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4 - Christian Time and the Commonwealth in Early Modern Political Thought

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2023

John Robertson
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

Sarah Mortimer examines the impact of the Reformation on thinking about the human commonwealth within the Christian temporal and historical scheme of the Fall. From the outset Protestants sought to integrate the civil and the divine, pursuing the ideal of the godly commonwealth, while Catholics would align the commonwealth with natural law, distinct from the divine law which gave the Church its authority. With the hardening of confessional divisions, these differences were accentuated: Protestants appealed directly to Scripture for political guidance, while leading Catholics emphasised that priests and worship were essential to all forms of society. But there were also those such as Jean Bodin who sought to understand politics independently of the Christian story; others, including Francisco Suárez, began to analyse human relationships using the hypothesis of a state of nature with neither sin nor grace. These attempts to stretch and even hypothetically step outside the scheme of the Fall in turn informed the thinking of Hugo Grotius in the first half of the seventeenth century, and the chapter ends with an extended assessment of his reflections on the relation between commonwealth and churches, and his increasing acceptance of diversity in the civil sphere.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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