Saturday, 28 November 2009

Calvin on the right to resist tyrannical government

John Calvin was, generally speaking, against popular rebellion, even against an oppressive government. He called Christians to respect and submit to the rulers that God has providentially put over them - even the bad ones. He did not permit the people to rebel, even against bad rulers. "The magistrate cannot be resisted without God being resisted at the same time" (Institutes, 4.20.23). If an ungodly ruler persecutes believers, they are to humbly suffer. They may flee, but they are not to rebel.

The one apparent exception is if an ungodly ruler exceeds the bounds of civil authority and coercively legislates false religion. Even in this case, the disobedience must be both passive and limited, so it is not a true exception to Calvin’s general non-resistance. The people must privately refuse to participate in the particular area of false worship. They must not actively, publicly rebel against the ruler, and therefore the whole system of government which God has providentially placed over them.

Calvin authorised the people’s magistrates to act to restrain tyrants. Indeed, he saw that as part of their divine duty. Any action by these people’s magistrates against higher magistrates is categorically different from popular rebellion, because the people’s magistrates have been providentially appointed by God to protect the people. In exercising this power, they are not denying God’s providential government, but upholding it, in the manner God intended. Indeed, to not use their power to protect the people, and thus implicitly side with a tyrant, would be ‘nefarious perfidy’ (Institutes, 4.20.31).

Who did Calvin mean by the 'people's magistrates'? He could have meant unelected aristocrats, or elected parliament. Later Calvinist political theology developed it in the latter direction. This 'popular magistrate's' right of resistance was a crucial basis for the parliamentary war against the king in the English civil war, and the American war of independence.


Orright - been quiet recently coz I've been clobbered with a coupla essays. Am now resurfacing. Expect a few posts based on aforementioned essays. Topics coming up:
1. Calvin's political theology;
2. Calvin on the sacraments;
3. Mission, church, and missional church.
Stay tuned.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Friday, 13 November 2009

CASE book review: Andrew Parker, "The Genesis Enigma"

Trevor Cairney of CASE has just reviewed Andrew Parker's book The Genesis Enigma. Parker is a researcher at Oxford University. He's not a Christian, but he's willing to think that the author of Genesis might be divinely inspired. Sounds like a fascinating read.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Kirkplace is online!

Kirkplace - Steve Chong's church in Kogarah - has brought their new website online. Their new building opens this Sunday.
Steve & I were in the same year at Moore College. And there the similarity ends. He's got a new church building; leading a regional evangelism and church planting movement; and being coached by Mark Driscoll. The amazing thing about the guy is - he's so humble & cheerful about it all. Hope he goes far. Well, I hope the gospel takes him far. Ah, you know what I mean. Go kick some gospel butt, brother.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

How do they see us?

Novels can give an interesting insight into what people think of the church and Christianity. Take this little episode from Ian Rankin’s novel Mortal Causes. It’s set in Scotland; the action switches between Edinburgh and Glasgow – Calvinist Presbyterian heartland. At this point, Inspector John Rebus is chatting with Father Leary, a Catholic priest.

* * * * *

“A bit morbid for a Sunday, John?” said the Father.

“Isn’t that what Sundays are for?” Rebus retorted.

“Maybe for you sons of Calvin. You tell yourselves you’re doomed, then spend all week trying to make a joke of it. Others of us give thanks for this day and its meaning.”

Rebus shifted in his chair. Lately, he didn’t enjoy Father Leary’s conversations so much. There was something proselytizing about them.

* * * * *

Ian Rankin, Mortal Causes, page 17.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Popular impact of the New Perspective

Christianity Today has an interesting article on the popular impact of the New Perspective. Basically, it's providing a route back to Roman Catholicism - which is what everyone's been saying ever since it became an issue in academic theology, some fifty years ago or so.
Collin Hansen, 'Not All Evangelicals and Catholics Together', Christianity Today 10 Oct 09.
Thanks to Roger Gallagher for drawing this to my attention.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Fun with Ian Rankin: Graffiti artists

From Ian Rankin’s novel Mortal Causes. An Inspector Rebus novel.

* * * * *

Rebus drove out along Queensferry Road and parked outside the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Hell, noting with guilty pleasure that no one had yet corrected the mischievous graffiti on the noticeboard which turned ‘Help’ into ‘Hell’.

* * * * *

Ian Rankin, Mortal Causes, pages 16-17.