Original Research

Calvin on church and government

W.A. Dreyer
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 44 | a187 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v44i0.187 | © 2010 W.A. Dreyer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 July 2010 | Published: 26 July 2010

About the author(s)

W.A. Dreyer, Department of Church History, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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This article examines Calvin’s understanding of civil govern- ment as well as the relationship between church and govern- ment against the background of radical political change during the sixteenth century. It becomes clear that Calvin had an organic understanding of church, government and people. These three entities are interwoven and interact on the basis of the covenant and civil contract. Calvin’s approach, however, is not limited to the covenant, but has a surprising richness and diversity. He integrated theological, juristic and philosophical concepts in his understanding of the state. It is further shown that Calvin’s high regard for civil government, entrenched the corpus christianum, even though he clearly distinguished between ecclesiastical and civil governance. It is also shown that Calvin had a fundamental influence on many of the political concepts which are generally accepted within modern democra- cies.


Corpus Christianum; Covenant And Civil Contract; Democracy And Rule Of Law; Natural Law; Organic Interaction Church Government And People; Political Change During The Sixteenth Century; Relationship Church And Government


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