Christian republic

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A Christian republic is a government that is both Christian and republican. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke considered the idea to be an impossibility and a self-contradiction, but for different reasons. As of the 21st century, the only countries in the world with a republican form of government and with Christianity as the established religion are Argentina, Costa Rica, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland and Malta.

Christianity is an Abrahamic Universal religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament.

Republicanism is a representative form of government organization. It is a political ideology centered on citizenship in a state organized as a republic. Historically, it ranges from the rule of a representative minority or oligarchy to popular sovereignty. It has had different definitions and interpretations which vary significantly based on historical context and methodological approach.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau Genevan philosopher, writer and composer

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Enlightenment throughout Europe, as well as aspects of the French Revolution and the development of modern political, economic and educational thought.

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In A Letter Concerning Toleration , Locke wrote that "there is absolutely no such thing, under the Gospel, as a Christian Commonwealth". By this he meant that political authority cannot be validly founded upon Christianity. Rousseau, in On the Social Contract (in book 4, chapter 8), echoed this, saying that "I am mistaken in saying 'a Christian republic'; the two words are mutually exclusive.". However, Rousseau's point was subtly different, in that he was asserting that a civic identity cannot be moulded out of Christianity. [1] [2] David Walsh, founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family, acknowledges that there is a "genuine tension ... between Christianity and the political order" that Rousseau was acknowledging, arguing that "many Christians would, after all, agree with him that a 'Christian republic' is a contradiction in terms" and that the two live "in an uneasy relationship in actual states, and social cohesion has often been bought at the price of Christian universalism". [3] Robert Neelly Bellah has observed that most of the great republican theorists of the Western world have shared Rousseau's concerns about the mutually exclusive nature of republicanism and Christianity, from Machiavelli (more on which later) to Alexis de Tocqueville. [4]

<i>A Letter Concerning Toleration</i> book by John Locke

A Letter Concerning Toleration by John Locke was originally published in 1689. Its initial publication was in Latin, though it was immediately translated into other languages. Locke's work appeared amidst a fear that Catholicism might be taking over England, and responds to the problem of religion and government by proposing religious toleration as the answer. This "letter" is addressed to an anonymous "Honored Sir": this was actually Locke's close friend Philipp van Limborch, who published it without Locke's knowledge.

David Walsh is an American psychologist, educator, and author specializing in parenting, family life and the impact of media on children and teens.

The National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF), founded by psychologist David Walsh in 1996 and closed in 2009 was a nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a nonsectarian advocacy group which sought to monitor mass media for content that it deemed is harmful to children and families. The group characterized itself as "an international resource center for cutting-edge research and information" and denied playing any role in media censorship.

Rousseau's thesis is that the two are incompatible because they make different demands upon the virtuous man. Christianity, according to Rousseau, demands submission (variously termed "servitude" or "slavery" by scholars of his work) to imposed authority and resignation, and requires focus upon the unworldly; whereas republicanism demands participation rather than submission, and requires focus upon the worldly. Rousseau's position on Christianity is not universally held. Indeed, it was refuted by, amongst others, his friend Antoine-Jacques Roustan in a reply to the Social Contract. [2] [4] [5] [6]

Antoine-Jacques Roustan Genevan philosopher and pastor

Antoine-Jacques Roustan was a Genevan pastor and theologian, who engaged in an extensive correspondence with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Unlike Rousseau, he believed that a Christian republic was practical - that the Christian religion was not incompatible with patriotism or republicanism.

Rousseau's thesis has a basis in the prior writings of Niccolò Machiavelli, [4] [7] [8] [9] whom Rousseau called a "bon citoyen et honnête homme" and who alongside Montesquieu was one of Rousseau's sources for republican philosophy. [10] In his Discoursi Machiavelli observes that Christianity in practice has not met the ideals of its foundation, and that the resultant corruption leads, when mixed with secular political ideals, to something that is neither good religion nor good politics. [9] [11] [10] Further, he argues, whilst Christianity does not preclude love for one's country, it does require citizens to endure damage to republican government, stating that the best civic virtue in regards to a republic is to show no mercy to the republic's enemies and to put to death or to enslave the inhabitants of an opposing city that has been defeated. [11]

Niccolò Machiavelli 16th-century Italian politician and writer

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, humanist, writer, playwright and poet of the Renaissance period. He has often been called the father of modern political science. For many years he served as a senior official in the Florentine Republic with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs. He wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is renowned by historians and scholars. He worked as secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power. He wrote his best-known work The Prince in 1513, having been exiled from city affairs.

Montesquieu French social commentator and political thinker

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, man of letters, and political philosopher.

Calvinist republics

While the classical writers had been the primary ideological source for the republics of Italy, in Northern Europe, the Protestant Reformation would be used as justification for establishing new republics. [12] Most important was Calvinist theology, which developed in the Swiss Confederacy, one of the largest and most powerful of the medieval republics. John Calvin did not call for the abolition of monarchy, but he advanced the doctrine that the faithful had the right to overthrow irreligious monarchs. [13] Calvinism also espoused egalitarianism and an opposition to hierarchy.[ dubious ] Advocacy for republics appeared in the writings of the Huguenots during the French Wars of Religion. [14]

John Calvin French Protestant reformer

John Calvin was a French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism, aspects of which include the doctrines of predestination and of the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation of the human soul from death and eternal damnation, in which doctrines Calvin was influenced by and elaborated upon the Augustinian and other Christian traditions. Various Congregational, Reformed and Presbyterian churches, which look to Calvin as the chief expositor of their beliefs, have spread throughout the world.

Egalitarianism, or equalitarianism, is a school of thought within political philosophy that prioritizes equality for all people. Egalitarian doctrines are generally characterized by the idea that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth or moral status. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term has two distinct definitions in modern English, namely either as a political doctrine that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social and civil rights, or as a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people, economic egalitarianism, or the decentralization of power. Some sources define egalitarianism as the point of view that equality reflects the natural state of humanity.

Huguenots Ethnoreligious group composed of Calvinists from France

Huguenots are an ethnoreligious group of French Protestants.

Calvinism played an important role in the republican revolts in England and the Netherlands. Like the city-states of Italy and the Hanseatic League, both were important trading centres, with a large merchant class prospering from the trade with the New World. Large parts of the population of both areas also embraced Calvinism. During the Dutch Revolt (beginning in 1566), the Dutch Republic emerged from rejection of Spanish Habsburg rule. However, the country did not adopt the republican form of government immediately: in the formal declaration of independence (Act of Abjuration, 1581), the throne of king Philip, was only declared vacant, and the Dutch magistrates asked the Duke of Anjou, queen Elizabeth of England and prince William of Orange, one after another, to replace Philip. It took until 1588 before the Estates (the Staten, the representative assembly at the time) decided to vest the sovereignty of the country in itself.

Dutch Revolt war in the 16th century

The Dutch Revolt (1568–1648) was the revolt of the northern, largely Protestant Seven Provinces of the Low Countries against the rule of the Roman Catholic Habsburg King Philip II of Spain, hereditary ruler of the provinces. The northern provinces (Netherlands) eventually separated from the southern provinces, which continued under Habsburg Spain until 1714.

Dutch Republic Republican predecessor state of the Netherlands from 1581 to 1795

The Dutch Republic, or the United Provinces, was a confederal republic that existed from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first Dutch nation state.

Habsburg Spain Reigning dynasty in Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

Habsburg Spain refers to Spain over the 16th and 17th centuries (1516–1700), when it was ruled by kings from the House of Habsburg. The Habsburg rulers reached the zenith of their influence and power. They controlled territory that included the Americas, the East Indies, the Low Countries and territories now in France and Germany in Europe, the Portuguese Empire from 1580 to 1640, and various other territories such as small enclaves like Ceuta and Oran in North Africa. This period of Spanish history has also been referred to as the "Age of Expansion".

In 1641 the English Civil War began. Spearheaded by the Puritans and funded by the merchants of London, the revolt was a success, and led to the Commonwealth of England and the execution of King Charles I. In England James Harrington, Algernon Sidney, and John Milton became some of the first writers to argue for rejecting monarchy and embracing a republican form of government. The English Commonwealth was short lived, and the monarchy soon restored. The Dutch Republic continued in name until 1795, but by the mid-18th century the stadtholder had become a de facto monarch. Calvinists were also some of the earliest settlers of the British and Dutch colonies of North America.

See also

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References

  1. Beiner 2010, p. 3.
  2. 1 2 Beiner 2010, p. 13.
  3. Walsh 1997, p. 168.
  4. 1 2 3 Cristi 2001, p. 19–20.
  5. Rosenblatt 1997, p. 264.
  6. Bellah 1992, p. 166.
  7. Kries 1997, p. 268.
  8. Viroli & Hanson 2003, p. 175.
  9. 1 2 Beiner 2010, p. 35.
  10. 1 2 Viroli 1990, p. 171–172.
  11. 1 2 Pocock 2003, p. 214.
  12. Finer, Samuel. The History of Government from the Earliest Times. Oxford University Press, 1999. pg. 1020.
  13. "Republicanism." Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment pg. 435
  14. "Introduction." Republicanism: a Shared European Heritage. By Martin van Gelderen and Quentin Skinner. Cambridge University Press, 2002 pg. 1

Sources

  • Beiner, Ronald S. (2010). Civil Religion: A Dialogue in the History of Political Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-73843-9.
  • Bellah, Robert Neelly (1992). The broken covenant: American civil religion in time of trial (2nd ed.). University of Chicago Press. ISBN   978-0-226-04199-5.
  • Cristi, Marcela (2001). From civil to political religion: the intersection of culture, religion and politics. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ISBN   978-0-88920-368-6.
  • Kries, Douglas (1997). "Rousseau and the Problem of Religious Toleration". In Kries, Douglas (ed.). Piety and humanity: essays on religion and early modern political philosophy. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN   978-0-8476-8619-3.
  • Pocock, John Greville Agard (2003). The Machiavellian moment: Florentine political thought and the Atlantic republican tradition (2nd ed.). Princeton University Press. ISBN   978-0-691-11472-9.
  • Rosenblatt, Helena (1997). "The Social Contract". Rousseau and Geneva: from the first discourse to the social contract, 1749–1762. Ideas in context. 46. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-57004-6.
  • Viroli, Maurizio (1990). "The concept of ordre and the language of classical republicanism in Jean-Jacques Rousseau". In Pagden, Anthony (ed.). The Languages of Political Theory in Early-Modern Europe. Ideas in Context. 4. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-38666-1.
  • Viroli, Maurizio; Hanson, Derek (2003). Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the "Well-Ordered Society". Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-53138-2.
  • Walsh, David (1997). "Struggle as a Source of Liberal Richness § Rousseau as Theorist of Crisis". The growth of the liberal soul. University of Missouri Press. ISBN   978-0-8262-1082-1.