Ongoing Book Review — Witte’s The Reformation of Rights — Beware R2kt

Calvin’s Mature Formulations

“Calvin’s later formulations on religious liberty had the opposite tendency. As his thinking matured, and he took up his pastoral and political advisory duties in Geneva, Calvin began to think in more integrated and more institutional terms. He blurred the lines between the earthly kingdom and heavenly kingdom, between spiritual and political life, law, and liberty. He also focused more closely and concretely on the institutional responsibilities and relationship of Church and State. Whereas the religious liberty of the individual had been a principle concern of Calvin in the 1530’s, religious liberty of the Church took priority and precedence thereafter — to the point where the individual’s religious freedom would have to yield to the church’s in the event of conflict. This new priority was no more clearly demonstrated than in Calvin’s actions toward Severtus….

Calvin still insisted that liberty and law, freedom and order — and now rights and rules — belong together. But the law and order side of the equation took prominence in his later writings as he struggled to define the functions and interrelationships of moral, political, and ecclesiastical laws and structures within both the earthly and heavenly kingdoms. By the time of his 1559 Institutes, Calvin in effect superimposed on the Lutheran two kingdoms theory his own variant of the Catholic two swords theory. He assigned the church a legal role in the governance of the earthly kingdom, and the state a moral role in the governance of the heavenly kingdom. At the same time, he rendered obedience to church officials and law both a spiritual and a civic duty, and obedience to political officials and law both a civic and a spiritual duty….

At the foundation of Calvin’s later formulations was a newly expanded theory of the moral law, which God uses to govern both the heavenly and earthly kingdom. Calvin described the moral law much as he had described the ‘spiritual law’ before — as moral commandments, engraved on the conscience, repeated in Scripture, and summarized in the Decalogue…. Calvin generally used (varied) terms synonymously to describe the norms created and communicated by God for the governance of humanity, for the right ordering of individual and social lives. He considered the commandments of the Decalogue to be the fullest expression of the moral law, but he grounded many other human customs and habits in this moral law as well.”

John Witte, Jr.
The Reformation of Rights — Law, Religion, & Human Rights In Early Modern Calvinism
pg. 56-59

Calvin can not be appealed to as a proponent of Radical Two Kingdom Theory and was not a carrier of that virus. And as time passes and I continue to advance through Witte’s book we shall see ongoing testimony that the heirs of Calvin were not proponents of the Radical Two Kingdom theology that is being taught as basic Calvinism as Westminster West. We shall see that Calvin, Beza, Althusius, Milton, and the Colonial Puritan divines in the fledgling New England colonies were strangers to Radical Two Kingdom Theology.

Now I really don’t mind if some Reformed people exist who desire to teach Two Kingdom Theology. Clearly, Two Kingdom Theology in one form or another is something that all Reformed people need to take into consideration. But, as we have seen on this site, the Radical Two Kingdom Theology that is being pushed in some quarters is more Lutheran then it is Reformed, and I take great umbrage at the proponents of Radical Two Kingdom theology acting as if their pet theories have been embraced for centuries in the Reformed Church and cantering on as if it is a great pity that so many Reformed people have left the safe haven of their version of Calvinism 101. These Radical Two Kingdomists are the ones pushing aberrant Calvinism and Witte — somebody who doesn’t hold a Theonomic or Theocratic agenda — is going to show us that.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

2 thoughts on “Ongoing Book Review — Witte’s The Reformation of Rights — Beware R2kt”

  1. I find it interesting that something similar has been said about Mohammed. Early in his career as the prophet of a new faith, he was all for religious tolerance, but once he was firmly ensconced as Caliph of Mecca, tolerance went out the window.

    Just an observation 🙂

  2. Well, I think it can be shown that Calvin and Calvinists historically built the most tolerant communities …. BUT … there has to be a point where lines are drawn. Severtus was just such a line.

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