Darrow Miller and Friends

What is Social Calvinism?

Marvin Olasky on John CalvinDNA friend Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of WORLD and the author of more than 20 books, recently published “Social Calvinism: How the Reformer challenged conventional wisdom in government and economics” at WORLD’s Saturday Series page. We found his post about John Calvin so engaging and important we want to share it with you.


Ten years ago, I felt honored to write a chapter in a book edited by John Piper and David Mathis, With Calvin in the Theater of God. Many of our readers have read John Calvin and are deeply aware of his theological brilliance, but here’s a slightly adapted part of the chapter in which I looked at 10 ways Calvin challenged his era’s conventional wisdom concerning government and economics. In this election year, as the full fury and superficiality of half-blind 2020 politics assaults us, let’s spend a few minutes looking deeper.

  1. Sacred politics

Many Christians throughout medieval times had heard that work in a church or life in a monastery was the best way to follow God’s will. The theater of God, in short, was not the whole world but only the parts of it where priests removed themselves from the world. But Calvin wrote in his Institutes Book 4, Chapter 20—other quotations in this section also come from there unless otherwise noted—“No one ought to doubt that civil authority is a calling not only holy and lawful before God, but also the most sacred and by far the most honorable of all callings in the whole life of mortal men.” Such thinking led many of the founders of the American republic to enter politics.

  1. The cleanness of the courts

Many Christians throughout medieval times had heard that they should not go to court. One result was that the weak had little redress against the powerful. Submission to church and state authority was a Christian duty. Any back talk in court or otherwise was rebellion against God. But Calvin wrote, “As for those who strictly condemn all legal contentions, let them realize that they therewith repudiate God’s holy ordinance, and one of the class of gifts that can be clean to the clean. … The Christian endures insults, but with amity and equity defends the public interest. … [He will use] the help of the magistrate in preserving their own possessions.” Such thinking led Americans to push for a government of laws, not of men.

For the rest of Marvin’s article go here.

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