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Calvin the Lawyer

John Witte Jr.

Emory University School of Law


TRIBUTES TO JOHN CALVIN ON HIS 500TH BIRTHDAY, David Hall, Martin Padgett, eds., pp. 1-23, 2010

For all his fame as a theologian and biblical commentator, John Calvin was first and foremost a jurist. Calvin’s attention to both theology and law would become a trademark of early Calvinism. Early modern Calvinists believed in law, as a deterrent against sin, an inducement to grace, a teacher of Christian virtue. It is this legal side of Calvin’s Reformation that this chapter probes. This chapter focuses on two main dialects at work in Calvin’s though - the first balancing liberty and law, the second balancing church and state. These two dialects intersected. For Calvin it was the responsibility of the church and state, separately and together, to protect and promote the law and liberty of Geneva. And, in turn, it was Geneva’s commitment to the rule of law and regime of liberty that allowed church and state to separate yet cooperate in the governance of a Christian republic.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 14

Keywords: Calvin, law, jurist, Geneva, church, state

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Date posted: June 15, 2011 ; Last revised: January 12, 2017

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Calvin the Lawyer (2010). TRIBUTES TO JOHN CALVIN ON HIS 500TH BIRTHDAY, David Hall, Martin Padgett, eds., pp. 1-23, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1863624

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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