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Reviewed by Dr.

Don Crowe
T
he book is a grand survey of the inuence of Calvin and his followers upon so-
ciety and the formation of civil governments based on Calvinistic principles.
Primary sources are used to reference the views of Calvin and Calvinists. Tis is
refreshing since so many have opined this or that about Calvin without benet of
referencing his own writings. Tus we have a treasury of original citations from
Calvin and Calvinists in their doctrine of rightly formed civil governments.
Te Augustinian-Calvinistic recognition of the depravity of man and the ab-
solute sovereignty of God are crucial to a right understanding of the place of civil
government. Applied to government these doctrines resulted in concepts such as
limited government, consent of the governed, the covenantal nature of govern-
Liberal Democracies, Rights,
and Civil Liberties
Calvin in the
Public Square
by David W. Hall
David W. Hall
Dr. Hall is pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church,
PCA, Powder Springs, GA
P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 2009
Paperback: 338 pages with Subject and Name index.
david w. hall
Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 2 2010
30
Calvin in the Public Square
ment, and the separation of powers. Te origin of the State is not as a creation or-
dinance, but as a result of the Fall. As Calvinists sought to more consistently apply
the insights of Augustine {e.g. City of God} and Calvin, the covenantal nature of
civil government meant that a monarch who consistently and deliberately breaks
that covenant has lost the lawful authority to govern.
Tere is much more of value in this work, which you will have to read for your-
self to discover. In order to keep this review brief, I will not be able to give a detailed
summary of contents. For the short form: I give it **** out of ve.
PROS
Excellent documentation of steps from Calvin to Rutherford in the Calvinistic the-
ology of civil government and rights of resistance. Calvins sources are Institutes
IV.20, Commentaries, and sermons. Calvinists including Beza, Bullinger, Viret,
Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, Rutherford, and Puritans in England and New Eng-
land all have their say. Colonial charters abound in their references to God and
Scripture. We dont nd pluralism here.
Tere is also an excellent chapter. Calvin on Poverty. Certainly not a power
or responsibility of civil government, but Calvin highlights the role of the dea-
conate. (Tis is part of what American Vision calls Servanthood dominion.)
(Tough not noted in the book, it is signicant that tyrannical governments in-
sist that all such welfare be conducted by the State, so as to create dependence.
Te deaconate seeks to bring about independence.) Te work of the deaconate in
Calvins Geneva is a model everyone should study and practice.
CONS
In terms of the total pages the negatives are a small percentage. In spite of the fact
that Calvinistic application to the public square is a virtual treasury of support for
theonomy, Dr. Hall wants to warn us not to go that way. He denes theocracy as
rule by clergy and a denial of separation of powers. (p. 34 & 77) No wonder there
are no takers!
John Calvin clearly believed the magistrate should enforce both tables of the
Law, yet did not believe in civil government by clergy but did believe in a separation
of Church and State. [Which even the Old Testament preserved by insisting that
Kings come from Judahs tribe and priests come from Levi.] Calvins large collection
of sermons on Deuteronomy and his agreement that Servetus should be executed for
blasphemy are theonomic in most anyones book. Tat he would accept beheading
and not insist on stoning, hardly counts against a theonomic view.
Christian Reconstructionists are criticized for seeming to expect an embrace
of standards of righteousness by society at large that t only the eschaton. While
theonomists have made some worthy contributions to Christian political eorts
the over-realization of the eschaton is a mistake that these groups often fail to per-
ceive. (p. 327) If only we theonomists would read more Helmut Tielicke, we could
31 Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 2 2010
Calvin in the Public Square
be cured of over-realization! OR he could read more of Bahnsens Teonomy in
Christian Ethics and be cured of the Klinean intrusion ethics.
Te other negative for me was the last part of the chapter on Modern Revival
of Calvinistic Politics While it is totally appropriate to highlight the career of
Abraham Kuyper in the early years of the 20
th
century and ne to mention that
noted master of ponderous obfuscation, Herman Dooyeweerd, it is not appropri-
ate to ignore the Calvinistic political theory resulting from the specic application
of the law of God. Tere is no mention at all of Rushdoonys Institutes of Biblical
Law, whose 3 volumes amount to a considerable body of application. Tere is also
no mention of Bahnsens Teonomy in Christian Ethics. Gary North has written a
very thick book Tools of Dominion, which is not hard to understand and has quite
a bit of specic application.
Why is an attack on theonomy the only place footnotes are not required?
When critics cannot correctly state the opponents position and show no knowl-
edge of having read their major works, we need not take them too seriously. It is
actually encouraging that this kind of thing is the best critique they have to oer.
(Reminds me of the critics of young earth creationism who seldom show any
evidence of having read the literature.) We all feel safer knowing that the sniper is
targeting a straw man.
Tese negatives do not outweigh the positive value of the book. Teonomists
are tough enough to take a miss and go on. Tere are several scholars from whom
we can learn valuable truths without agreeing with everything they say. Tere is
so much of value in this book and we so need to know the Calvinistic heritage of
political thought that I can easily recommend this book.
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