Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bayle, Pierre – “Commentary on these Words of the Gospel…"Compel them to Come in…”” on Toleration

  1. Preliminary Discourse (written after the first two parts were published)
    1. Sets fake narrative frame of the work
      1. Frenchman asks Englishman to write a book responding to the use of the verse from the NT "Compel them to come in, that my house be full" to support religious persecution.
      2. The work is portrayed as a translation from English into French.
      3. In fact, it was written by Bayle who was French. Most directly, it reflects on the Catholic Church in France persecution of the Huguenots. But it also responds to Protestant claims that they themselves are allows to persecute.
    2. Discussion about how words are used in a question begging way, such as tyrant and persecutor.
    3. Focus on persecution by the French Catholics of the Huguenots as the work was requested by a Frenchman
    4. Discussion of the question-begging Catholic argument that their persecutions of Protestants is just because Protestants have left the true Church, while Protestant persecution is unjust because it is on behalf of a false Church.
      1. Bayle argues that this is, of course, an instance of begging the question, the issue between Protestants and Catholics is just who is the true Church, the Protestants certainly don't think the Catholic Church is the true Church, if they did there wouldn't be an issue.
    5. Explains why, despite his arguments for general toleration, he thinks Catholics ought to be discriminated against somewhat.
      1. They are a genuine threat to the Protestant state. They cannot be trusted to abide by their oaths of loyalty and will attempt to take over the state and to oppress Protestants whenever they have the opportunity.
    6. Shows how Catholic writers condemn themselves when the write against Islam, disparaging it for spreading itself by force.
    7. Offers some additional argument the idea that Toleration causes dissension in the state.
      1. Shows how those that argue that way would justify persecutions of the early Christians.
      2. Evidence from the peace in the Roman Empire, despite the numerous pagan sects.
    8. Comparison of the suffering of the Huguenots in France with that of the early Church, comparison of the persecuting French Church with the pagan Roman Emperors.
      1. Hypocrisy of Catholic French writers when they claim that Louis the XIV uses the utmost tenderness in bringing heretics back into the fold.
  2. Part I: Arguments against the literal sense of Luke (14:23) "Compel them to come in, that my house may be full."
    1. Chapter I: That the Light of Nature, or the first Principles of Reason universally received are the genuine and original rule of all interpretation of Scripture; especially in matters of practice and morality.
      1. Basic principle of Scriptural Interpretation: That all literal construction, which carries an obligation of committing iniquity is false."
        1. More specifically: " That if by taking it in the literal sense we oblige men to commit iniquity…or…oblige them to commit actions which the light of nature, the precepts of the Decalogue, or the Gospel Morality forbid; it's to be taken for granted, that the sense we give to it is false, and that instead of Divine Revelation, we impose or own visions, prejudices, and passions on the people."
      2. The entire project of Scholastic theology itself and religious controversies in general show that theologians themselves recognize reason as the final tribunal for theological opinions.
      3. The light of reason is from God.
      4. Though perhaps reason is helpless in truly speculative matters, it surely has a large role to play in morality and practical matters.
        1. When considering moral issues we should ask, "whether this or that practice be just in of itself, and whether, might the question be put for introducing it in a country where it never was in vogue, and where it left to our choice to admit or reject it; whether, I say, we should find upon sober inquiry, that it's reasonable enough to merit our suffrage and approbation?"
        2. Argument that rational morality is prior to religious morality: Adam had to know from reason that one should obey God, who was his sovereign to whom he was indebted and dependent, even before he accepted any prohibitions based on revelation.
          1. Reason is even more necessary after the fall, given that the Devil is now trying to deceive us.
      5. Two things must be considered when deliberating whether an interpretation is in accord with reason
        1. Whether the arguments the lead to one interpretation are sound reasoning, that is are they demonstrative.
        2. Whether the interpretation itself leads to absurd consequences.
      6. Even the Catholic argument that individual's reason must not be trusted and that therefore one must trust the Church it itself dependent on the reason of the individual.
        1. They propose that one accept the proposition that "The Church has greater lights than I, she's therefore more to be believed than I."
        2. So in the end everyone must depend on reason.
    2. Chapter II: First Argument against the literal sense of the words "Compel them to come in" drawn from its repugnancy to the distinctest ideas of natural light.
      1. Argument:
        1. The literal sense of the words is repugnant to the purest and most distinct ideas of natural reason.
          1. The essence of religion, the only thing that really matters is inward dispositions.
          2. But physical coercion is not able to render a genuine change in inward dispositions.
          3. Therefore, the literal sense of the words is repugnant to the purest and most distinct ideas of natural reason. Physical coercion would not really bring people into God's house.
        2. It's therefore false.
          1. Proved from previous chapter.
    3. Chapter III: Second Argument against the literal sense, drawn from its opposition to the Spirit of the Gospel.
      1. The Gospel is vouched for by reason, anything already affirmed by reason, can then be used as a rule for evaluating other propositions.
        1. Shows how the Gospels teaching about humility and otherworldliness conform with reason.
      2. Argument:
        1. The literal sense of the words "Compel them to come in" is directly repugnant to the Spirit of the Gospel.
          1. The excellence of the Gospel over the OT is that it treats man as an adult and wants him to accept it from a principle of reason as opposed to from fear of punishment.
          2. The principle character of Jesus was humility meekness and patience.
          3. Physical coercion is opposed to both of these features of the Gospel.
        2. The literal sense therefore must needs be false.
    4. Chapter IV: Third Argument against the literal sense, drawn from its cancelling the differences of Justice and Injustice, and its confounding virtue and vice, to the total dissolution of society.
      1. Argument:
        1. The literal sense of Scripture is necessary false, which overturns all morality, whether human or divine; which confounds virtue with vice, and thereby opens a door to all kinds of confusion.
          1. Assumed
        2. Now this is what the literal sense of the words "Compel them to come in" must do.
          1. Argues that allowing physical coercion on the basis of this verse makes every misdeed allowable if it is done in the name of the true Church.
          2. But this authorizes every group that believes itself to be the true Church to do all sorts of misdeed.
          3. This would cause the breakdown of all of morality and society.
        3. It's therefore necessarily false.
    5. Chapter V: The Fourth Argument against the literal sense, drawn from its giving infidels a very plausible and very reasonable pretense for not admitting Christians into their dominions, and for dislodging them wherever they are settled among them.
      1. Argument:
        1. That literal sense of Scripture which gives infidels a just and reasonable ground for denying the Preachers of the Gospel, either admittance, or an abode in their dominions, must needs be false.
          1. The Gospel requires that the world be converted so it cannot set up obstacles to this occurrence.
        2. Now the literal sense of these words, "Compel them to come in' gives infidels this handle.
          1. Thought experiment in which missionaries try to go to China, but have to explain that 'Compel them to come in' licenses them to use physical coercion to convert. Idea is that the Chinese Emperor would be crazy to let them come in; he would even be justified in not letting them:
            1. Letting them in would violate the civil peace.
            2. Christianity seems unreasonable if it allows physical coercion at the same time that it counsels meekness, humility, etc.
            3. Christianity seems immoral as it forces men to violate their consciences
              1. Bayle here sets up his positive framework in which he argues that violating one's conscience is the worst sin that one could commit
        3. It is therefore false.
    6. Chapter VI: The Fifth Argument against the literal sense, drawn from the impossibility of putting it into execution without unavoidable Crimes. That it's no excuse to say, Heretics are punished only because they disobey edicts.
      1. Argument:
        1. All literal sense of Scripture including a universal command, which cannot be practiced without a complication of crimes must needs be false.
          1. Assumed.
        2. Now the literal sense of the words "Compel them to come is" is of this kind.
          1. Many crimes are committed in the course of physical coercion, including perjury, lying, hatred, the only justification of them could be that they are done at the command of God.
            1. But what God has command is the question at issue, so to use that claim in this argument is to beg the question again.
          2. Moreover, the persecutors doubtless took pleasure in afflicting the persecuted, which is a sin in any case.
          3. Most importantly, physical coercion causes the persecuted to violate conscience, which is a grave sin.
        3. It's therefore false.
      2. It cannot be argued that the individuals are not being persecuted for the faith, but only because they did not follow the King's lawful orders.
        1. All laws enacted by a person who has not right to enact it, and which exceeds his powers is unjust.
        2. All laws obliging to act against conscience are made by a person having no authority to enact it and who manifestly exceeds his power.
          1. Our conscience is the voice and law of God in us, therefore God cannot command us to violate our conscience.
          2. A sovereign cannot command us to violate our conscience because it is absurd to think that one would enter into contract in which one would sacrifice one's conscience. One would have to be mad or an idiot to do that.
        3. Therefore every such law is unjust.
    7. Chapter VII: The Sixth Argument against the literal sense, drawn from its depriving the Christian religion of a main objection against the truth of Mahometism.
      1. Argument:
        1. The literal sense which deprives the Christian Religion of one of its strongest arguments against false religion is false.
          1. One of the strongest arguments against false religion, Islam, is that it uses physical coercion to spread itself.
        2. The literal sense of these words "Compel them to come in" does this.
        3. Therefore, its false.
    8. Chapter XIII: The Seventh Argument against the literal sense, drawn from its being unknown to the Fathers of the first three centuries.
      1. If this was the literal sense of the Gospel then the earliest Christians would have understood it that way.
      2. But we see that the Apostles and the earliest Church Fathers did not believe that coercion as allowed in order to convert.
    9. Chapter IX: The Eighth Argument against the literal sense, drawn from its rendering the complaints of the first Christians against their pagan persecutors all vain.
      1. Argument :
        1. The literal sense which renders the complaints of the first Christians against their pagan persecutors vain is false.
        2. Now such is the literal sense of the words "Compel them to come in."
          1. Thought experiment in which the early Christians come to the pagan emperors to complain. They admit though that they would spread their own religion through force and persecution. The Emperor would respond that he needs to persecute them before they persecute him and his subjects.
            1. They contest that only the true religion can rightfully persecute the false religion.
            2. He would simply reply that his religion is the true religion and the debate would once again be reduced to interminable claims about whose religion is true.
        3. It's therefore false.
      2. Also argues that violence is a necessary and not accidental feature of religious persecution.
        1. Its not just because the heretics will not be properly instructed. Basically, you cannot force people to accept reasons, in order for them to accept them, they need to accept them for themselves.
    10. Chapter X: The Ninth Argument against the literal sense drawn from its tending to expose true Christians to continual violence, without a possibility of alleging anything to put a stop to them, but that which was the ground of the contest between the persecutors and persecuted: and this, as is but a wretched begging the questions, could not prevent the world's being a continual scene of blood.
      1. Argument:
        1. That the literal sense of, which tends to overthrow all the different Parties of Christians into never-ceasing war, without admitting any possible remedy to stop so great an evil, but the sentence which shall be pronounced upon the cause of each at the last day: cannot be the true sense.
          1. The intention of God must have been holy, just and innocent and not to confound the world.
        2. Now such is the literal sense of the words "Compel them to come in."
          1. The literal sense would command each sect of Christianity to oppress the other.
          2. Even the true Church would be persecuted by false Churches.
          3. The only way to adjudicate the dispute would be to determine who is the true Church, but that's not something that can really be decided, each side would simply claim that they are the true Church.
            1. It would all boil down to: "I have the Truth on my side, therefore my violences are good Words: Such a one is in an Error, therefore his violences are criminal."
              1. This is bad because it would lead to interminable violence.
              2. It is also bad because it would even justify the false Church in persecuting the Truth Church, this will be explained in the next part in more detail.
        3. It's therefore not the true sense.
  3. Part II: Answer to Objections to the Arguments
    1. Chapter I: First Objection: Violence is not designed to force conscience but to awaken those who neglect to examine truth.
      1. Response:
        1. Violence disturbs the mind and therefore is actually the least favorable state in which an individual could be in when undertaking a serious examination of the truth.
          1. The individuals subjected to violence will actually be tempted to attain worldly advantage or at least cease their suffering by any means possible, even subverting the truth.
        2. Also, Bayle doubts that his opponents are being honest when they offer this objection, else they would only threaten violence and not actually administer it.
          1. They might reply that they only use violence when individuals stick to their erroneous opinion after they have been thoroughly disproved.
            1. Bayle responds that it is impossible to know, since human beings are no searchers of hearts, when an individual is not convinced due to the merits of the case and when he or she obstinately clings to his or her own opinion.
    2. Chapter II: Second Objection: The literal sense appears odious, only by our judging the ways of God from those of man.
      1. Objection: Responding to Bayle's previous point that, if violence is the commanded means for getting individuals to serious examine their beliefs then the Gospel has commanded a very ineffective means of getting people to examine their beliefs, the objection argues that God's ways are not our ways and that if this is the way that God commanded us to get people to consider their beliefs then there must be some logic behind it that we can't understand.
      2. Response:
        1. Surely the state "God's ways are not our ways" is not a general rule, we see throughout the Gospel that Jesus does do things and command things that make sense to us. Furthermore, taken as a general rule this proposition leads to total skepticism, which, moreover, has terrible results. For example, when it says that God will reward us in heaven it could just as well mean that He will damn us to hell.
        2. The examples in the Gospel when miraculous events occur as a result of mundane actions, such as Jesus healing the blind with clay, are particular events that do not lead to general rules. Generally, we see that God wants us to make use of means that should work under normal circumstances to do his work.
        3. Furthermore, if violence is supposed to, by some miraculous means, get people to be rationally persuaded of orthodoxy, then the Gospel should have been more clear about it as it is directly contrary to equity.
    3. Chapter III: Third Objection: They aggravate the matter maliciously, by representing the constraint enjoined by Jesus Christ, under the idea of scaffolds, wheel, and gibbet; whereas they should talk of fines, banishment, and other petty grievances.
      1. Objection: Bayle is not being fair because he is arguing against use of terrible violence and murder, no one actually proposes that; they propose fines and other lighter punishments.
      2. Response:
        1. Bayle argues that he hasn't exaggerated the case, he only used examples of what is used in France, which, the Catholics claim, is the mildest, most just program of coercion.
        2. The Inquisition did use all of these terrible means.
        3. Bayle argues in detail that, if one believes that the Gospel commands one to use religious coercion, then there is no case to be made to allow fine, banishments, etc, and include physical torture and murder. His opponents must either admit all of them or none.
    4. Chapter IV: Fourth Objection: We can't condemn the literal sense of the words "Compel them to come in," without also condemning those laws which the God gave the Jews, and the conduct of the prophets on several occasions.
      1. Before responding to this objection, Bayle reemphasizes that he is not for letting heretics persist in their error, they should be argued with and persuaded to accept orthodoxy, he is merely against coercion.
      2. Objection: You can't reject religious coercion and not condemn the punitive and physically coercive laws of the OT and the actions of prophets like Moses and Elijah.
      3. Response: Splits between the actions of Moses and the OT and Elijah.
        1. In the OT and in the actions of Moses the case is different than in the Gospel. God's relationship with the Jews was that of sovereign, therefore any sin was a rebellion against his government, which could be punished physically and even with death.
        2. The actions of Elijah were a particular case, command explicitly by God. Furthermore, Elijah wasn't trying to compel their conscience, just to kill them.
    5. Chapter V: Fifth Objection: Protestants can't reject the literal sense of the parable, without condemning the wisest Emperors and Fathers of the Church, and without condemning themselves; since they in some places don't tolerate other religions, and have sometimes punished heretics with death.
      1. Response:
        1. The actions of Emperors and Fathers of the Church of the past do not justify actions. Bayle is perfectly fine condemning their actions.
        2. Bayle condemns the execution of Servetus by Geneva as well as other Protestant religious persecution.
        3. He argues that while Catholics should not be coerced to accept Protestantism, they may be discriminated against to prevent them from trying to overthrow the state and persecute all others.
    6. Chapter VI: Sixth Objection: The doctrine of Toleration can't choose but throw the state into all kinds of confusion, and produce a horrid medley of sects, to the scandal of Christianity.
      1. Response:
        1. Civil and political turmoil does not result from toleration and the plurality of sects and religions, rather from non-toleration and persecution.
        2. Princes are only authorized to punish those who maliciously try to disturb the civil and political order, not those who honestly profess their own conscience.
          1. On the side, Bayle has a wonderful excursus about how everyone is just trying to praise the same God using whatever words seem most fitting to him. Nobody means disrespect by that they ascribe to God, they are just using their own vocabulary.
        3. Religious coercion is less honorable to Christianity than a variety of dissenting sects.
        4. Even the Catholic Church allows for a diversity of opinion within it so long as it is all subjugated to the Church, so this argument is disingenuous.
    7. Chapter VII: Seventh Objection: Compulsion in the literal sense cannot be rejected without admitting general toleration.
      1. Response: Yep
      2. Bayle then makes positive arguments against those that would tolerate some but not others, in the course of which he offers some wonderful observations about question-begging language. Shouldn't we allow the persecution of blasphemers and the corrupters of the fundamentals of Christianity? According to whose definition? Whether they are blasphemers and corrupters of Christianity is precisely the question at issue between you.
    8. Chapter VIII: Eighth Objection: Compulsion in the literal sense is maliciously represented, by supposing it authorizes violence committed against the truth.
      1. Objection: Lying behind many of Bayle's argument is the notion that allowing coercion would authorize coercion against the true Church, but this isn't so. The verse would only authorize violence against the false Church by the true Church.
      2. Response:
        1. General response: An erroneous conscience has the same rights in advancing supposed truth as a correct conscience has for advancing actual truth.
        2. Argument:
          1. That the will of disobeying God is a sin.
          2. That the will of disobeying the fixed and definitive sentence of conscience, is the same thing as willing the transgress of the law of God.
          3. Consequently, that whatever is done against the dictate of conscience is a sin.
          4. That an action which would be incontestably good if done by the direction of conscience, becomes worse by being done against its direction, than another action done according to the direction of conscience which would be incontestably sinful if not done by its direction.
          5. That doing a thing which we call evil, from the dictates of conscience, though in reality erroneous renders this action much less evil, than another action of the nature of whose which we call good, done against the dictate of conscience supposed to be truly informed.
          6. The first and most indispensible of all our obligations is that of never acting against the instincts of conscience…there is therefore an eternal and immutable law, obliging man, upon pain of incurring the guilt of the most heinous mortal sin that can be committed, never to do anything in violation and in despite of conscience.
          7. Hence it manifestly and demonstratively follows, if the eternal law, or any positive law of God requires that he who is convinced of the truth should employ fire and sword to establish it in the world; that all men ought to employ fire and sword to establish it in the world; that all men ought to employ fire and sword for the establishing of their own religion. I understand all those to whom this law of God is revealed.
        3. Bayle then argues that this cannot be the proper sense of the verse because it would authorize violence by the false Church against the true Church just as well as the true Church against the false Church.
    9. Continuation of Response to Eighth Objection: the Rights of an Erroneous Conscience.
      1. Bayle brings some thought experiments to support his point that "the rights of the erroneous consciences attended with sincerity are exactly the same of those of the orthodox conscience."
        1. Including, that a wife has the same obligation to a man who she supposes is her husband, but who in truth is an imposter, as a wife has to her actual husband.
        2. Additionally, that a pagan has the same obligations to his false God so long as he thinks that are the true Gods as a Christian has to the actual true God.
      2. Objection: According to Bayle's argument, if someone is actually persuaded by conscience that he must persecute heretics then it would be wrong not to, which is in conflict with his main argument.
        1. Response:
          1. Bayle does not claim that acting from conscience frees individual's from any sin, just that acting against conscience is the worse sin.
          2. This may be true, but the purpose of this commentary is to persuade such a conscience to relinquish his opinion.
      3. As a side point, Bayle argues that atheists should not be tolerated though for a number of reasons, including that they undermine society.
      4. Bayle responds to arguments that his view would exculpate someone who commits murder thinking that it is what he must do according to his conscience in a number of ways.
        1. Bayle doesn't think that this case is so common as to be a problem.
        2. Downplays how bad murder is relative to acting against conscience.
        3. Bayle responds that nothing he has said disallows the government from still punishing someone who murders in conformity with his conscience so as to maintain public order.
    10. Chapter X: Continuation of Continuation
      1. Bayle argues that not only would heretics avoid doing the worst sin when they act according to conscience and persecute the truth, they wouldn't commit any sin at all and possibly doing a good deed.
        1. They would be bound to follow scripture as they understand it, if that authorizes the persecution of what they see as heretics then so it does.
        2. God commands us to do seek the truth and to abide by what actions follow from it.
          1. It doesn't add to anything to say that we must seek really really true truth, there are no signs that distinguish really really true truth from what we simply think is the truth. God knows that we are fallible beings.
          2. Rejection of Catholic arguments that Protestants have abandoned themselves to uncertainty by relinquishing belief in the infallibility of the Church. The idea of the infallibility of the Church cannot be known with certainty.
        3. Rejects the idea that people do not accept orthodox doctrine due to the corruption of their nature, their not being among the elect, or willful obstinacy, every sect could claim this of the other.
      2. Argues that rejecting conscience as the standard by which we should act leads to pyrrhonism, which hinders all action.
        1. "God requires no more than a sincere and diligent search after truth, and the discerning it by a sentiment of conscience, in such a manner, that if the combination of circumstances hinders our discovering the real Truth, and makes us find the relish of Truth in a false Object, this reputed and relative Truth is to us a instead of the real Truth; as with regard to the Nourishment of the Body, it's sufficient if by our Taste we discover the relative nature of Foods."
      3. Emphasizes that his argument do not excuse those that act from malice, only those that do what they think is right.
    11. Chapter XI: Summary of what has been proved
      1. "That if God had commanded the Professor of Truth to persecute the Professor of a Lie, these apprehending this Command as directed to themselves, would be obliged in Conscience to persecute the Professor of Truth, would be guilty of an offence if they did not, and be acquitted in the sight of God, provided their ignorance was neither malicious nor affected."
      2. This shows that the verse "Compel them to come in," if interpreted literally would expose the true Church to much suffering.
      3. And even if only the true Church is allowed to persecute, this is an argument that has no practical benefit as everyone will just claim that they are true Church.
      4. Thus, the verse should not be interpreted literally.
  4. Part III - An examination of Augustine argument in justifying coercion of the Donatists.
  5. Part IV - Reply to a book published by Jurieu, a Calvinist theologian, which objected to Bayle's arguments in the first two parts.



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