Christ's Two Kingdoms: Calvin's Political Theology and the Public Engagement of the Church Open Access

Tuininga, Matthew Joel (2014)

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The premise of this dissertation is that John Calvin's political theology should inform Christian political participation in pluralistic and liberal democratic societies. In contrast to the common portrayal of Calvin as a socio-political transformationalist, it argues that Calvin's conception of politics was shaped by his two kingdoms doctrine, by which the reformer distinguished the eternal kingdom of Christ from Christ's lordship over temporal (or secular) affairs. He viewed politics not as a means of implementing the kingdom of Christ according to the dictates of scripture, but as an endeavor to secure temporal order and civil righteousness in accord with reason, divine law, and the virtues of charity and prudence. While both kingdoms are subject to Christ, the two should never be confused. The penultimate character of secular politics calls for forms of virtue and justice appropriate for sinful human beings in a fallen world.

This dissertation begins by describing the late medieval and early Reformation political theologies and circumstances that formed the context for Calvin's work, and the impact of his work on the Protestant churches of Geneva and France (Chapters 1-2). Chapter 3 then explores Calvin's concept of the kingdom of Christ against the backdrop of his doctrines of creation, sin, and redemption, while Chapter 4 excavates the multiple layers of Calvin's two kingdoms eschatology, including its implications for Christian liberty in contexts such as gender and slavery. Chapter 5 describes how Calvin's theology of the kingdom shapes his concept of the nature and authority of the church, while Chapter 6 outlines his early understanding of civil government. Chapter 7 highlights key elements of Calvin's theology of covenant and law that shape his interpretation and use of the Old Testament. This sets the stage for Chapter 8's argument that Calvin's defense of the magisterial care of religion stems more from his interpretation of natural law than from his exegesis of scripture. Chapter 9 shows that the reformer approached political life through the lens of reason, experience, and prudence, rather than from a theocratic standpoint. The dissertation concludes with suggestions for a contemporary appropriation of Calvin's two kingdoms theology.

Table of Contents

Abbreviations 1

Note on Citations 2

Introduction 5

Chapter 1: Two Swords: Two Powers, or Two Kingdoms: Spiritual and Political Power in Early Modern Europe 51

Chapter 2: Calvin, Geneva, and the French Reformed Churches 122

Chapter 3: The Kingdom of Christ 184

Chapter 4: Two Kingdoms 254

Chapter 5: Christ's Spiritual Government 318

Chapter 6: Christ's Political Government: Early Formulations 392

Chapter 7: Covenant and Law 436

Chapter 8: The Magistrate's Care of Religion 479

Chapter 9: Law, Democracy, and Resistance to Tyranny 547

Conclusion: Calvin's Two Kingdoms and Liberal Democracy 605

Bibliography 641

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