Context- Born into middle class family, father attorney. Was able to send locke to
prestigious school and lock went to oxford where he obtained a masters. He
contemplated career in church but dropped that plan. He did a degree in medicine
later on. He held various positions at Christ church college in oxford. Becomes
interested in mechanical philosophy. He read natural philosophy and chemistry. In
1556, life turning event here he met lord Ashley the earl of shoxberry. Asked locke
to work with him in London. Locke then had a change in his political views. Favors
absolutist monarchy. He wrote two tracks on government.
-locke in his assosiation with lord Ashley, writes an essay concerning toleration not
confused with the letter concerning toleration. We then we a tolerant locke. Lord
shaksberry charged with treason. During lockes time in exile, he wrote a letter
concerning toleration, which was later published in England, in the aftermath of the
3 letters were final letters on locke concerning toleration, which made him the
poster boy on the idea of toleration.
First letter concerning toleration (main concern)- indifferent things: religious
Three relationships examined: state and church/religion (Christianity)
Relationship among churches- Christians among different churches and different
sexes among christian
More convinced of his argument when he met those group of people in Netherlands
Relationship of state and religions other than Christianity and non believers?
Different religions and the practice of those religions
Policy of toleration is the policy that is needed to address those questions- Locke
Toleration is a policy and is the mark of a true Christian, one if not a true Christian If
he is not tolerant. Characteristic mark of the true church is toleration. Has to be
extended to everyone, that is the principle method of gospel. So towards all mankind
and even those that are not christians. This is based on his readings of the gospels
Charity begins at home- page 23 and 24- quote: “whether they do it out of friendship
or kindness……they commit against the percepts of the gospel”.
Page 25: “and to genuine reason of mankind…..seems monstrous of men to be so
blind…in so clear a light”, it is useful to be tolerant so has an instrumental value to it
Two primary justifications: 1. Religious justifications 2. Rational justifications- he uses scriptures and the interpretations of those
scriptures – gospel and reason (simultaneous)
The Hobbesian connection----trying to rationalize Christianity. Locke is doing the
same thing. Hes continusly sayin theres inst much difference with what gospel is
sayin and what reason demands us to.
Relation between state and church/religion- separation and non-interference
Central argument: the different purposes argument
Can the civil magistrate impose its will on religious matters, Locke says no and talks
about certain exceptions. Affairs of the state from affairs of religion: “to settle the
just bounds that lie between one and the other”. Purposes of the state has a different
purpose than that of religion. Meant to serve different ends and so needs to function
differently. Takes us into the definition of what is a commonwealth (states or
political community)- preserving or advancing their civil interests and is a society of
men. Civil interests he defines as life, liberty, health and the position of outward
things such as money and lands. Matters which pertains to worldly affairs. Civil
magistrate is one that looks after the civil interests of man.
Church is a voluntary society of men coming together to the public worshiping of
god for the salvation of souls. Within this definition we can see the understanding of
locke regarding the purpose of religion. Worshiping needed for the salvation of
souls, an important means to attain salvation. That is the purpose of religion. So
commonwealth and religion established to serve different purposes. Religion and
church serves the spiritual interests/ the other worldly affairs. So argument that
they should function separately, which is the central argument
Three derivative arguments from central arguments/main arguments:
Why state shiuld not be seen as the entity which should look after the salvation of
souls, due to the authority of state. Where it comes from? – the people. So it is the
contract and consent from which the state derives its authority from. First makes a
religious point then goes into the contractual position.
Authority of the state- P26- ‘ “because the care of souls…..it appears not that god has
given such authority over one man”- has not commanded states to give authority to
the care of souls. Very theological argument. Relates to jewish commonwealth,
where there was an absolute theocracy where god was the legislator. Says from new
testimont has a difference. No such thing as Christian of commonwealth. God has not
given any individual the right to take care of others (individuals) nor to the
authority of gov (what the gospel says).
Contractual- locke thinks that no man can abandon the care of salvation to the fate
of others. State doesn’t have the authority to take care of the souls of man Force versus persuasion- true religion requires persuasion of mind (inward). Power
of the state consists of force. Persuasion is not the distinguishing feature of the state.