Over at the Acton Institute blog, Quinn Trevelen introduces the political thought of John Calvin and Abraham Kuyper. He also helpfully connects the perspectives of Calvin with respect to James Madison.
As Calvin preached, “Were we like angels, blameless and freely able to exercise perfect self-control, we would not need rules or regulations.” The resonance here with Federalist #51 are clear, where Madison observes, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Later Abraham Kuyper, too, would write, “Without sin there would be no state.”
Trevelin also links to a Harper’s blog post in which the Calvin/Madison connection is explored in more depth, with attention paid to the mediating influence of John Witherspoon. Scott Horton adds an appropriate caveat: “But saying that Calvinist theory helped support the architecture of the Constitution is different from saying that it rests on Calvinism or indeed any theology.”
Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012), and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church’s Social Witness (Christian’s Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous volumes. Jordan also serves as associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research of Calvin Theological Seminary.
The Calvinist International is a forum for research, resourcement, and renewal of Christian wisdom.