Union University

Union University Department of Political Science

Department of Political Science

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Baker & Watson Present at KJV Conference

Sep 22, 2011

This past weekend, Union University hosted a conference on the King James Bible to celebrate its 400th anniversary. As part of the conference, faculty from various disciplines spoke on how the KJV has affected their discipline.

On Friday afternoon, Hunter Baker spoke about how the Reformation led to the creation of the Bible in vernacular languages. By putting the Bible in the vernacular, power was redistributed away from church elites to the people. Moreover, the availability of the Bible in the vernacular proved to be the decisive stimulus in causing people to learn how to read. This was important for politics because widespread knowledge of the Bible makes it into something like an informal super-Constitution which people can refer to and use to hold rulers to account. While the King James Bible is the king of the vernacular Bibles, it is somewhat ironic that a Bible with that name should have had democratizing influence.  Finally, Baker argues that we are losing the cultural unity that the King James  gave us.  There are two major threats as a result.  We are using language to manipulate and obfuscate rather than to reveal truth.  We are breaking up into smaller and smaller sub-communities incapable of communicating with each other.

On Saturday morning, Micah Watson compared the political and biblical views of King James I of England and John Locke. James defended a version of the “divine right of kings” view and held that God granted kings their authority and only God could hold them accountable. That said, James also heavily emphasized the duty a king had to rule for the good of his people and not merely for his own private interest. James used several biblical passages to defend his view. Locke on the other hand believed that God gave certain rights and powers to individuals who could then authorize a king or other government to rule. Hence Locke’s notion of “consent of the governed” which ground legitimate government. Locke also relied on scripture to make his case.