John Calvin’s Classical, Secular Humanist Thinking


John Calvin was not infallible. Genius? Brilliant? Maybe. Let’s not worship the man,  because he was just that, a man, fallible, and I’m pretty sure he’d be the first to say so.

In his Institutes, John Calvin writes regarding the civil laws of government:

I will only briefly observe, in passing, what the laws are which may be piously used with reference to God, and duly administered among men. This I would rather have passed in silence, were I not aware that many dangerous errors are here committed. For there are some who deny that any commonwealth is rightly framed which neglects the law of Moses, and is ruled by the common law of nations. How perilous and seditious these views are, let others see; for me it is enough to demonstrate that they are stupid and false. – John Calvin, Institutes of Religion, book 4, chapter 20, paragraph 14

There are a few problems with Calvin’s thinking here, particularly when we read it in light of America’s current political, moral, spiritual state.

You cannot assume the government is going to do anything piously, especially when public government servants have set themselves up as a god unto themselves, which they certainly have here in America, much less can they “duly administer”. The only way to govern rightly is by keeping to the precepts and principles of God’s Word regarding government. Of course, anyone studying Romans 13 and especially studying the Greek, can see clearly that our government is to be a minister, a deacon and servant of God Almighty. They are obviously not, and yet, Calvin sees such a government as “rightly framed” operating and governing apart from God’s Law, that is, His entire revelatory Word to mankind. This is absurd thinking.

Is it even possible for a state to be “rightly framed” apart from God’s Word? Of course not. Look at America’s abortion laws. The government has sanctioned murder when it suits their purpose. Add to that the violation of property rights against the American people – rights which our government has long ago taken away – and the loss of numerous other liberties which once were common and beloved in the early days of our country.

Our government in America creates and enforces laws of their own making, giving themselves permission to legislatively lie, cheat, steal, defraud, murder, falsely imprison and tax the American people – all based on laws contrived, declared righteous and enforced by their own corrupt, unregenerate hearts and minds. Minister of God? Wake up.

“Rightly framed”, John? I say not.

According to John Calvin, a government can be “rightly framed” apart from God’s Word. Well then, who defines justice and the penalties for crimes? The state? According to Romans 13, the government is to be a servant and minister of God. As such, it must define laws and penalties for crimes based on God’s Word. That being so, how is it that our government in America allows millions of babies to be aborted – I’m sorry, let’s call it what it is – murdered? Allowing and promoting murder a la Roe v Wade is permitted by a minister of God? I think not again.

Calvin, in this case, has allowed secular humanism to affect his thinking. Calvin was wrong. There can be no justice apart from God’s Word, His Law, much less can a government operate “rightly framed”, because it is not. It is apostate and wicked. Apart from God’s Word, any government operates in a fashion which is anti-God, anti-Christ and anti-holy.

According to Calvin, my position, obviously contrary to his, makes me dangerous, seditious, false and stupid. Well, I don’t think so. In this matter, John Calvin has allowed secular humanistic philosophy, however briefly, to cloud his thinking, and promotes an acceptable governing body apart from and disobedient to, God’s Word.

I reject that as dangerous, seditious, false and stupid thinking. It is secular humanism, and it is, on this point, heresy.