Volume 11, Issue 1, Spring 2022
Philosophy, Religion, and Science in Seventeenth-Century England
Locke and the Socinians on the Natural and Revealed Law
After the publication of The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695), several critics depicted Locke as a follower of the anti-Trinitarian and anti-Calvinist theologian Faustus Socinus and his disciples, the Polish Brethren. The relation between Locke and Socinianism is still being debated. Locke’s religion indeed presents many similarities with the Socinians’ moralist soteriology, non-Trinitarian Christology, and mortalism. Nevertheless, Locke’s theological ideas diverge from Socinianism in various regards. Furthermore, there are significant differences between the Socinians’ and Locke’s views on the natural and revealed law. Socinian authors thought that Christ’s Gospel had superseded both the Law of Nature and the Mosaic Law. Therefore, they endeavored to follow the Christian imperative of non-violence and favored pacifism. Moreover, they maintained the divine origin of political authority and asserted absolute obedience to the magistrate, thereby rejecting the right to resistance and revolution to the political power. Conversely, Locke argued that first the Law of Moses and then the Christian Law of Faith had restated the God-given, eternally valid, and universally binding Law of Nature, which Christ had complemented with revealed truths concerning the afterlife and divine mercy. Thus, according to Locke, under the Christian covenant the protection of the self ’s and others’ natural rights from abusive individuals or oppressive rulers is still a right and a duty to the Divine Creator and Legislator.