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Quote of the Day: When Can Christians Disobey the Government?

 

Awhile back I posted my own intro to “An unjust law is no law at all” from Aquinas and Augustine. In the relevant passage of the Summa Theologiae, Aquinas gives some guidelines on resisting unjust governmental decrees. There’s probably a lot more somewhere else in Aquinas, but do I look like I have that kind of time?

Fortunately, a blog called Protestant Post had the time to put together a solid analysis of the question “When Can Christians Disobey the Government?”  The methodology of reasoning inductively from the Bible looks good to me, and I didn’t notice anything in the conclusions that seemed off.  (Well, maybe one thing, but it seems relatively minor.)

Not that I have the time to be thorough–unless y’all make me in comments.

Here are some interesting passages from the Protestant Post post. Lemme know what you think of them!

Section 2: First Principles of Resistance:

. . .

2.8. Christians engaging in lawful disobedience must still sincerely seek the good of the magistrate they are opposing and the commonwealth of which they are members; God blesses this kind of lawful disobedience.

Section 3: Unjust Commands:

3. Christians can and must disobey the magistrate when required to do something sinful or prevented from fulfilling their positive duties towards God.

3.1. In refusing to comply with evil commands, Christians have a positive duty to aid their brethren in this resistance spiritually, physically, and financially.

3.2. If there is disagreement among Christians about what is or is not sinful – and thus when the magistrate may be disobeyed – the duty to aid the brethren is not abrogated.

3.3. If one believes another Christian’s disobedience was unwise, he is still obligated to help him; however, if the disobedience was of an obvious, blatant, and pagan-like nature, aid may be withheld until such time as he repents.

3.4. The manner of disobedience must be in a form proportionate to the sin being required (or the sin of omission which would be incurred if the Christian obeyed the magistrate).

. . .

Section 6: Preparing for Lawful Disobedience:

6. Christians are to understand the times in which they live and the culture they inhabit.

6.1. Since at many times throughout their history, God’s people have been persecuted and attacked, Christians, of all people, ought to be the most vigilant in anticipating tyranny and the corresponding possibility of resistance.

6.2. Thus, Christians have a duty to prepare for lawful disobedience. This includes several key responsibilities:

6.2.1. Ensuring congregants understand God’s law and have a strong grasp on Protestant Resistance Theory,

6.2.2. Ensuring congregants are spiritually prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice if – God forbid – things should come to that,

6.2.3. Ensuring churches have practical plans for the physical and financial effects of persecution and lawful disobedience,

6.2.4. And finally, ensuring that churches are mortifying and repenting of the sins for which they and their nation are being or will be judged.

Further Reading:

. . .

We must always remember that the most effective form of resistance is repentance and regeneration.

Published in Religion & Philosophy
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  1. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Thank you for this. I thought that this kind of resistance was very Protestant based so I’m happy to see there’s a much longer and deeper tradition than Zwingli.

    • #1
  2. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Stina (View Comment):

    Thank you for this. I thought that this kind of resistance was very Protestant based so I’m happy to see there’s a much longer and deeper tradition than Zwingli.

    And if we wanna get technical it goes even deeper. Back through “We must obey Gd rather than man” in Acts and the martyrs in the Apocrypha to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Babylon. At least.

    • #2
  3. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Mark, thanks for this.  I found the linked article to be a pretty good summary, too.

    Like you, I found one item objectionable.  I wonder if it’s the same as yours:

    2.2. Thus, when forced to decide between two sinful actions, Christians must make the less sinful choice, using the law of God as their standard.

    I found this part to be questionable.  It seems to characterize disobedience to the wrongful command of a magistrate as sinful, presumably because it violates the duty of obedience.  This seems analytically incorrect to me.

    Here’s another source that you might find interesting: a statement by John MacArthur on the same issue, from last year.

    • #3
  4. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I’ve been plowing through Acts for a couple of months now (I had to stop for a bit) with Matt Whitman and his Ten Minute Bible Hour. It’s been a great way to end my day at my desk. However, it has made this episode with Biden and Afghanistan harder to understand. He has hurt so many people. I keep thinking we’ll wake up to find God has stricken Biden in Washington as he did Herod in Caesarea. :-)

    It’s Biden’s complete indifference to human suffering that is really upsetting to see.

    • #4
  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Mark, thanks for this. I found the linked article to be a pretty good summary, too.

    Like you, I found one item objectionable. I wonder if it’s the same as yours:

    2.2. Thus, when forced to decide between two sinful actions, Christians must make the less sinful choice, using the law of God as their standard.

    I found this part to be questionable. It seems to characterize disobedience to the wrongful command of a magistrate as sinful, presumably because it violates the duty of obedience. This seems analytically incorrect to me.

    Here’s another source that you might find interesting: a statement by John MacArthur on the same issue, from last year.

    Yes! Thank you!

    That was it exactly. I hesitate to call opting for the lesser evil the same thing as committing a lesser sin.

    (I’m pretty sure Karl Barth and Reinhold Niebuhr would say it counts as sin. I respect those guys enough that I have to think this is an idea that must be taken seriously.  But I’m pretty sure I still disagree.)

    • #5
  6. Mountie Coolidge
    Mountie
    @Mountie

    Have you read Spitzers 10 Principles? I read it about 5 years ago. I was rearranging  my bookshelf and came across it.  I’m thinking I will read it again.

    Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues https://www.amazon.com/dp/1586174754/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_7QNVRPD4NEF3Y1YPBC6B

    • #6
  7. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Mark, thanks for this. I found the linked article to be a pretty good summary, too.

    Like you, I found one item objectionable. I wonder if it’s the same as yours:

    2.2. Thus, when forced to decide between two sinful actions, Christians must make the less sinful choice, using the law of God as their standard.

    I found this part to be questionable. It seems to characterize disobedience to the wrongful command of a magistrate as sinful, presumably because it violates the duty of obedience. This seems analytically incorrect to me.

    Here’s another source that you might find interesting: a statement by John MacArthur on the same issue, from last year.

    Yes! Thank you!

    That was it exactly. I hesitate to call opting for the lesser evil the same thing as committing a lesser sin.

    (I’m pretty sure Karl Barth and Reinhold Niebuhr would say it counts as sin. I respect those guys enough that I have to think this is an idea that must be taken seriously. But I’m pretty sure I still disagree.)

    I find it reassuring that we both had the same concern.  Our views do seem to be quite strongly aligned on most issues.

    I do want to tackle the Enlightenment question with you sometime.  I probably need to read Augustine and Aquinas first.  I suspect that I know much of what they have to say, indirectly, but I haven’t studied it from the original sources.  Do you think that this is the best approach, or do you have another suggestion?

    • #7
  8. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Mountie (View Comment):

    Have you read Spitzers 10 Principles? I read it about 5 years ago. I was rearranging my bookshelf and came across it. I’m thinking I will read it again.

    Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues https://www.amazon.com/dp/1586174754/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_7QNVRPD4NEF3Y1YPBC6B

    I have not.

    Can’t make any promises now. SOOOOOO much to read.  But I’ll at least keep the browser tab open till I can think about it.

    (Provisionally, it looks good!  I bet someone who reads this thread would benefit from it and can spare the time to read!)

    • #8
  9. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I find it reassuring that we both had the same concern.  Our views do seem to be quite strongly aligned on most issues.

    I do want to tackle the Enlightenment question with you sometime.  I probably need to read Augustine and Aquinas first.  I suspect that I know much of what they have to say, indirectly, but I haven’t studied it from the original sources.  Do you think that this is the best approach, or do you have another suggestion?

    Oh, dear.  I don’t know.  There are too many places to start that make sense!

    Maybe start with this: There are different Enlightenment philosophers, and different aspects of the Enlightenment.  They’re often subjected to misunderstandings and oversimplifications.  A big story on the history of philosophy like in Francis Schaeffer’s books or Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue can be super-insightful and mostly right and still misunderstand a Kant, a Locke, or a Descartes.

    For premodern philosophy, I would say Anselm’s Proslogion, Boethius’ Consolation, and shorter dialogues by Plato are a terrific introduction to things.  But Lewis’ Screwtape LettersMere Christianity, and Abolition of Man represent the premodern tradition marvelously well.

    For modern philosophy, I’m not sure where to start.  But maybe–just maybe–a good place to start would be finding out what Locke himself says. One of the most Christian-worldview-friendly Enlightenment philosophers, and usually not properly understood.

    Specifically, the Letter Concerning Toleration, and maybe add to that The Second Treatise of Government.

    I have YouTube intros to a lot of this stuff.

    “Great Texts in Philosophy” playlist.

    “The Philosophers in Their Own Words” playlist.

    • #9
  10. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I find it reassuring that we both had the same concern. Our views do seem to be quite strongly aligned on most issues.

    I do want to tackle the Enlightenment question with you sometime. I probably need to read Augustine and Aquinas first. I suspect that I know much of what they have to say, indirectly, but I haven’t studied it from the original sources. Do you think that this is the best approach, or do you have another suggestion?

    Oh, dear. I don’t know. There are too many places to start that make sense!

    Maybe start with this: There are different Enlightenment philosophers, and different aspects of the Enlightenment. They’re often subjected to misunderstandings and oversimplifications. A big story on the history of philosophy like in Francis Schaeffer’s books or Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue can be super-insightful and mostly right and still misunderstand a Kant, a Locke, or a Descartes.

    For premodern philosophy, I would say Anselm’s Proslogion, Boethius’ Consolation, and shorter dialogues by Plato are a terrific introduction to things. But Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and Abolition of Man represent the premodern tradition marvelously well.

    For modern philosophy, I’m not sure where to start. But maybe–just maybe–a good place to start would be finding out what Locke himself says. One of the most Christian-worldview-friendly Enlightenment philosophers, and usually not properly understood.

    Specifically, the Letter Concerning Toleration, and maybe add to that The Second Treatise of Government.

    I have YouTube intros to a lot of this stuff.

    “Great Texts in Philosophy” playlist.

    “The Philosophers in Their Own Words” playlist.

    Thanks.  I’ve studied Lewis and Locke, at least.  I did not find Locke to be convincing, and I think that he contradicted himself in Toleration.  I think that I’ll listen to Abolition of Man, which is available for free on YouTube, and then move on to Augustine.

    • #10
  11. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Thanks.  I’ve studied Lewis and Locke, at least.  I did not find Locke to be convincing, and I think that he contradicted himself in Toleration.  I think that I’ll listen to Abolition of Man, which is available for free on YouTube, and then move on to Augustine.

    Locke contradict himself?  How?

    • #11
  12. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Thanks. I’ve studied Lewis and Locke, at least. I did not find Locke to be convincing, and I think that he contradicted himself in Toleration. I think that I’ll listen to Abolition of Man, which is available for free on YouTube, and then move on to Augustine.

    Locke contradict himself? How?

    On p. 35-36 of this version of the First Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke wrote:

    Again: That Church can have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate which is constituted upon such a bottom that all those who enter into it do thereby ipso facto deliver themselves up to the protection and service of another prince. For by this means the magistrate would give way to the settling of a foreign jurisdiction in his own country and suffer his own people to be listed, as it were, for soldiers against his own Government. Nor does the frivolous and fallacious distinction between the Court and the Church afford any remedy to this inconvenience; especially when both the one and the other are equally subject to the absolute authority of the same person, who has not only power to persuade the members of his Church to whatsoever he lists, either as purely religious, or in order thereunto, but can also enjoin it them on pain of eternal fire. It is ridiculous for any one to profess himself to be a Mahometan only in his religion, but in everything else a faithful subject to a Christian magistrate, whilst at the same time he acknowledges himself bound to yield blind obedience to the Mufti of Constantinople, who himself is entirely obedient to the Ottoman Emperor and frames the feigned oracles of that religion according to his pleasure. But this Mahometan living amongst Christians would yet more apparently renounce their government if he acknowledged the same person to be head of his Church who is the supreme magistrate in the state.

    So Muslim freedom of religion does not have to be tolerated, according to this part, and the argument applies equally to Catholics, though Locke does not say so.  In fact, it also applies to Episcopals in the US, as the head of their church is the Queen of England.

    But then on p. 40 of the same letter, Locke wrote:

    Nay, if we may openly speak the truth, and as becomes one man to another, neither Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion. The Gospel commands no such thing. The Church which “judgeth not those that are without” wants it not.

    I find these two portions of the Letter to be completely contradictory.

    I also find the latter argument to be a dubious interpretation of the quoted portion of Scripture.

    [Cont’d]

    • #12
  13. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I find these two portions of the Letter to be completely contradictory.

    You gotta start by understanding the basis for religious toleration. The whole argument presumes some Reformation theology.

    • #13
  14. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    But then on p. 40 of the same letter, Locke wrote:

    Nay, if we may openly speak the truth, and as becomes one man to another, neither Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion. The Gospel commands no such thing. The Church which “judgeth not those that are without” wants it not.

    . . .

    I also find the latter argument to be a dubious interpretation of the quoted portion of Scripture.

    Maybe. I’d have to check the context in 1 Corinthians or wherever that is.

    • #14
  15. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I don’t really view Locke as a philosopher/theologian arguing from first principles.  I think that he was fundamentally an apologist for the government that had emerged after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, coupled with the preceding English Civil War that had established Parliamentary supremacy (mostly) and defeated the Royalist position based on the divine right of kings.

    Generally speaking, I find the English governmental settlement of the late 17th Century congenial, particularly after the subsequent American development removing the King altogether.  This is the system upon which I was raised, and I rather like it.  I find Locke to be a pretty good apologist for this system, in the sense that he presents a moderately convincing post hoc justification for the system.  I don’t think that he bases his arguments on reason, however, but rather on a series of ipse dixit assertions that seem self-evident to those who agree with his conclusions, particularly if they were raised within the system.

    Maybe I’m wrong about this, and maybe I’m just getting quite cynical in my old age.  I don’t think so, but I’m not perfect.

    I’ve found the same problem in every philosophical system that I’ve studied.  For me, the first was Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, which was very congenial to me in my youth.  She purported to base her arguments on the “nature of man.”  After about a year or so, I realized that “nature of man” meant “the way that Ayn Rand thinks men ought to be.”  It was circular reasoning.

    I’ve looked into a few other systems, to a greater or lesser degree — Locke, Kant, Marx, and Rawls come to mind.  I found all to have the same flaw, usually apparent quite quickly.  As a result, I was not inclined to study them further.

    I later came to Christian faith, for entirely non-rational reasons.  Not really irrational, but more meta-rational.  I do find that this system is quite internally consistent and coherent, and does not make the mistake of presuming that it is based on pure reason.

    I do think that our Founders did a better job than the other philosophers.  I hang this conclusion on two little words in the Declaration: “We hold.”  They did not declare that their views were self-evident, as a matter of reason.  They declared that we hold them to be self-evident, which I view as akin to a declaration of faith.  It is possible that I am projecting more meaning into these two little words than Jefferson intended.

    • #15
  16. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I don’t really view Locke as a philosopher/theologian arguing from first principles. . . .

    Generally speaking, I find the English governmental settlement of the late 17th Century congenial, particularly after the subsequent American development removing the King altogether. This is the system upon which I was raised, and I rather like it. I find Locke to be a pretty good apologist for this system, in the sense that he presents a moderately convincing post hoc justification for the system. I don’t think that he bases his arguments on reason, however, but rather on a series of ipse dixit assertions that seem self-evident to those who agree with his conclusions, particularly if they were raised within the system.

    Maybe I’m wrong about this, and maybe I’m just getting quite cynical in my old age. I don’t think so, but I’m not perfect.

    Well, I’m not perfect either, but I have found from studying Locke that he is indeed making those arguments from those premises.

    But then we have to look at the premises to be sure what to make of them.

    • #16
  17. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Mark, I really appreciate the videos in #13 above.  I have some follow-up.

    Point 1: Atheism

    In the first video, you argue that Locke’s reasoning should apply to toleration of atheism, though he reached the opposite conclusion.  Moreover, as I mentioned above, Locke argued against toleration of Islam (explicitly) and Catholicism (implicitly, with the same argument that applied to Islam).  He did contradict this at the end, as I noted, without any reasoning.

    So it seems to me that Locke’s position favors toleration among the Protestant sects, but not otherwise.  Is this not the better interpretation of his Letter?  If his view was influential in the creation of our Constitution, shouldn’t this guide our interpretation of the 1st Amendment religion clauses?

    Do you know the philosophical source of the argument that “freedom of religion” requires toleration of atheism?  The earliest source that I’ve seen is from Justice Black’s majority opinion in Everson v. Board of Education (1947, here), in which he wrote that the establishment of religion clause meant a variety of things, including: “Neither [state nor federal governments] can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.”  He cited no legal or philosophical authority for this assertion.

    There may be a good argument for the toleration of atheism, but it doesn’t seem to come from Locke.

    Point 2: Locke’s argument for individual rights

    I think that you did a good job summarizing Locke’s argument for individual rights, in your third video.  The relevant portion of your presentation of Locke’s argument was:

    1. All human beings have reason.
    2. All beings with reason can know God.
    3. All beings who can know God are valuable to God.
    4. All beings who are valuable to God have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property.

    I question whether this is consistent with Biblical teaching.  I don’t think that the Bible teaches that we are valuable to God due to our reason.  It teaches that we are valuable to God because we are “made in the image” of God, whatever that means.

    Locke’s argument would be correct if “made in the image of God” refers to our capacity to reason.  Does Scripture teach this?

    I don’t think so.  When Abraham believed God, it wasn’t credited to him as outstanding reasoning.  It was credited to him as righteousness.  Jesus did not become the perfect sacrifice for the salvation of the world because of His supreme reasoning ability (though He does have supreme reasoning ability).  He became the perfect sacrifice because of His righteousness.  He was without sin.  We are saved by grace through faith, but this does not clothe us in the preeminent rationality of Christ.  It clothes us in His righteousness.

    So I suggest that it is our capacity for righteousness that makes us bear the image of God, not our reason.

    [Cont’d]

    • #17
  18. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I have a vague uneasiness at Locke’s elevation of reason.  It has an odor of Jacobinism, though I know that Locke was not a Jacobin.  Temple of Reason and all that.

    This does point toward our disagreement about the so-called Enlightenment.  I should make it clear that I do not denigrate reason.  I think that I recognize its limitations.

    Point 3:  Locke’s argument for toleration

    Your third video presents Locke’s argument for toleration, with the pertinent part as follows:

    1. No one who has salvation is physically coerced
    2. The government’s only power is physical coercion
    3. So the state has no power to help people get salvation

    I understand what you mean, though I think that Locke explains it in more detail.  I do agree with your point that his idea derives from the Reformation, and specifically the rejection of a works-based salvation in favor of a faith-based salvation.  True, saving faith cannot be coerced.  I agree with that.

    But I think that Locke’s argument that this precludes government action with respect to religious issues is incorrect, or at least incomplete.  You cannot coerce someone to true faith — but you can protect someone from false teaching, by coercion directed at the false teacher(s).  This is not forcing someone to faith, but protecting them from error.

    There are a great many warnings in Scripture about the danger of false teachers, from the Lord Himself in the Gospels, and from Paul, Peter, and John in the epistles.

    There may be a viable argument that government power should not be used to prevent false teaching, but it doesn’t appear that Locke makes that argument (at least not here).  Does he make it elsewhere?

    I hope that you find this exchange interesting, as I do, rather than annoying.  :)

     

     

     

    • #18
  19. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Mark, I really appreciate the videos in #13 above.

    Thanks!

    In the first video, you argue that Locke’s reasoning should apply to toleration of atheism, . . . .

    That’s not what I argue.

    Moreover, as I mentioned above, Locke argued against toleration of Islam (explicitly) and Catholicism (implicitly, with the same argument that applied to Islam). He did contradict this at the end, as I noted, without any reasoning.

    That is not correct. I think you’ve missed his argument.

    So it seems to me that Locke’s position favors toleration among the Protestant sects, but not otherwise. Is this not the better interpretation of his Letter?

    Yes. Or rather–“but not necessarily otherwise.” In theory, it can apply to other religions as long as they don’t get violent, don’t commit you to serving a foreign government, etc.

    But remember the crucial point: His argument for toleration is based on a Reformation understanding of the pursuit of spiritual goods.

    If his view was influential in the creation of our Constitution, shouldn’t this guide our interpretation of the 1st Amendment religion clauses?

    Possibly.

    Do you know the philosophical source of the argument that “freedom of religion” requires toleration of atheism?

    I don’t.

    • #19
  20. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I think that you did a good job summarizing Locke’s argument for individual rights, in your third video. The relevant portion of your presentation of Locke’s argument was:

    1. All human beings have reason.
    2. All beings with reason can know God.
    3. All beings who can know God are valuable to God.
    4. All beings who are valuable to God have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property.

    I question whether this is consistent with Biblical teaching. I don’t think that the Bible teaches that we are valuable to God due to our reason. It teaches that we are valuable to God because we are “made in the image” of God, whatever that means.

    Locke’s argument would be correct if “made in the image of God” refers to our capacity to reason. Does Scripture teach this?

    Some say so.  Some say other things.

    But if it’s not what the Bible teaches, that does not mean it’s not consistent with what the Bible teaches.

    Also, a more explicitly biblical reasoning should work just fine.  Just replace 1 and 2 with “All human beings are the image of G-d” and replace 3 with “All images of G-d are valuable to G-d,” and you have the parallel biblical argument for the the same conclusions.

    I don’t think so. When Abraham believed God, it wasn’t credited to him as outstanding reasoning.

    How is that relevant?  He was the image of G-d before he believed G-d.  Faith is how he found favor with G-d, not how he became the image of G-d.

    . . .

    So I suggest that it is our capacity for righteousness that makes us bear the image of God, not our reason.

    Oh, I get it.  You’re arguing backwards from other things in Scripture for an understanding of the image of G-d.  Ok, that’s awesome.

    • #20
  21. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Your third video presents Locke’s argument for toleration, with the pertinent part as follows:

    1. No one who has salvation is physically coerced
    2. The government’s only power is physical coercion
    3. So the state has no power to help people get salvation

    I understand what you mean, though I think that Locke explains it in more detail. I do agree with your point that his idea derives from the Reformation, and specifically the rejection of a works-based salvation in favor of a faith-based salvation. True, saving faith cannot be coerced. I agree with that.

    I don’t think that’s the exact difference between Protestant and Catholic soteriology, since they both agree that faith must be expressed in life; faith and works go together; better yet, faith and works are the same thing!

    It’s more about whether justification (favor with G-d, being considered righteous, being forgiven) is a change in us (Catholic position) or a change in how G-d classifies us (Protestant position).

    Regardless, this difference leads Locke to think of spiritual goods exclusively in terms of G-d’s favor, not in terms of the health or proper functioning of the soul, which is a spiritual good pondered by the western tradition all the way from Plato’s Republic to Thomas Aquinas.  And the health of the soul seems to be a thing that can be affected by coercion.

    But I think that Locke’s argument that this precludes government action with respect to religious issues is incorrect, or at least incomplete. You cannot coerce someone to true faith — but you can protect someone from false teaching, by coercion directed at the false teacher(s). This is not forcing someone to faith, but protecting them from error.

    Interesting counter-argument!

    I’m guessing the Lockean response would be something like “Yeah, but you’re still coercing the false teacher!  And you’re also coercing everyone else to some extent–you’re forcing them to not personally have true faith in knowing rejection of that false teaching.”

    There are a great many warnings in Scripture about the danger of false teachers, from the Lord Himself in the Gospels, and from Paul, Peter, and John in the epistles.

    Are they addressed to the government?

    There may be a viable argument that government power should not be used to prevent false teaching, but it doesn’t appear that Locke makes that argument (at least not here). Does he make it elsewhere?

    I hope that you find this exchange interesting, as I do, rather than annoying. :)

    Oh, it’s great!

    • #21
  22. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Thanks for the responses, Mark.  I’m going to respond to just a couple of your points.

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Interesting counter-argument!

    I’m guessing the Lockean response would be something like “Yeah, but you’re still coercing the false teacher!  And you’re also coercing everyone else to some extent–you’re forcing them to not personally have true faith in knowing rejection of that false teaching.”

    There are a great many warnings in Scripture about the danger of false teachers, from the Lord Himself in the Gospels, and from Paul, Peter, and John in the epistles.

    Are they addressed to the government?

    No, they’re not.  Neither are the portions on which Locke relies, as far as I can tell.  We’re dealing with uncharted territory here, I think, as I don’t recall the New Testament giving any significant guidance to government officials, or citizens voting in a representative republic.

    We might draw analogies to the Old Testament, in which case the Lockean argument fails, I think.  (There are many examples of this in 1 and 2 Kings).  But this raises other complex issues, about the extent to which the new covenant replaces the old, and the continued applicability of Old Testament moral, civil, and ceremonial law, and the replacement of the nation of Israel by the church of Christ with respect to both the promises and commands in the Old Testament.

    As an aside, I think that there is Old Testament support for something like the separation of church and state.  Of course, in the New Testament, there’s the Lord’s line about rendering unto Caesar.  In the Old Testament, there’s the punishment and rejection of Saul for usurping the religious role of the prophet/judge, Samuel, by offering sacrifices when Samuel didn’t arrive as quickly as Saul wanted.

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    I don’t think that’s the exact difference between Protestant and Catholic soteriology, since they both agree that faith must be expressed in life; faith and works go together; better yet, faith and works are the same thing!

    I don’t agree with the part about faith and works being the same thing.  They are connected in a way that we manifest imperfectly.  Perfect faith would result in perfect righteousness, which would result in perfect works.  This leads to the justification/sanctification distinction.

    • #22
  23. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Thanks for the responses, Mark. I’m going to respond to just a couple of your points.

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Interesting counter-argument!

    I’m guessing the Lockean response would be something like “Yeah, but you’re still coercing the false teacher! And you’re also coercing everyone else to some extent–you’re forcing them to not personally have true faith in knowing rejection of that false teaching.”

    There are a great many warnings in Scripture about the danger of false teachers, from the Lord Himself in the Gospels, and from Paul, Peter, and John in the epistles.

    Are they addressed to the government?

    No, they’re not. Neither are the portions on which Locke relies, as far as I can tell.

    Why would that matter? His point is that the NT passages addressed to the church cover faith and persuasion, but never coercion.

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    I don’t think that’s the exact difference between Protestant and Catholic soteriology, since they both agree that faith must be expressed in life; faith and works go together; better yet, faith and works are the same thing!

    I don’t agree with the part about faith and works being the same thing. They are connected in a way that we manifest imperfectly. Perfect faith would result in perfect righteousness, which would result in perfect works. This leads to the justification/sanctification distinction.

    Deathbed conversions aside, is there any faith without works?  Does faith mean anything without the action that expresses it?

    • #23
  24. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Thanks for the responses, Mark. I’m going to respond to just a couple of your points.

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Interesting counter-argument!

    I’m guessing the Lockean response would be something like “Yeah, but you’re still coercing the false teacher! And you’re also coercing everyone else to some extent–you’re forcing them to not personally have true faith in knowing rejection of that false teaching.”

    There are a great many warnings in Scripture about the danger of false teachers, from the Lord Himself in the Gospels, and from Paul, Peter, and John in the epistles.

    Are they addressed to the government?

    No, they’re not. Neither are the portions on which Locke relies, as far as I can tell.

    Why would that matter? His point is that the NT passages addressed to the church cover faith and persuasion, but never coercion.

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    I don’t think that’s the exact difference between Protestant and Catholic soteriology, since they both agree that faith must be expressed in life; faith and works go together; better yet, faith and works are the same thing!

    I don’t agree with the part about faith and works being the same thing. They are connected in a way that we manifest imperfectly. Perfect faith would result in perfect righteousness, which would result in perfect works. This leads to the justification/sanctification distinction.

    Deathbed conversions aside, is there any faith without works? Does faith mean anything without the action that expresses it?

    On point 1, about passages not being addressed to the government: It would matter because Locke is inferring that passages not directed to the government nevertheless apply to the government.  Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  It’s not clear.  There are passages about the government enforcing law for the good, without being specific about whether or not this would include any compulsion relating to faith.

    On point 2, I agree that true faith should be accompanied by works, deathbed conversions aside.  Faith does mean something without the action that expresses it, though.  There should be works, if there is the time, but I don’t think that the thief on the cross next to the Lord’s had time for any works.  His faith was enough.

    This is one of the central disputes between Catholics and Protestants, of course, especially regarding the Catholic belief that the required works include participation in proper Catholic rituals.  I think that the Biblical teaching is pretty clear, though there is that troubling passage in James.  My conclusion is that we are saved by faith, and faith alone.  Our works add nothing to our salvation.  But true faith should be manifest in works, so if we have no works, we should question whether we have faith.

    • #24
  25. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    On point 1, about passages not being addressed to the government: It would matter because Locke is inferring that passages not directed to the government nevertheless apply to the government.  Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  It’s not clear.  There are passages about the government enforcing law for the good, without being specific about whether or not this would include any compulsion relating to faith.

    I think you’re still missing the point. His point is that everything the NT says about the means of getting G-d’s favor is limited to that which is obtained or supported through tools of persuasion, not force.

    On point 2, I agree that true faith should be accompanied by works, deathbed conversions aside.  Faith does mean something without the action that expresses it, though.  There should be works, if there is the time, but I don’t think that the thief on the cross next to the Lord’s had time for any works.  His faith was enough.

    Hence the deathbed conversion exception I mentioned.

    Not that it applies to even the thief. He chided the other guy and publicly professed. One or more of those things is an act of faith.

    This is one of the central disputes between Catholics and Protestants, of course, especially regarding the Catholic belief that the required works include participation in proper Catholic rituals.  I think that the Biblical teaching is pretty clear, though there is that troubling passage in James.  My conclusion is that we are saved by faith, and faith alone.  Our works add nothing to our salvation.  But true faith should be manifest in works, so if we have no works, we should question whether we have faith.

    Yes on all points! Except I don’t find the bit in James troubling.

    • #25
  26. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    This is one of the central disputes between Catholics and Protestants, of course, especially regarding the Catholic belief that the required works include participation in proper Catholic rituals.  I think that the Biblical teaching is pretty clear, though there is that troubling passage in James.  My conclusion is that we are saved by faith, and faith alone.  Our works add nothing to our salvation.  But true faith should be manifest in works, so if we have no works, we should question whether we have faith.

    Yes on all points! Except I don’t find the bit in James troubling.

    This is the most puzzling thing to me, that Catholics require works for salvation but Protestants don’t.

    I am a Protestant attending a baptist church… and I think the Baptist’s are the most works based. Does that seem backwards to you? It’s kind of surprising to me, too.

    Believer’s baptism depends on the person achieving a certain threshold of knowledge before being saved. Catholics require nothing for baptism, but rely on the Holy Spirit to immediately begin sanctifying as soon as they have been baptized.

    The Baptist says children can not be saved until they understand what sin is and what it means to repent and be saved. Do any of us truly understand that? The Catholics simply ask that you engage in certain disciplines and the Holy Spirit will finish the work Christ already began on the cross. No prior knowledge is necessary.

    The Baptist church requires foreswearing of certain acts to maintain good standing in the church. The “Do Nots”. The Catholics simply ask you confess your sins and return to the disciplines so the Holy Spirit can complete his work.

    I see it completely differently than most (except maybe Catholics), even not being Catholic. Maybe the English are right and Anglicanism is really just a branch of Catholicism :p

    • #26
  27. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Stina (View Comment):

    This is the most puzzling thing to me, that Catholics require works for salvation but Protestants don’t.

    I don’t think that is even true. Catholics do not require works in that they do not think that works earn God’s favor. Protestants require works in that they think that there is no faith without repentance, and repentance must be acted on.

    This whole supposed dichotomy is, I think, a misunderstanding of the real difference, which is whether justification and sanctification are distinct things.

    Believer’s baptism depends on the person achieving a certain threshold of knowledge before being saved. Catholics require nothing for baptism, but rely on the Holy Spirit to immediately begin sanctifying as soon as they have been baptized.

    The Baptist says children can not be saved until they understand what sin is and what it means to repent and be saved. Do any of us truly understand that? The Catholics simply ask that you engage in certain disciplines and the Holy Spirit will finish the work Christ already began on the cross. No prior knowledge is necessary.

    Yes, that seems about right to me. Except that I don’t see why a partial knowledge shouldn’t be possible just because a complete knowledge is not.

    • #27
  28. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Something interesting for @arizonapatriot

    https://meetingthemasters.blogspot.com/search?q=equality&m=1

    It looks like he’s been doing a deep dive on the enlightenment and equality. I got the link as a reference, so it’s not something I commonly read.

    • #28
  29. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Stina (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    This is one of the central disputes between Catholics and Protestants, of course, especially regarding the Catholic belief that the required works include participation in proper Catholic rituals. I think that the Biblical teaching is pretty clear, though there is that troubling passage in James. My conclusion is that we are saved by faith, and faith alone. Our works add nothing to our salvation. But true faith should be manifest in works, so if we have no works, we should question whether we have faith.

    Yes on all points! Except I don’t find the bit in James troubling.

    This is the most puzzling thing to me, that Catholics require works for salvation but Protestants don’t.

    I am a Protestant attending a baptist church… and I think the Baptist’s are the most works based. Does that seem backwards to you? It’s kind of surprising to me, too.

    Believer’s baptism depends on the person achieving a certain threshold of knowledge before being saved. Catholics require nothing for baptism, but rely on the Holy Spirit to immediately begin sanctifying as soon as they have been baptized.

    The Baptist says children can not be saved until they understand what sin is and what it means to repent and be saved. Do any of us truly understand that? The Catholics simply ask that you engage in certain disciplines and the Holy Spirit will finish the work Christ already began on the cross. No prior knowledge is necessary.

    The Baptist church requires foreswearing of certain acts to maintain good standing in the church. The “Do Nots”. The Catholics simply ask you confess your sins and return to the disciplines so the Holy Spirit can complete his work.

    I see it completely differently than most (except maybe Catholics), even not being Catholic. Maybe the English are right and Anglicanism is really just a branch of Catholicism :p

    Stina, I don’t know what church you’ve been attending.  I’ve been to 3 different baptist churches, and they are not as you describe.  This doesn’t mean that you’re wrong, just that not all baptist churches are the same.

    • #29
  30. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Stina, I don’t know what church you’ve been attending.  I’ve been to 3 different baptist churches, and they are not as you describe.  This doesn’t mean that you’re wrong, just that not all baptist churches are the same.

    My church is fine. But the sinner’s prayer and the way it is taught is absolutely a works based ritual.

    If I ask a good baptist girl what she must do to be saved, she gives me the sinner’s prayer rundown. The correct answer is nothing but believe.

    • #30

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