In The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures, Locke sets out to apply empiricism to the Bible. He argues that everything in Scripture agrees with human reason, that there is nothing unreasonable about Christ’s claims to divinity or the reports of miracles, and that the core beliefs of the Christian faith are clearly visible in Scripture. As such, Scripture provides a good basis for establishing agreement and tolerance between Christians.
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John Locke (1632–1704) was born in Wrington, Somerset, to a Puritan family. He attended Christ Church, Oxford, where he earned a BA, an MA, and a Bachelor of Medicine. After studying medicine, he met the Earl of Shaftesbury and became involved in Shaftesbury’s Whig movement. In 1683, he fled to the Netherlands to escape prosecution over his supposed involvement in the Rye House Plot. Most of his published works were written while he was in exile in the Netherlands. He returned to England and continued to work with the Whig party until his death in 1704.
Many political philosophers consider Locke the father of classical liberalism. One of the first British empiricists, his main works focus on political philosophy and epistemology. His work had a major influence on Voltaire and Rousseau, as well as on many of the founding fathers of the United States (including Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson). His concept of natural law and the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property are reflected prominently in the Declaration of Independence.
Locke is also credited as one of the founders of British empiricism. He taught, contrary to Continental rationalism, that humans cannot have a priori knowledge. In other words, the only sure knowledge that humans can have is based on experience. One must experience—observe, interact with—in order to know. He believed that the human mind was blank (tabula rasa) at the beginning of life. One’s experiences “wrote” on this blank paper, creating knowledge. Locke’s theory of knowing (epistemology) is considered by some philosophers to contain the seed of the Western concept of self.