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7 - John Calvin

(1509–1564)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 May 2019

Olivier Descamps
Affiliation:
Pantheon-Assas University, Paris
Rafael Domingo
Affiliation:
Emory University, Atlanta
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Summary

French-born Protestant Reformer John Calvin led a sweeping reformation of law, politics, and society in sixteenth-century Geneva. Building on classical and earlier Christian sources, Calvin developed an innovative and integrative theory of rights and liberties, church and state, authority and power, natural law and positive law. Particularly striking was his use of the Decalogue as a source and summary of natural law, and as a template for spiritual and civil laws and rights in a Christian republic. Also novel was his theory of the uses of natural and positive law to cultivate a baseline civil morality and an aspirational spiritual morality in the community. Calvin and his followers saw law as a deterrent against sin, an inducement to grace, and a teacher of Christian virtue. They also believed in liberty, structuring their churches and states alike to minimize the sins of their rulers and to maximize the liberties of their subjects. Calvin distilled his legal teachings into sundry public, private, penal, and procedural laws for Geneva, and he broadcast them widely among other French and other European jurists, theologians, and political leaders of his day. Several of his basic teachings about law, politics, and society still live on today, both in secular legal thought and in modern Protestant churches.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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References

Recommended Reading

Bohatec, Josef. Calvin und das Recht. Graz: H. Böhlau, 1934.Google Scholar
Bohatec, Josef. Calvins Lehre von Staat und Kirche. BreslauM. & H. Marcus, 1937.Google Scholar
Doumergue, Emile. Jean Calvin: les hommes et les choses de son temps, 7 vols. Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1969.Google Scholar
Gamble, Richard C., edn. Calvin’s Thought on Economic and Social Issues, and the Relationship of Church and State. New York: Garland Press, 1992.Google Scholar
Höpfl, Harro. The Christian Polity of John Calvin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.Google Scholar
Hesselink, John. Calvin’s Concept of the Law. Allison Park, PA: Pickwick Publishing, 1992.Google Scholar
Hunt, George L., edn. Calvinism and Political Order. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965.Google Scholar
Kingdon, Robert M. Adultery and Divorce in Calvin’s Geneva. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.Google Scholar
McKee, Elsie Anne. The Pastoral Ministry and Worship in Calvin’s Geneva. Geneva: Droz, 2016.Google Scholar
Strohm, Christoph. Calvinismus und Recht. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008.Google Scholar
Tuininga, Matthew J. Calvin’s Political Theology and the Public Engagement of the Church. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Witte, John Jr. The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.Google Scholar

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