Politics drawn from the very words of holy scripture



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Section 5 Jacques-Benigne Bossuet

POLITICS DRAWN FROM THE VERY WORDS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE



God puts kings in their position and they act according to God’s will, hence they are instruments of God, representations of the divine on Earth. Even the person of the king is a representation of the divine and needs to be respected and venerated as such, hence serving the king is serving God (think Louis XIV). The Divine Right to Rule is the expression of God on a temporal plane and thus cannot be questioned or opposed, upon pain of death (p. 22 LHC). Interestingly, Bossuet says that only the prince should be armed. Very similar to Machiavelli, except for the moral and theological component that underlies the principles Bossuet lays out regarding the absolute power of the king. The Absolute Kings owe God their promise to rule for public good in an enlightened way and to never believe that they alone are the owners of the absolute powers bestowed upon them, but rather the custodians thereof.

Section 6 Thomas Hobbes

A SECULAR DEFENSE OF ABSOLUTISM

  1. Hobbes’s view of human nature is pessimistic and dark. He states that humans are governed by passion rather than reason, that they are motived by base emotions (greed, jealousy, envy) rather than enlightened principle and will never rise above this condition. There is nothing noble about human beings at all according to Hobbes. Left to themselves people will behave as selfish individuals and will not cooperate or subordinate themselves to the greater good in order to elevate society and provide a better existence for all. Hobbes argues that a community of such individuals is incapable of governing itself, hence a strong, absolute monarch is required to establish and maintain order, stability and security for the members of the community.

  2. The political legacy of Hobbes notion of the state is the rational defense of absolute monarchy. Bossuet provides a defense of absolute monarchy based on religious doctrine and dogma along, the antithesis of reason. Interestingly, both men come to the same conclusions regarding the value of Absolutism, but from completely different perspectives, the rational v. religious.

Section 7 English Bill of Rights

THE TRIUMPH OF CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY IN ENGLAND: THE GLORIOUS REVOLUTION

  1. The power of government is shared with Parliament. Parliament is a co-ruler with the King. The King answers to Parliament, the representative of the people. The result is a limited monarchy, where the king administers the law but does not make it, where taxes, spending and other critical decisions are in the hands of the Parliament, not the King. The King consults with Parliament on all critical decisions. In other words, the monarchy is limited by the will of the Parliament (people)!

  2. The Glorious Revolution influenced the American rebellion by laying out specifically the principle that the powers of government should be separated and shared between branches of government. The chief executive must co-rule with the legislature in a governmental balance of power where there are checks on the powers of the executive and where the will of the people is heard. The Glorious Revolution laid out through the English Bill of Rights the basic civil liberties that represent restrictions on the power of government and the empowerment of the individual in the state. These civil liberties cannot be taken away by government and are enshrined today in the Bill of Rights contained in the US Constitution. It reinforces the notion that it is the people who are sovereign and the government must act as a servant of the people.



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