Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More "Extremes" from the Harvard Narrative?

In his last post Jon Rowe cited Paul Sigmund, of Princeton, reviewing John Marshall, of Johns Hopkins on John Locke. That piece contained this statement:

"Locke believed that Christ died not to atone for Adam's sin, but to show us the way to eternal life."

In the comments section I proposed changing that to the following:

"Locke believed that Christ died not to atone for Adam's sin, but for the sin of each individual."

I went back and read his notes on Romans 5:12-19 from The Works of John Locke, Volume 8 and it seems clear that he did not believe in original sin. You can read it for yourself, but in my reading I found no dispute with the first half of this statement quoted above from Jon's post.

Nonetheless, I do dispute the second half of the quote. I base this on reading Locke's notes on Romans 3:24 in which he stated this:

"For it is to God we are redeemed, by the death of Christ"
Thus my contention that Locke believed that Christ died for our personal sins.

Here is more from Locke on the topic of redemption from The Reasonableness of Christianity that brings some context to my quote above:

"IT is obvious to any one, who reads the New Testament, that the doctrine of redemption, and consequently of the gospel, is founded upon the supposition of Adam's fall. To understand, therefore, what we are restored to by Jesus Christ, we must consider what the scriptures show we lost by Adam. This I thought worthy of a diligent and unbiassed search : since I found the two extremes that men run into on this point, either on the one hand shook the foundations of all religion, or, on the other, made Christianity almost nothing : for while some men would have all Adam's posterity doomed to eternal, infinite punishment, for the transgression of Adam, whom millions had never heard of, and no one had authorised to transact for him, or be his representative ; this seemed to others so little consistent with the justice or goodness of the great and infinite God, that they thought there was no redemption necessary, and consequently, that there was none ; rather than admit of it upon a supposition so derogatory to the honour and attributes of that infinite Being ; and so made Jesus Christ nothing but the restorer and preacher of pure natural religion ; thereby doing violence to the whole tenour of the New Testament."

I think this says it all and gives us a true picture of what Locke taught about original sin and redemption. It also makes me wonder if the modern Locke scholars just ignore the things that do not align with their preconceived notions of Locke that do not fit with the "extremes" Locke warned against found in the Harvard Narrative? Locke seems to have had a problem with Augustine and Calvin, not the Bible.

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