PHIL542: Resistance Theory in the Early Modern Period - New Saint Andrews College

PHIL542: Resistance Theory in the Early Modern Period

Instructor: Jonathan McIntosh
Fall 2019 (Sept 9-Dec 19, 2019)


Course description:

From the New Testament time onwards, Christian political thought, taken as a whole, has tended to emphasize one particular political duty above the rest: the Christian’s duty to submit. Yet in the early modern period following the Protestant Reformation, a distinctly new theme came to the forefront of Christian political reflection, namely the responsibility Christians also have, under special circumstances, to resist and possibly even overthrow their government.

This course surveys some of the major texts of the most important writers in favor of, but also in some cases opposed to, the tradition of “resistance theory” in early modern political thought. The course begins with the political thought of the two most famous Reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, before turning to see how their political thought was reinterpreted and applied by those who came after them in ways and in contexts different from their own.

More than merely an abstract study in the history of political thought, however, this course will also seek to challenge students to think and discuss whether and how early modern theories of resistance and civil disobedience might be applied by Christians today, especially in regard to such topics as legalized abortion, as well as the relevance of such issues for both classical Christian educators and their students.

In addition to the assigned reading, students will be required to research one secondary source pertinent to the week’s reading and post an annotated bibliography to the discussion page. Annotations should briefly state the thesis of the work and comment on its application to the course readings and discussion.

Primary texts may include:

Martin Luther, “On Secular Authority”
John Calvin, “On Civil Government”
George Buchanan, Law of Kingship
John Knox, On Rebellion
Theodore Beza, Concerning the Rights of Rulers over Their Subjects
François Hotman, Francogallia
Etienne de la Boétie, Discourse on Voluntary Servitude
Juan de Mariana, On the King
Junius Brutus, Vindicae contra Tyrannos
Richard Hooker, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
John Locke, Second Treatise on Government

Secondary sources:

Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, Vol. 2: The Age of Reformation (Cambridge University Press)

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