John Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration Texas A&M Thesis Paper

2091 words - 9 pages

John Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration
John Locke wrote his Letter Concerning Toleration amidst a dark time in the world with religious persecution spreading wild throughout Europe. In the time of the late seventeenth century, Catholics and Protestants were facing religious reformation that had split western Europe into camps, with civil wars and rebellions becoming rampant in the West. In this time of increasing religious intoleration, John Locke’s letter called for an end to the oppression of those people whom practiced unorthodox religious beliefs. Locke’s idea that toleration is necessary was fueled by his belief that any magistrate could not have powers to execute proponent laws of religious persecution, therefore Locke calls for the argument of a need for clear distinction to be drawn between religion and civil societies to put a rest to the controversies that have arisen from these unclear boundaries. The connection between John Locke’s view of toleration and that of the proper role of a legitimate government was that the proper role of any legitimate government should be that of toleration and not persecution. For a letter written during a tine period in which any spoken idea of religious toleration was considered radical, I do believe that John Locke’s letter concerning toleration was persuasive. Though the letter was originally published against Locke’s will after he returned from exile, today Locke’s letter is considered one of the seventeenth century’s most eloquent arguments to the church to renounce religious persecution.
The transformation of the simple ways of the early Christian church to the politically involved church of the late seventeenth century was that of controversy and unrest. The earliest manifestation of a Christian Church involved believers of Christ meeting to share information and to worship together. As the church should be, it held no political power nor did it have influence on those whom believed in different ideologies. After Christianity was allowed to function openly in the Roman Empire, it became the dominant religion after the Edict of Milan in 313 by Emperor Constantine. Also after the First Council of Nicea in 325 the church made its final moves away from its true origin. John Locke defined the church as, “a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord in order to the public worshipping of God, in such a manner as they judge acceptable to him, and effectual to the salvation of their souls”. The decision to follow a religion is completely correspondent to the belief of that certain individual, of course they may be influenced by outside factors such as their family or the community in which they were raised, however the state government should never have the power to coerce an individual into what he or she may believe. Locke also discusses the fact that a to be a true church it must have a bishop or an authority figure that has direct succession from the first apostl...


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