A Demonstrative Theory of Natural Law: Johannes Althusius and the Rise of Calvinist Jurisprudence
John Witte Jr.
Emory University School of Law
June 12, 2011
in Deirdre King Hainsworth and Scott R. Paeth, eds., Public Theology for a Global Society: Essays in Honor of Max L. Stackhouse (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), 21-36
Early modem Calvinists produced a rich tradition of natural law and natural rights thought that shaped the law and politics of protestant lands. The German-born Calvinist jurist Johannes Althusius produced one of the most original Calvinist natural law theories at the turn of the seventeenth century. Althusius argued for the natural qualities of a number of basic legal norms and practices by demonstrating their near universal embrace by classical and biblical, catholic and protestant, theological and legal communities alike. On this foundation, he developed a complex theory of public, private, penal and procedural rights and duties for his day, to be embraced by everyone, particularly by those who were slaughtering each other in religious wars, persecutions and inquisitions. Althusius' theory of natural law and natural rights was Calvinist in inspiration but universal in aspiration, and it anticipated the political formulations of a number of later Western writers, including Locke, Rousseau and Madison.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 14
Keywords: Calvinism, Althusius, Calvin, natural law, natural rights
Date posted: June 15, 2011 ; Last revised: January 12, 2017