Calvin On The Reformed Magistrate

John Calvin 1509-1564

“But this was sayde to the people of olde time. Yea, and God’s honour must not be diminished by us at this day: the reasons that I have alleadged alreadie doe serve as well for us as for them. Then lette us not thinke that this lawe is a speciall lawe for the Jewes; but let us understand that God intended to deliver to us a generall rule, to which we must tye ourselves…Sith it is so, it is to be concluded, not onely that is lawefull for all kinges and magistrates, to punish heretikes and such as have perverted the pure trueth; but also that they be bounde to doe it, and that they misbehave themselves towardes God, if they suffer errours to roust without redresse, and employ not their whole power to shewe a greater zeale in that behalfe than in all other things.”

Calvin, Sermons upon Deuteronomie, p. 541-542

Note in this quote that Calvin would have found it quite strange to contend that there could be a theocratic arrangement that was not at the same time theonomic in some sense. I mention this because I have read some “smart” people try to make the case that while Theocracy was a part of Reformed tradition Theonomy never has been. This quote makes shreds of that proposition. Still, it must be admitted that the kind of theonomy that was advocated by the Theocratic Reformers would have been an altered form from what was developed in the 20th century. BUT not so altered that there are not touchstones of commonality.

Secondly, note that this was a sermon which means it was preached in a Church. Calvin, speaking as the voice of God in the pulpit, was clearly violating Escondido notions of radical two kingdom theology. In this sermon he is instructing the State how it should operate.

Could Calvin be ordained by R2Kt virus men?

Dr. Clark and Rev. McAtee discuss Two Kingdom Theology

At this link

Dr. R. Scott Clark had a bit of conversation on two Kingdom theology. If you want to see the whole context of this conversation I am repeating in an edited form I encourage you to read it there.


Of course, as I’ve said many times, the two kingdoms theology was worked out in a theocratic context and yes, some of us are trying to put that theology to use in a post-theocratic context. Why is that wrong?

Dr. R. Scott Clark

Dr. Clark,

The answer is because we don’t live in a post-theocratic context and that it is impossible to live in a post-theocratic context. All cultures or peoples or socieities are organized theocratically, whether in a dejure or defacto sense. Theocracy is an inescapable category and all that.

Lutheran Theology and Reformed Theology are similar only in the sense that Lutheranism partakes of felicitous inconsistency. We may use the same words or phrases but because the systems are different we are using them equivocally when the systems are compared as a whole. This is no different than the similarity one finds between Reformed theology and any other branch you’d like to name. In all branches you can find surface similarities but when you burrow down you realize that you’re not saying the same thing at all.

Thanks for being gentlemanly,



You’ve set up a definition that is inherently circular. It’s one thing to do this with ultimate questions. It’s another to do it with penultimate questions. You’ve rigged the game!

I did not respond to Dr. Clark at his site because I could foresee that this was a conversation where I would be cut off at some point. Therefore I am bringing my response to my site.

Dr. Clark,

Think about it. In your proposed and supposed non-theocratic context there exists a plurality of Gods contending in the marketplace of the culture of society. Now, who will referee how far the competing gods can go? Who will determine in your supposed and proposed non-theocratic context how vigorously the competing gods can walk in the public square? Wherever you locate that institution or person who is setting boundaries on the competing gods in the cultural market place there you find the God of the gods. In our culture, which is the culture that you would contend is “non-theocratic” that referee is the State. Therefore the State is the God in your non-theocratic culture. Another way of saying this is that if in democracy the voice of the people is the voice of God the theocratic arrangement in a democracy is the religion that animates the people which for Americans is a humanism that animates the State.

I therefore, as you can plainly see, most certainly have not “rigged the game” but rather simply recognized the nature of reality. I invite you to join me in embracing reality. It can be quite refreshing.

This is why R2Kt virus theology cannot work. It can not work because there is no such thing as a non-theocratic culture. When the Church refuses to speak to the God State in your putative “non-theocratic” setting what you accomplish is an institutionalizing of the violation of the first commandment.

Finally, because the methodology can be used on ultimate questions it can be used on penultimate questions that depend on the answer given in ultimate question. Because God is an inescapable category, everything that relies on God is likewise inescapable. For example since God is inescapable likewise religion is inescapable. Since some God is inescapable for an individual, God is inescapable for a people. Indeed, it is this shared sense of the Theo in the theocracy that alone makes cohesive culture possible.

By your creation of a non-theocratic realm, you have stated that it is possible to have some realm that isn’t derivative of theology.

I know you think I’ve rigged the game, but I think you’ve not realized what game is being played.


Reformed Quotes Regarding Two Kingdoms

The Belgic Confession of Faith, Article XXXVI

The Magistracy (Civil Government)

We believe that our gracious God, because of the depravity of mankind, has appointed kings, princes, and magistrates; willing that the world should be governed by certain laws and policies; to the end that the dissoluteness of men might be restrained, and all things carried on among them with good order and decency. For this purpose He has invested the magistracy with the sword for the punishment of evil-doers and for the protection of them that do well.Their office is not only to have regard unto and watch for the welfare of the civil state, but also to protect the sacred ministry, that the kingdom of Christ may thus be promoted. They must therefore countenance the preaching of the Word of the gospel everywhere, that God may be honored and worshiped by every one, as He commands in His Word.

History & Reformed writing on Church and State — Scots Confession

The Scots Confession ““ John Knox

Chapter 24 – The Civil Magistrate

We confess and acknowledge that empires, kingdoms, dominions, and cities are appointed and ordained by God; the powers and authorities in them, emperors in empires, kings in their realms, dukes and princes in their dominions, and magistrates in cities, are ordained by God’s holy ordinance for the manifestation of his own glory and for the good and well being of all men. We hold that any men who conspire to rebel or to overturn the civil powers, as duly established, are not merely enemies to humanity but rebels against God’s will. Further, we confess and acknowledge that such persons as are set in authority are to be loved, honored, feared, and held in the highest respect, because they are the lieutenants of God, and in their councils God himself doth sit and judge. They are the judges and princes to whom God has given the sword for the praise and defense of good men and the punishment of all open evil doers. Moreover, we state the preservation and purification of religion is particularly the duty of kings, princes, rulers, and magistrates. They are not only appointed for civil government but also to maintain true religion and to suppress all idolatry and superstition. This may be seen in David, Jehosaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, and others highly commended for their zeal in that cause.

A very brief word. This idea of the magistrate maintaining true religion happens today in These United States with the Government school systems. Through, and in, the government school system our Magistrates are maintaining this culture’s true religion and suppressing what it considers idolatry and superstition.

History & Reformed writing on Church and State

[Second Helvetic Confession on magistrates]

” In like manner, let him (Magistrate) govern the people, committed to him of God, with good laws, made according to the word of God in his hands, and look that nothing be taught contrary thereto. … Therefore let him draw forth this sword of God against all malefactors, seditious persons, thieves, murderers, oppressors, blasphemers, perjured persons, and all those whom God has commanded him to punish or even to execute. Let him suppress stubborn heretics (who are heretics indeed), who cease not to blaspheme the majesty of God, and to trouble the Church, yea, and finally to destroy it.”