The next volumes of our series are about to come out, released by our Calvin500 publishing partner, Presbyterian and Reformed (all volumes are available at their site or at the RHB button to the right). Or if you purchase from Amazon.com, why not request that this be included in the Kindle Store?!
Soon to be released is Calvin in the Public Square: Liberal Democracies, Rights and Civil Liberties by David Hall. To get a sense of this, see the Table of Contents and Introduction below:
Calvin in the Public Square: Liberal Democracies, Rights and Civil Liberties
Table of Contents
1. Standing on the Shoulders of Previous Giants
Politico-Theology from Augustine through Aquinas
Pre-Calvinist Tokens of Swiss Independence (1300–1500)
The Setting for Calvin’s Reformation: 1450–1550
2. John Calvin: A Biography for a Political Figure
Calvin’s First Geneva Residency
Calvin’s Strasbourg Residency
Calvin’s Lasting Geneva Residency
3. Calvin’s View of Politics from the Institutes and Other Writings
Calvin’s Institutes: Blueprint for Civil Government
Calvin’s Political Theology in Other Works
Calvin and Practical Politics
4. Calvin on Poverty
Calvin’s Model for Poverty Relief
Luther in Germany
5. Calvin’s Disciples in the Public Square, 1540–1640 and Beyond
Selected Political Tracts of the Reformation, 1540–1600
6. Puritan Heirs to Calvin in England and New England
Calvin’s Politics Spread to London’s Parliament
British Puritans: International Conveyors of Genevan Politics
Political Ideas in Colonial American Pulpits
7. A New, Old, Less Pluralistic and More Particularistically Religious View of Rights
A Brief History of the Evolution of Rights until 1700
Should Religious Pluralism be Credited as the Foundation of Rights?
First Context: Colonial/Pre-Constitutional
Second Context: The Declaration and the Constitution
The Legacy and Demise of Calvinism in the West
8. A Modern Revival of Practical Calvinistic Politics
William Groen Van Prinsterer
Read the Introduction: Standing on the Shoulders of Previous Giants
Below is one man’s study of how one man’s thought became a movement that changed the political landscape of modernity. Of course, the political involvement and ideas of John Calvin neither can nor should they be expected to answer all or even the most pressing current questions in this field. Calvin was, to be sure, not a political scientist or a campaign strategist. However, in addition to stirring the republicanizing wave that crested on the shores of most Western governments before and after the Enlightenment, his varied theological applications yield much political prudence. It is that wisdom, both practical and theoretical, that is valued and explicated in this work.
Numerous scholars have traced Calvin’s political ideas. Some have focused on the socio-economic impact (M. Weber), while others have highlighted his ties to medieval thought (Q. Skinner), his fueling of a burgeoning democratic movement (R. Kingdon), and his impact on the development of Western law and human rights (J. Witte, Jr., D. Kelly et al.); and, of course, critics too numerous to cite accuse him of inhibiting liberty, humanity, or knowledge. Compared with the heft of Calvin’s international and multigenerational influence, seldom have the written words of a pastor fostered so much sustained political impact. Douglas Kelly extols the virtue of the “sober Calvinian assessment of fallen man’s propensity to seize, increase, and abuse power for personal ends rather than for the welfare of the many.” He further evaluates: “Governmental principles for consent of the governed, and separation and balance of powers are all logical consequences of a most serious and Calvinian view of the biblical doctrine of the fall of man.” While probably overstating (thinking of Calvin as “wholly medieval” and as advocating an “aristocratic theocracy in which he was dictator”), notwithstanding, historian Franklin Palm recognized Calvin’s contribution as “emphasizing the supremacy of God and the right of resistance to all other authority . . . . [H]e did much to curb the powers of kings and to increase the authority of the elected representatives of the people.” Further, Palm noticed Calvin’s belief in the “right of the individual to remove the magistrate who disobeys the word of God. . . . Consequently, he justified many revolutionary leaders in their belief that God gave them the right to oppose tyranny.”
Recently, John Witte Jr. has noted how “Calvin developed arresting new teachings on authority and liberty, duties and rights, and church and state that have had an enduring influence on Protestant lands.” As a result of its adaptability, this “rendered early modern Calvinism one of the driving engines of Western constitutionalism. A number of our bedrock Western understandings of civil and political rights, social and confessional pluralism, federalism and social contract, and more owe a great deal to Calvinist theological and political reforms.” In various parts of the Calvin corpus of literature, he addresses the following questions, which are of vital interest to modernity and political theorists:
• Is the state or are its governors sovereign?
• What form should the government take?
• Is democracy an absolute?
• Who pays for government and how/how much?
• Who functions as governmental leaders?
• How much of human life should government cover?
• What other valid spheres should the government respect (family, church, school)?
• May citizens resist their government? Under what limitations or conditions?
His political writings were, to be sure, in part the culmination of a tradition. They followed decades of Renaissance thought and sat perched atop centuries of medieval and Scholastic theological reflection on political principles. We would not wish to be understood as suggesting that Calvin worked in isolation in formulating his principles; it was common for leading theologians of the period—leaders in society in that day—to expound matters of state. However, the subsequent expansion and replication of his thought by his followers virtually created a new trajectory of political discourse. It is no exaggeration to observe that before Calvin, certain political principles were viewed as radical; while after him, they became widely acceptable. Thus, this volume treats not only Calvin’s thought but also the subsequent Calvinism, with its impact on politics and human government.