Locke, toleration, and God's providence Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Jacobs, A. I.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This essay is an exploration of some of the theological dimensions of Locke's theory of toleration. First, I argue that the skepticism that is often associated with Locke's argument against religious coercion would have been unintelligible to Locke and his contemporaries. Second, I offer an alternative reading of Locke's theory based upon his exchange with Jonas Proast. I argue that by examining the debate between Locke and Proast, one can see that Locke's theory rested upon his conception of providentialism, specifically the distinction between God's ordinary and extraordinary providence. In my view, it was Locke's belief that God would not fail to provide the means for human salvation that allowed him to contend that beliefs incapable of rational assessment fall outside the jurisdiction of the magistrate. Finally, I conclude with some general thoughts on the implications of a providential reading of Locke for interpretations of the early enlightenment.
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  • Kramer, Lloyd
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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