Wednesday, December 16, 2009
—1 Samuel 15:23
The following piece was written by Rebecca Sharpe, a Fellow of the John Jay Institute for Faith, Society, and Law. In it, she makes forceful and compelling arguments against the use of artificial contraception from both a consequentialist as well as from a natural law perspective.
1. The Undermining of Nature through Science
To gain a complete understanding of modern violations of nature and the natural law, it is necessary to grasp what those infringing the law are attempting to achieve. Perhaps C.S. Lewis’ approach of paralleling the motives of Francis Bacon and Faust in his essay, “The Abolition of Man” is apt, for although sorcery and alchemy were once man’s tools to gain power over nature, they have been far surpassed in efficiency by modern science.
Not all modern science seeks to undermine the design inherent in nature. Much of it only aims at patching the wounds of the Fall as best as humans can. However, some men use it to gain power over the elements of design and natural consequences that witness to the natural law. Seeking to erase the marks of divine intent evident in the design of the universe and humanity, these Faust-like characters sell their soul for power.
Budziszewski, in his What We Can’t Not Know, continues with this theme of modern science’s black magic. Scientific advances may be new, but the desire to assume the role of God and recreate nature according to the human will is ancient. He states, “Their methods do not require the eye of newt, but they might as well: In essence, they are forms of goeteia, of the ancient practice whose goal was to acquire power by ‘breaking’ nature, unpatterning its patterns, uncreating its creation” (Budziszewski, p. 198-9). Whether denying that anything has an inherent nature, claiming as natural that which is contrary to the natural law, or declaring invasive and foreign those most natural elements of human existence, the modern magicians defy God’s will as manifest in the natural law, and particularly the design of His creation.
2. The Example of Contraception
Perhaps the greatest example of the latter is the extraordinary lengths science, driven by popular demand, has gone to prevent sexual intercourse from ending in pregnancy, a frequently accompanying consequence and perhaps the primary reason for the act’s existence. A quote from Dr. Warren Hearn, advocating the use of contraception and abortion, will suffice to demonstrate this point:
“The foregoing discussion should allow us to abandon the erroneous assumption that pregnancy is per se a normal and desirable state, and to consider instead a more accurate view that human pregnancy is an episodic, moderately extended chronic condition with a definable morbidity and mortality risk to which females are uniquely susceptible…” (Budziszewski, p. 235).
While most Christians reject the possibility of curing this “illness” by abortion, it is only since 1930 that some have begun to accept the idea of preventing the disease of children through artificial contraception. Prior to this, all Christian churches were united in opposition to artificial contraceptives. This religious and societal acceptance spelled the beginning of treating pregnancy as an illness. While in some cases, prudence may cause couples to give pause before conceiving, this is different from a culture-wide acceptance of artificial contraception.
While not the heinous crime against the sanctity of life that abortion is, both design and natural consequences testify against the practice of artificial contraception. At the very least, it disrupts the natural hormonal cycles of a woman’s body (except in the cases of barrier methods, obviously). Contraceptives may undermine her body’s natural attraction towards her partner. They substantially increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer and they make the female of any sexual partnership bear the greater share of the responsibility for determining when to conceive or prevent pregnancy, a responsibility she should equally share with her spouse. Any hormone-based contraceptive can, and with surprising frequency does, prevent an already conceived embryo from implanting on the uterine wall, thus acting as an abortifacient. Remaining estrogens from hormone-based birth control wash into watersheds and have actually wreaked environmental havoc on the wildlife that depend on these water sources.[i]
Beyond consequentialist appeals, however, one must acknowledge that it is impossible to limit the consequences of the conjugal act (i.e., the bearing of offspring) without weakening its significance and potentially disrupting the other purposes of sex. The use of contraceptives cause the three-legged stool of sexual love to become lop-sided, threatening to topple over altogether and bring down society with it.
Attempts to treat the natural as if it is somehow unnatural, to treat pregnancy or childbirth as disease to be prevented or cured, are perhaps among the most disturbing efforts of modern man’s revolt against design. This rebellion, which in earlier ages would have been carried out through sorcery or witchcraft, seeks to make man the author of nature and man’s design. Such is the hubris of man in his practice of goeteia, that in remaking nature, he remakes himself as God, and not God’s created image.
Monday, November 16, 2009
This is a paper that my colleague David Parker wrote defending the State rights that were infringed upon in the Civil War. The essay is based on Part 6 of James McClellan's Liberty, Order, and Justice, which deals with the interpretation of the Constitution.
Mr. Parker's articulation for State rights is passionate, but the natural conclusion of his reasoning is that the North had no right to invade the Confederate States. If this reasoning were followed through, we might have a nation to the South of the American Republic where slavery is still legal today. Was the “War of Northern Aggression” justified in light of the moral cause of freeing the slaves? Did the end justify the means?
These are complicated questions that cannot so easily be answered. Yet I would contend that, whatever the answers to these moral dilemmas, the Civil War resulted in the inflation of the federal government and the demise of principles such as interposition and nullification. I cannot say whether I definitively agree or disagree with Mr. Parker, but I include this essay in the hope that his passionate defense leads to further debate and clarification of the issues involved.
It has always been difficult to evaluate cases in court based solely on the merit of the law. The founders recognized the impossibility of leaving prejudices and political orientations out of judicial interpretation, and wrote into the constitution certain measures to help counter this tendency. “In the final analysis, it must be remembered that the question of interpretation is inevitably affected by politics. Ideally, the constitution should be given a consistent interpretation. But as the Founding Fathers understood well, the temptations of office are often too great to expect a uniform adherence to principle in all situations.” (499) Despite such lofty intentions, sadly the judicial branch is plagued with political machinations of the worst kind bent on usurping constitutional intent.
It is my contention that this particularly abhorrent tendency, which rises and falls in propensity with those who are appointed to serve their constitution on the bench, is most despicably prevalent in the Supreme Court decision Texas v. White in 1869, delivered by Chief Justice Salmon Chase. The decision, which significantly weakened states’ rights and makes any form of secession illegal, declared the Southern states never to have possessed the right to secede, therefore they never did secede, and therefore they never left the Union and achieved their own sovereignty and independence. The reasoning of the court was based on the “Indissolubility” of the Union, an obscure phrase from the articles of Confederation, which actually is not to be found in those articles. The Union is declared to be perpetual, not insoluble in the language of the Articles.
The entire history of the union is the history of the debate between states rightists and unionists. At issue was who was ultimate arbiter in deciding the interpretation of the constitution within the states. In Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee Spencer Roane, Chief Justice of Virginia’s highest court, argued that the State of Virginia, while not the final arbiter of the constitution, was not bound by Supreme Court precedents. The final culmination which decided this decades long debate was the defeat of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Virginia. It wasn’t until later that Texas v. White would judicially announce that what took place in the southern confederation during the civil war was not succession, but insurrection.
Most principals in the argument favored that should interpretation err on one side or the other, that the constitution should be interpreted in the direction of states’ rights. Madison wrote that “in the case of a deliberate, palpable and dangerous exercise of other powers not granted by the said compact, [THE CONSTITUTION] The states, who are parties thereto, have the right and are in duty bound to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil.” 493. Jefferson said that, “states are sovereign and independent, and for this reason have the unquestionable right to determine whether federal laws are constitutional. The rightful remedy is a nullification of all unauthorized acts done under the color of the constitution.” 493.
To quote the decision by Justice Story in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, “The court is unanimously of opinion, that the appellate power of the Supreme Court of the United States does not extend to this court, under a sound construction of the constitution of the United States…and that obedience to its mandate [a previous supreme court decision ] be declined by the court.” 526
The Union is a voluntary compact of states which retain individual sovereignty. The state courts, which can and should be necessarily free from Supreme Court precedent, which may have ruled against secession, and free to interpret constitution, even if it allows nullification of their compact to the Union. This is why the decision by Justice Chase in the Texas v. White case is such a prominent example of political influence and prejudice among the court. Their political justification severely tainted their clarity of vision in their arbitration of state sovereignty and civil war.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Russell Kirk, in his Roots of American Order, writes that in the days of medieval Europe, knights chivalrously roamed about searching for adventure, stirring the moral imagination through their feats of valor. This “wonder of medieval Europe” (p. 200) looked to do justice through defending widows and orphans.
In our modern age, the saints and knights of old have been replaced by scholars and gentlemen. Kirk gives the example of the poet Sir Philip Sidney, who, mortally wounded, gave “his cup of water to a dying common soldier: ‘Thy need is greater than mine.’ In this way, the chivalric ideal of the Middle Ages endured after the feudal institutions had been swept away” (p. 206). The knights of old offered later generations “a spirit of valor and honor and fortitude, and sometimes of generosity, that has not lost all its value” (p. 206).
Yet where is the gentleman today? He has been all but lost in the North, but I have discovered him in the South. Having spent many of my moments these past three months with fellows from the South, I have discovered a culture that has preserved many of the mores and values of the medieval knight. At a football game that our group recently attended, for example, one fellow, seeing one of the ladies shivering in the cold, having given her his jacket but seeing her cold nonetheless, also offered her his shirt. He would rather be at the game shivering than see any lady in even the least bit of discomfort. Another telling example is that of another fellow who, always depriving himself of every luxury, frequently cooks meals for the household to join him in community. For him, the joy of fellowship prevails over all other joy. Yet another fellow, suited up with a fresh-pressed shirt, will climb over to the back of the van in order to prevent the discomfort of any other fellow. The examples abound.
This is the southern gentility that we have all but lost in the North. It has affected every part of our lives. I was struck by the contrast between the victory speeches of the recently elected governor of New Jersey and the recently elected governor of Virginia. Both were the Republican candidates in heavily contested elections. The Virginian began his speech by thanking God for his “great Providence” and went on to unite the people for the common good. The New Jerseyan, stumbled through a speech stymied by the constant “boos” of a hostile audience every time he mentioned his opponent's name.
A recent news article of attempted robbery in Arkansas speaks further to my point. After two robbers took a victim’s wallet, they saw his ID and, realizing he served in the armed forces, returned his wallet to him and thanked him for his service. We thus see in the South a certain civility that we in the North have lost. Northern criminals have far less geniality.
The roots of southern gentility go far back. I recently heard of a story of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Southern Confederacy during the Civil War. After it was apparent that he had lost the war and that the northern forces were headed down to this home, he abandoned his home but first instructed his slaves to remain so that the head of the Union’s army would stay at his home and be attended to with all hospitality. I am not aware of any northern generals that extended such hospitality to their opponents.
My prayer and hope for New Jersey is that we would recover that gentility that the South has preserved and that we would reclaim the humanity and dignity that has come so close to the verge of extinction.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
St. John Maximovitch, perhaps the greatest of twentieth century saints of the Orthodox Church, known for his gifts of healing and wonderworking, offers The Orthodox Veneration of Mary: The Birthgiver of God, a concise guide to the theology and veneration of Mary in the tradition of the Orthodox Church.
2. The Early Church’s Practice as Described in Scripture and the Fathers
Since its beginnings, the Orthodox Church has called the Virgin Mary a blessed and great example to all believers of faith, purity, and obedience to Christ. This has been in accordance with Mary’s Magnificat, where she proclaims, “henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Luk 1:48). The Orthodox Church also praises Mary as “highly favored” and “full of grace,” in the same way that the Archangel Gabriel did in the Annunciation (Luk 1:28) (the original Greek charitou being translated alternatively as “full of grace” or “highly favored one”). She is praised by the Orthodox Church as filled with God’s spirit and fully submitted to God’s great plan for the salvation of humanity. This is the continuation of nearly two millennia of tradition, where Mary would be constantly alluded to in the Ecumenical Councils as “glorious” and “holy” and the Church Fathers would praise her purity and grace. The Epistle of Ignatius to St. John the Apostle puts it most beautifully when he writes that “there is in Mary the mother of Jesus an angelic purity of nature allied with the nature of humanity” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I. The Apostolic Fathers).
3. “Zeal not According to Knowledge”
3.1 St. John Maximovitch’s Defense of the Ancient Tradition
Yet there are some in Christendom today who take this veneration to the next level. They attribute to Mary that which is attributable to God alone: complete purity and sinlessness. St. John Maximovitch deals with this controversy in his book The Orthodox Veneration of Mary, in chapter VI, which he titles “Zeal not According to Knowledge,” where he argues that the view that Mary was without sin is contrary to Scripture and Tradition.
The view that Mary was without sin was formally instituted in the Roman Catholic Church in 1854 as “the Immaculate Conception,” which holds that the sensus fidelium (“sense of the faithful”) has held to the sinlessness of Mary ever since the beginning of the Church. Concretely, the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception states that “the All-blessed Virgin Mary in the first instant of Her Conception, by the special grace of Almighty God and by a special privilege, for the sake of the future merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt for all stain of original sin” (Bull of Pope Pius IX) (p. 47). The Orthodox Church, upholding the traditions of ancient Christianity as recorded in the Scriptures, the Ecumenical Church Councils, and the Fathers, concludes that only Christ is without sin. Bishop Brianchaninov spoke for Orthodoxy when he wrote that “sin and eternal death manifested their presence in Her” (p. 64). St. John Maximovitch, while venerating Mary as ever-blessed, holy, and pure, defends this Orthodox position by gathering together a heavy arsenal to support his case, which is summarized below (page references are to his book; if his book is not cited, I have cited the original source as a further example that supports Maximovitch’s ideas). St. John Maximovitch argues that the teaching of the complete sinlessness of Mary:
(i) Does not “correspond to Sacred Scripture, which states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23) and that “all [are confined] under sin” (Gal 3:22). St. John the Apostle (and Evangelist) says that if we say that we have no sin, “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1Jo 1:8). These writings all reiterate a doctrine that was infused in the Jewish tradition. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes that “there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin” (7:20).
The Scriptures repeatedly mention the “sinlessness of the One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5); and in Him is no sin (I John 3:5); Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth (I Peter 2:22); One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15); Him Who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf (II Cor. 5:21). But concerning the rest of men it is said, Who is pure of defilement? No one who has lived a single day of his life on earth (Job 14:4). God commendeth His own love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…. If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life (Rom. 5:8-10)” (p. 57-58).
(ii) Contradicts Sacred Tradition. Maximovitch quotes St. Basil the Great, who writes that “There is none without stain before Thee, even though his life be but a day, save Thee alone, Jesus Christ our God, Who didst appear on earth without sin” (p. 58). Likewise, in the writings of the ante-Nicene Fathers, we find a reference to the “only spotless and sinless Christ” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I. The Apostolic Fathers, “Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew”).
Several of the Church Fathers of the West, such as St. Bonaventure, as well as other prominent voices in the Catholic Church, such as Bernard of Clairvaux, rejected the doctrine. Bernard has written, “I am frightened now, seeing that certain of you have desired to change the condition of important matters, introducing a new festival unknown to the Church, unapproved by reason, unjustified by ancient tradition. Are we really more learned and more pious than our Fathers? You will say, ‘One must glorify the Mother of God as much as possible.’ This is true; but the glorification … demands discernment. This Royal Virgin does not have need of false glorifications” (p. 56). Maximovitch concludes that “the ancient teachers of the Church testify that in the West itself the teaching which is now spread there was earlier rejected there” (p. 56).
Clearly the giant voices of Christianity have asserted that Christ alone is without sin. Yet one may argue that, although the doctrine of Mary’s sinlessness appears to have been rejected by the early church, Holy Tradition is “living” and the Church’s understanding today may be more complete than the understanding of the Church of the first centuries. The Orthodox Church rejects this reasoning. Truth may not change from generation to generation; it may only be clarified. In light of the clear teachings of the Scripture and the Fathers on the sinlessness of Christ alone, it cannot accept that Mary was immaculately conceived or that she was without sin. Rather, the Orthodox Church sings at Pascha every year that Christ alone was singless and, at its funeral services, acknowledges that “there is no man who lives and sins not.”
(iii) Contradicts reason. If it is true, as Catholics say, that it would not be possible for God to enter the womb of a woman unless that woman is wholly without sin, then what are we to say of Mary, who entered into the womb of her mother, who did have sin? If Mary was to be born of sin, then wouldn’t it be necessary for her parents also to be without sin, “and they again would have to be born of purified parents, and going further in this way … to all [Christ’s] ancestors” (p. 59)? The fact that Catholics could accept that Mary, pure and sinless, was able to be born of a mother who was not uncorrupted by original sin, would lead to the conclusion that Christ could also be born of a woman who was not uncorrupted by original sin.
(iv) Makes God unmerciful and unjust, because “if God could preserve Mary from sin and purify Her before Her birth, then why does He not purify other men before their birth, but rather leaves them in sin?” I. 59). It seems contrary to the nature of God, who creates all men and women with the freewill to sin or obey. It may be argued that the Mary as understood by the Orthodox Church as “born in the sinful human race but … ‘more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim’” (p. 68) is worthy of greater honor than Mary as taught in the Catholic tradition, since Mary in the Orthodox Church achieved true purity and holiness despite the original sin she inherited.
3.2 Negating the Need for a Savior
Furthermore, it should be pointed out that if, as is taught in the Catholic tradition, Mary neither committed personal sin nor inherited original sin, then she would have no need of a Savior. Christ came into the world to save sinners (1Ti 1:15); those who have not sinned need no Redeemer. It is sin that leads to man’s eternal separation from God; without sin, man is never separated from God. Thus, had Mary truly been without sin, she would be in no need of a Savior. Yet she cries out to Christ as her Savior: in Luke 1:47, she exclaims that her spirit “has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Furthermore, it is recounted in Luke that Mary, in obedience to Jewish law, offered “a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’” (Luk 2:24). The passage refers to the law recorded in Leviticus 12:6-8, which required “two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean” (Lev 12:8). If Mary had committed no sins, the Jewish ritual would have been unnecessary for her. Yet because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), Mary, like all Jewish mothers, brought her sin offering.
That Mary was in need of salvation—not only in the sense of salvation from death of the body, but also, salvation from the death of her soul because of through sin—is supported by the Church Fathers. Accordingly, St. John Chrysostom points out Christ’s concern “over the salvation of [Mary’s] soul” (p. 67); Mary, like all of humanity, was in need of salvation.
3.3 The True Beauty of Mary
Considering Mary in this way, as having been an ordinary human being who inherited original sin and struggled with temptations, and yet rose above the flesh in an extraordinary and exemplary way, becoming a pure example of holiness, is a far more beautiful conception than the view that plucks her out of sin’s snares by attributing to her an immaculate conception that removed her from the struggle of original sin. Is there not something more praiseworthy of one who inherits the disease of sin and yet boldly overcomes it through daily faith and obedience? St. John Maximovitch sums this up beautifully when he writes “There is no intellect or words to express the greatness of Her Who was born in the sinful human race but became ‘more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim’” (p. 68).
4. Did Mary Ever Commit Personal Sin?
Yet it must be pointed out that there are some in even the Orthodox Church who err by proclaiming Mary to be sinless. Although they concede that she was born with original sin, they claim that she had never committed personal sin for which she was culpable. This view holds that Mary needed Christ only for salvation from death, not for salvation from her sins, since she had never committed any personally. Is this view in accordance with Orthodox Holy Tradition? Certainly, there are sayings by some of the Fathers and recent saints that could be read to support such arguments. Yet as will be shown presently, to interpret the Fathers as supporting such a proposition would be to misinterpret them.
4.1 St. Ambrose
One may argue, for example, that some of the writings of the Fathers support the idea that Mary was sinless. For example, St. Ambrose, writing that Mary “did not allow any unclean thought” (p. 64), may be interpreted as meaning that Mary overcame every temptation and thus never sinned. Yet this reading must be incorrect, in light of Ambrose’s other writings, where he stated that “God alone is without sin” (p. 65); and that “Of all those born of women, there is not a single one who is perfectly holy, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, Who in a special new way of immaculate birthgiving, did not experience earthly taint”; that “God alone is without sin. All born in the usual manner of woman and man, that is, of fleshly union, become guilty of sin. Consequently, He Who does not have sin was not conceived in this manner”; and again, that “One Man alone, the Intermediary between God and man, is free from the bonds of sinful birth, because He was born of a Virgin, and because in being born He did not experience the touch of sin” (quoted by St. John Maximovitch, p. 55).
4.2 St. John Maximovitch
As another example, St. John Maximovitch writes that Mary “repulsed from Herself every impulse to sin” (p. 65). Should this be taken to mean that Mary never sinned? It should not, given that Maximovitch also said that “The more pure and perfect one is, the more he notices his imperfections and considers himself all the more unworthy” (p. 65). This implies that complete sinlessness is never truly possible among men (with the exception of Christ, of course), for as one approaches Christ’s perfection, he becomes more aware of his sins. The holiest of men thus recognize that they are sinners. Who then can be said to be without sin, besides Christ?
The view of holiness that Maximovitch articulates supports the Scriptures in that it shows that even those who appear to have no sin are indeed also sinners, for as one draws closer to Christ and comes to reflect who He is, he becomes more conscious of his own sinfulness. In light of this, the sayings of some of the saints that may be read to support the idea that Mary or any other saint had never sinned—such as St. John Chrysostom, who wrote that Mary “overcame all temptations”—must be read in light of the Scriptures’ clear teaching on the sinfulness of all people. Although we believe that Mary was an example of purity, and that she very well may have attained a level of perfection where she consciously chose God over all of the temptations of the flesh, it cannot be said that she, or anyone else besides Christ, had never committed any sin.
4.3 St. Ephraim the Syrian
St. Ephraim the Syrian appears to offer clarification to this question. He wrote that “The Light abode in Her, cleansed Her mind, made Her thoughts pure, made chaste Her concerns, sanctified Her virginity” (p. 66). The Light that is being referred to was the indwelling of Christ. Thus, St. Ephraim can be understood to mean that after Mary was illuminated by grace through Christ’s entering into Mary and abiding in Her womb, she was made perfect by the presence of God within her. This can thus be reconciled with the Scriptures that teach that all have sinned. In the case of Mary, she was born with an ordinary sinful nature, but after the Light abode in her, her nature was cleansed, and she became perfectly obedient, turning away from all sinful passion.
5. The Worship of Mary?
Despite all of the foregoing, there is a tendency among some in the Orthodox Church to erroneously attribute to Mary godlike powers and a godlike status. Even St. John Maximovitch comes close to this when he states on p. 67 that she “stands and will stand, both in the day of the Last Judgment and in the future age, at the right hand of the throne of Her Son. She reigns with Him” (p. 67). Such language is misleading, for God alone is the Governor and Ruler of the earth: “All power is given unto [Christ] in heaven and in earth” (Mat 28:18) and “to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him” (Dan 7:14).
5.1 Intercessor? Mediator?
Furthermore, one Orthodox service refers to Mary as the “Intercessor of the Christian race” (p. 68). It is easy, reading this description, to be led astray into believing that Mary is the mediator between God and man, bringing man into a relationship with God. Such a view is absolutely unscriptural, as the Scriptures proclaim that there is but “one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1Ti 2:5). Rather, by “Intercessor of the Christian race,” it is meant only that Mary prays for Christians. Her intercession is through the prayers that she offers to God, prayers that are only different from the prayers of ordinary Christians, only because they are offered up by a more righteous vessel, and the “fervent prayer of the righteous avail much” (Jam 5:16). Yet all Christians have the potential of emulating her obedience and similarly achieving a level of effective, fervent prayer after attaining righteousness.
Even more gravely problematic language lies in Eikos 3 of the Akathist to our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God, which refers to Mary as the “access of mortals to God” (p. 74). As we have just seen, his must be understood in its context and submitted to 1 Timothy 2:5, which declares that “there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” Thus, Mary is not meant as access to God in the sense of mediator. Mary can thus only be viewed as the “access of mortals to God” through her prayers, which seek to bring man to God through praying that man would repent of his ways and turn to God. They can also be understood in the sense that Mary was a door to God in that through her obedience to God, she brought to the world God incarnate, the access of all men to forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
5.2 Forgiver of Sins? Most Pure?
Yet there is language in the “Prayer to our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God” on page 82 that I find to be simply over the top, and surely a trap that will lead Christians into the unwitting worship of Mary, giving language to her that Christ alone merits: “Thou knowest my offence; forgive and resolve it as thou wilt. For I know no other help but thee, no other intercessor, no gracious consoler but thee, O Mother of God, to guard and protect me throughout the ages” (p. 82). One wonders if the author of this prayer knew Christ as God, the forgiver of sins, and helper and protector. Apparently not, since he writes that he knows of “no other help.”
How can such a passage in an Orthodox service to the Virgin Mary be defended? Hardly any defense can be offered for it, but an insight that Fr. Eusebius Stephanou once raised in one of his books may be helpful. He highlights the tendency of the Greek language to exaggerate all of its points in order to make some point clear. For example, if a Greek hymn wishes to honor the Virgin Mary by calling her “holy,” it will not call her “holy,” but rather, “most holy.” In like manner, if it wishes to emphasize her obedience to Christ, it will not call her “obedient, but rather, sinless.” If it wishes to emphasize the effectiveness of her prayers in invoking God’s protection and help towards us, it will call her our “only helper and protector.” However, when the phrase becomes translated into English, the exact wording of “most holy” or “sinless” is given to us, which in the English language is read literally, and therefore as unscriptural and heretical. Yet this is not because the literal translation is not faithful to Scripture, but rather, it is because the literal translation is not faithful to the meaning of the original, untranslated text, due to cultural differences in the use of words in the two languages.
Thus, in the English-language services, references to Mary as the “Most Pure One” (p. 68) cannot be read literally. Of course, the Scriptures teach Christ was the holiest of all men and the only to have never sinned; “all have sinned” (Rom 3:23), but Jesus “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (1Pe 2:22). By “Most Pure One,” the text is emphasizing the purity of Mary, but it does not intend to imply that she was holier than Christ Himself.
5.3 “Mother of God”?
Another potentially problematic term is the title given to the Virgin Mary—Theotokos or “Mother of God.” The term was adopted in 431 AD in the Council of Ephesus in order to repudiate the views of Arius who held that Christ was not fully God. The title was adopted in order to proclaim the dual nature of Christ: he was both man, for he was born of the woman Mary, as well as God incarnate. Because Christ was God, and Mary was his mother, Mary was therefore the mother of God. It is a Christological statement that speaks to the divine nature of Christ.
The problem with the term is that it can easily be understood to mean that Mary was the mother of both Christ’s uncreated (Divine) nature as well as of his incarnate (human) nature. Of course, this is a theological error, for Christ was present at the creation of the world, long before Mary was born: He “was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made” (Joh 1:2-3). Orthodox Christians must be mindful of this when venerating Mary as the Mother of God, assuring that they do not slip into any doctrinal errors as to who she was as she related to Christ.
5.4 The Risk of Idolatry
When worship begins to attribute to Mary those qualities that Christ alone can give—forgiver of sins, mediator between man and God, etc.—a grave danger arises: veneration turns into worship and the Christian falls into the grave sin of idolatry. Few sins invoke the wrath of God as idolatry does. When Mary is worshipped, Orthodox Christianity is perverted into a religion that is uncannily similar to those religions that have traditionally worshipped a mother figure with child, such as the goddess mother Isis of Egypt and her child Horus; the goddess Ashtoreth of Israel and her child Baal (Jud 2:13); the Roman goddess Venus and her child Jupiter; and the Indian goddess Devaki and her child Crishna. The holy and venerable Virgin Mary becomes the object of idolatrous worship, no different than the Holy Mother Shing Moo of China or the goddess Aphrodite of Greece, the “Mediatrix” when Christians begin to attribute to her that which God jealously reserves to Himself. The onus on the episcopate to educate Orthodox Christians and assure that veneration never borders on worship is thus crucial.
Some may object to the idea that God, almighty, perfect, and everlasting, became united and born to a woman who was stained by sin. How can the perfect and immortal God touch what is ordinary and sinful? Yet I would suggest that the very beauty of the Gospel and of God’s unlimited Grace is expressed in this fact: a perfect, holy, and immortal God, through a great and profound mystery, humbled Himself to the level of man through the incarnation, in order to offer man a living example of perfection, and, through taking on death, to free man from sin and death. That God could use a woman, an ordinary vessel, to accomplish His great plan attests to His power, for though it would not seem reasonable, logical, or even possible to our ordinary reasoning, “what is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luk 18:27).
My visit to the
From the moment one walks in on a Sunday morning, he is impacted by the commercial feel of the enterprise. Is this Walmart or is it church? he wonders to himself. A giant Visitors Desk akin to a Walmart Customer Service center greets churchgoers as they walk in. To the left, a giant bookstore offers all of the bestsellers of the Christian market. Across for the bookstore, leather sofas welcome guests who may choose not to enter the sanctuary, but just hang out outside and watch the service on the screens conveniently located in the entrance hall. A giant espresso bar allows guests any beverage, dessert, or snack to enjoy before, after, or even during the service. No signs warn parishioners about bringing fresh hot espressos into the sanctuary.
As I walked in, I was awed by the whole thing. Hundreds of people walked around the entrance hall, busily sugared their coffees, and gathered together on tables or on sofas, reading books or engaging each other in conversation. I asked myself—am I early? Has the service not started? I looked up at the screens in the reception area and saw what I believed to be a live recording of the sanctuary—a live band and thousands of worshippers with arms raised. As I pried open the door to the sanctuary, I saw that indeed—the service was happening, it was live. All of this bustling outside reflects an attitude of the contemporary church—it’s about you. If you want to come inside and worship God, that’s fine. But if you prefer to hang out outside, enjoy a warm coffee, catch up with some friends, or even engage in a solitary Bible study, that’s also fine. The important thing is that you come to church and have a good time.
As I walked into the sanctuary, I wasn’t sure if I was in a church or in a U2 concert. The spotlights, the screens, the green and pink lighting effects, the sound effects—church became a giant stereopticon. Squeezed into a free seat in the back of a church with perhaps seven thousand people (and this was only one of the three services), I tried to read the words on a screen as a green spotlight kept on shining on my face, saying to me that the service was about me, I was in the limelight.
Much of the service seemed intent on throwing away all of the received traditions of the past. It seemed that the attitude being promoted was, “if the historic church did it, but it was not in the Bible, then it can’t be good and we’re going to jettison it.” Perhaps that was the attitude behind the bare walls and exposed pipes all over the one hundred foot tall ceiling. One may argue that this was done for cost, but architects know that it costs just as much to provide higher-quality, visually appealing pipes that can remain naked to the eye than it would be to cover up unpainted, unaesthetically pleasing pipes behind a ceiling. Could it be that the church passed around a tuperware container, rather than a offering plate, because this 10,000 member megachurch could not muster up a few extra dollars for a traditional offering plate? Or was it simply trying to shock? And what of giving each other “high fives” instead of a traditional handshake at the interlude and of the extremely well put together, professional commercials after the worship encouraging members to join all kinds of new ministries and fellowships? The commercial feel of the entire event was only added to by the serial numbers that appeared on the upper left hand corners of each of the screens as a new theme was displayed during the worship songs and commercials.
Certainly, the church I visited this morning is important. It has given thousands of Christians a first step into the life of Christ by introducing them to the Gospel. The traditional high church denominations cannot brag about this success. Yet I hope that its many new members in Christ will long for something more than a commercial Christ and begin to long for a far deeper way of worshipping God that demands more than going to church and being entertained, but instead, for true sacrificial love towards God.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Within the continuum of conservative thought throughout history, the middle of the twentieth century has been considered to be a revival of conservative ideas and of their implementation in society. This period has come to be called the “modern American conservative movement,” for during a span of five years between 1948 and 1953, a series of books, pamphlets, journals, and organizations came together in one voice to revive the ideals of limited government, higher law thinking, human dignity, faith, and community as they have been understood within the context of Western history and tradition. Among these influential books, we can highlight Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences (1948); Reinold Niebuhr’s The Children of the Light and the Children of Darkness (1949); William F. Buckley Jr.’s God and Man at Yale (1951); Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot (1953); and Robert Nisbet’s The Quest for Community (1953). Several other books that later hit the market would continue to promote the ideas of conservatism that were then being revived. Among these are Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative (1960), which sold 3.5 million copies throughout America.
Among the organizations and journals that were key to the movement, we can highlight the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), which was founded in 1953 by Frank Chodorov as the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. William Buckley served as the first president of the ISI from 1953-54. In 1955, Buckley founded the political magazine National Review, which Russell Kirk was involved in throughout his career. Several other key organizations to the conservative movement were formed shortly thereafter, including the Fund for American Studies (1967) and the Heritage Foundation (1973). These organizations promoted and propagated the ideas being generated in America’s conservative revival.
In 1974, Russell Kirk published his classic The Roots of American Order, to celebrate the American bi-centennial. The book offered a history of the ideas that came together from Athens, Jerusalem, Rome, and London, to Philadelphia to form the American Republic. Many consider Russell Kirk to be the mind behind the modern conservative movement, with William Buckley as the movement’s organizer and engineer.
2. Neo-Conservatism and Second Generation Conservatism
Within the context of the conservative revival, a second, more modern conservative movement materialized. In the 1960s, a series of disillusioned leftist thinkers known as “neo-conservatives” shifted to the right. Most prominent among these, and considered by many to be the “godfather” neoconservatism, was Irving Kristol, a former 1960s liberal who turned conservative. Also serving as a leader in the neoconservative movement was Irving Kristol’s son, William Kristol, who founded and currently edits the Weekly Standard, the preeminent journal of neoconservatism.
In 1986, Richard John Neuhaus published his seminal book The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America, which argued that America’s values and traditions cannot be sustained without religion in the public square. Neuhaus went on to found the Institute on Religion and Public Life as well as its ecumenical journal First Things, whose purpose is to “advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.”
Saturday, October 24, 2009
As has already been said, the American Revolution cannot be understood without a grounding in the English Revolution. To this, I will add that the American Declaration of Independence cannot be understood without a grounding in the writings of John Locke. Locke's was the voice that justified the English Revolution by basing government on a contract theory; because the Stuart monarchy had violated its contractual obligations, the people of England were permitted to dissolve the contract and institute a new government.
In this entry, I will explore the historical context of Locke's work, offer a brief synopsis of his Second Treatise of Government, and explore the extent to which the Treatise impacted the American founders, the Declaration of Independence, and the American Revolution.
A. Historical Context
The tumultuous events of the English Revolution would change history forever. The kings of the first half of the seventeenth century claimed to hold absolute power and divine appointment to exercise their office. This power would often be exercised arbitrarily and to the detriment of their subjects, who longed for accountability under law. The breaking point came in 1640, when King Charles I brought four hundred to the House of Commons to arrest its five leading members, who he accused of plotting to establish the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Civil War broke out.
After nearly a decade of bloodshed and violence, Charles was defeated militarily and was tried for “Treason and High Misdemeanours” in 1649 by Parliament. The trial would lead to his execution, the first of a king in England.
Another uneasy decade followed where the English monarchy was replaced by a commonwealth, lead by Oliver Cromwell and later his son, Richard. Yet the former’s rule descended in a dictatorship and the latter’s rule was largely incompetent. Instability grew, and change was needed. Under these conditions, General Monck, commander of troops in Scotland, believing the only way to restore order was to restore the Monarchy, brought the formerly purged members of Parliament back to their seats. The new Parliament set up a Council of State that invited Charles II, son of the executed Charles I, to the reestablished throne under the House of Stuart. The period from 1660 to 1688, when the House of Stuart was reinstituted under Charles II and later under his brother James II, was known as the Restoration.
Unrest continued under Charles II, and when his brother, James II, succeeded him, Catholics and Dissenters under the Declaration of Indulgence were relieved from the penal statutes that were passed against them. Catholics were appointed throughout England to posts formerly reserved to Protestants. Tensions naturally grew as many read the Declaration of Indulgence as establishing Catholicism in Protestant England. This, coupled with the fact that James II’s Catholic wife unexpectedly gave birth to a son (thus transferring succession of the throne to a Catholic), sparked a revolution among Protestants.
As a result of these events, Parliament created a new royal dynasty under its control and laid down the conditions of its reign. A group of Whigs and Tories of a parliament dissolved by James thereafter invited William III (William of Orange, France) and his wife Mary (James’ daughter) to take the throne and thus assure a Protestant succession. William mobilized an army of fifteen thousand troops and three hundred vessels. While shedding relatively little bloodshed, William ascended to the throne of England in 1689 in what was known as the “Glorious Revolution.”
William and Mary adopted and read before both Houses the Declaration of Rights and Liberties of the Subject, which would in 1689 be enacted as a statute entitled the “Bill of Rights.” The English Bill of Rights confirmed William and Mary’s rule, by resolving that “William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, be and be declared king and queen of England.” The Bill of Rights echoed many of the elements of the Petition of Right in 1628 under King Charles, such as the prohibition of taxation without representation and of standing armies in times of peace. The list of enumerated rights sets limitations on royal power and foreshadows the American Bill of Rights. It represents a monarchy under law that contrasts the rule of James and Charles before the Revolution, who considered no authority in England to be above their wills.
B. Locke’s Writings
The English scholar John Locke was the voice behind this Glorious Revolution. Just as John Milton justified the execution of Charles in his The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649), so would John Locke in his treatises justify the Glorious Revolution. In 1689, Locke returned to England from exile in the Netherlands and published works that offered the intellectual and philosophical justification behind the Revolution. He argued for government based on the consent of the governed that respected natural rights.
In his Two Treatises of Civil Government, first published in December of 1689, and his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, published in the same year, Locke argued that political sovereignty lays not in the hands of the king, but in the hands of the people, and that at any time, the people may withdraw the power that they have delegated to the legislature. His Two Treatises is comprised first of The False Principles and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, and His Followers and second of An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent, and End of Civil-Government.
2. The Second Treatise of Government
The Second Treatise of Government, like the first, seeks to undermine the arguments of Sir Robert Filmer, an English political theorist best known for his work Patriarcha, a defense of the divine right of kings. Locke’s Second Treatise also works to undermine the ideas presented in Hobbes’ Leviathan by arguing that government is agreed upon by the free contract and that rulers hold their power through the free consent of the people. When the free consent of the people in establishing government is violated, the people may revoke this consent and overthrow the government.
Chapter 1. Of Political Power
Locke opens his treatise by arguing against Filmer’s theory of the divine right of sovereignty and concludes his first chapter by defining the purpose and scope of political power: “Political power, then, I take to be a right of making laws, with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community in the execution of such laws, and in the defence of the commonwealth from foreign injury, and all this only for the public good” (¶ 3).
Chapter 2. Of the State of Nature
Locke defines the state of nature as a state “of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man” (¶ 4). In this state of equality among men, all may do as they please. All remain in this state until they decide to
Chapter 3. Of the State of War
The state of war is “a state of enmity and destruction” (¶ 16) that arises whenever one member, in the state of nature where all are equal, attempts to put another “into his absolute power” (¶17). Thus, while the state of nature is comprised of “[m]en living together according to reason without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them,” the state of war is “force, or a declared design of force upon the person of another, where there is no common superior on earth to appeal to for relief” (¶ 19). Thus, where there is no common authority to judge among men, they live in a state of nature. When force without right is imposed on a man’s person, a state of war arises, whether or not a common authority judges among men.
Chapter 4. Of Slavery
Man lives in natural liberty when he is “free from any superior power on earth [and from] the will or legislative authority of man,” but is governed only by the law of nature (¶21). Liberty in society, in contrast, arises when man lives “under no other legislative power but that established by consent in the commonwealth, nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact according to the trust put in it” (¶ 21). Like Hobbes, Locke argues that the right to be free from absolute, arbitrary power is so absolute that it cannot be relinquished (¶ 22). Because one’s life is inalienable, man “cannot by compact or his own consent enslave himself to any one” (¶ 22). Slavery is thus the state of war extended “between a lawful conqueror and a captive” (¶ 23).
Chapter 5. Of Property
Locke asserts that the earth has been given to every man “in common” (¶ 24). However, “[t]he ‘labour’ of his body and the ‘work’ of his hands, we may say, are properly his” (¶ 26). Private property thus only arises when one exerts himself to appropriate some good; “He that is nourished by the acorns he picked up under an oak, or the apples he gathered from the trees in the wood, has certainly appropriated them to himself” (¶ 27). However, when one acquires more than he can consume, he has “offended against the common law of Nature,” for he has “invaded his neighbour′s share, for he had no right farther than his use called for any of them” (¶ 37). However, the invention of money can solve this problem by allowing one with excess to trade his goods before their useful lifespan is terminated.
Chapters 6 and 7. Of Paternal Power and Political or Civil Society
Although all men are created equally, “Age or virtue may give men a just precedency” (¶ 54). For this reason, children are under their parents’ power until they are old enough to function independently. However, they remain throughout their lives under a political power that passes laws and executes them in order to protect their property and “punish the offences of all those of that society,” thus establishing a political society where “every one of the members hath quitted this natural power, resigned it up into the hands of the community in all cases that exclude him not from appealing for protection to the law established by it” (¶ 87). Absolute monarchies violate this system and are thus “inconsistent with civil society” (¶ 90), for the monarch himself is considered to be the law and is thus neither bound by it nor punished for its violation.
Chapter 8. Of the Beginning of Political Societies
When men agree to establish one community or government, they “make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest” (¶ 95). These body politics are consensual in their origins, though they may later evolve into despotic regimes.
Chapter 9. Of the Ends of Political Society and Government
Society and government arise when men living in a state of nature unite into a commonwealth and put themselves under a government for “the preservation of their property” (¶ 124), which Locke defines as their “lives, liberties and estates” (¶ 123). Locke goes as far as even writing that “The great and chief end, therefore, of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property; to which in the state of Nature there are many things wanting” (¶ 124). Thus, while man previously lived in a state of nature where he could undertake any action not prohibited by the law of nature, in new society, through his free will, he voluntarily restricts this freedom “to do whatsoever he thinks fit for the preservation of himself and others within the permission of the law of Nature” (¶ 128). Relinquishing his “equality, liberty, and executive power” (¶ 131), he agrees to submit to the positive law enacted in the political society and also gives up his “the power of punishing” evil doers, a power which is transferred to the political society for the preservation of the public good.
Chapters 18 and 19. Of Tyranny and the Dissolution of Government
It is in chapters 18 and 19 the arguments of Locke that have inspired the American founders are presented in their full force. Locke begins by defining tyranny as “the exercise of power beyond right … not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage,” when the governor’s actions “are not directed to the preservation of the properties of his people, but the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion” (¶ 199).
Tyrannical acts do necessarily give rise to the right of the subjects of a political society to resist the authority, whenever the authority “exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command to compass that upon the subject which the law allows not.” When such a case arises, the authority ceases to be a magistrate, and “acting without authority may be opposed, as any other man who by force invades the right of another” (¶ 202). However, this does not mean that any member of the political society may oppose the authority for every slight occasion or unlawful exercise of power, for this would “unhinge and overturn all polities, and instead of government and order, leave nothing but anarchy and confusion” (¶ 203). Locke goes on to enumerate specific situations in which opposition to authority is not justified. For example, “where the injured party may be relieved and his damages repaired by appeal to the law, there can be no pretence for force, which is only to be used where a man is intercepted from appealing to the law” (¶ 207). This ideas are echoed in the Declaration of Independence,
In chapter 19, Locke moves on to discuss when the opposition to government and the dissolution of the same is justified. He lists several situations that may arise where the dissolution of government and the formation of a new government is proper. This situation arises, for example, when “a single person or prince sets up his own arbitrary will in place of the laws which are the will of the society declared by the legislative” (¶ 214) or when “by the arbitrary power of the prince, the electors or ways of election are altered without the consent and contrary to the common interest of the people” (¶ 216). With respect to the question of “whether the prince or legislative act contrary to [the people’s] trust,” Locke replies: “The people shall be judge” (¶ 240). In the same manner, “If a controversy arise betwixt a prince and some of the people in a matter where the law is silent or doubtful, and the thing be of great consequence, … the proper umpire in such a case should be the body of the people” (¶ 242), for it is ultimately the people who have the best judgment as to whether the government and authority is fulfilling its proper end of securing their rights and interests.
C. Locke’s Impact
1. A Refutation of Hobbes
One of Locke’s goals in writing his Second Treatise was to refute the principles offered in Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, where it is asserted that life in a state of nature is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Hobbes argues that men submit themselves to the power of a massive and necessary beast, which Hobbes calls the “great Leviathan,” or commonwealth or state, in order to obtain safety and protection. They unite to one another only because they have less fear of the Leviathan than they do of each other. The ruler holds absolute power and stands under no higher law; he may do as he pleases.
Locke, in contrast, argues that life in the state of nature is one of perfect freedom where men live together according to reason. When they come together to establish a political society, they do so to better guarantee those rights naturally guaranteed by the law of nature, which is not a law of absolute freedom, but rather, a law of order. Commonwealths are established by men’s free consent to further their well-being. They may be dissolved when they fail to serve this end. Thus, while Hobbes’s framework leads to a ruler with absolute power who stands under no higher power, the ruler in Locke’s framework is always accountable to the people by whose authority he stands. Naturally, the ideas of Locke would offer the philosophical framework for both the English and American revolutionaries who resisted and overthrew the absolutist monarchies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, respectively.
2. Was Locke Successful?
Locke’s writings were not without controversy. Although some considered his Second Treatise to have successfully refuted Hobbes’ Leviathan, others, such as Hume, rejected Locke’s theories by arguing that men establish governments not through consent, but through conquest. Indeed, much of the history of Europe supports this theory. Until the Glorious Revolution, rulers obtained their power through might and force, not through compacts. This was the case of the countless absolute monarchs of Europe, who acknowledged no law above their own wills.
Locke replies to this by stating that even these monarchies “have been commonly, at least upon occasion, elective” (¶ 106), though they may have later departed from these origins. Yet even if Locke’s writings failed to describe the power structures of monarchies under the old order, they provided the justification for the events of the Glorious Revolution and the monarchies under law that would follow. The Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II was conditioned on the king’s agreement to respect basic liberties that his father denied. The invitation of William of Orange to the English throne was conditioned on the king’s submission to a social compact with the people. He would be bound to respect basic religious liberties and to adhere to the Declaration of Rights and Liberties of the Subject, which would later become the Bill of Rights. Within this framework, Hobbes’s Leviathan of absolute power was replaced by Locke’s political society under mutual consent led by a ruler under law.
In an age where such democratic ideals were so new and rarely practiced, Locke’s writing defied the received traditions and assumed truths about government and human nature. As his writings spread throughout Europe in the eighteenth century, they influenced leaders who ultimately cast off old forms and established democracies in France and beyond.
3. The Philosophical Justification for the American Revolution
Locke’s ideals would ultimately reach the American founders, who frequently discussed his writings and their implications for the political society. The Second Treatise gave an intellectual basis for principles that are at the heart of the contemporary American Republic, such as the fundamental right to private property and the inalienable rights to life and liberty. The parallels between the Treatise and the ideals, language, and principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence are nothing short of remarkable. In the first paragraph of the Declaration, the founders declare the basis for their decision to “dissolve the political bands” which have connected them with England, applying the principles of chapter 19 of Locke’s Treatise. They justify their decision on the “Laws of Nature” that entitle them to a “separate and equal” station with England, a concept that sounds notably like Locke’s state of nature, where all live as equals obeying only the law of nature and enjoying the freedoms guaranteed thereby. The inalienable rights that the founders invoke are those that Locke includes in his definition of property: life and liberty. The compact between the governed and the governors that Locke discusses is described by the founders as government “deriving [its] just powers from the consent of the governed.” The founders further identity the right of people to “alter or to abolish” government and to “institute new Government” when the established powers become destructive of their principal end: to secure men’s rights. Just as Locke in chapter 18 imposes limits on the rights of citizens to resist and oppose their governments, so too do the founders recognize that “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes,” but rather, should be suffered “while evils are sufferable.” However, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” This is the enactment of Locke’s chapter 19 enumeration of the specific situations that occasion a dissolution and change of government, such as when the prince by his arbitrary power acts “without the consent and contrary to the common interest of the people” (¶ 216).
I would argue that Locke’s teachings are not discordant with biblical teachings but are rather silent on the many questions explicitly raised in the Scriptures. This is because Locke, an empiricist, was seeking to elaborate a theory of the state based not on biblical revelations, but rather, on reason, observance, and the natural law. He ends up with a system that is essentially neutral when aligned with biblical tradition simply because it does not treat the many questions raised therein. I have found, however, nothing in his writings that explicitly contradicts this tradition, except for perhaps his writings on the family, which I have not sufficiently explored to make a judgment either way.
Certainly, I am alone among conservatives in my thinking. Locke is typically blamed by conservatives for the divorce of Scripture and tradition from human reasoning, which led to Rousseau’s thinking and to the French Enlightenment. He is similarly blamed for failing to adequately incorporate communities into his philosophical system, thus leading to an individualism that would fragment society.
I was thus very pleased when I recently discovered Dr. Thomas West, professor of politics at the University of Dallas and senior fellow and director of the Claremont Institute, who, like me, finds in Locke a thinker whose views are consistent not only with the conservative canon, but also, with Christianity in general. Dr. West’s Witherspoon Lecture, available at this link, defends Locke against his detractors and proves him to be a Christian and social conservative.
I'd like to call attention to the following excerpts from the paper, which I found most helpful (the headings are my own):
Showing that Locke is not a morally neutral libertarian
In the Two Treatises, Locke speaks of specific moral duties, required by the law of nature, that is, a law discovered by reason that all human beings are obliged to obey. Locke makes frequent assertions about what that law commands, but does not say much about its ultimate foundation. That becomes clear only at one point in the Second Treatise, in the chapter on paternal power. "Law, in its true notion," Locke writes, "is not so much the limitation as the direction of a free and intelligent agent to his proper interest, and prescribes no farther than is for the general good of those under that law. Could they be happier without it, the law, as an useless thing would of it self vanish" (2.57). Law directs man to his "true and proper interest," that is, to what makes them "happier." The law of nature, then, is a rule, or set of rules "for the general good of those under that law." The self-interest of all, understood as happiness, is Locke's ultimate standard for the law of nature.
That Locke's View on the Family is not Purely Utilitarian
Locke's teaching on the family would make him a "social conservative," as that term is used today. He endorses marital fidelity and heterosexuality, and opposes no-fault divorce and homosexuality. He does not treat sex as a matter of personal choice, because sex must be heterosexual if it is to generate children, which every society needs. Sex must be mostly limited to marriage if children are to have their best chance to be raised by their biological parents, who are more likely to love them and provide them with their needs than anyone else.
That Locke was a Christian
Locke once wrote, "A Christian I am sure I am." In spite of that remark, scholars have long debated the question of Locke's personal religious convictions. But whatever those convictions may have been, Locke was always pro-Christian in his writings. Like Aquinas before him, Locke generally teaches that reason and revelation are in perfect agreement on the moral duties of men in this world (Reasonableness of Christianity 241-3).
That Locke's Focus on Individual Rights Is Not Incompatible with a Conservative View of Morality and Duty:
A narrow focus on the rights of the individual at the expense of moral conditions of liberty, or on morality and community at the expense of individual rights, divides today's conservatives and liberals not only from each other but also among themselves. Social conservatives denounce the perniciousness of "rights talk" and bemoan government's failure to promote the virtues necessary to sustain a free and decent society. Libertarians celebrate individual rights, but they view government support for morality as a threat to liberty. From the Founders' standpoint, both sides are half right and half wrong. There is a parallel division among liberals. Communitarians like Michael Sandel reject the individual rights tradition, while rights-affirming liberals like Ronald Dworkin argue against even the most minimal government promotion of morality (in the Founders' sense of that term). For the Founders, rights and duties were two parts of a single understanding of political life and its purposes.
That Locke's View of Christianity was not Libertarian
Second, Locke teaches that Christianity not only favors liberty, but also supports the basic morality that is necessary for government--and for happiness. At the beginning of his Letter on Toleration, Locke asserts that the Christians of his day are wrongly preoccupied with "subtle matters that exceed the capacity of the vulgar," while they "pass by, without chastisement, without censure, those wickednesses and moral vices which all men admit to be diametrically opposed to the profession of Christianity" (Toleration, p. 61). In other words, Locke is arguing that Christians have forgotten the moral core of their religion in their excessive concern with minor variations within the community of the faithful (satirized by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels as Lilliputians quarreling over whether to crack their eggs on the big end or little). Locke was seeking to rectify an imbalance in the Christian world of his day--a focus on doctrine and ritual at the expense of moral conduct--an imbalance that most Christians today would agree was a serious problem. So important is this moral core of Christianity that government has an obligation to support it by its laws--not because it is Christian, but because it is necessary for government to do its job well, to provide security for men's lives and properties. Far from promoting religious indifferentism or relativism, as some readers claim, Locke's Letter on Toleration presents itself as affirming and renewing the moral core of the Christian life at a time when that core was in danger of being forgotten. Locke's point was thus not unreasonable, whether in a strictly Christian view, or in the view of reason alone.
Separation of Church and State
Locke's argument for separating church and state was based on the limited purpose of government, namely, to take care of men's "civil goods," such as "life, liberty, bodily health and freedom from pain, and possessions" (p. 67), and not their souls. For Locke, as for the whole Christian and philosophical tradition, soul is always higher than body. Locke's division of labor between government and church was meant to serve the good of both. He hoped thereby to purify Christianity of its tendency to seek political domination over others, instead of doing what it should do, namely, to promote repentance and reformation of morals. He hoped to limit government to what it can do well--to secure men's "civil goods"--and to abandon what it almost always botches--to attempt to save men's souls.
Why Locke's Vision for Limited Government Has Been Misunderstood by Conservatives
The real objection to Locke among intellectuals, I believe, is to his teaching on the limited role of politics in promoting the good life for man. Human beings are all too prone to believe that government should mandate their own particular vision of excellence and perfection, and to condemn it when it refuses to adopt their personal vision of the just, noble, and good. Locke's solution was to limit government to providing for the security of bodily and external goods, and the moral conditions of that security, leaving the mind otherwise free to follow the truth (or falsehood) without being coerced.
وَفِيمَا هُوَ دَاخِلٌ إِلَى قَرْيَةٍ اسْتَقْبَلَهُ عَشَرَةُ رِجَالٍ بُرْصٍ فَوَقَفُوا مِنْ بَعِيدٍ
وَصَرَخُوا: يَا يَسُوعُ يَا مُعَلِّمُ ارْحَمْنَا
فَنَظَرَ وَقَالَ لَهُمُ: «اذْهَبُوا وَأَرُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ لِلْكَهَنَةِ». وَفِيمَا هُمْ مُنْطَلِقُونَ طَهَرُوا
فَوَاحِدٌ مِنْهُمْ لَمَّا رَأَى أَنَّهُ شُفِيَ رَجَعَ يُمَجِّدُ اللهَ بِصَوْتٍ عَظِيمٍ
وَخَرَّ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ عِنْدَ رِجْلَيْهِ شَاكِراً لَهُ. وَكَانَ سَامِرِيّاً
فَقَالَ يَسُوعُ: «أَلَيْسَ الْعَشَرَةُ قَدْ طَهَرُوا؟ فَأَيْنَ التِّسْعَةُ؟
أَلَمْ يُوجَدْ مَنْ يَرْجِعُ لِيُعْطِيَ مَجْداً لِلَّهِ غَيْرُ هَذَا الْغَرِيبِ الْجِنْسِ؟
ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهُ: «قُمْ وَامْضِ. إِيمَانُكَ خَلَّصَكَ
Part I. The Patristic Age
1. An Apologetic Miscellany
The sourcebook begins with “Apologetic Miscellany” that outlines some of the church fathers’ apologetics for the Christian faith. While defending the doctrines of Christianity, these apologetic letters also account for the relation of Christians to the state and to society as a whole. The following passages are considered:
- In his First Apology, Justin Martyr emphasizes that the kingdom that the Christians are seeking is not a human one, but rather, the kingdom of God (p. 11).
- The anonymous Letter to Diognetus portrays the Christian church as a political society disseminated throughout other political societies. The church is depicted as the “soul” of society.
- Bishop Theophilus of Antioch, in his To Autolycus, Book 1, depicts Christians as loyal citizens of the empire who are to honor the emperor “not by worshipping him but by praying for him” (p. 14). In this way, they will be doing the will of God.
2. Irenaeus of Lyons
Irenaeus (ca.130-200) writes that the God-given role of civil rulers is to maintain the division between good and evil through the law. He describes the divine nature of earthly rule, which has been “appointed by God for the benefit of the nations” (p. 17). The devil lied when he said that civil power was delivered to him, for in truth, all power belongs to God, who distributes it according to His will. Three kids of rulers exercise civil authority: (i) mild, educative rulers; (ii) tyrannical, arbitrary rulers; and (iii) harsh, but not unjust rulers.
Tertullian (160-230) was a Carthage lawyer and a priest at the turn of the third century whose church was touched by a charismatic movement known as Montanism. In 206, Tertullian joined the Montanist sect’s prophetic movement, which is similar to today’s Pentecostal movement, and separated from the Church in 211 or 213. He later separated from the Montanists, founding a sect that became reconciled with the Catholic Church under St. Augustine. In his Apology, Tertullian fiercely repudiated the church as a political society; he recognized only “the universe” as the state of his citizenship (p. 26). In The Military Chaplet, Tertullian opposed Christians’ accepting military office, unless their faith came after they are already soldiers (p. 27).
4. Clement of Alexandria
Clement’s (ca. 150-ca. 215) Stromateis brings in classical thought to interact with Christian theology. He argues, for example, that Plato was influenced by Moses when he criticized political institution that sought to develop no more than military virtues (p. 35). Clement examines the relation between nomos (law), logos (word) and divine Logos (Word of God), arguing that those who obey the law must have some knowledge of the law giver (p. 36). He distinguishes between three kinds of kingship: (i) the divine that is the rule of God; (ii) the kingly rule of the active part of the soul; and (iii) the rule of conquest.
In his Against Celsus, Origen (ca. 185 - 254), one of the more controversial of the church fathers, makes a cogent case for the place of Christians in civil society. Christians are not antipolitical and do not oppose the emperor; rather, they believe the emperor has been divinely ordained by God and honor and are to pray for him.
The Christianity of Lactantius (ca. 240 – ca. 320) contrasts itself to classical thought and a demoralized culture. In his Divine Institutes, Lactantius examines the Greek idea of justice. According to Plato, justice “consists in equality, since all are born in an equal condition” (p. 48). All must therefore possess all things in common. Yet this line of reasoning leads Plato to state that even marriages should be in common. Such a view of justice, according to Lactantius, subverts the virtues of chastity and fidelity. Rather, “justice is not expressed in outward conditions … but operates wholly upon the human mind” (p. 49). Reaching justice means abolishing ambition and self-importance. Community is not a matter of possessions but rather, of minds filled with virtue.
7. Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius (ca. 263 – ca. 339) was the first systematic church historian. We read in his speeches the idealization of Constantine. In his speech for the Thirtieth Anniversary of Constantine’s Accession, he writes that Constantine is “dear to the supreme Sovereign himself” (p. 62). The Christian emphasis on peace plays a role for Eusebius in welcoming Constantine’s achievements, for Constantine’s wars are seen as wars that will end future wars.
8. Ambrose of Milan
Ambrose (ca. between 337 and 340 – 397) was bishop of Milan during the Arian heresy. Although Arianism was settled in the First Council of Nicaea in 325, it continued, though with a decreasing following, well into Ambrose’s years as bishop.
It is perhaps in Ambrose’s Sermon against Auxentius that most clearly portrays the clash between the sphere of the Church and the sphere of the State, as the Church sought to carve out for itself a space within civil society. When the emperor had summoned Ambrose and Auxentius, a bishop who had become dangerously associated with the Homoian heresy, to a hearing, Ambrose did not comply. Instead, he defied the emperor and asserted that matters of faith “must be dealt with in the church before the people” (p. 68). Ambrose writes that “the emperor is within the church, not above it” (p. 75).
In these excerpts, we read about a confrontation between the bishop of Milan and the emperor that marks the church as it began carving out a space for itself in the public square. Indeed, the episode represents more than a clash between the church and the emperor; it is representative of the birth of Western democracy as the church is formed as an independent sphere within civil society, just as guilds, private associations, and corporations would later carve out their own spaces within civil society.
9. John Chrysostom
The writings of John Chrysostom imply some level of objection to private property, but his true objection is not to the mere possession of material things, but rather, to their unjust acquisition. For instance, he points to Abraham and to Job as righteous men who, though they were wealthy, should not be condemned. This is because Job was “enriched by God” (p. 102) and the bulk of Abraham’s wealth was not held in material things, but rather, in livestock that was “born in his house” (p. 102). The property of Abraham, like that of Job, was thus justly acquired. As for the gold Abraham sent Rebekah, it was obtained through “gifts brought back from Egypt, acquired without violence or wrong” (p. 102).
At the same time, Chrysostom, in agreement with the Scriptures’ admonition to “those who desire to be rich [and thereby] fall into temptation” (1Ti 6:9), recognizes the snare to which the accumulation of wealth can lead. He views the distribution of wealth as a reversal to the evil that wealth accumulation can cause. He accordingly attributes the grace that was on the Apostles in Acts 4:33 to their charitable giving to the church, such that “there was not a needy person among them” (p. 100).
Some of Chrysostom’s language at first glance can be easily interpreted as condemnations of private property per se. Yet a closer reading suggests that the true object of his scorn is the accumulation of wealth for the sake of wealth. For example, he criticizes those who refer to material possessions as “goods,” for those who greedily accumulate such things cannot be said to be “good” (p. 101).
However, in other accounts, Chrysostom’s condemnation of wealth borders on the extreme. He says that it is “simply not possible” for “anyone who has wealth [to] be good” (p. 103). This has some resonation with Christ’s words to the rich ruler who asked how to inherit eternal life: “sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Luk 18:22). Yet at the same time, Christ acknowledges that it may be possible for the rich to enter heaven, though it would be “harder for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle” (Mar 10:25).
Augustine deals a great deal with justice and moral order by comparing the divine law to the human law and examining how the latter should reflect the former. In the dialogue in On Free Choice of the Will, Evodius, with Augustine’s agreement, distinguishes between the human law and the divine law—a “very secret law” authored by divine providence (p. 114). The human law punishes only those acts necessary to “keep peace among ignorant men” (p. 114). Accordingly, not every vice is to be punished by the human law. Yet this does not mean that the divine law will not avenge the one who commits it.
He goes on to examine whether the observance of Old Testament laws continues to be mandated in the New Covenant (p. 115-116). He rejects the Manicheans’ argument that the Old Testament laws were abolished by Christ. Although the Old Testament laws were not abolished, they are not universally applicable to the church. Removing from the discussion the cultural and ritualistic features of Old Testament law, Augustine argues that of the remaining laws, Christians are not to observe those which were fulfilled in Christ. The rest of the laws, such as the honoring of one’s parents or the prohibition of graven images, remain in place.
Augustine then focuses on the moral function of the old and the new laws. While the old laws set minimal restraints, the new laws bring to light the underlying purpose of the old laws: love. Both the old and new laws thus serve the same moral end in different ways. For example, both the Old Testament law, “an eye for an eye,” as well as Christ’s commandment to “turn the other cheek” (Mat 5:39) are aimed at checking the vehemence of hatred. The former does so by prohibiting unjust avengement and the latter does so by prohibiting any avengement at all. The latter fulfills the former by commanding believers to in all things act in love.
Part II. Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity refers to the period over which barbarian invasion gradually weakened the Roman Empire.
1. Pope Gelasius I
After the Council of Chalcedonia in 451, the Church experienced its first schism. The non-Chalcedonian churches split off from the orthodox catholic Church. The emperor Zeno attempted to mend the rift with a union formula that had some success with the Eastern Churches, but was ultimately caused a rift with the Western Church and a break in communion in 484 between Pope Felix III and the Acacius, the patriarch of Constantinople. With Zeno’s union formula in place in the East, the succeeding emperor, Anastasius, leaned towards the non-Chalcedonian churches’ monophysite heresy.
Pope Gelasius I (d. 496), who was emperor Anastasius’s contemporary, inherited this difficult situation. He viewed as part of his role as the universal pope to confront Anastasius, the universal emperor, on the latter’s doctrinal errors.
Within this context, we find the writings of Gelasius, which define the relationship between the authority of the episcopate and the power of the empire. For the first time in this anthology, we find in Gelasius’ writings papal claims to universal primacy over the church and over emperors. Gelasius states in part: “if the faithful ought in general to submit to the priesthood as a whole when it handles divine mysteries rightly, how much more should deference be shown to the occupant of the highest see, chosen by divine sovereignty to be first among priests and held in religious honor by the whole church ever since” (p. 179).
We know nothing more about Agapetos than the fact that he was a deacon of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. In this pithy work of seventy two apothegms, Agapetos instructs the emperor Justinian on matters of benevolence, law, justice, and ethics. In his writings, the notion of rex lex—the king is under the law—comes forward. Agapetos instructs Justinian to keep the very laws that Justinian has compiled. He writes that the emperor will in this way “demonstrate the majesty of the law, by being … the first to respect it; and so, too, it will be clear to [the] subjects that breaking the law has its perils” (p. 184).
The Byzantine emperor Justinian (483-565) attempted to restore the Roman Empire, which fell at the end of the fourth century, but instead disrupted the Romanization of the Germanic tribes and their conversion to Christianity. He is instead remembered for his hallmark achievement, the systematization and codification of the Roman law.
The codification reveals a vision of Christian society and the perspective of a Christian emperor of his task as governor. For example, we see from these excerpts that it was not only the West that blended the distinction between the Church and State, but rather, as early as Justinian in the East, the distinction was blurred. The laws also reveal a polity where religious liberty was substantially checked. For example, if someone seeking public office should simulate acceptance of orthodox doctrine, is later found to have a wife or children who clings to the heresy, and does not lead them to the truth, he is to be ejected from his public office (p. 191). Furthermore, whatever he bequeathed to a heretical person was to be forfeited to the public treasury (p. 192).
Justinian, like Gelasius, highlights the dual functions of the priesthood (which is in service of the things of God) and empire (which provides government and care for the concerns of men). However, he does not view the priesthood or the pope as in any way superior in function or in importance to the empire. Rather, the emperor is charged with “the integrity of priests” (p. 194).
4. Gregory I
Pope Gregory I (540 – 604) was one of the towering Christian thinkers of his day. He reigned in a Rome depleted by Justinian’s unsuccessful wars. Gregory’s model was to make the episcopate the model of rule within Christian society; temporal rulers would imitate and reverence their spiritual counterpart. He provided a general account of government, “temporal and ecclesiastical, equally applicable to kings and emperors, abbots and bishops” (p. 195).
5. John of Damascus
John of Damascus (ca. 670 – ca.750) was an Arab Christian monk who lived in the peak of the iconoclast controversy when Emperor Leo III ordered the destruction of sacred image sand icons in 726. A council at Hieria in 754 supported his view, yet the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 repudiated the former, claiming that it was not a true ecumenical council, because only a portion of the church’s bishops were present and they were unduly swayed by the emperor.
In his Second Speech against Those Who Reject Images, John contrasts the Old Testament practice where a dead body was reckoned a “defilement” to anyone who touched it (p. 213) with the New Covenant practice of celebrating Christ, his mother the Virgin Mary, and of the saints, who have defeated and disgraced the devil and his angels. Depicting these figures in icons is to celebrate Christ’s victory over death. Yet John goes a step further, condemning one who refuses to reverence and honor the sacred images as “an enemy of Christ and the holy Theotokos and the saints” (p. 213).
John goes on to discuss the relationship between the spheres of the king and of the church. The church is to hold independence in its affairs: “Kings have no right to make laws for the church,” which is to be governed by apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers (p. 213). “Kings have responsibility for political welfare, pastors and teachers for the state of the church” (p. 214).
John’s view of the church’s relationship to the king can be contrasted with that of Gelasius. While Gelasius claims that the emperors ought to show deference to the Pope of the Church, John states that the church defers to the king “in the affairs of life, in tax and revenue and privileges, and in all of our affairs that are your responsibility” (p. 214). This can be contrasted with Gelasius’s language stating that Peter was “chosen by divine sovereignty to be the first among priests” and that the Pope of Rome was by “Christ’s own words set over all [and] the venerable church has always acknowledged and devoutly accepted [him] as Primate” (p. 179).
John closes with a discussion of tradition and of its importance in determining certain doctrines or truths that remain unwritten, such as the wherabouts of the crucifixon of Christ on Calvary. He quotes Paul’s 2 Letter to the Thessalonians to support his view: “therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2Th 2:15).
6. The Donation of Constantine
The Donation of Constantine (Constitutum Constantini), which bears Constantine’s name, is considered to be a document forged by a Roman cleric. It has nonetheless been used by later reforming popes and to justify the universality and supremacy of the Roman papacy over lay rulers and over the church of the East. In it, Constantine purportedly states that he was blessed and healed by the hands of Pope Sylvester, who is “seen to have been set up as the vicar of God’s Son on earth” and who is to have “rule as well over the four principal sees, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, as also over all the churches of God in all the world” (p. 229).
Part III. The Early Middles Ages
The editors point out that starting from the eighth century, the “care” of the church entrusted by Christ to St. Peter in Matthew 16:18-19 and in John 21:15-17 was constructed as a “sovereign jurisdiction from which authority descended to the subordinate jurisdictions” (p. 232). This construction came to depend on an extension of the “power of the keys” beyond the realms o purgatory and penance, to the external government of the church. In earlier times, this power of the keys “had designated the general clerical authority of convicting sinners and declaring absolution, or at most the apostolic authority of the whole episcopate, [but was] now to be reserved for the sovereign rule of St. Peter’s vicar over the Christian world” (p. 233). Within this context, the concept of plenitude potestatis, which refers to the pope’s plenitude of power in moral, legislative, and judicial spheres, came into being.
1. Gregory VII
The monk Hildebrand (ca. 1030-85) in 1073 became Pope Gregory VII, the initiator of the Papal Revolution that liberated the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church from control by emperors, kings, and feudal lords and sought to subject these temporal rulers to the Church. The Papal Revolution, which spanned from 1075-1122, was initiated by Gregory VII, who sought to “defeat both lay and episcopal recalcitrance through unrelenting assertion of Rome’s unrivaled authority” (p. 241) and believed that the “subjection of the lower ranks of the church, both clerical and lay, to papal authority was … required by the justice (iustitia) and the law (ius) of Christ” (p. 232).
Many of these views imbue the list of papal prerogatives known as the Dictatus Papae (1075), which proclaims that it is lawful for the pope alone to “enact new laws according to the needs of the time” (no. 7) and that “the Roman Church has never erred, nor ever, by the witness of Scripture, shall err to all eternity” (no. 22) (p. 242). Gregory bases his view on Christ’s words to the Apostle Peter in Matthew 16:18-19: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
2. Norman Anonymous
“Norman Anonymous” (ca. 1080/90 – ca. 1156) is the name of the author of a series of antipapal royalist tracts that argue that both king and priest at their consecration receive the sacramental image of Christ. Earthly kings are to rule over the laity and clergy, assure unity, order, and welfare (p. 251), institute bishops, administer divine justice, punish violations of God’s law, call councils (p. 251). Unlike Gregory VII, who interprets Matthew 16:19 to mean that the Pope is given the keys to heaven through apostolic succession (p. 243), Norman Anonymous reads it to mean that the keys belong not to the priest, but to the king (p. 257-58).
3. Bernard of Clairvaux
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) was one of the members of the monastic reform movement. He believed that the greatest subversion of the church came from “papal collusion with the worldly greed and ambition of Christians, especially prelates, through the ecclesiastical appeals system” (p. 268-9). In his On Considerations, he writes that the pope was not elected to rule; he has been called to ministry, not to dominion (p. 271), and has been bestowed with stewardship, not possession of the world (p. 273). In this way distinguishing between worldly and spiritual rule, he describes the pope’s weapon against defectors and corrupters of the faith “invincible arguments that they either correct their error, if that is possible, or, if it is not, that they lose their authority and the means of corrupting others” (p. 274).
4. John of Salisbury
John of Salisbury (1115/20 – 1180) was an English ecclesiastical bureaucrat who became bishop of Chartres and who was on intimate terms with Henry II, Pope Adrian IV, and Thomas Becket, a member of archiepiscopal household. Distinguishing the ancient philosophers who defined human life as consisting of “a rational soul and a corruptible flesh” (p. 279), he argues that the flesh takes its life from the soul. He also draws a distinction between the eternal justice of God, whose law is equity, and the justice of the rulers, whose laws are their own statutes. By this period in time, the notion of a “higher law” that transcends the positive law is clearly recognized.
In his A Defence of the Mendicants, Bonaventure (1217-74) provides a “theological and legal clarification of the practice of absolute poverty” (p. 310). It is within the way of evangelical perfection by fulfilling the spiritual counsels of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount of practicing poverty (Mat 19:21), obedience (Mat 16:24), and chastity (Mat 19:12). Bonaventure thus calls men to become “naked” like Christ by using only the barest necessities and giving away all superfluous goods, of working manually without remuneration, of depending chiefly on alms for daily sustenance, and of renouncing legal ownership of goods.
Bonaventure points to the book of Acts, which describes the company of believers who “had all things in common” (Act 4:32) and sold their lands and houses and laid the proceeds “at the apostles’ feet” (Act 4:35). Yet this should not be taken to mean that the apostles had property; rather, the common ownership belonged to the mass of believers (p. 315). Thus, in modeling the apostles, the Christian is to live by means of the simple use of material goods, not through their ownership, possession, or usufruct (p. 318).
6. Thomas Aquinas
Aquinas (ca. 1225-74) towers as a giant of the Western Church in a way that is rivaled by only Augustine. Both Aquinas and Augustine engaged in a synthetic conversation with classical thought, which resulted in an Aristotelian inspiration in Aquinas and a Platonic bent in Augustine.
In his Summa Theologica (Summary Treatise on Theology), Aquinas deals with the human law and its relationship to the natural law. He holds that positive law, to the extent that it is just or rational, “derives from the natural law” (p. 325). For example, in the sphere of property, he equates ownership as the “legal positiving of the natural right of dominion that serves its primary purpose, the use of the earth’s resources for the benefit of all, when its moral limits are observed” (p. 326). The purpose of this positive law is the “benefit of the commonwealth” (p. 347), and it achieves this end by depending on natural law. When ownership begins to stray from this end, the legal positivizing becomes a perversion, not a true law.
On another level is what Aquinas calls the “eternal law,” which is the eternal and unchanging Will of God. Although we cannot see it, we can see its effects through the rational orderliness of the universe. All things are “regulated and measured” in it and “somehow share in it, in that their tendencies to their own proper acts and ends are from its impression” (p. 342).
Aquinas then introduces into his legal system what he calls the “divine law.” It is necessary because the human law is inherently limited: men can only make laws on outward and observable behavior; they are not competent to judge on inward hidden thoughts and motions. True right and justice thus require a fourth kind of law—¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬the “divine law” (p. 343). This law can only be known through special revelation from God through the Scriptures, which is the promulgation of the Eternal Law. The divine law also does what the human law inherently is unable to do: to “[miss] nothing and [leave] no evil unforbidden or unpunished” (p. 343).
Within this framework, Aquinas contrasts custom, which cannot acquire “the force of law against divine or natural law” (p. 350-51). He thus quotes Isidore, who states, “Let usage bow to authority, and reason and law prevail over vicious habits” (p. 351).
Aquinas moves on to discuss money, and in many ways reiterates what was stated by earlier church fathers: the exchange of commodity for money is “open to criticism because it “feeds the acquisitive urge which knows no limit but tends to increase to infinity” (p. 360). Thus, while he does not condemn commerce qua commerce as anything vicious or lacking in virtue, he recognizes the dangerous path that commerce can take when taken out of its proper end.
Part IV. The Late Middle Ages
Our prior readings took us through a history in which the papacy of the Roman church quickly grew in power as Gelasius and other popes asserted their rule over the entire church and over the civic sphere. This resulted in a collision between King Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII, who would ultimately claim divinely granted jurisdictional supremacy over the king and the right to “judge universally in temporal matters” (p. 397). King Philip IV reacted by curtailing curial finances as well as the independence of the Catholic Church in France.
1. John of Paris
Within the context of this dispute, the French theologian and monk John of Paris (Jean Quidort) (ca. 1250-1306) wrote his treatise On Royal and Papal Power, which appeared just before the pope’s bull in 1302, which would lead to the pope’s arrest by the French government before a general council, in which John pledged to cooperate. By drawing on the ideas of conciliar or communal representation and election, John’s treatise is one of the most eloquent articulations supporting the royal cause. John also counters the notion of papal plenitude potestatis by arguing that Christ had endowned the apostles with an exclusively sacramental power.
In his treatise, John seeks to strike a balance between the view of those who contend that the church is to have no power in temporal affairs and those who contend that Christ’s kingdom was of the human kind. He thus argues that “it is not wrong for prelates to have lordship and jurisdiction in temporalities” (p. 400). Yet he counters the view that the secular power is somehow “contained within the spiritual power and is established by it” (p. 401). He views the pope’s power as being limited; he is but a steward of the community of ecclesiastical property, and thus may not command whatever he wills. Rather, his power is for building up, and it may not be used arbitrarily. The pope could even be deposed if he takes the property of churches “for reasons other than the common good” (p. 403). As applied to lay property, the pope is even less the lord of it, for any power that Christ had over lay property was not granted to Peter and the apostles.
John goes on to vindicate the right of church people to judge issues concerning the pope when he palpably commits some wrong. Everyone is bound to both give and receive fraternal correction, even those who stand above us in honor. Even “Paul withstood [Peter] to his face because [Peter] was blameworthy” (p. 411). Yet before any one corrects or looks to hold the pope accountable, he should first give every effort to interpret the pope’s pronouncements according to their most reasonable colors, rather than interpret them as constituting some novelty or as contradicting Scripture.
2. Dante Alighieri
Dante (1265-1321) was an Italian poet best known for his Divine Comedy. Dante grew up in an era of feuding Italian states dominated by tumult and struggles for power. Perhaps it was this experience that led him to cast his faith in the Roman Empire, which with its strong central government alone enabled man to live in all-encompassing peace. In his Monarchia, Dante presents a naturalistic apology for the Roman Empire, arguing that the Roman people “acquired universal empire by divine and natural right” as a just reward for their virtue (p. 413), which is expressed in their “pious and public-spirited action to establish the universal common good” (p. 414).
Like John of Paris, Dante questions the pope’s claim of plenitude potestatis by arguing that the head of the empire is to be independent of the head of the church. He concludes his apology by stating that “monarchy is necessary for the perfect order of mankind in this world” and to the “well-being of the world” (p. 422).
3. Marsilius of Padua
Marsilius of Padua (1275/80-1342/43) was an Italian reformer and scholar who authored the revolutionary Defensor pacis (Defender of the Peace), where he argued for the independence of the Roman Empire from the papacy. Marsilius was a strong advocate of the notion of popular consent for both secular government and for the governance of the church. While at the University of Paris, he argued that the Church should be subordinate to the State. His ideas came to pass in some nations during the Reformation, where the State would govern the Church.
4. William of Ockham
William of Ockham (1285?-1347) was an English scholastic philosopher perhaps best known for propounding the idea of nominalism, the doctrine that reality is grounded in particular and that universals have no real existence. As a result of nominalism, everything that transcends experience is denied and the reality which is perceived by the intellect is banished, leaving only what is perceived by the senses as having any true validity. One may argue that modern empiricism was the natural consequence of Ockham’s work.
Ockham’s writings deal with a wide range of topics. In his Dialogue on Papal and Royal Dignity, he argues that the legitimate correction of erring believers requires a clear demonstration of their errors. He further argues that the pronouncements of a general council are not infallible and are not “necessarily the work of extraordinary divine inspiration or revelation (like the writing of Scripture)” (p. 455). Other topics he explores include supreme poverty and divine and human right.
5. John Wyclif
John Wyclif (1330-84) was an English lay theologian, translator, and church reformer who leaned towards and was influenced by Augustinian thought. His writings reflect a growing anti-papalist sentiment and an opposition to the papal occupants occasioned by the Catholic schism. He argues that God must have two representatives in his church: “the king in temporal matters and the priest in spiritual” (P. 509).
Wyclif distinguishes between natural (evangelical) lordship, which is instituted by God and rests on justice, and civil lordship, which is occasioned by sin and rests on human institution. The relationship between the two can be paralleled to the difference between gospel law (divine law) and the human law: just as the gospel law is the “perfect and sufficient regime of Christian community and needs no supplement from human laws, so the [human law] either interprets and applies the commandments of Christ or opposes them with contrary and irrelevant demands” (p. 486).
6. Jean Gerson
Gerson (1363-1429) was a French scholar, theologian, and lead conciliarist churchman who embarked on diplomatic missions to negotiate with the rival popes to end the papal schism. In On Church Power and the Origin of Law and Right, Gerson defines the church’s hierarchy and clerical nature and makes clear that the church’s power is the “power which was supernaturally and specially granted by Christ to his apostles and disciples” (p. 520), not to the body of individual believers.
As to the pope’s claim that the representative authority of general councils depends on the pope’s authority, Gerson argues that although the pope does hold the plentitude of church power “considered in its height” (as exceeding other authorities), this plenitude of church power, “considered in its breadth, is not as such in the pope alone” (p. 525). Rather, this authority is held up in the power of the General Councils, which “necessarily include the papal authority” (p. 526), who must convoke it. However, if a pope destructively refuses to convoke a council, then the Council should ask as if there were no pope and must assemble and organize itself. Under such circumstances, the General Council acts with its full authority.
7. John Fortescue
John Fortescue (ca. 1395-ca. 1477) was a practitioner of English common law whose legal career came to an abrupt end after King Henry VI was deposed. At that time, Fortescue set off to write his treatise On the Nature of the Law of Nature, which drew on the law of nature to support the right of royal succession in kingdoms. Drawing on an English natural law tradition, Fortescue argued that the kingly power “took its origin under and from the law of nature, and by it always was and is regulated” (p. 533).
8. Nicholas of Kues
Nicholas of Kues (1401-1464) was a cardinal of the Catholic Church from Germany (Holy Roman Empire). He argues that an essential requirement for a universal council is that it be “constituted of the five patriarchal sees” (p. 542) and goes on to make a sweeping argument that the canons reached at the universal church councils were based on the natural law (p. 544).
Part V. The Renaissance and Reformation
1. Thomas More
Sir Thomas More (1478 – 1535) was an English statesman who opposed Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and refused to take an oath of royal supremacy recognizing Henry’s supremacy over the English church. As a result of this refusal, More was subsequently imprisoned and beheaded.
More’s two books of Utopia were completed in 1516. In them, More describes an ideal, righteous society and criticizes the obtuse complicated formulations of the civil law by contrasting it with the “few laws” that instruct and institute in Utopia (p. 567). These give “less circumstance of words, and the truth shall sooner come to light,” while the judge weighs the words of “him whom no lawyer hath instruct with deceit” (p. 568). In his work, More assaults private property “as an institutionalization of human pride” (p. 559) and argues that the practice of entangling international alliances is more harmful than beneficial (p. 568-9).
2. Desiderius Erasmus
Erasmus (1466-1536) was a Dutch theologian who was celebrated as the prodigy of sixteenth-century humanism and as the champion of the Renaissance in northern Europe. He was zealously dedicated to the New Testament and to synthesizing Christian doctrine with earlier movements, such as Roman Stoic moralism. He would later be accused by Martin Luther of exalting human reason at the expense of personal faith.
In his The Complaint of Peace, Erasmus argues that war should be hateful to the virtuous, conscientious prince: “If the chief desire of a good prince should be that his subjects are as good as they can be, he ought to loathe war as the cesspool of every iniquity” (p. 580). However, Erasmus does not repudiate just war theory; he simply views war as a last resort that may be required by the obligations of governing (p. 571).
3. Martin Luther
a. To What Extent Temporal Authority Should Be Obeyed
Luther establishes the biblical basis for civil law and the “sword” by anchoring his arguments in Romans 13:1-2, 1 Peter 2:13-14, and Genesis 9:6. However, the power of the sword would not be applicable to a world composed of true believers, where government, the sword, and law would have no place. It is the unrighteous who need the law to command, instruct, and compel, but good trees require no instruction to produce good fruit. Of course, this should not be taken to mean that Christians should not submit to the governing authorities, which are necessary because Christian live among unbelievers. So important is the state that Christians should esteem it “as highly as the estate of marriage, or husbandry, or any other calling which God has instituted” (p. 589).
b. The Sermon on the Mount
Luther argues that the meaning of Matthew 5:38-39—“You have heard that it was said, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also”—is not that we are to literally turn the other cheek to our enemies. Rather, it is that every Christian should “willingly and patiently suffer whatever is his lot, without seeking revenge or hitting back” (p. 597). However, Luther states that Christians may not go to court or defend themselves (p. 598). However, a Christian could serve in the secular office of an administrator, prince, or judge (p. 598-99). For the Christian to refuse to defend himself on account of this text would be like a Christian woman who would refuse to defend her children “from a dog or a wolf” because she believed that a Christian must not defend himself (p. 599). His views can be harmonized with the Biblical mandate to seek justice, but have mercy, for it is “permissible to use orderly procedure in demanding and obtaining your right,” but “not to have a vindictive heart” (p. 600).
Luther does not read literally Christ’s mandate to “give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (Mat 5:42). In these words, “Christ is not telling me to give what I have to any scoundrel that comes along and to deprive my family of it” (p. 602); rather, Christ is commanding that we help the poor and badly off with genuine need.
c. Trade and Usury
Luther’s opposition is not against trade per se, but rather, to the abuses and sins of trade. He criticizes the merchant raises the price of a good not because of its inherent value or because of the effort that he expends in securing it, but because the purchaser has a great need for it. To fix this problem, Luther proposes price fixing through temporal authorities that “compute the costs of all sorts of wares and accordingly set prices” (p. 603). Luther also casts his trust in “kings and princes” to forbid the purchase of goods from merchants in distress at unconscionable prices (p. 608).
He goes on to point out the irreparable harms caused by the common practice of one person’s becoming surety for another, which causes the surety to trust excessively in himself (p. 605), and he criticizes the practice of lending as it was exercised in his days. Quoting Luke 6:35 (“Lend, expecting nothing in return”), Luther argues that one should lend freely, and if the item lent is not returned, to let it go as a gift.
4. The Schleitheim Articles
The Schleitheim Articles were landmarks in the theological basis of Anabaptism. The articles establish the following seven points: (i) baptism should be performed on only adults who have “learned repentance, amendment of life, and faith” (p. 633); (ii) those who have given themselves to the Lord in following his commandments who fall into sin are to be admonished twice, and on the third time, “punished or banned publicly” (p. 633); (iii) those who wish to break bread in memory of Christ must first be baptized; (iv) the regenerate must be separated from evil, unregenerate people and from the unreformed and insufficiently reformed churches; (v) ministers should have completely good reputations to lead all in prayer and breaking bread and should be provided for by the community that ordained them; (vi) use of the civil “sword,” which is intended for use outside of the perfection of Christ, is to be rejected by true believers in the church—only the ban is to be implemented; and (vii) Christians should not take oaths, since Christ “forbids his followers all swearing, either truthfully or falsely” (p. 636).
5. Philipp Melanchthon
Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a leading church reformer, translator, and theologian who systematized Luther’s thought. He is most renowned for his Loci Communes Theologici, a theological exposition by scriptural themes. In it, he divides the divine law of Moses into three parts:
- Lex moralis. This is also called the “eternal law” or the law of God about virtues and against sin. It is principally contained in the Decalogue.
- Lex cerimonialis. These are temporal church laws that are concerned with external works, such has sacrifices, which were established for a certain time.
- Lex judicialis. These are temporal laws dealing with civil government in the areas of justice, inheritance, and peace. Like the lex cerimonialis, the lex judicialis is intended only for Biblical Israel before the coming of Christ.
The purpose of these laws is to: (i) foster external or civil morality; (ii) pronounce the wrath of God on sin and the sinner; and (iii) educate the faithful in God’s will (p. 651).
Melanchthon then deconstructs some of the errors and “lies” proposed by monks that argue that lives of poverty and chastity merit forgiveness of sins, as well as the errors of the Anabaptists who argue that Christians “should not own property, but should have all things in common” (p. 659). By pointing to the seventh commandment, which prohibits stealing, he argues that the existence of private property is presumed in Scripture. The abandonment of one’s goods in the mistaken belief that begging for alms is a holy work is a grave mistake. To beg for bread is to be a thief, and the cloisters “have always been full of thieves” (p. 660).
6. John Calvin
The work of John Calvin (1509-64) transformed Reformation history. Calvin further polarized the two-kingdoms model of the church and state into parallelisms. Calvin argues, for example, that “he who knows to distinguish between the body and the soul, between the present fleeting life and that which is future and eternal, will have no difficulty in understanding that the spiritual kingdom of Christ and civil government are things very widely separated” (p. 669). As for the attitude of Christians towards rulers, who are in Calvin’s view divinely ordained by God, we are to honor the rulers, in accordance with the words of Peter to “honor the king” (1Pe 2:17).
On the question of usury, Calvin asserts that there is no Scripture that totally bans the practice. Although Christ commands us to lend expecting nothing in return (Luk 6:35), he never prohibits the practice of usury. He similarly deconstructs arguments voiced by earlier fathers, such as Chrysostom, against merchants and lenders of money, by showing that through such practices, wealth can be generated. He concludes that “we ought not to judge usury according to a few passages of Scripture, but in accordance with the principle of equity” (p. 683).
7. John Knox
John Knox (1505-72), the founder of the Presbyterian denomination, was a Scottish clergyman and a leader of the Protestant Reformation. While in exile in Calvin’s Geneva, he wrote in the wake of Mary Tudor’s (Bloody Mary’s) measures in re-Catholicizing England. His writings advocate the civil defense of the divine law against unjust policies of monarchs by lower magistrates whose duty is to remove their sovereigns in the last resort.
Knox calls the commonwealth to its duty of resisting Queen Mary, a “wicked woman” and “traitoress” (p. 688). He condemns those who stand in “ungodly silence” as Mary sheds the blood of fellow Protestant Christians (p. 688). Knox goes as far as calling the nobility, judges, and rulers to their duty of resisting Mary and having her “punished to the death” (p. 692). For their failure to resist the queen and thereby their implied consent to her acts, they will be equally punished for their guilt (p. 694).
8. John Ponet
Ponet (ca. 1514-56) was an Edwardian bishop exiled in Strasbourg who formulated tracts exhorting the civil commonwealth to fulfill its duty in terms indebted to Reformed theology and Renaissance classicism. He argues that capital punishment instituted in Genesis 6:9 applies only to the body and its life, not over the soul and conscience. He further argues that under certain circumstances, it is lawful to kill a tyrant.
9. Vindiciae, contra Tyrannos
The Vindiciae, contra Tyrannos (1579) (Lat., Legal Remedy against Tyrants) was a Hugeunot tract written as a response to the Catholic policy of King Henri III of France (1551-89) of persecuting dissidents. It explores the plight of Christians whose king commands obedience to laws that violate the law of God. If such a situation were to arise, the subject would first be bound to the law of God, which has unlimited jurisdiction, over that of a king, whose jurisdiction is limited, because God institutes and ordains the king with temporal authority.
Drawing on Old Testament covenantal themes, natural law, and Roman law, the tract establishes a covenantal basis for civil government. Because it is the people who establish kings with their consent and election, “kings should acknowledge that after God they hold their power and sovereignty from the people” (p. 718). Because the constitution of the monarchy is established through a covenant between the king and the people, the people may resist the king when his acts threaten the commonwealth.
10. Francisco Suárez
Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) was a Jesuit priest who has been generally accepted as the greatest Spanish scholastic thinker. He was nominated by King Philip II to the Prime Chair of Theology in Coimbra, which he accepted in 1597. His most controversial writings addressed a controversy between Dominicans and Jesuits over the relationship between divine grace and human freedom.
Suárez’s Laws and God the Lawgiver is largely constructed as a commentary on Aquinas’s Summa. In it, Suárez defines the law of nations as the positive human law that that is created by custom. Like the natural law, it is solely about inter-human relationships and includes commands, prohibitions, and concessions (permissions). Unlike the natural law, however, the law of nations does not necessarily derive from clear inference from natural principles. It cannot thus be unchanging as the natural law is. Suárez additionally distinguishes between the law of nations, which are based on custom, and the civil law, which is written.
Suárez attacks the proposition that war is evil in and of itself. He instead argues that it is not forbidden to Christians or contrary to Christian charity. He goes as far as stating that offensive war is not a per se evil, but he tempers this by stating that war is generally wrong to undertake, but it is justified when the following three conditions are met: (i) it is waged by a legitimate authority; (ii) there is a just and serious cause; and (iii) it is properly and fairly conducted from its inception, in its prosecution, and in victory (p. 737). This implies that no intrinsic wrong will be done to innocent people.
Part VI. The Seventeenth Century
1. Richard Hooker
Richard Hooker (1554-1600), one of the principal voices of Anglican theological thought, was an Anglican priest who criticized the Presbyterian position as being “scripturally unsound, epistemologically naïve, and politically irresponsible” (p. 743). In his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Hooker tried to deprive the Puritans of the theoretical justification of their reforms and to offer the Church of England a self-accounting. In chapter 10 of Book 1, Fortescue delineates the human positive law, which is “available by consent” (p. 750), “through its inseparable relationship to the origin and authority of government” (p. 744). The groundwork for international law anchors the law of nations “in natural human desire for universal society and fellowship, by … making the authority of international law over commonwealths tantamount to that of the civil law over private persons” (p. 745).
2. Johannes Althusius
Althusius (1557-1638) was a jurist and Calvinist political philosopher known for his Politica Methodice Digesta (Politics Methodically Digested). His writings blend Calvinist, Catholic, scholastic, and humanist sources in a framework with covenantal, constitutional, and pluralist features. He studied law at the Universities of Köln, Basel, and Geneva and obtained a doctorate in both civil and ecclesiastical law. During his studies, he came under the influence of the French Huguenots (Calvinists). His writing thus has a strong undertone of covenant as the basis for modern political society. In his Politics, he puts forward a federalist worldview where all social and political union is covenantal. He grounds all human covenants in two biblical Israeli covenants: (i) the “ecclesiastical covenant” between God, the king, and the people, where the king and people agree to worship God in truth in response to His promise to bless them; and (ii) the “civil covenant” between the king and the people’s representatives, where the elected magistrate promises to abide by the stipulated conditions of his rule in exchange for the people’s obedience to him (p. 759).
3. William Perkins
William Perkins (1558-1602) was a Cambridge clergyman who led the Puritan movement in the Church of England. In his Treatise of Christian Equitie, Perkins explores the virtue of Christian equity, which men are to use in their affairs with others for the maintenance of justice and peace. Equity informs the law but may be used to substitute the application of the law in the interest of moderation and mercy. Perkins appeals to a higher law when invoking the alteration of a punishment. The application of equity reflects man’s creation in the image of God, and thus points back to God.
Perkins discusses the two forms that equity may take: public equity, which is practiced in public meetings and assemblies, such as in courts, councils, and parliaments, and private equity, which is exercised between men in private affairs. The latter implies four duties: (i) to bear with natural infirmities; (ii) to grant the benefit of the doubt; (iii) to depart from our right at times; and (iv) to forgive private and personal wrongs.
4. The Convocation Book
The Convocation Book (1606) came about during the radicalization of the English constitutionalist tradition while the Roman Church was polemically reasserting older papalist doctrines about the right of popes to depose kings. The Convocation Book associates royal power with the patria potestas that belonged to Adam as a gift of creation. Furthermore, it links the royal power to the priestly power. The book was a controversial one that fed into the English Civil War.
5. Hugo Grotius
Grotius (1583-1645) was a Dutch jurist and diplomat whose writings established the basis of modern international law based on natural law. Two substantive themes underlie his political work: the teleological significance of all existence and the universal competence of divine law. In his On the Right of War and Peace, Grotius explores the notion of just war and what is just conduct in war. Defining “just” as not inconsistent with the nature of a society of rational beings, outlines the circumstances under which a war can be justly executed.