Ancient and modern religious liberty essay

For this reason, Julian is remembered as a persecutor of the Church, even though the nature of his persecution was quite different than those of earlier centuries. What might not be so widely known about Julian is one of the many methods he used to attack the Christian religion was the same that the Founding Fathers of the United States would later hail as a blessing of liberty - I speak of the concept of religious liberty.

Ancient and modern religious liberty essay

Religious Freedom and Christianity: An Overview Religious Freedom and Christianity: David Little Religious freedom as currently understood is the condition in which individuals or groups are permitted without restriction to assent to and, within limits, to express and act upon religious conviction and identity in civil and political life free of coercive interference or penalties imposed by outsiders, including the state.

Over the centuries, the attitudes and behavior of Christians aimed at promoting this understanding have been, in a word, deeply ambivalent.

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These sources, whether Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern, or Modern, should help correct two conflicting and equally inaccurate convictions. One is strong skepticism that Christianity contributed anything constructive to the rise of religious freedom. The other is the assumption that Christian beliefs and communities invariably favor religious freedom.

In reality, Christians have always struggled to reconcile two competing ideals, individual religious freedom, and the religious uniformity thought to be necessary to the common good. At the same time, Christians have often favored the idea that civic order, the common good, and salvation itself depend on religious uniformity, something that may require coercive enforcement by the temporal government.

How, and under what conditions, is the authority of Caesar to be employed in the service of God? The history of Christianity, still continuing, consists of a wide variety of quite different and often conflicting answers to these basic questions.

The origins of this ambivalence lie deep in the source materials Christians take to be sacred, particularly the Hebrew Scriptures, or what Christians call the Old Testament. On the one hand, deviation from authorized belief and practice was a civil crime in ancient Israel, punishable by death.

The first four commandments pertaining to relations with the divine, and the second six to relations with fellow human beings, were all to be enforced by the civil authority. Various Christians in all four periods have enthusiastically reaffirmed one version or another of this central conviction.

It typically sits uneasily with a belief in religious uniformity that is coerced. There are at least four important themes, often applied in combination, that Christians have invoked as a basis for grounding and developing a doctrine of religious freedom.

Among other things, this distinction had the effect of limiting the powers of the secular state, thereby creating the possibility of social and civic pluralism, i. But the belief did not come to approximate its modern form until the seventeenth century at the hands of radical Protestant reformers in Holland, England, and Colonial America.

A second and related appeal is to the idea of conscience and its eventual connection to a belief in natural rights. That teaching led Aquinas and most canonists to conclude that apostates and heretics ought to be punished by civil authorities.

Protestant Reformers like Luther and Calvin came to hold a similarly restrictive view. It was up to sixteenth century Anabaptists and other radical Christians to defend a more expansive and inclusive interpretation of the right to freedom of conscience.

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Nevertheless, the ingredients of such a conviction go back at least to CE and the ringing words of Tertullian: It is assuredly no part of religion to compel religion—to which free-will and not force should lead us. Both emphasize this understanding of dignity as a basis for freedom and the human capacities of reason and will to seek and discover truth and knowledge of God.

For example, some followers of Jesus emphasized the noncoercive character of Christian communication as against contrary interpretations. The eternal judgment of Christ and the separation of believers from non-believers would occur during "the harvest," i. In the meantime, religious tolerance secures worldly interests by preventing civil disorder and also advances spiritual goods by ensuring that the church can freely preach its message and individuals can freely come to authentic faith.

The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns () - Online Library of Liberty

Eventually, some Christians came to believe that such teachings required equal freedom in the civil sphere, regardless of creed. Van der Vyver, eds. Nijhoff,p.

Ancient and modern religious liberty essay

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