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The Biblical Politics of John Locke

Kim Ian Parker

Publication Year: 2004

John Locke is often thought of as one of the founders of the Enlightenment, a movement that sought to do away with the Bible and religion and replace them with scientific realism. But Locke was extremely interested in the Bible, and he was engaged by biblical theology and religion throughout his life. In this new book, K.I. Parker considers Locke’s interest in Scripture and how that interest is articulated in the development of his political philosophy.

Parker shows that Locke’s liberalism is inspired by his religious vision and, particularly, his distinctive understanding of the early chapters of the book of Genesis. Unlike Sir Robert Filmer, who understood the Bible to justify social hierarchies (i.e., the divine right of the king, the first-born son’s rights over other siblings, and the “natural” subservience of women to men), Locke understood from the Bible that humans are in a natural state of freedom and equality to each other. The biblical debate between Filmer and Locke furnishes scholars with a better understanding of Lockes political views as presented in his Two Treatises.

The Biblical Politics of John Locke demonstrates the impact of the Bible on one of the most influential thinkers of the seventeenth century, and provides an original context in which to situate the debate concerning the origins of early modern political thought.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Editions SR

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

In the writing of this book I have accumulated many debts, which are a pleasure to acknowledge. I am grateful to the Bodleian Library in Oxford for allowing me to consult the manuscripts and books in the Locke archive, and for giving me permission to print excerpts from them. I also wish to thank the British Library in London, ...

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pp. 1-6

My study of the biblical politics of John Locke is both theological and political in its inspiration, as it considers Locke’s interest in scripture and how that interest unfolds in the development of his political philosophy. I will argue that the Bible was an important component in his political outlook and, far from providing ...

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CHAPTER ONE: John Locke: A Lifelong Interest in the Bible

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pp. 7-36

While it is true that John Locke was not one to hold on to beliefs or opinions that he thought improbable or false, it is equally true that some matters preoccupied him throughout his life: science, medicine, philosophy, politics, and especially religion. More particularly, it is his fascination with scripture, ...

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CHAPTER TWO: Reason, Revelation, and the Fall

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pp. 37-66

In the preceding chapter we saw Locke’s bona fide interest in the Bible throughout his intellectual life. It is important now to spend time considering what form of revelation Locke thought the Bible took and how he used rational criteria to understand the meaning or the message of the Bible. In this discussion we ...

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CHAPTER THREE: Adam and Patriarchal Political Order

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pp. 67-94

Thus far we have seen not only how the Bible had an ongoing influence on Locke, but how the story of the Fall gives us insight into Locke’s views on toleration, politics, and human nature—this, in spite of the fact that reason and language cannot give us certain knowledge in many things. We have also seen that ...

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CHAPTER FOUR: John Locke’s Adam: The First Treatise

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pp. 95-122

In chapter 1, I discussed how important the Bible was to the intellectual development of John Locke and, in chapter 2, how the doctrine of the Fall (or what Adam is said to have lost) functioned as a kind of leitmotif in Locke’s biblical investigations—this notwithstanding the problematic relationship between reason ...

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CHAPTER FIVE: John Locke’s Adam: The Second Treatise

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pp. 123-146

Scholars who discuss Locke’s biblical argument with Filmer in the First Treatise usually agree that Locke has a better understanding of the early chapters in Genesis than does his more literal-minded opponent. These same commentators, however, argue that the biblical references, so apparent in the First Treatise ...

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pp. 147-154

In this book I have considered Locke’s political thought from the perspective of his biblical concerns. Locke not only understood the Bible to be the central religious document of Christianity, but also saw it as a repository of political ideas, as a book that contained not only important teachings on the duties ...


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pp. 155-194


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pp. 195-201

E-ISBN-13: 9781554581191
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889204508
Print-ISBN-10: 0889204500

Page Count: 210
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Editions SR