Thursday, September 13, 2012

Reformation Scotland's Overlap between Church Discipline and Punishments for Civil Crimes (Theonomy Applied)

During the Reformation, Scotland maintained a close relationship between church courts and civil courts for the administration of church discipline and punishments for civil crimes. 

Whether or not Scotland was fully biblical in how it went about this, it rightfully attempted to apply the church's and the state's respective biblical duties to apply sanctions, which can at times overlap (for instance, blasphemy and adultery both warrant ecclesiastical discipline and civil punishment).

The following from Calvinism in Europe, 1540-1620 discusses further Reformation Scotland's approach to church discipline and civil crimes:
[T]hough the jurisdiction of the church remained separate from that of the state, kirk sessions and bailies (magistrates) usually cooperated closely. The sessions might call on the assistance of the bailies to bring the recalcitrant to book and they delated offenders to the burgh courts for 'correctioun civilie'. Sometimes the bailies attended the kirk session so that fornicators received both spiritual and civil punishment at the same time, their sentences being recorded in the consistorial act book. The 'interlock of church and state' in Scotland tightened where a rural kirk session obtained a commission from the privy council to impose both spiritual and civil penalties. As a result the church courts in Scotland could put fornicators in the 'jougs', scolds in the 'branks' and fine those who breached the sabbath. ...bailies frequently attended kirk sessions either in their capacity as elders or as municipal office-holders ...

The discipline of the kirk session contributed in the view of Geoffrey Parker, to 'the taming of Scotland'. His analysis of the kirk session records for St. Andrews suggests that the kirk could, at least temporally, change sexual mores within the locality. Furthermore, the Scots Parliament endorsed, up to a point, the demands of the kirk for rigorous penalties against adultery, fornication, blasphemy and the profanation of the Lord's Day.[1]


[1] Andrew Pettegree, Alastair Duke, and Gillian Lewis, eds., Calvinism in Europe, 1540-1620 (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 14, 15.

Note about the Theonomy Applied Series: In quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily endorse every aspect of that law as biblical, whether it be the prohibition, sanction, court procedure, etc. Rather, we are merely showing the more or less attempt to apply biblical law in history, whether or not that application was fully biblical. Moreover, in quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily consider those who passed and/or enforced such a law as being fully orthodox in their Christian theology. Professing Christian rulers in history have ranged in their theology from being orthodox (that is, Reformed Protestants) to heretical (for example, Roman Catholics).

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