Moore and his book "Utopia" -- that island where both wealth and poverty were abolished.

What was distinctive about Marx was 1. the atheism; Moore's Utopia was not an atheistic island; and 2. the later practical implementation of these kinds of ideas.

Tom Van Dyke said...

asked and answered

The Scholastics were well-known to all educated men. Note also that Sidney mentions the Calvinists ["Divines of the reformed churches"].

Jonathan Rowe said...

No. Implemented. I am by NO MEANS an expert on the history of the political-legal Catholic bureaucracy. We are talking about Catholic kings and Popes at the top and canon law at the bottom reflecting these principles. (You need more than just the neat musings of some divines.)

I know it's a caricature that turns on a strawman but "Catholic rule" for all this time up until the modern era comes off as very illiberal. And on religious liberty, it was. If I'm not mistaken it wasn't until 1965 that the Vatican recognized it.

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