Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Rutherford Challenge:

I've perused the "Christian Nation" debates for some time. And one oft-repeated claim I hear from the pro-Christian Nation side is that Samuel Rutherford's Lex Rex was extremely popular during the time of the Founding and that's where John Locke got his ideas from.

From my meticulous research, I've concluded the claim is false. But I'm open minded towards the evidence.

Rutherford anticipated some of Locke's ideas on resisting the magistrate. That might explain why America's Founding era Presbyterians were open to Locke's ideas. Rutherford, however, did not agree with Locke or America's Founders on religious liberty and in fact justified Calvin's putting Servetus to death.

Further, it could be that many ordinary Presbyterians knew and appreciated Rutherford and/or that the Presbyterian pulpit of the American Founding championed his ideas. There's just no extant evidence of this. The notable pro-revolt Congregational and Presbyterian sermons do not rely on Rutherford, but Locke. And few if any notable Founding Fathers cited Rutherford by name in favor of revolt. I know John Adams did nominally reference the name of some of the Calvinist pro-resisters. But he did so while citing an endless plethora of authority for why America was justified in revolting against Great Britain.

Finally I've heard it claimed, yes, they cited Locke, but Locke relied on Rutherford. But this is false as well. Locke doesn't cite Rutherford. From what I've seen there is NO connection between Locke and Rutherford other than *some* similarity in their ideas.

There is a reason why I entitled this post a "challenge." If I am wrong, show me the money.

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