Calvin's Defense of Politics

We believe that Calvin was a 95% Anarcho-Capitalist. His influence on politics was generally libertarian. His followers set the stage for the American Revolution against a government which was a scant 1/10th as oppressive as late 20th-century American statism. Calvin's exposition of Romans 12 seemingly leaves no reason for Christians to form "the State." 

But Calvin defends the State in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, and in his exposition of Romans 13.

Commentary on Romans 12

Commentary on Romans 13

Institutes of the Christian Religion
Book III, Chapter XIX

Institutes of the Christian Religion
Book IV, Chap. XX


  1. Last part of the whole work, relating to the institution of Civil Government. The consideration of it necessary,
    1. To refute the Anabaptists.
    2. To refute the flatterers of princes.
    3. To excite our gratitude to God.
    Civil government not opposed to Christian liberty. 
    Civil government to be distinguished from the spiritual kingdom of Christ.
  2. Objections of the Anabaptists,
    1. That civil government is unworthy of a Christian man.
    2. That it is diametrically repugnant to the Christian profession. Answer.
  3. The answer confirmed. Discourse reduced to three heads,
    1. Of Laws.
    2. Of Magistrates.
    3. Of the People.
  4. The Magistrates

    The office of Magistrates approved by God.
    1. They are called Gods.
    2. They are ordained by the wisdom of God. Examples of pious Magistrates.
  5. Civil government appointed by God for Jews, not Christians. This objection answered.
  6. Divine appointment of Magistrates. Effect which this ought to have on Magistrates themselves.
  7. This consideration should repress the fury of the Anabaptists.
  8. Three forms of civil government, Monarchy, Aristocracy, Democracy. 
    Impossible absolutely to say which is best.
  9. Of the duty of Magistrates. Their first care the preservation of the Christian religion and true piety. This proved.
  10. Objections of Anabaptists to this view. These answered.
  11. Lawfulness of War.
  12. Objection that the lawfulness of War is not taught in Scripture. Answer.
  13. Right of exacting tribute and raising revenues.
  14. The Laws

    Of Laws, their necessity and utility. Distinction between the Moral, Ceremonial, and Judicial Law of Moses.
  15. Sum and scope of the Moral Law. Of the Ceremonial and Judicial Law. Conclusion.
  16. All laws should be just. Civil law of Moses; how far in force, and how far abrogated.
  17. The People

    Of the People, and of the use of laws as respects individuals.
  18. How far litigation lawful.
  19. Refutation of the Anabaptists, who condemn all judicial proceedings.
  20. Objection, that Christ forbids us to resist evil. Answer.
  21. Objection, that Paul condemns law-suits absolutely. Answer.
  22. Of the respect and obedience due to Magistrates.
  23. Same subject continued.
  24. How far submission due to tyrants.
  25. Same continued.
  26. Proof from Scripture.
  27. Proof Continued. (from Jeremiah 27)
  28. Objections answered.
  29. Considerations to curb impatience under tyranny.
  30. Considerations considered.
  31. General submission due by private individuals.
  32. Obedience due only in so far as compatible with the word of God.

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