During the closing years of the seventeenth century, some believers, especially in England, tried to harmonize reason and faith. They argued that Christianity is totally reasonable but some truth comes by reason and some by revelation. Some things, like the existence of God, come by observing the heavens; while other things, like the resurrection of Christ, come by the witness of Scripture. The best representative of this generation is John Locke (1632-1704). The highly influential philosopher never minimized the importance of belief. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, he not only shows how reason functions, he indicates that the existence of God is the most obvious truth that reason discovers." Closer examination, however, shows that the God Locke had in mind has little in common with the God of the Exodus or of Jesus’ resurrection. Mystery is almost gone. Emotions are unbecoming. Locke’s God is the product of rational proof.
In a similar way, Locke upholds revelation. He never doubts its importance. Fulfilled prophecies and the miracles of Jesus are proof of Jesus’ authority. But what Scripture actually shows is that few dogmas are necessary. And these are simple and intelligible to ordinary men. Christianity, in fact, has only one essential doctrine: Jesus is the Messiah. Most of traditional theology Locke casually dismisses as irrelevant.
Locke also spoke for his generation in his emphasis upon moral conduct. Christianity adds to its belief in Jesus as Messiah the imperative of a good life. Jesus often poke of rewards and punishments for Christian behavior. And that too is entirely reasonable, because reason shows that moral standards must be reinforced by strong incentives.
Thus, according to Locke, revelation shows Christianity’s reasonable character. Belief in Jesus as Messiah and man’s ethical behavior are all Jesus and the apostles required for righteousness. Both of these are basically rational.
[tags]BlogRodent, church-history, ChurchRodent, history, Jesus, John-Locke[/tags]