My initial post was designed to help Mr. Hart; my second to respond to Mark’s comments. Perhaps Mr. Hart and Mark see greater relevance in this discussion.
It is Mark who is claiming that “Reformed” political thought had a strong influence on the history of the Founding – not me. As I see it, Reformed thought had very little relevance to the Founding (although a few who belonged to Reformed denominations did have great relevance).
I don’t think it matters whether anyone actively argued against Beza’s (and others’) view during the Revolutionary period. It is enough that they did not buy into it. As I see it, it is relevant because the Calvinist churches held to Calvin’s view and, thus, were hesitant/unwilling to support rebellion. Evidence for that is the singular importance of Jonathan Mayhew and his sermon against “Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance” which has been called the “Morning Gun of the Revolution.” According to key witnesses at the time, Mayhew’s sermon was a turning point in getting pulpit support for the cause.
- Why would that be if they already subscribed to the views of Beza et al.?
- Why did they cite Mayhew and Locke and not Beza – or Calvin, for that matter? (other than a few scattered references to one or two Reformed guys)
Calvin’s view matters because it was a hurdle that the rebels had to get over in order to recruit from arguably their primary source: the New England pulpits.
Theology held by historical people in historical circumstances is part of history. Often, theology drives history (as Mark is claiming is true of the American Revolution). The Puritans came to America because of theology. Religious wars have been fought because of theology. For many, the most important historical events of all time were theological and in fulfillment of theological prophecy.
Mark claims that there are “good reasons to believe” that Calvin “embraced the view that private persons can actively resist tyrannical governments.” The passages I cited from Calvin say exactly the opposite and Mark has not offered any that say what Mark claims. I don’t think there are any. Calvin says one must “disobey” tyrannical rulers when they require one to do evil, but that is a far cry from taking up arms in rebellion. Disobedience is not active resistance in the sense that Mark must mean the term in order to use it in support of rebellion. Note that in the quotation from Calvin’s commentary on Daniel, Calvin says not to “obey”; Mark converts instruction to not “obey” into “justly overthrown.”
He further claims that Calvin sanctioned and encouraged “resistance by lesser magistrates” and that there is “little doubt” that “Calvin taught that inferior magistrates may justly and biblically offer active resistance to tyrants.” But Calvin never refers to “lesser” or “inferior” magistrates in this context – not once. This notion comes from commentators on Calvin – mostly in the last 40 years – not from Calvin himself. Furthermore, Calvin never calls for taking up arms to overthrow a ruler (which must be what Mark means by “active resistance”).
And again, he says that there is “good reason” to believe that Calvin “reached the conclusion that private citizens may as well” – but there are no passages from Calvin that say that, either – quite the contrary, as I’ve posted. To say that God’s people must “resist evil” is a truism. Believers in God must not give in to sin (e.g. Gen. 39:7, 9, 12; Psa. 119:11; James 4:7). It is not to say take up arms against a tyrannical government. The context itself shows that, as Calvin applies it to public prosecutors and princes. He’s not calling on princes to resist evil by ruling justly instead of to satisfy their own desires? He’s calling on them to overthrow themselves? He’s not calling on prosecutors to resist evil in the sense of prosecuting crimes, but to overthrow the government? On what basis should we draw that conclusion? Of course all are supposed to pursue justice and righteousness, but that does not justify any/all means.
The only times in which Calvin “embraces” violent overthrow of a tyrant are the times he stipulates that God Himself raises up avengers with a “special vocation” from God. That is God removing a ruler – not men. It certainly has no reference or relevance to private citizens/”the people” or individuals deciding on their own that rebellion is appropriate.
I am curious: what is Mark’s interpretation of the passages I quoted in my initial post on this subject? Why do they not mean what they clearly say?