Friday, May 3, 2013

John Locke: Father of the Fundies?

The rationalism of John Locke provided another influence. Reacting to the deism of Lord Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury, Locke sought a way to address religious division and persecution without abandoning Scripture. To do this, Locke argued against the right of government to enforce religious orthodoxy and turned to the Bible to supply a set of beliefs that all Christians could agree upon. The core teachings which he viewed as essential were the messiahship of Jesus and Jesus' direct commands. Christians could be devoutly committed to other Biblical teachings but, in Locke's view, they were non-essentials over which Christians should never fight or try to coerce each other. Unlike the Puritans and the later Restoration Movement, Locke did not call for a systematic restoration of the early church.*

Let me underline one of these:

Christians could be devoutly committed to other Biblical teachings but, in Locke's view, they were non-essentials over which Christians should never fight or try to coerce each other.

Sound familiar? Yes, that is the interprotestant ecumenism of Fundamentalism. Difference? Yes, the four fundamentals are a bit more extensive than Locke's postulate:

The core teachings which he viewed as essential were the messiahship of Jesus and Jesus' direct commands.

So he is actually also Father of Protestant Modernism. Or, if you like, grandfather of both.

Either way, he was not eager to persecute Catholics, as they were often persecuted in England back then. He was probably also as much of a young earth creationist as Voltaire (and probably Lord Edward Herbert), but might have considered that less essential.

Some of his writings are on the index of forbidden books** or were back when it was last updated. One of them includes his tabula rasa theory, since it is his An essay concerning humane understanding. The other one named is The reasonableness of christianity as delivered in the Scriptures. It is the one which contributed to the Restoration Movement (including famously Lew Wallace, Edgar Cayce and Ronald Reagan). Obviously the censors, and indeed the Catholic Church, were neither satisfied that the state could not persecute heresy ever at all (indeed in some places Catholic States were "persecuting" heretics, like "condemning" badly catechised Spaniards to recant like Galileo and do penance in public, or forbidding Protestants to open Churches except in such parts of cities - like Naples - that included English or similar tradesmen) nor were they satisfied that Christian Orthodoxy obliging on all should be reduced to two clauses like those of Locke, or to four, five or six of them like those of the Fundies. The third is labelled "Extrait d'un livre anglois." I do not know from which of his works it is an extract.

I am however certain that the Catholic censors back then were not just Young Earth Creationist, but also Geocentric. It was not until the Settele affair, with Anfossi as censor overruled by the Pope in favour of Settele in 1820 or soon after, that books teaching heliocentrism or geokinetism in any form were taken off the index.*** Now, that rules out Locke being condemned for "fundamentalism" in the current acceptation of the word, like anyone agreeing with one of their fundamentals that is - broadly speaking, without seeing how they confuse it with "Bible Alone" issue or "66 books" issue - also Catholic Dogma: Biblical Inerrantism.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Château d'Eau, Paris
Inventio Crucis Feast

*Allen, C Leonard; Hughes, Richard T (1988), Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of Churches of Christ, Abilene, TX: ACU Press . Pages 78 and 79 extensively cited for this wikipedia passage. The article is named Restoration Movement

**Index of forbidden books, edition of 1948, online: click link if you are online. is the short link, in case you are not.

PS - I just found out that this online ressource had been suppressed./HGL

PPS - or at best, is temporarily unavailable./HGL

***See my essay thereon: click here if you are online, short link:, which links to a fuller history, written from opposite viewpoint, short link

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Of late, some Christians have added a new slant to this by claiming it is Bible believing creationists that are actually the cause of people rejecting the Christian faith. The twist is this. They say that when Christians affirm a plain reading of the Bible and teach it to young people they are setting them up for apostasy. Why? They declare that once youngsters get older and learn ‘real science’ (which is often stated as millions of years and evolution) then they reject all of Christianity, not just the Genesis account. ... In his online Christianity Today article “Young Earth Creationism Makes Life Difficult for Everyone” author Rob Moll bashes biblical creationists and then quotes Stephen Moshier (department chair of Wheaton Christian College) saying; “Many of us at Christian colleges really grieve at what a problem this young-earth creationism makes for the Christian witness.” ... Biblical creationists agree that young people are abandoning the faith because of a perceived discrepancy between the plain reading of the scripture and what they are being taught is the ‘fact’ of evolution. However, we disagree that attempting to perform highly specious theological gymnastics with the plain reading of the biblical text is the best approach. Teaching Christians to reinterpret biblical revelation based on (ultimately atheistic) evolutionary presuppositions is illogical and leads to a lack of biblical authority.

The complaint of Rob Moll, coming from Christian Evolutionists, is pretty identical to the complaint by Loisy-like or Dean Inge-like Non-Miraculous Christians against people like C. S. Lewis about a generation or two earlier. They also complained that Christians believing the Virgin Birth actually occurred made life more difficult for the rest of Christians. He said so himself in his book Miracles (1947) and answered basically that he did not feel a Christianity with so little miracles and so much mental gymnastics was worth preserving.