Calvin the Lawyer
David Hall, ed., Tributes to John Calvin: A Celebration of his Quincentennary (Louisville, KY: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, 2010), 34-58
20 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2011 Last revised: 2 Sep 2019
Date Written: 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.
Keywords: Calvin, law, jurist, Geneva, church, state
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