Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Rousseau's theology on the separation of church and state

Previously I posted that the concept of separation between the religious (church) and the non-religious authority (state). I am of the opinion that this concept's origin is theological at its root (articulated by Augustine), an explicit religious concept, even though secularists unashamedly robbed it and claimed it as a secular (non-religious) concept.

A friend disagrees after reading my post. He commented that its root was in the 18th century. I asked him to point to me which 18th century work that expounds this concept.

While waiting for his sharing, I would like to post here what Rousseau has written in the 18th century on the concept of separation between church and state.
"...the Romans had spread their cult and their gods, and had themselves often adopted those of the vanquished, by granting both alike the rights of the city, the peoples of that vast empire insensibly found themselves with multitudes of gods and cults, everywhere almost the same; and thus paganism throughout the known world finally came to be one and the same religion.

It was in these circumstances that Jesus came to set up on earth a spiritual kingdom, which, by separating the theological from the political system, made the State no longer one, and brought about the internal divisions which have never ceased to trouble Christian peoples. As the new idea of a kingdom of the other world could never have occurred to the pagans, they always looked on the Christians as really rebels, who, while feigning to submit, were only waiting for the chance to make themselves independent and their masters, and to usurp by guile the authority they pretended in their weakness to respect. This was the cause of the persecutions."
(Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On The Social Contract [USA: Dover Publications, Inc., 2003; first published, 1762], p.91. Emphasis added)
Here we have an acknowledgment by the famous political philosopher of the 18th century that the separation between the church ("theological system") and the state ("political system") has its origin in what Jesus had done. If this is not an explicit piece of Christian theology, I don't know what else is.

On top of that, it is well known that Rousseau was heavily influenced by Augustine to the extent that he titled his autobiography with the same title with that of Augustine: Confessions.

Patrick Riley in his book 'The General Will before Rousseau' demonstrated that the most important concept in Rousseau's political thoughts was actually appeared in the theological discussion of an earlier century by French Augustinian theologians. There is also a chapter that traces the origin of Rousseau's political philosophy back to Augustine in 'Cambridge Companion to Rousseau'.

Rousseau is another evident that the concept of separation between the state and church is theological in its root and being.

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