Review of Gunther Haas: 'The Concept of Equity in Calvin's Ethics'

John Witte Jr.

Emory University School of Law


Studies in Christian Ethics, Vol. 12, p. 107-110, 1999

The main contention of this volume is that “equity is the theme of central importance for Calvin’s social ethic.” The author’s main and novel contention is that Calvin’s distinction between “civil” or “external” morality and “spiritual” or “internal” morality is also based on two modes of interpreting the moral norms of conscience and the Bible. Professor Haas also goes beyond convention in arguing that Calvin derives this equitable methodology from his reading of Greek, Roman, and humanist tracts on legal interpretation – and he summarizes the concepts of equity in everyone from Aristotle to Aliciatus (Calvin’s teacher) to make his point.

Although short (only 75 pp. on Calvin), this is an important volume that adds measurably to our understanding of Calvin’s social ethics. It is tersely written, well-reasoned, and carefully documented. Professor Haas has a solid command of Calvin’s formal writings, and what he has presented is learned and cogent. Particularly, the novel argument that Calvin used his legal training to inform his social ethics is very provocative.

Professor Haas has yet to prove his main case, however. While equity is clearly important to Calvin, it is not clear that it is the central theme of his social ethics. Second, it is also not clear that Calvin’s views on equity were so unique.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 4

Keywords: Calvin, Gunther Haas, morality

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Date posted: August 7, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Review of Gunther Haas: 'The Concept of Equity in Calvin's Ethics' (1999). Studies in Christian Ethics, Vol. 12, p. 107-110, 1999. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1851241

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John Witte Jr. (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)
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