Wednesday, March 17, 2010

John Calvin Taught Rebellion to Tyrants is DISOBEDIENCE to God

At least he did in Book IV, Chapter 20 of Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion." I am aware of one passage from other commentaries of Calvin's on Romans 13 which teaches something slightly different. I'll deal with that later. I'm basing this claim entirely on Calvin's teachings in Institutes.

His teachings there could not have been clearer. Based on them, the Declaration of Independence is a 100% anti-Calvinist document; that is, if "Calvinism" stopped with Calvin.

Arguably it didn't. Later "Calvinists" like Samuel Rutherford and Philippe de Mornay, apparently (and for obvious reasons) not satisfied having to live out Calvin's teachings on submitting to political tyranny, made the most out of Calvin's idea of "interposition," and expanded it in the "living" philosophical sense (i.e., "living Calvinism," "living Constitutionalism," etc.), such that results could be achieved of which Calvin himself would not have approved.

Though I'm less familiar with their works than I am Calvin's, they still, like Calvin, stopped short of approving of "revolt." Rather, if the King violated the law, since "law was King," we could follow the law not the unlawful actions of a King. That's what Rutherford taught in Lex Rex. That's NOT what Calvin taught. And even Rutherford's more generous (than Calvin's) teachings do not countenance revolt.

[Again, since I'm less familiar with Rutherford, I'll try to be cautious with claims of later "Calvinists" who expanded "interposition" beyond what Calvin taught and would have approved.]

Whatever else the Founders said they did -- i.e., "we are resisting the unlawful actions of King George and Parliament" -- something that does square with Rutherfordian rhetoric -- they said they were revolting. They used the term "revolution" over and over again to describe what they did.

So while you may be able to, as some have, analyze the events of the American Revolution as intermediate magistrates fighting a war of self defense and resisting the unlawful actions of the British, you cannot square what the Founders said they did or the rhetoric they appealed to in the DOI with such a sentiment.

And orthodox Christian critics of the pro-revolutionary sentiments contained in the DOI might note that's EXACTLY why so many "Christians" -- some orthodox some heterodox -- initially approved of the French Revolution and thought its principles an extension of the American. Once you pollute Christianity with foreign principles (like rebellion is okay) it acts as a cancer. Hence, the French Revolution as the logical extension of the anti-biblical principles of the American Revolution.

That's what, among others, Gregg Frazer, Russell Kirk, Lino Graglia, and Roberts Bork and Kraynak might note.

Now, on a personal note, to satisfy my friend Jim Babka, I am not saying the American Revolution was anti-biblical or that there aren't understandings -- even traditional orthodox understandings -- of the Bible that are compatible with revolutionary thought.

Rather, my narrow claim is 1) Calvin didn't approve this. And 2) The Founders, though some of their actions and rhetoric was consistent with more generous notions of interposition (i.e., they oft-talked about how the the British violated British law in dealing with America), went beyond that and said they revolted.

Let's look at Book IV, Chapter 20 of Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" and settle the issue. He wrote:

For while in this unworthy conduct, and among atrocities so alien, not only from the duty of the magistrate, but also of the man, they behold no appearance of the image of God, which ought to be conspicuous in the magistrate, while they see not a vestige of that minister of God, who was appointed to be a praise to the good and a terror to the bad, they cannot recognise the ruler whose dignity and authority Scripture recommends to us. And, undoubtedly, the natural feeling of the human mind has always been not less to assail tyrants with hatred and execration, than to look up to just kings with love and veneration.

25. But if we have respect to the word of God, it will lead us farther, and make us subject not only to the authority of those princes who honestly and faithfully perform their duty toward us, but all princes, by whatever means they have so become, although there is nothing they less perform than the duty of princes. For though the Lord declares that a ruler to maintain our safety is the highest gift of his beneficence, and prescribes to rulers themselves their proper sphere, he at the same time declares, that of whatever description they may be, they derive their power from none but him. Those, indeed, who rule for the public good, are true examples and specimens of his beneficence, while those who domineer unjustly and tyrannically are raised up by him to punish the people for their iniquity. Still all alike possess that sacred majesty with which he has invested lawful power. I will not proceed further without subjoining some distinct passages to this effect. 657 We need not labour to prove that an impious king is a mark of the Lord's anger, since I presume no one will deny it, and that this is not less true of a king than of a robber who plunders your goods, an adulterer who defiles your bed, and an assassin who aims at your life, since all such calamities are classed by Scripture among the curses of God. But let us insist at greater length in proving what does not so easily fall in with the views of men, that even an individual of the worst character, one most unworthy of all honour, if invested with public authority, receives that illustrious divine power which the Lord has by his word devolved on the ministers of his justice and judgment, and that, accordingly, in so far as public obedience is concerned, he is to be held in the same honour and reverence as the best of kings. [Bold mine.]


Calvin could not have been clearer: Tyrannical Kings -- even the worst that you can imagine [i.e., Hitler or Stalin] -- don't lose their Romans 13 divinely ordained status.

But there's more (the bold, again, is mine):

... When we hear that the king was appointed by God, let us, at the same time, call to mind those heavenly edicts as to honouring and fearing the king, and we shall have no doubt that we are to view the most iniquitous tyrant as occupying the place with which the Lord has honoured him. When Samuel declared to the people of Israel what they would suffer from their kings, he said, "This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectioneries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants" (1 Sam. 8:11-l7). Certainly these things could not be done legally by kings, whom the law trained most admirably to all kinds of restraint; but it was called justice in regard to the people, because they were bound to obey, and could not lawfully resist: as if Samuel had said, To such a degree will kings indulge in tyranny, which it will not be for you to restrain. The only thing remaining for you will be to receive their commands, and be obedient to their words.

27. But the most remarkable and memorable passage is in Jeremiah. Though it is rather long, I am not indisposed to quote it, because it most clearly settles this whole question. "I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power, and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant: and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with famine, and with pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand" (Jer. 27:5-8). Therefore "bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live" (v. 12). We see how great obedience the Lord was pleased to demand for this dire and ferocious tyrant, for no other reason than just that he held the kingdom. In other words, the divine decree had placed him on the throne of the kingdom, and admitted him to regal majesty, which could not be lawfully violated. If we constantly keep before our eyes and minds the fact, that even the most iniquitous kings are appointed by the same decree which establishes all regal authority, we will never entertain the seditious thought, that a king is to be treated according to his deserts, and that we are not bound to act the part of good subjects to him who does not in his turn act the part of a king to us.


In short, Christians are to be obedient to tyrant Kings simply because they are Kings. Obedience to tyrannical Kings is obedience to God. This is Calvin 101.

But there's even more:

But rulers, you will say, owe mutual duties to those under them. This I have already confessed. But if from this you conclude that obedience is to be returned to none but just governors, you reason absurdly. Husbands are bound by mutual duties to their wives, and parents to their children. Should husbands and parents neglect their duty; should the latter be harsh and severe to the children whom they are enjoined not to provoke to anger, and by their severity harass them beyond measure; should the former treat with the greatest contumely the wives whom they are enjoined to love and to spare as the weaker vessels; would children be less bound in duty to their parents, and wives to their husbands? They are made subject to the froward and undutiful. Nay, since the duty of all is not to look behind them, that is, not to inquire into the duties of one another, but to submit each to his own duty, this ought especially to be exemplified in the case of those who are placed under the power of others. Wherefore, if we are cruelly tormented by a savage, if we are rapaciously pillaged by an avaricious or luxurious, if we are neglected by a sluggish, if, in short, we are persecuted for righteousness' sake by an impious and sacrilegious prince, let us first call up the remembrance of our faults, which doubtless the Lord is chastising by such scourges. In this way humility will curb our impatience. And let us reflect that it belongs not to us to cure these evils, that all that remains for us is to implore the help of the Lord, in whose hands are the hearts of kings, and inclinations of kingdoms. 658 "God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods." Before his face shall fall and be crushed all kings and judges of the earth, who have not kissed his anointed, who have enacted unjust laws to oppress the poor in judgment, and do violence to the cause of the humble, to make widows a prey, and plunder the fatherless.


In other words, you submit to the tyrant, King, parent or whomever God placed in power over you. If they treat you unfairly, God will get them for it. On Earth, the buck stops with them.

After writing this, Calvin notes examples where Kings were removed.

Herein is the goodness, power, and providence of God wondrously displayed. At one time he raises up manifest avengers from among his own servants, and gives them his command to punish accursed tyranny, and deliver his people from calamity when they are unjustly oppressed; at another time he employs, for this purpose, the fury of men who have other thoughts and other aims. Thus he rescued his people Israel from the tyranny of Pharaoh by Moses; from the violence of Chusa, king of Syria, by Othniel; and from other bondage by other kings or judges. Thus he tamed the pride of Tyre by the Egyptians; the insolence of the Egyptians by the Assyrians; the ferocity of the Assyrians by the Chaldeans; the confidence of Babylon by the Medes and Persians, -- Cyrus having previously subdued the Medes, while the ingratitude of the kings of Judah and Israel, and their impious contumacy after all his kindness, he subdued and punished, -- at one time by the Assyrians, at another by the Babylonians. All these things, however, were not done in the same way. The former class of deliverers being brought forward by the lawful call of God to perform such deeds, when they took up arms against kings, did not at all violate that majesty with which kings are invested by divine appointment, but armed from heaven, they, by a greater power, curbed a less, just as kings may lawfully punish their own satraps. The latter class, though they were directed by the hand of God, as seemed to him good, and did his work without knowing it, had nought but evil in their thoughts.


This passage is consistent with Calvin's notion that God is in charge and if a King is unfairly tyrannical, God always has the power to control events and remove the King. Calvin draws two classes of people God uses as "instruments" of His will, here. One, people who delivered from tyranny using non-sinful means, and others, who delivered from tyranny using sinful means. As Gregg Frazer has pointed out, God in His Providence, sometimes uses the sinful actions of human beings (i.e., George Washington leading an armed revolt in violating of Romans 13 and other parts of the Bible) to accomplish His will. Other times, as with Moses, no sinful means are employed. Moses led no revolt. God brought on the plagues and Moses simply took his people and left just as Pharaoh instructed.

Now, there is probably more than one way to interpret these biblical passages and if others want to make a case for righteous biblical rebellion based on these stories, I'm all ears.

Just understand: Nowhere does Calvin in Institutes use these examples to justify what he just spent lots of words telling believers was forbidden. If you see that in the above reproduced passage, you see something I don't.

Immediately after mentioning that God can take revenge on unfair tyrants, Calvin discusses what has been termed "interposition." And again, to be clear, Calvin stresses private resistance of tyrannical authority is forbidden.

... Although the Lord takes vengeance on unbridled domination, let us not therefore suppose that that vengeance is committed to us, to whom no command has been given but to obey and suffer. I speak only of private men. For when popular magistrates have been appointed to curb the tyranny of kings (as the Ephori, who were opposed to kings among the Spartans, or Tribunes of the people to consuls among the Romans, or Demarchs to the senate among the Athenians; and perhaps there is something similar to this in the power exercised in each kingdom by the three orders, when they hold their primary diets). So far am I from forbidding these officially to check the undue license of kings, that if they connive at kings when they tyrannise and insult over the humbler of the people, I affirm that their dissimulation is not free from nefarious perfidy, because they fraudulently betray the liberty of the people, while knowing that, by the ordinance of God, they are its appointed guardians.


That's the passage that later "Calvinists" like Rutherford would try to make the most of. But he gives examples of "popular magistrates" (not private men -- who as individuals have NO right to resist political tyranny) "appointed." Lower magistrates must act pursuant to recognized law, like Congress impeaching and removing the President. If there is no legally recognized mechanism for removing the tyrannical King, then tough luck.

In America in 1776, British Law was the recognized, existing law. And Blackstone -- the recognized expert on British law -- was clear that the King and Parliament (the particular way in which THEY split power) were the final EARTHLY arbiters of British law and rule.

Again, if one wants to argue, contra Blackstone, that America (the Continental Congress) was justified, as lower intermediate magistrates, in resisting the British on British legal grounds, fine. But America said it did more.

America said it revolted. And that's not consistent with Calvin, and arguable not with what the later, more generous "Calvinists" taught.

28 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

If anyone has access to JSTOR, I'd be interested in what this says.

http://www.jstor.org/pss/2638789

It seems to me we cannot understand the theology of the American revolution without understanding that of Britain's Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Regardless, it appears that once John Knox becomes a leading influence within Scottish Presbyterian-Calvinism [circa 1560], John Calvin himself is irrelevant.

http://www.jstor.org/pss/2540985

More JSTOR. All the good stuff is on JSTOR, but if we want to get to the bottom of this, these arguments need to be evaluated.
For it certainly appears that once the Presbyterians decide Romans 13 doesn't require a slavish obedience to tyrants, they become the biggest troublemakers, both in Britain

http://cajunhuguenot2.blogspot.com/2004/03/christianity-and-american-revolution.html

and America.

"One Tory (an American who favoured the British) in the colonies wrote back to England "I fix all the blame for these extraordinary proceedings upon the Presbyterians. They have been the chief and principal instruments in all these flaming measures. They always do and ever will act against government from that restless and turbulent anti-monarchical spirit which has always distinguished them everywhere."
_____________

I have no informed opinion about the below [from the same source], but here it is:

Books like Lex Rex and Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos were popular in the colonies. These books were written by Reformed Christians in previous centuries to defend the idea of Christian resistance to the tyranny of despotic rulers. John Locke borrowed these ideas and published them in his 2nd Treatise On Governmentand the Americans repeated these concepts in their own Declaration of Independence.

The views expressed in these works are easily traced back to the reformation (and beyond). They are found in seed form in the writings of Protestant Reformer John Calvin, who was the theological mentor of most early Americans. In the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin’s magnum opus, we read:

"For if there are now any magistrates of the people, appointed to restrain the willfulness of kings..., I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with their duty, the fierce licentiousness of Kings that, if they wink at Kings who violently fall upon them and the lowly common folk, I declare that their dissimulation involves nefarious perfidy, because they dishonestly betray the freedom of the people, of which they know that they have been appointed protectors by God's ordinances."

John T. McNeill, editor of Calvin's Institutes said of the passage above "Calvin turns here with startling abruptness to approve, and solemnly urge action by constituted magistracy to protect the liberties of the people."

Jonathan Rowe said...

There certainly is more to get to and a kernel of truth in the argument. However, this is not correct:

Books like Lex Rex and Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos were popular in the colonies. These books were written by Reformed Christians in previous centuries to defend the idea of Christian resistance to the tyranny of despotic rulers. John Locke borrowed these ideas and published them in his 2nd Treatise On Governmentand the Americans repeated these concepts in their own Declaration of Independence.

There is no connection between Locke and "Lex Rex and Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos."

I'm also suspect of the popularity of those two books in the colonies at the time. You do get some nominal mentions of them, but not much from the "key" and "non-key" Founders.

Locke was much more influential. And as noted, no connection between Locke and Lex Rex and Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos has been shown.

Tom Van Dyke said...

John Adams mentioned Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos.

http://www.libertypost.org/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=27906



And as we see above,

John T. McNeill, editor of Calvin's Institutes said of the passage above "Calvin turns here with startling abruptness to approve, and solemnly urge action by constituted magistracy to protect the liberties of the people."

which blows this whole riff out of the water, absent a strong counterargument.


I'm also suspect of the popularity of those two books in the colonies at the time.


I'm suspect of all the claims I've heard so far, like Gregg's assertion there's no Lex Rex in Locke. I want more facts, pls. This is whistling in the dark.

But here's the thing: I think this entire enterprise is getting hung up on a single word---revolution---in an attempt to get into the Founders' heads.

I'm more interested in how they viewed it---as revolt? as rebellion? or as a restoration, a "remaking," or a reform. The Glorious Revolution concluded that Charles II had "abdicated," and you'll find that word in the D of I about King George.

Further, as the above article argues, there were two strains of thought in the revolution---one, a Lockean-Jefferson rebellion that we see Jefferson carry to the French revolution.

The other strain is the New England-Knox-Calvinist one of Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, far more religious, conscientious and less virulent than Jefferson's.

This appears reasonable: New England [and Adams] opposed the French Revolution even as Jefferson promoted it and even defended its excesses as necessary.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I know Adams mentioned the Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, which is why I tried to couch my assertion. If I remember the context in which he cited it, he vomited the name with a plethora of others and barely touched the substance of the argument.

It could be that the Vindiciae and Lex Rex were read by a lot of folks. But they were barely cited by the key and non-key Founders and by Ellis Sandoz's sermons which cite Locke over and over again.

It could be there's a lot more out there than what Sandoz reproduced. But that's the standard bearer book of political sermons so far. And from what I remember, lots of Locke, little to no Rutherford and Vindiciae in there.

Likewise I've seen Locke connect with both Hooker and Shaftsbury, among others. But not Rutherford.

Rutherford's views on Liberty of Conscience were also not Lockean at all (I'm not sure if you want to me quote Rutherford's defense of Calvin having Servetus burned).

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Calvin turns here with startling abruptness to approve, and solemnly urge action by constituted magistracy to protect the liberties of the people."

which blows this whole riff out of the water, absent a strong counterargument.


Not really he's trying to do what Rutherford et al. (and by et al. I'm including the modern day Rutherfordians, like the "Rutherford Institute" who try to claim resistance to tyranny and political liberty for Calvin) in playing up Calvin's exception.

I've read the passage in context. I stand by my analysis that what Calvin meant by intermediate magistrates were men (like Congressmen) acting pursuant to existing legal mechanisms.

Tom Van Dyke said...

So you disagree with the editor of Calvin's "Institutes," who presumably has access to the original Latin*?

That

"I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with their duty, the fierce licentiousness of Kings"

doesn't mean he's NOT forbidding it?

What can I say? Do you have a single scholar besides Gregg Frazer who agrees with your reading? Of an English translation, not even the originals?

I'm trying to work with you here, Jon, but you can't say 1 + 1 = 3 without some support.

;-)
_______________

*Wiki:

The original Latin edition appeared in 1536 with a preface addressed to King Francis I of France, written on behalf of the French Protestants (Huguenots) who were being persecuted. Most often, references to the Institutes are to Calvin's final Latin edition of 1559, which was expanded and revised from earlier editions. Calvin wrote five major Latin editions in his lifetime (1536, 1539, 1543, 1550, and 1559). He translated the first French edition of the Institutes in 1541, corresponding to his 1539 Latin edition, and supervised the translation of three later French translations. The French translations of Calvin's Institutes helped to shape the French language for generations, not unlike the influence of the King James Version for the English language. The final edition of the Institutes is approximately five times the length of the first edition.

Jonathan Rowe said...

You aren't going to get me with "appeal to authority." But if we are going to appeal, Gregg's interpretation of Calvin and revolt is (as far as I remember) that of Mark Noll's, Nathan Hatch's and George Marsden's who are as authoritative as it gets.

Re your passage, in my version I reproduced the larger passage with the quote you threw at me in bold:

... Although the Lord takes vengeance on unbridled domination, let us not therefore suppose that that vengeance is committed to us, to whom no command has been given but to obey and suffer. I speak only of private men. For when popular magistrates have been appointed to curb the tyranny of kings (as the Ephori, who were opposed to kings among the Spartans, or Tribunes of the people to consuls among the Romans, or Demarchs to the senate among the Athenians; and perhaps there is something similar to this in the power exercised in each kingdom by the three orders, when they hold their primary diets). So far am I from forbidding these officially to check the undue license of kings, that if they connive at kings when they tyrannise and insult over the humbler of the people, I affirm that their dissimulation is not free from nefarious perfidy, because they fraudulently betray the liberty of the people, while knowing that, by the ordinance of God, they are its appointed guardians.

Calvin seems to say here that intermediate magistrates, appointed to restrain the licentiousness of Kings, OUGHT to to do when the King is licentiousness. I think we are improperly getting hung up on how this might relate to the DOI & its call for revolt (I don't think such passages vindicate revolt at all).

Rather, we may be missing the forrest for the trees in ignoring Gregg's and my (I learned from him) example of Congress being able to remove the President, pursuant to a legal mechanism.

That itself is part of a "republican" balance of power scheme. And we see that in Calvin's idea of "interposition."

This also fits with the "checks and balances"/strict constitutionalism view of the East Coast Straussians that values the "republican" Constitution more than the "liberal" "rights oriented," revolutionary DOI, which should be ignored, not embraced.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I speak only of private men.

The colonists didn't recognize Parliament. Their charters were from the King.

Their own state legislatures and the Continental Congress were their "magistrates."

John Calvin Taught Rebellion to Tyrants is DISOBEDIENCE to God

All I asked is that you find some scholar besides Gregg Frazer to support that ASSERTION. Mark Noll will do. But even he has a hill to climb against the editor of Calvin's "Institutes."

Not that it's insurmountable, mind you. But surely we apply the same standards here as we applied to the late great OFT.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Their own state legislatures and the Continental Congress were their "magistrates."

I did note I think you can analyze what they did and much of what they said they did using this language of interposition.

However, they went further and said they revolted. And Calvin, as I understood him, would side with the British because, the law, as it then existed, recognized King George/Parliament as the final arbiters.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Well the first page of my google search isn't giving the the pages I'm looking for re Noll.

Though he may answer these questions this summer at the Witherspoon Institute:

http://lehrman.isi.org/about/announcements/view/id/96

In particular, it will explore why the great majority of dissenting American Protestants supported the War for Independence even though the Calvinist tradition (illustrated by Calvin himself) originally advocated obedience to rulers and was hostile to the antinomianism of more radical reformers.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Here is something fun I found from Noll. Not on Calvin, but Romans 13 & America.

http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/1999/february8/9t2070.html

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, this isn't

John Calvin Taught Rebellion to Tyrants is DISOBEDIENCE to God

I'm observing this debate between you and Mr. Winispringer, and giving my honest input on the evidence being presented. Me, I don't care what Calvin thought, and neither did John Knox. John Calvin was not God or Jesus or St. Paul or the Pope.

And "Calvinism" is only a shorthand for the Reformed Protestant tradition. John Calvin does not own it.

Neither does John Calvin own the Bible. To call the American revolution "anti-biblical" in any fashion is to give John Calvin authority over the interpretation of scripture, something that any good Protestant would dismiss as just more papism. Then or now.

As for the facts on the ground---where the rubber meets the road---the colonists did not recognize Parliament as their rightful rulers. Parliament "took over" the British regime in 1688, long after the colonies received their charters from the King. This fact is in The Farmer Refuted, it's in the D of I. Screw Parliament.

So, there was only the King to deal with, and the lawfully elected/appointed Continental Congress had the lawful authority per "interposition" to declare the King had "abdicated," the same argument used to justify the Glorious Revolution of 1688 that deposed Charles II and put William [and Mary] in his place.

"He [King George] has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us."---D of I

Same argument. Jefferson

"And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not
warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of
resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as
to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost
in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from
time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
It is its natural manure.”


...didn't give a damn about such niceties. He was a Jacobin at heart. But John Adams and New England, the Cradle of the Revolution, did.

I had no interest in your "battle" with Mr. Winispringer, the "King of Ireland," Jon. But I've done a ton of digging looking for support for either of your "sides." I can't find any support for


John Calvin Taught Rebellion to Tyrants is DISOBEDIENCE to God

as it applies to the Glorious Revolution or the American.

And even if you could prove that, or at least argue it viably from Calvin's "Institutes," Knox, Rutherford, and their source, Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos take "Calvinism" out of Calvin's hands more than a century before the American revolution, and even well before Britain's Glorious Revolution.

All these signposts are there in the Founding era literature, if we have our eyes open for them. New England was as conscientious before man and before God in justifying their revolution as the makers of the Glorious Revolution were. Not "anti-biblical" by any stretch.

But it's also true that Thomas Jefferson didn't give a good goddam about any of that. Bloodthirsty Jacobin that he was...

;-)

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, the first page of my google search isn't giving the the pages I'm looking for re Noll.

Though he may answer these questions this summer at the Witherspoon Institute:

http://lehrman.isi.org/about/announcements/view/id/96

In particular, it will explore why the great majority of dissenting American Protestants supported the War for Independence even though the Calvinist tradition (illustrated by Calvin himself) originally advocated obedience to rulers and was hostile to the antinomianism of more radical reformers.


Hmmmm. Mebbe I'll get meself to the Delaware Valley for some Noll this summer.

;-)

But he has to answer to the texts, both Calvin's and Adams'. And Vindiciae. AND Knox AND Rutherford.

I think Winispringer and this essay by some professor from somewhere

http://www.libertypost.org/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=27906

put a big dent in that.



And for the record, the only reason I propped up McNeill as an authority was on the assumption he has Calvin in Latin, French, and only then in English. If he's editing Calvin only based on translations to English, then I withdraw proffering him.

Still, I do not withdraw a plain reading of Calvin-in-English that


"I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with their duty, the fierce licentiousness of Kings"

means he's NOT forbidding it.

An interpretation 180 degrees in the other direction requires more backing than us just shooting the shit. This here is a serious blog.

/8-[D>

Jonathan Rowe said...

"I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with their duty, the fierce licentiousness of Kings"

The question is who is THEM? It's lawful magistrates, "appointed" pursuant to some lawful mechanism to -- perhaps among other things -- restrain the tyranny of Kings.

Calvin is saying, IF you have that lawful option, GO FOR IT.

Otherwise, if no such lawful mechanism exists, you submit to and obey the worst tyrant you could imagine God might send you.

This is not "revolt."

Where in existing British law did the mechanism exist for the Continential Congress to legally resist British Rule?

King of Ireland said...

Calvin stated:

"I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with their duty, the fierce licentiousness of Kings"

Tom replied:

"means he's NOT forbidding it."

I would agree. He seems to forbid private men of their own volition but then goes on to say that public men had a duty to curb tyrannical kings.

Exactly the part I pointed out many months ago when I posted on this and Jon stated the DOI was not an interposition.

At best it is not a "Calvin" interposition though I think the above put a great deal of doubt on that as well.

King/Joe

King of Ireland said...

"Where in existing British law did the mechanism exist for the Continential Congress to legally resist British Rule?"

I allow that the answer to this question MAY point to where Calvin would differ from Ponnet, Locke, and later Calvinists on interposition. BUT even if you are correct, and I am not done evaluating all of what you wrote, this does not mean that your original statement that the DOI was not an interposition stands just because Calvin my disagree.

Jefferson himself used the argument of interposition in 98 to claim "state rights" against the Alien and Sedition Acts. The evidence is against you.

King of Ireland said...

Calvin:

"The former class of deliverers being brought forward by the lawful call of God to perform such deeds, when they took up arms against kings"

Othniel is most clearly in this class. HE WAS NOT A LOWER MAGISTRATE restraining the power of the King. He revolted and the Spirit of God aided him.

Thus:

1. Your reading of Calvin on this matter is scewed


OR


2. Calvin undermines his own argument with this example


I am not sure which one it is yet to be honest. I think Calvin was conflicted on this and it shows in his writings. Babka gives some credible evidence in his series of posts on this that Calvin later clarified his position on this or changed his mind when he saw first hand what was done to the Hugenots.

I might add too that the exception of any type of resistance undermines Frazer's whole argument that the command in Romans 13 is absolute. If there is one exception then why not others?

I am sure I will have more to say as I read all this again with your comments but I do thank you for responding in such a thorough way. I think this was a good post and as usual I learned a great deal from reading the back and forth between you and Tom.

King of Ireland said...

So Jon are you willing to revise your statement about the DOI to:

The DOI was not a "Calvin" style interposition



and/or to stipulate that:



The DOI was a "Ponnet" style interposition

If so with the latter then the Christian idea of interposition most certainly was an idea that had a great deal of influence on creating Gladstone's "a free people sovereign" that helped launch the modern world in contrast to much of what you and Ed seem to state on this topic.

King of Ireland said...

Tom stated:

"Further, as the above article argues, there were two strains of thought in the revolution---one, a Lockean-Jefferson rebellion that we see Jefferson carry to the French revolution.

The other strain is the New England-Knox-Calvinist one of Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, far more religious, conscientious and less virulent than Jefferson's.

This appears reasonable: New England [and Adams] opposed the French Revolution even as Jefferson promoted it and even defended its excesses as necessary."

I think we see these two strains of thought in the DOI and the fact that Adams and the Congress had to curb what Jefferson wrote and added more God references that would appeal to Calvinists and other orthodox types seems to support this.

Which is pretty much what Jon's overall point about the founding has been in that there was a lot of ideological strains that inspired it. I just think "Enlightenment" tends to mean "Secular" too much and that the "Christian" influences are misundertood and thus under emphasized.

In other words I think we agree more than we disagree and this whole exchange helped flesh that out. If this is true Jon I think you and Barton agree more than you would think if you read where he is coming from more.

I know he overstates his case and gives shitty evidence for some bizarre conclusions at times but overall his point is a good one if taken in moderation.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Even at my college with our limited JSTOR license, the first article wanted to charge me $34, the second one $10.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Dang. They sounded interesting but not that interesting.

Tom Van Dyke said...


Where in existing British law did the mechanism exist for the Continential Congress to legally resist British Rule?


Well, as I said, under whatever reasoning they used in Britain in 1688. Including that the king "abdicated."

The colonists did not recognize parliament as lawful authority over them and disobeyed them freely and in good conscience.

However, the state legislatures and the Continental Congress were the lawful magistrates [THEM] you require here:

"I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with their duty, the fierce licentiousness of Kings"

The question is who is THEM? It's lawful magistrates, "appointed" pursuant to some lawful mechanism to -- perhaps among other things -- restrain the tyranny of Kings.

Calvin is saying, IF you have that lawful option, GO FOR IT.


No problem, then, even according to your own argument.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I anticipated and noted this in my original comment. That is, you could analyze what the Founders did and some, even much of what they SAID they did under the rubric of some kind of interposition, that British violated British law, that America, as intermediate magistrates "resisted" the "unlawful" actions of the British.

However, they still said they revolted on more than one occasion. And that doesn't square with either Calvin or more generous notions of "interposition."

Gregg Frazer, after Russell Kirk, note the rhetoric of those parts of the DOI [the parts that talk about revolt, not the parts that complain about British violations of British law] may have been a wink to France to get for support.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, again, the word "revolt" is not as important as the concept and the context. It appears America's Calvinistically-inclined were at peace that their actions were justified before God, and not anti-biblical.

I also ran across this bit on Calvin's immediate successor:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Beza

In 1574 he wrote his De jure magistratuum (Right of Magistrates), in which he emphatically protested against tyranny in religious matters, and affirmed that it is legitimate for a people to oppose an unworthy magistracy in a practical manner and if necessary to use weapons and depose them.

Now, I don't know what this means, or if we can trust the Wiki on this. I appeal to any good Calvinists out there who are up to speed on Beza and his works for info.

But as previously noted, the Reformed tradition is not owned solely by Calvin, nor is the Bible.

As for the dimension that seems Lockean, that the King voided the "social contract" with his people, there also seems to be a lot throughout the Christian tradition of a "covenant" with the people, and as we all know, that sovereignty rests with the people can be found as far back as Aquinas and I'm sure further back than that.

Whether the two tracks converged, or were simply "in the air" as a truism that was secularized via Locke would be a different study. One certainly would think Jefferson didn't trouble himself on whether John Calvin would approve or not. On the other hand, that his arguments are compatible with the Reformed tradition might not be sheer luck.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I've been corresponding with a Calvin-Reformed scholar named Jeremy Bangs, who wrote to express his appreciation of our discussion. Here's his take.


TVD: Also interested in your reading of the Calvin passage in dispute

"So far am I from forbidding these officially to check the undue license of kings, that if they connive at kings when they tyrannise and insult over the humbler of the people, I affirm that their dissimulation is not free from nefarious perfidy, because they fraudulently betray the liberty of the people, while knowing that, by the ordinance of God, they are its appointed guardians..."

which seems to permit a rebellion like that of America's Continental Congress, a duly constituted "magistrate."


Bangs: YES - WHAT'S THE DISPUTE? CALVIN COMES AROUND TO THE IDEA THAT A RULER WHO CONTRADICTS DIVINE COMMANDS CAN BE OPPOSED WHEN FOLLOWING GOD'S COMMANDS REQUIRES THAT ONE NOT OBEY. SO THERE ARE SOME CONDITIONS OF OPPRESSION THAT HAVE TO BE SUFFERED BUT THERE ARE OTHERS WHERE DIVINE OBLIGATION INCLUDES NOT OBEYING.

BTW, Jeremy adds,

CALVIN NONETHELESS WANTS INDIVIDUALS TO APPEAL TO PROPERLY CONSTITUTED AUTHORITIES (WHETHER SUPERIOR TO THE UNJUST RULER OR SIMPLY PARALLEL DID NOT REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE, AS THE ATTEMPTS BY THE NETHERLANDS' STATES GENERAL TO FIND AN ACCEPTABLE RULER AFTER THE DEATH OF WILLIAM OF ORANGE DEMONSTRATE).


I ran across this tidbit meself recently: The Dutch "shopped around" for another monarch and offered their crown to several European monarchs, all of whom declined as more trouble than it was worth. [It wasn't uncommon for someone to be king of more than one country back then.]

Which is a great thought experiment for us 21st centurians to understand the 18th, and just how radical the monarchless American republic was for the times.

We take our bourgeois liberal democratic republic for granted as self-evidently the best and most natural system these days, but back then, the world went, WTF?

And after France failed with their pale imitation of the American revolution, what happened?

Back to the tried-and-true, in this case, Emperor Napoleon.
______________

Jeremy Bangs is the author of

Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners - Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation.

Joe Winpisinger said...

"That is, you could analyze what the Founders did and some, even much of what they SAID they did under the rubric of some kind of interposition, that British violated British law, that America, as intermediate magistrates "resisted" the "unlawful" actions of the British.

However, they still said they revolted on more than one occasion. And that doesn't square with either Calvin or more generous notions of "interposition."


I think Tom stated earlier that all that really matters for our purposes is if they were trying to fit in with the rubric and in line with 1688 in England. I agree.

With that stated, I think you pose a fair question here:

Does saying you are revolting disqualify you from a lawful interposition?

I would say my initial reaction is that no matter what you call it or who does it when you take out a King it is an revolt. Maybe Calvin and those like Frazer that cite him on Romans 13 quibble over this because of their dogmatic views of Romans 13 and their view of Rebellion?

The problem is that either we are misreading Calvin or he undermined his own argument with the example of Othniel. I kind of doubt the latter since he was well versed in the Bible but maybe is biases blinded him to an illogical conclusion.

I am going to shift the frame of this is my next post a little to the angle I should have brought in from the start about how one can follow the command to love self and neighbor out of reverance of God and stand by and let a tyrant slaughter the neighbor? How is that justice?

Gregg Frazer said...

Tom,

There is no "Gregg's assertion there's no Lex Rex in Locke" -- I have never made such an assertion. What I've said is that there is NO EVIDENCE to suggest that Rutherford influenced Locke.

I have never denied that CalvinISTS have read Calvin in a manner convenient for their preferred position, either. I have merely pointed out that Calvin himself went out of his way (WITH THE HISTORICAL EXAMPLES HE GAVE) to try to keep people from misinterpreting what he said. THE HISTORICAL EXAMPLES ARE WHAT THEY ARE -- REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THEY'RE RELATED IN LATIN OR IN ENGLISH.

The problem with Mr. Bangs's argument is that Calvin didn't cite the Dutch situation as an historical example of what he meant -- he cited the tribunes, ephors, and demarchs. I'm sure it's convenient to ignore those examples and find examples one likes better, but all it tells us is what you and Mr. Bangs prefer -- not what Calvin said or meant.

Gregg Frazer said...

Joe,

I'll step one more time into the never-ending Othniel labyrinth.

Calvin cites Othniel as an example of GOD bringing judgment on a tyrant -- NOT of men being justified in deciding for themselves that a ruler is unworthy of their subjection (rebelling).

You persist in ignoring what I've said several times in response to your suggestion that the Othniel story invalidates (what I think is) the clear message of Romans 13.

As I've said before, when I say that Romans 13 absolutely commands subjection, the absolute command applies to US (to men; to humans; to people living on earth; etc.), those for whom the Word of God was intended. It does NOT apply to God. So, while WE are absolutely not free to reject submission to authority and/or RESIST authority, GOD IS FREE TO DO SO. This is also what Calvin says. GOD BRINGS HIS JUDGMENT ON TYRANTS -- but it is not OUR place to do so.

So, if GOD raises up someone as a deliverer, then HE (God) is bringing judgment. IF someone has direct revelation from God that God has chosen him for that role, THEN (and only then) is he justified in engaging in overthrowing authority. That is not a violation of the absolute command that WE not resist because it is GOD acting through an instrument of His choice.

If God does not reveal to that deliverer that he has been chosen by God for this role and he chooses to rebel on his own volition, then his rebellion is just as sinful as mine -- and God uses his sin to accomplish His purposes (as He did Pharaoh, for example).

ALSO:
Judges 3:10 says the "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him [Othniel]," but that does NOT mean that whatever he did was God's will from that point on. There are plenty of examples -- even here in Judges -- in which someone was imbued with the Spirit of the Lord and then did evil/wickedness. See, for example, Judges 8:24-27 and Judges 16:1. For that matter, all Christians are baptized with the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of the Lord), but we still sin and do evil.