Joe , no doubt you’re right about Lewis, who explicitly compared modern science to demonology. However, I think you misread Locke, whose views of labor and property are deeply scriptural and well within the mainstream of historic theology—-especially the mainstream Anglicanism of the day.

Yes, Locke says that God puts the raw materials of nature into our hands “almost worthless,” awaiting the value-creating transformation of human work. This is exactly how the Bible describes things, and from Irenaeus to Calvin to the present day (read Tim Keller’s new book) it has been an important theme in Christian theology.

As only one example, consider the description of the creation order outside Eden in Genesis 2:5:

No bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground.

A vast, barren wasteland, awaiting cultural-mandate-bearing humanity “to work the ground.” We cannot here consider the question of whether this passage describes the state of the world outside Eden pre-fall or immediately post-fall, but for present purposes it doesn’t matter. The point is that humanity, leaving Eden, enters a world of “almost worthless” raw material that it is his job to transform.

Does this mean Locke doesn’t appreciate the bounteous generosity of God? Not at all; he rebukes those who fail to see all creation as God’s bounteous providence to humanity, quoting I Timothy 6:17 (“God richly provides us with everything to enjoy”). The point is that God expects us to work transformatively in order to enjoy the riches he has provided. And if you think that’s not a biblical view, you’re not reading the same Bible I am.

As I have said for many years , Locke’s theological writings do have deficiencies, but every single aspect of his political thought that is ever held up as a point of discontinuity between Locke and Christianity always—-every time, without fail—-turns out upon inspection to be a point of especially strong continuity between Locke and Christianity. Even his errors (such as on marriage) turn out to be exactly the errors that predominated in mainstream late seventeenth-century Anglican theology.

This implies that the whole division between “Team Classical and Christian” and “Team Early Modern” needs to be rethought. I will accept a division between “Team Classical” (or, more accurately, “Team Medieval”) and “Team Early Modern,” but let’s not identify Christianity exclusively with one side of the divide.

It also implies that there is a Christian critique of Lewis’s view that science is demonic. If the early modern Christians are too suspect to be considered, Abraham Kuyper’s reflections on science in Wisdom and Wonder are worthy of attention. The advance of science, by its nature, is implicitly an advance in humanity’s knowledge of God; this of course can be (and inevitably is) perverted to evil, but it is good in itself.

Articles by Greg Forster

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