Moderate Religious Liberty: John Calvin and the Geneva Experiment
John Witte Jr.
Emory University School of Law
"Moderate Religious Liberty: John Calvin and the Geneva Experiment," in Calvin Theological Journal 31 (1996): 359-403
Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 04-2
This chapter argues that John Calvin (1509-1564), the Protestant reformer of Geneva, developed a complex theory of (religious) liberty that lies at the heart of modern Protestant political theology. In his early years, Calvin's views of religious liberty were influenced strongly by Martin Luther's understanding of the freedom of the Christian in the heavenly kingdom and the bondage of the Christian in the earthly kingdom. In his mature writings, Calvin abandoned much of this framework, and worked out a detailed understanding of liberty vis-a-vis the moral laws of God, the civil laws of the state, and the spiritual laws of the church. Particularly novel and important was Calvin's call to integrate the principles of rule of law, democratic process, and individual liberty within the church, a theory with obvious implications for the state. Also important was his call to balance liberty and authority, rights and duties, within church, state, and family alike.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 44
Keywords: Religious liberty, John Calvin, Geneva, Protestant, theology, Martin Luther, principles, rule of law, individual liberty
Date posted: May 4, 2004 ; Last revised: November 13, 2014
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