The Reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the Scriptures

By John Locke


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Abstract: Christian apologetics by a prominent philosopher during the deist controversy, and a plea for a return to the Biblical gospel that should unites Christian


Difficulty: 4 (difficult)



Bibliographic Data

John Locke. The Reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the Scriptures. Intr., ed., comm. and annot. by G. W. Ewing. Washington, D.C: Regnery, 1998.
ISBN: 0895264021
Pages: 228.
Bibliography, indexes.

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Review by Bruno D. Gedressac


Copyright March 1998, Bruno D. Gedressac, The Hague, The Netherlands


Note: this review was also published in Perspective on Science and Christian Faith vol. 51, no. 1,  (March 1999), p. 55.


The puritain John Locke (1632-1704) is one of the greatest philosophers, and certainly the one who was the most influential on the American civilization. Locke’s life and the context in which he wrote this book are presented in Ewing’s introduction, however without serious philosophical considerations. Ewing still mentions Locke’s willingness to defend Christianity against the intellectual attacks lead by the deists, and how much opposition Locke’s The Reasonableness of Christianity received, in particular from the revivalist clergyman Jonathan Edwards, who accused him of atheism. Since Locke’s book did not have any divisions nor chapters, Ewing has numbered the paragraph and compiled an outline.

Locke first deals with the need for salvation and the content of the gospel preached by the apostles and Jesus. He then proceeds to a very lengthy analysis of the gospels (as someone said: "Locke has no mercy on the patience of his readers".) Locke defends the Christian truth with the miracles and the resurrection of Jesus, his indirect declarations of Messiahship and his fulfilment of the messianic prophecies. I was surprised to learn so much from Locke’s sharp analysis of the gospels, for example why Jesus did not reveal His identity directly during most of His ministry. Locke then answers some general objections (for example about the salvation of the unevangelized). In the last part of the book Locke points at some insufficiencies in the general revelation of God in nature (althoug Locke believed in the truth of such a revelation) and argues for the necessity of special revelation.

Locke’s arguments may have been convincing in his time. But Locke wrote before the attacks of Hume against miracles or before the attacks of the liberal theologians using the historical-critical method. Locke’s argumentation would be incomplete for modern readers, these would be more helped by modern apologetics books. However, those interested in a analysis of Jesus’ ministry may benefit from Locke’s book, provided they are motivated enough to endure his lengthy style. Those interested in Locke’s philosophy will benefit more from the edition by I. T. Ramsey (John Locke. The Reasonableness of Christianity. With a Discourse on Miracles and Part of A Third Letter Concerning Toleration. Introduced and edited by I. T. Ramsey. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1958.) Ramsey has brilliantly introduced and outlined the book, has abridged the text, and also introduced and edited some of Locke’s arguments about miracles.


Copyright March 1998, Bruno D. Gedressac, The Hague, The Netherlands


Addendum (April 1999):

Locke is not content with his christological defense, he also analyze what was is the gospel contained in the NT documents, showing that it is only christological, that is the core of gospel is that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord and Saviour. Locke was indeed grieved to see Christians divided about secondary doctrinal issues. Locke's analysis of the New Testament gospel is still valuable today for those Protestants and Catholics who think that they have different "gospels" and therefore cannot work together for Christ.

Copyright 1999, Bruno D. Gedressac, The Hague, The Netherlands


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Copyright 1999 Stichting Europese Apologetiek (Foundation European Apologetics)
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