Daniel Elazar, member of presidential commission and of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, wrote a World History Curriculum (Article 2). This internationally respected Jewish scholar has written some of the most detailed essays that reinforce my thesis:
“In all of the places where Reformed Protestantism was strong, there emerged a Protestant republicanism that opposed tyrants even as it demanded local religious conformity. Reformed Protestants in England became the Puritans, whose name indicated that they wanted to purify the Anglican Church as much as the Catholic, which they had rejected. In the seventeenth century they launched the first of the great modern revolutions, the English Civil War, against royal absolutism, opening the way for modern democracy.”
“Hence the constitutional democracy that we all know today has its roots in that Reformed Protestant revival of the biblical idea of covenant which was not only important in the fight against tyrants and hierarchies but could be made operational in political systems that would protect liberties.”
“A majority of the delegates to the Convention were affiliated with covenant-based churches…The Presbyterians, however, were already moving toward full-scale federalism. As Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., noted: 'More than either [the Congregationalists or Anglicans] the Presbyterians in their reliance on federalist and representative institutions anticipated the political makeup of the future United States.' Indeed, as the first government came into office under the U.S. Constitution in 1789, the Presbyterians held their first nationwide General Assembly. In the Presbyterian system, congregations in a local area formed a presbytery; several presbyteries in a region formed a synod; and then came the General Assembly.
As a result, the system of federal democracy established by the U.S. Constitution has often been referred to as Presbyterianism writ large for civil society.
“Albeit, given that the federal system established by the framers bears a much greater similarity to the political systems proposed by the federal theologians and implemented in their church polities, than the political systems proposed by Hobbes and Locke, and given that Americans were already covenanting into civil societies well before the speculative philosophers adopted the idea, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that covenant ideas had, in the final analysis, a more decisive influence than those of the 'new political science.'"
Philip Schaff, famous 19th century German Reformed historian, gives the proper moral impetus for Calvinistic influence in the modern era:
“…they [Calvinists] became the chief promoters of civil and religious liberty based upon respect for God’s law and authority…Calvinists fear God and nothing else. In their eyes, God alone is great, man is but a shadow. The fear of God makes them fearless of earthly despots. It humbles man before God, it exalts him before his fellow-men. The fear of God is the basis of moral self-government, and self-government is the basis of true freedom.” (p. 265)
This fearlessness brought them to preach against public evils, whether from the populace or the prince. Naturally, the princes did not like this. Calvin, himself, was eventually kicked out of Geneva for “meddling” in politics: he clashed with the local counsel over church discipline: he wanted it controlled by the church; they wanted controlled by the city. Already, Calvin began the ongoing power struggle between church and state.
John Adams bluntly acknowledges the influence of the French-Calvinist’s work Vindicus Contra Tyrannus, which defended the right of the people to rise against tyrants (Rushdoony 25). Arguably, besides the obvious references, there are certain elements in the Declaration of Independence which echo past religious thought such as “all men are created equal,” which was originally expressed in the Puritan work Lex, Rexin 1644. Even further back in time, a Dutch Calvinist, Johannes Althusius, wrote Politica(1603), a complete systematic presentation of a representative Republican government. Resistance theories were found in the pre-Reformation church as well, but were not as fully developed until the Reformation under the likes of Calvin, Bullinger and others.
The story of Reformed influence on political theory has yet to be fully written.
The story of Reformed influence on political theory has yet to be fully written.to be fully written.
Pastor Shawn Mathis was raised by God-fearing parents, served in the Air Force, worked as an electrical engineer and then entered the ministry by Godâ€™s grace....