Protestantism, Law, and Legal Thought

John Witte Jr.

Emory University School of Law


The Blackwell Companion to Protestantism, pp. 298-305, A.E. McGrath, D.C. Marks, eds., 2002

This Article analyzes the distinct legal contributions of the Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, and Anabaptist traditions from the sixteenth century to the twentieth. All four Protestant movements triggered massive shifts of jurisdiction from the church to the state, and engineered striking legal reforms of marriage and family, education and schooling, charity and social welfare. Calvinist reformers made important contributions to theories and laws of democratic revolution, constitutional order, and rule of law. Anglican reformers developed important traditions of Parliamentary sovereignty and freedom of speech. Later Anabaptist and Evangelical reformers pressed hard for religious freedom, separation of church and state, the abolition of slavery, and the moral reform of public life.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 9

Keywords: Protestantism; Lutheranism; Calvinism; Anglicanism; Western law; Legal Theory; Legislative Power; Judicial Power; Religious Freedom; Separation of Church and State; Slavery and Abolition

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Date posted: June 15, 2011 ; Last revised: October 4, 2014

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Protestantism, Law, and Legal Thought (2002). The Blackwell Companion to Protestantism, pp. 298-305, A.E. McGrath, D.C. Marks, eds., 2002. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1863588

Contact Information

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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