Calvin and Theonomy?

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Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
Where exactly would I find writings about theonomy from calvin?

I found this statement made on wikipedia:
The term "Theonomy" has been used to describe various views which see the God revealed in the Bible as the sole source of human ethics. Using the word in this sense, Cornelius Van Til argued that there "is no alternative but that of theonomy or autonomy" (Christian Theistic Ethics p. 134). John Calvin and the Continental Reformers, the Westminster Divines and other Puritans, and Christian Reconstructionists, each developed theonomy in this sense.
 

Southern Presbyterian

Puritan Board Doctor
You'll not find the term "theonomy" anywhere in Calvin's writings. I believe what the wiki article is saying is that some people see theonomic tones in some of his writings. Others would argue strongly for the opposite view.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
There are a number of overly killed threads on Calvin on theonomy. Suffice to say, no, Calvin said things that are hard to square with theonomy. On the other hand, Calvin had a chance to do away with a lot of the penalties in the judicial laws and didn't. And then there is the whole Servetus thing...

As to the law of nations. On one level that is true. However, if two nations "law of nations" concepts contradict, to whom should we appeal and why?

Thus, I bow out
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
Where exactly would I find writings about theonomy from calvin?

I found this statement made on wikipedia:
The term "Theonomy" has been used to describe various views which see the God revealed in the Bible as the sole source of human ethics. Using the word in this sense, Cornelius Van Til argued that there "is no alternative but that of theonomy or autonomy" (Christian Theistic Ethics p. 134). John Calvin and the Continental Reformers, the Westminster Divines and other Puritans, and Christian Reconstructionists, each developed theonomy in this sense.

You will need to begin by defining the kind of "theonomy" you mean. If you mean Calvin's writings on ethics, the Institutes is a great place to start. If you mean Calvin on political ethics, the mother lode is Institutes book 4 ch 20 pp 14-16.

If however, by "theonomy" you mean the specific "ethical perspective of Christian Reconstruction" as popularized by Greg Bahnsen, the situation is different. Calvin was not a "theonomist" in this sense.

Although Calvin and CR's will often agree that a particular Mosaic stipulation remains just today, they don't always agree. And the differences can be traced back to the differening hermeneutics each employed to justify employing Mosaic stipulations outside the Sinai covenant. Calvin specifically rejects Bahnsen's hermeneutic for such applications, as a comparison of the abovementioned Institutes passage with Bahnsen's 10 theses, found in the Introduction to "Theonomy in Christian Ethics" 2nd ed. and following makes clear. Bahnsen will not permit the state to amend Mosaic stipulations without implicit or explicit authorization from the Lawgiver in Scripture, while Calvin permits variations in degree of punishment without Dominical authorization.

Calvin continued this rejection until the end of his life. Not only did he not revise "Institutes" to reflect a changed understanding after preaching through Deuteronomy, as is sometimes claimed by followers of Bahnsen, Calvin also in his late commnetary on the Four Last Books of Moses (2:399, 3:154) decriminalizes Mosaic crimes, again without authorization.

So although Calvin is a theonomist in the sense that the Wikipedia article used the term, and although he also would agree with Bahnsen that many Mosaic stipulations are just when instituted today, he is not a theonomist in the sense of holding to the same "ethical perspective of Christian reconstruction" as far as his hermeneutics are concerned.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
Where exactly would I find writings about theonomy from calvin?

I found this statement made on wikipedia:
The term "Theonomy" has been used to describe various views which see the God revealed in the Bible as the sole source of human ethics. Using the word in this sense, Cornelius Van Til argued that there "is no alternative but that of theonomy or autonomy" (Christian Theistic Ethics p. 134). John Calvin and the Continental Reformers, the Westminster Divines and other Puritans, and Christian Reconstructionists, each developed theonomy in this sense.

You will need to begin by defining the kind of "theonomy" you mean. If you mean Calvin's writings on ethics, the Institutes is a great place to start. If you mean Calvin on political ethics, the mother lode is Institutes book 4 ch 20 pp 14-16.

If however, by "theonomy" you mean the specific "ethical perspective of Christian Reconstruction" as popularized by Greg Bahnsen, the situation is different. Calvin was not a "theonomist" in this sense.

Although Calvin and CR's will often agree that a particular Mosaic stipulation remains just today, they don't always agree. And the differences can be traced back to the differening hermeneutics each employed to justify employing Mosaic stipulations outside the Sinai covenant. Calvin specifically rejects Bahnsen's hermeneutic for such applications, as a comparison of the abovementioned Institutes passage with Bahnsen's 10 theses, found in the Introduction to "Theonomy in Christian Ethics" 2nd ed. and following makes clear. Bahnsen will not permit the state to amend Mosaic stipulations without implicit or explicit authorization from the Lawgiver in Scripture, while Calvin permits variations in degree of punishment without Dominical authorization.

Calvin continued this rejection until the end of his life. Not only did he not revise "Institutes" to reflect a changed understanding after preaching through Deuteronomy, as is sometimes claimed by followers of Bahnsen, Calvin also in his late commnetary on the Four Last Books of Moses (2:399, 3:154) decriminalizes Mosaic crimes, again without authorization.

So although Calvin is a theonomist in the sense that the Wikipedia article used the term, and although he also would agree with Bahnsen that many Mosaic stipulations are just when instituted today, he is not a theonomist in the sense of holding to the same "ethical perspective of Christian reconstruction" as far as his hermeneutics are concerned.

Thank you.

By the way, I saw your last name is Cunningham... the same as mine. :D
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
While I think Tim overplays the discontinuity between Calvin and modern-day theonomists, I do grant the point that Calvin has some things that as a theonomist, I just don't agree with in Bk 4, chapter 20. But that's okay.

But on the other hand, Calvin's arguments presuppose Christendom, which is not popular in Reformed circles today. I think Calvin would scream horror at the suggestion by some Reformed theologians today that we should have a religiously neutral secular state.

An interesting study, in which I wish Professor Doug Kelly, would have gone a bit further, is the connection between calvin and knox whilst Knox was in Geneva.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Where exactly would I find writings about theonomy from calvin?

I found this statement made on wikipedia:
The term "Theonomy" has been used to describe various views which see the God revealed in the Bible as the sole source of human ethics. Using the word in this sense, Cornelius Van Til argued that there "is no alternative but that of theonomy or autonomy" (Christian Theistic Ethics p. 134). John Calvin and the Continental Reformers, the Westminster Divines and other Puritans, and Christian Reconstructionists, each developed theonomy in this sense.

One thing that needs to be noted, is that Theonomy/theonomy is an in-house debate between Christians. Non Christians would/will oppose Calvin's version just as much as Bahnsen's version.

CT
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
While I think Tim overplays the discontinuity between Calvin and modern-day theonomists, I do grant the point that Calvin has some things that as a theonomist, I just don't agree with in Bk 4, chapter 20. But that's okay.

But on the other hand, Calvin's arguments presuppose Christendom, which is not popular in Reformed circles today. I think Calvin would scream horror at the suggestion by some Reformed theologians today that we should have a religiously neutral secular state.

An interesting study, in which I wish Professor Doug Kelly, would have gone a bit further, is the connection between calvin and knox whilst Knox was in Geneva.


Here is something I found interesting about Knox:
In an earlier interview, Knox had told Mary that he was "as well content to live under your Grace as St Paul was to live under Nero". The reason women were not fit to rule, according to him, was that they were "idolatresses" who set reason aside and ruled by their emotions. This view of female psychology made Knox not only offensive to Mary but dangerous. It fed his political theory, set out in "The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women", that it was legitimate for the people to overthrow and even execute female rulers because of precedents in the Bible, for example the cases of Jezebel and Athalia, in which female rulers were overthrown to the obvious benefit of the state.

I've read a portion of "The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women" and it was pretty interesting. I'll have to finish it sometime soon.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
Where exactly would I find writings about theonomy from calvin?

I found this statement made on wikipedia:
The term "Theonomy" has been used to describe various views which see the God revealed in the Bible as the sole source of human ethics. Using the word in this sense, Cornelius Van Til argued that there "is no alternative but that of theonomy or autonomy" (Christian Theistic Ethics p. 134). John Calvin and the Continental Reformers, the Westminster Divines and other Puritans, and Christian Reconstructionists, each developed theonomy in this sense.

One thing that needs to be noted, is that Theonomy/theonomy is an in-house debate between Christians. Non Christians would/will oppose Calvin's version just as much as Bahnsen's version.

CT

Right. Non-christians will oppose anything that's christian anyways.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Knox did back off some from FBotT as it got him in hot water with Elizabeth I and the book caused a bit of problems with his friends. I don't recall if Calvin is on record on it or not; but Knox did write some sort of letter of exception in the case of Elizabeth comparing her to Deborah I think.
While I think Tim overplays the discontinuity between Calvin and modern-day theonomists, I do grant the point that Calvin has some things that as a theonomist, I just don't agree with in Bk 4, chapter 20. But that's okay.

But on the other hand, Calvin's arguments presuppose Christendom, which is not popular in Reformed circles today. I think Calvin would scream horror at the suggestion by some Reformed theologians today that we should have a religiously neutral secular state.

An interesting study, in which I wish Professor Doug Kelly, would have gone a bit further, is the connection between calvin and knox whilst Knox was in Geneva.


Here is something I found interesting about Knox:
In an earlier interview, Knox had told Mary that he was "as well content to live under your Grace as St Paul was to live under Nero". The reason women were not fit to rule, according to him, was that they were "idolatresses" who set reason aside and ruled by their emotions. This view of female psychology made Knox not only offensive to Mary but dangerous. It fed his political theory, set out in "The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women", that it was legitimate for the people to overthrow and even execute female rulers because of precedents in the Bible, for example the cases of Jezebel and Athalia, in which female rulers were overthrown to the obvious benefit of the state.
I've read a portion of "The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women" and it was pretty interesting. I'll have to finish it sometime soon.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
That's true, Chris. I have some quotes from Knox on the board somewhere (typing in Knox in the search engine will bring them up).

to the rest, generally:

1. For what *crime* did Servetus die?
2. As Hermonta noted, to the non-Christian, there is absolutely no difference between that theocrat of Geneva, John Calvin, and Bahnsen/Rushdoony, so the appeal to Calvin as a refutation of Bahnsen is a non-starter.
3. Knox takes the penal crimes of the Old Testament further than I might, so any appeal to Knox actually weakens the non-theocrat position.
 
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