Locke’s Reasonable Christianity: A Religious Enlightener’s Theology in ContextDiego Lucci (American University in Bulgaria)
John Locke’s religious interests, concerns, and views permeate his oeuvre and are expressed openly in his later theological writings, which represent the culmination of his studies. In The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695) and other public as well as private texts, Locke explained his religious ideas in an unsystematic and, at times, ambiguous way. However, an accurate analysis of Locke’s public writings and theological manuscripts reveals that his religion was a unique, heterodox, internally coherent version of Protestant Christianity. Locke had good knowledge of the theological debates and controversies of the time, and his religious thought denotes many similarities with heterodox theological currents such as Socinianism and Arminianism. Nevertheless, he always made sure that his religious views were consistent with, and indeed grounded in, the Scriptures, since he adhered to the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura. The main elements of Locke’s Christianity are an original historical method of biblical interpretation, a moralist soteriology based on a theistic and rationalist ethics and revolving around the fundamentals of Christianity (i.e., repentance for sin, obedience to the divine moral law, and faith in Jesus the Messiah), a mortalist position concerning death and resurrection, and a non-Trinitarian Christology. Due to Locke’s heterodoxy, and particularly to his moralism, mortalism, and disregard of the Trinity, his religious views attracted criticism from different quarters but, in the long run, had an impact on the Enlightenment search for a “reasonable” religion and, also, on the development of several Protestant movements (e.g., Unitarianism, Methodism, and various Baptist churches). Therefore, his legacy as a theologian, albeit largely neglected by historiography, eventually proved to be as significant as his contributions in the fields of epistemology and political theory.
May 12, 2021, 11:45pm CET
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