Was Samuel Rutherford A Source For John Locke’s Political Theories? -- By: Robert Arnold

Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 07:1 (Feb 2009)
Article: Was Samuel Rutherford A Source For John Locke’s Political Theories?
Author: Robert Arnold

Was Samuel Rutherford A Source For John Locke’s Political Theories?

Robert Arnold,

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


Francis Schaeffer, in his work The Christian Manifesto, suggests that John Locke was dependent upon Samuel Rutherford for his political theories. He writes, “…while Locke had secularized Lex Rex he had drawn heavily from it,” and goes on to assure the reader that, “We are not reading back into history what was not there” (p. 32). Is Schaeffer’s assertion true? Did Locke draw heavily from Rutherford’s Lex Rex? This article examines John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government and Samuel Rutherford’s Lex Rex, and discovers that Schaeffer’s assertion does not meet the burden of proof, and he was, in fact, guilty of reading back into history what was not there.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.1

These eighteenth-century words from the Declaration of Independence formed the bedrock upon which the government of the United States rests. They also justified the use of force during the American Revolutionary War. In the twentieth-century, evangelical Christian author, Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), similarly encouraged civil disobedience with the provocative statement, “at a certain point there is not only the right,

but the duty, to disobey the state.”2 For Schaeffer, the United States has been loosed from her Judeo-Christian moorings. When the laws and actions of the state come into direct conflict with the absolute law of God, its authority becomes illegitimate, and the Christian is bound to resist the state by whatever means necessary.

To justify his position, Schaeffer linked the ideologies of the political theorist, John Locke (1632-1704), a source for the Declaration of Independence, with that of Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) in Lex Rex: the Law and the Prince (1644).3 By doing so, he attempted to prove that the United States was established upon Judeo-Ch...

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