Samuel Rutherford And The Protection Of Religious Freedom In Early Seventeenth-Century Scotland -- By: Shaun de Freitas

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 78:2 (Fall 2016)
Article: Samuel Rutherford And The Protection Of Religious Freedom In Early Seventeenth-Century Scotland
Author: Shaun de Freitas


Samuel Rutherford
And The Protection Of Religious Freedom
In Early Seventeenth-Century Scotland

Shaun de Freitas

and

Andries Raath

Shaun A. de Freitas is Professor of Law at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Andries Raath is Emeritus Professor of Law and a Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of the Free State. Their article emanates from an unpublished doctoral thesis by de Freitas titled, “Law and Federal-Republicanism: Samuel Rutherford’s Quest for a Constitutional Model” (2014), Faculty of Law, University of the Free State.

I. Introduction

The constitutional concerns and implications pertaining to the nature of man—a being popularly referred to in a religious sense as a sinful being, or in a secular sense, a being who is susceptible to corruption and the abuse of power—were of major importance at the dawn of the Enlightenment. Emanating from views on the nature of man were implications for the relationship between church and state and the protection of religious rights and freedoms. During the first half of the seventeenth century in Scotland and England in particular there was, on the one hand, skepticism towards the idea of the believer having and maintaining a uniform biblical truth (as reflected in a formal and detailed confession of faith), and on the other hand, a skeptical view of the believer as the exclusive measure of what religious truth should be. Regarding the skeptical view of a uniform biblical truth, Anabaptists and Independents, for example, understood the sinful nature of man (and therefore also of the civil authorities) as reason to oppose subscription to a formal and uniform religious truth. Prominent theologians such as John Milton (1608–1674) and influential political theorists at the time such as Jean Bodin (1530–1596) and Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) also supported this skeptical approach to a uniform and formal religious truth. They played a major role in not only diminishing the idea of the Christian Republic in covenant with God, but also in promoting what eventually became the rigid separation of church and state in liberal Western societies.1

Followers of the Presbyterian faith in early seventeenth-century Scotland were confronted not only with this growing skepticism concerning religious truth, but also with the sharp rise of various denominations and sects as well as with the foreign teachings emanating from Catholicism and the English monarchy. Added to these views was the rising popularity of legal positivism (as opposed to the relevance of Divine Law) and the secular w...

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