Cultural Redemption

Calvin and Culture

Salt and Light

Reformed theology was largely a byproduct of the Protestant Reformers which was strongly influenced by John Calvin's work. His theology led to the development of a transformational view of both individuals and their culture. Calvin taught God's purposes, revealed in the Gospel, included both the redemption of  individual and the culture since the sovereignty of God encompassed all of life. Christians are to both share the Gospel with unbelievers and then seek to transform the surrounding culture based on biblical principles of cultural development. Reformed theology strongly influenced by Calvin taught the Gospel included both the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission (salt and light). The result was a powerful movement that transformed Europe, helped develop Western culture and brought personal liberty and prosperity to large portions of the world.

The Reformed worldview regarding the cultural mandate is summarized by Nancy Pearcey in her book Total Truth:

In Genesis, God gives what we might call the first job description: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it." The first phrase, "be fruitful and multiply" means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, "subdue the earth," means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations-nothing less.

 Tragically, the church today has lost this original mission. Many church leaders have diminished the Great Commission solely to the "saving of souls" by sharing the Gospel. As George Barna has pointed out in his research, there is very little, if any, discipleship being carried our in most churches today. The result is that the majority of Americans claim to be Christians but the influence of Christianity is non-existent within American culture. To relegate the Christian life solely to the spiritual life of the individual is a Gnostic view of the faith. This was the first major heresy that tried to derail the early church and it still plagues Christian leadership today. In the Great Commission Jesus stated that all authority in both heaven and on the earth has been given to Him. Based on that authority we have been commissioned to go forth and to disciple the nations of the world with all that He has taught us as revealed in the Bible. To relegate the lordship of Christ solely to the spiritual dimension of mankind is a form of Gnostic dualism that overly spiritualizes Christianity and gives the authority to rule the world to Satan and the pagans. This is currently a heated topic of debate within the Christian world. It has major ramifications for correctly defining the mission of the church. The view of this organization is in line with the original mission of the Reformers who believed and taught the total sovereignty of God in all facets of life.


Christianity and Culture: Kingdom Living

By David Naugle|Published Date: November 03, 2010

An Enduring Problem
From the beginning of the Church until the present, Christians of every stripe have wrestled with a most fundamental problem: how to relate to the world and its culture. How do believers act in and interact with the society which surrounds them, and of which they are a part? Of course, we are all familiar with the old adage that Christians are to be in the world, but not of it. But what does that really mean? Today it seems that many believers are of the world, but not in it. We are more like our surrounding culture than ever before, though we don’t realize it or think so. At the same time, in our pseudo-holiness, we withdraw from the world into the church and then proceed to contaminate it with our unconscious worldliness! Think about that for a while! 

The problem of “Christ and culture” is created, at least in part, by New Testament warnings against worldliness, and by its simultaneous exhortation to have an impact upon the world for the gospel. Regarding warnings about worldliness, note these admonitions:

  • Rom. 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
  • 2 Cor. 6:14, 17 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? "Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord. "And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you.”
  • Col. 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
  • James 1:27 This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
  • 1 John 2:15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Yet, the New Testament is replete with exhortations to engage culture

  • Matt. 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. . . .You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
  • Matt. 28:19, 20 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Matt. teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
  • John 17:15, 16 "I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
  • 2 Cor. 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ. . . .
  • Col. 4:5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.

Christ and Culture
All these texts put us in a dilemma: how to avoid spiritual contamination and moral impurity while at the same time fulfilling the mission Jesus has given to us. About fifty years ago, a theologian named H. Richard Niebuhr wrestled with questions likes these and examined how the Church historically has understood her relationship to culture. He presented his findings in an important book titled Christ and Culture (originally, the content of this book was presented as a lecture series at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1949). In this book, he discusses five basic ways Christians relate to culture. They are either (1) against culture, or (2) of culture, or (3) above culture, or (4) in tension with culture, or (5) transformers of culture. I will offer a succinct description of each position, and recommend one as the best alternative, especially in light of our study on developing a Biblical view of life.1

According to this perspective, Christians must live in opposition toward their culture.

Christ against Culture (Fundamentalism).
According to this perspective, Christians must live in opposition toward their culture. They must live by the standards of the Kingdom of God, quite apart from an involvement in the world. Believers have a choice: they can live in the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of the world, one or the other, but not both at the same time. A Christian must not and cannot "traffic" with the exceedingly sinful world without compromise and contamination. The Church is therefore a counterculture, a culture within culture, a culture that lives by Kingdom principles and values and whose true citizenship is in heaven. Any attachment to this world — its goals, knowledge, wealth, etc. — must be denied for the sake of Christ and the kingdom of God. So, when the question of Christ and culture is presented to this group, they choose Christ, not culture.

Christ of Culture (Liberal Protestantism).
This point of view is the opposite of the previous outlook. Christians in this camp assume a more liberal perspective in contrast to the radical conservatism of those who stand in opposition to culture. This group is at home in their relationship with Christ, but more so in their relationship to culture. There is no great tension between them. In fact, advocates of this school of thought view culture to some extent through the eyes of Christ. But they are also willing to submit their understanding of Christ to the values and attitudes of their culture. For them, both Christ and culture possess authority over their lives, and both are modified to fit as deemed necessary. Such believers are for the most part oriented to “this world,” yet they do not deny the world above. Still, culture tends to have the upper hand in thought and life for these believers. This viewpoint is characteristic of Protestant liberal Christianity. Theologian Karl Barth calls it, “Cultural Protestantism.” Yet there are representatives of this mindset in non-Protestant circles as well. In considering the Christ and culture issue, then, proponents of this perspective tend toward culture, not Christ.

Richard Niebuhr calls these two previous positions the “Church of the extreme” because they are over the top in either their fundamentalism or liberalism. The next three viewpoints he describes as the “Church of the center.” Adherents of these outlooks are more balanced in outlook, since they seek to relate both Christ and culture in meaningful ways.

Christ above Culture (Roman Catholicism).
For Christians in this group, the issue of Christ and culture is not an either/or decision, but is both/and. For them, there are two basic layers to human existence. First is the cultural layer, the natural life of human beings that includes various obligations to society—work, education, political life, the arts, and so on. But there is also the spiritual layer of life in Christ that transcends natural life in culture. Believers must be loyal to both realms, to both culture and Christ. Both must be taken very seriously. To choose Christ over culture as the first group does, or to choose culture over Christ as the second group does is wrong. The radical requirements of Christ and culture must be kept in the here and now. What is unique about this group is how Christ is set on top of culture. Christ enters into life from above with gifts like salvation and revelation which human reason and effort cannot attain on their own. Rather, they are bestowed from above and added on top of natural life: hence, Christ above culture. One can see how easy it would be for Christians in this camp to compartmentalize faith and seal it off from regular life.

Christ and Culture in Tension or Paradox (Lutheranism).
For believers who adhere to this model of relating Christ and culture, the matter is once again both/and, rather than either/or. Yet they relate these two domains in a different way than the immediately preceding group. There are two kingdoms existing side by side: the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God. Believers must recognize the role that both kingdoms play in life, and learn how to live obediently in both simultaneously. The Christian is forced to live in obedience to God and in obedience to the sinful structures of a created, but fallen world (ordinances of creation family, business, secular government, etc.). The doctrine of creation asserts the goodness of the world. The doctrine of the incarnation testifies that Christ assumed the created order and participated in it. In light of creation and incarnation, the doctrine of redemption entails that all of life has been redeemed potentially—already, but not yet. There is a tension between what is and what will be, and the Christian and the Church is caught up in that dilemma. In short, there are two realms of existence: one for the non-Christian and one for the Christian, but the Christian must live in both simultaneously, and this puts all believers in tension and in paradox. How to live in the world meaningfully as a Christian without succumbing to its perversions is the key issue in life.

Now it seems to me that this fifth and final position is the best.

Christ the Transformer of Culture (Calvinism).
According to this point of view, the various structures of this life can be restored in Christ. There is no withdrawal from culture as the first group recommends, but engagement. Christ is not accommodated to culture as the second group does, but culture is subordinated to Christ. Christ is not placed on top of culture as the third group recommends, but culture is rooted and grounded in Christ. Christ is not placed beside culture as the fourth school of thought advocates, but rather is located at its center. From that vantage point, He exerts His redemptive power through the agency of His Church. Consequently, no aspect of life is alien to the gospel or the kingdom of God. It belongs to Him and must be influenced by the gospel through the Church. This view assumes neither an optimistic or pessimistic position toward the world, but one that is realistic. It is neither triumphalistic nor defeatist, but trusts in God for the victories He provides. It recognizes the power of sin, and yet the greater power of God’s kingdom. Thus, its goal is to advance the redemptive rule of Christ in all areas of thought and life by the power of God. The Church as the community of Christians exists to glorify God on earth by carrying out the original purposes of God as specified in the creation decree or cultural mandate in the context of redemption in Jesus Christ.

Now it seems to me that this fifth and final position is the best. Indeed, it is the approach to culture that grows out of the theology of this series of lessons we have been studying for the past several months. Let me summarize it in this way:

1. God is the Creator of a very good world, one that He made by His Word, structured by His law, designed by His wisdom. It glorifies Him in every part. God intended human beings as His image and likeness to have dominion over the earth and to establish culture to His glory and human benefit.
2. The human race fell into sin, and that sin has corrupted the sum-total of created reality, and is perniciously expressed in all aspects of cultural life.
3. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection inaugurated the Kingdom of God, and He seeks to restore creation and human culture through the redemptive efforts of the Spirit-empowered Church. Redemption means restoration, and this restoration has to do with the salvation of whole people, and the renewal of the whole of life and all creational and cultural structures.
4. The Christian hope is for the ultimate release of humanity and the earth from the bondage of sin into a new creation at the end of history. Meanwhile, the work of the Church is to be about the task of salvaging a sin wrecked creation.

Now we must point out that each of the positions on Christ and culture summarized above have a solid point to make. From the first school of thought, we learn that at times the Church must act prophetically and oppose the culture in its sin and wickedness. From the second point of view, we must realize that our culture has things that it can teach believers about Christ and the Bible. After all, all truth is God’s truth, regardless of who discovers it! From the third perspective, we recognize how important our natural lives in culture are and that this arrangement is the gift of God. From the fourth outlook, we see how hard it is to be both in the world and not of it, and that we find ourselves in a serious struggle to keep ourselves unspotted by the value systems of the age. The fifth and final perspective is able to absorb all these four strengths and yet it also takes them a step beyond to cultural transformation.

How Now Shall We Live?
Charles Colson has taken this matter of cultural transformation very seriously. He, along with Nancy Pearcey, wrote a recent worldview book titled How Now Shall We Live? with this goal of cultural change in mind. They explain their perspective on the restorative potential of the gospel in these words.

There is nothing romantic about this project of cultural transformation.

The lesson is clear: Christians are saved not only from something (sin) but also to something (Christ’s lordship over all of life). The Christian life begins with spiritual restoration, which God works through the preaching of his Word, prayer, the sacraments, worship, and the exercise of spiritual gifts within a local church. This is the indispensable beginning, for only the redeemed person is filled with God’s Spirit and can know and fulfill God’s plan. But then we are meant to proceed to the restoration of all God’s creation, which includes private and public virtue; individual and family life; education and community; work, politics, and law; science and medicine; literature, art, and music. This redemptive goal permeates everything we do, for there is no invisible dividing line between sacred and secular. We are to bring “all things” under the lordship of Christ, in the home and the school, in the workshop and the corporate boardroom, on the movie screen and the concert stage, in the city council and the legislative chamber.[2]

A difficult task, you say? Undoubtedly! The anti-God forces in our culture are mean and more than formidable. The spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places stand behind them and give them their power. There is nothing romantic about this project of cultural transformation. Nothing at all. It takes the blood, sweat, toil, and tears of the saints. But it can be done!

Here we can learn a lesson from an Old Testament story. Once upon a time, twelve spies were sent in to scope out the Promised Land to see what it was like and to check out the people who lived there. Ten of the spies returned with a bad report, saying that Israel would not be able to defeat the land’s occupants because they were just too strong and mighty. But Joshua and Caleb told a different story: “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it” (Numbers 13:30). The reason for their confidence was this: God would do it! This is our hope as well. Don’t be tempted to despair. God will give us the victory!


The Religious Foundations of Culture

By R. J. Rushdoony
January 01, 2007

(Reprinted from The One and the Many [Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1978], 371-375).

In 1954, Bernard Baruch found the modern mentality increasingly evidencing fears concerning the future. “Everywhere we look we find further evidences of this dread of breakdown.”1 No era lacks its fears and problems, but, when the fears of an age outweigh its hopes and confidence, then that culture is in process of disintegration.

Every culture is a religion externalized, a faith incarnated into life and action. The mainspring of every culture is its basic faith, its religious beliefs which undergird its hopes, action, and perspective. When that faith begins to decay, the culture decays.

St. Paul cited the meaning of hope:

We were saved with this hope ahead. Now when an object of hope is seen, there is no further need to hope. Whoever hopes for what he sees already? But if we hope for something that we do not see, we wait for it patiently. (Rom. 8:24–25, Moffatt translation)

But we wait patiently for our hope only as long as we have faith in that hope. When the faith perishes, the hope is gone.

This makes clear the nature of the growing internal crisis within the Soviet Union, among the Communist elite. Both Communist students and leaders are losing hope because they are disillusioned with Marxism. The 1969 defection of one of the most prominent writers of the Soviet Union gave evidence of this. Anatoly Kuznetsov left the Soviet Union, his mother, son, and wife, as well as a position of affluence and prominence, to seek asylum in England. To indicate the meaning of this step to him, he took a new name, A. Anatol, to signify a new life. In his public statement, he declared:

You will say it’s hard to understand. Why should a writer whose books have sold millions of copies, and who is extremely popular and well–off in his own country, suddenly decide not to return to that country, which, moreover, he loves?

The loss of hope: I simply cannot live there any longer. This feeling is something stronger than me. I just can’t go on living there. If I were now to find myself again in the Soviet Union, I should go out of my mind … So long as I was young, I went on hoping for something … Finally, I have simply given up … I came to the point where I could no longer write, no longer sleep, no longer breathe.2

The mood of flight is a major one; no sane man wants to remain in a burning building. As a result, many Americans and Europeans also look for a country to run to: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, all these and more are cited, but all prove to be a part of the same general conflagration.

It is not surprising that the moon flight of 1969 commanded so wide and popular an attention. Many of the remarks made were revealing: “No life there, but no riots either!”

This general disillusionment is caused by the failure of the age to sustain man spiritually. The faith of the modern age is humanism, a religious belief in the sufficiency of man as his own lord, his own source of law, his own savior. Instead of God and His law–word as the measure of all things, humanism has made man the measure of reality.

Humanism has had a measure of success because it preempted Christian civilization; it captured an existing culture and claimed the fruits thereof as its own. In terms of orthodox Christianity, man is under God’s law, and man’s only true liberty is under God’s law. For humanism, man is not under law but over or beyond law as his own source of law. Liberty in humanistic terms is from law, in particular, in deliverance from God’s law. As a result, humanism rapidly erodes a culture as the implications of humanism develop and come to maturity. Humanism calls for perpetual revolution, because, with every man his own law, and with evolution producing new heights each generation, freedom from the past is a necessity. But this perpetual revolution is the deliberate destruction of the capital of a civilization, and its consequence is the ultimate impoverishment of all.

“A faith for men to live by” is the necessity and need of every race and nation. This faith must give meaning to man’s life, to his past, present, and future. Man requires a world of total meaning, and humanism, as it comes to flower, gives instead a world of total meaninglessness. Orthodox Christianity, with its faith in the triune God and His sovereign predestinating decree, alone gives that total meaning.

The church can depart from that faith only at the risk of its life.

If a religion is isolated from its world and is confined to its church or temple, it is irrelevant to that world because it is not its motive force. The religion of a culture is that motive force which governs human action in every realm and embodies itself in the life, institutions, hopes, and dreams of a society.

Christianity has ceased to be the motive force of society. Not only has Christianity been opposed by humanism, but also, from within its ranks, false eschatologies—premillennialism and amillennialism—have led to a retreat from the world and a denial of victory therein. This is a surrender of culture to the enemy.

However, if the religion of a culture cannot maintain order in the institutions of its societies, then that religion is finished. The established or accepted religious faith of a society must undergird it with the necessary social order to make progress and communication possible. Modern culture, however, is seeing the radical erosion of church, state, school, family, and all things else, so that very obviously the humanistic faith of modernity is ceasing to provide a workable faith for society. Thus, in this day and age, Christianity, the older religion of the West, is irrelevant, and humanism, the present faith, is collapsing rapidly. Humanism in its every form—Marxist, Fabian, democratic, republican, monarchist, or otherwise—is in radical decay and unable to further a culture. Christianity, in its Biblical declaration a world religion calling for world dominion in terms of Jesus Christ, is now unwilling to think in terms of dominion. Schilder has called attention to those Christians who, to use Vriend’s summary of Schilder, believe that they have no higher task than to eat the crumbs that fall from the cultural tables of the unregenerate.3Crumb–pickers are content to let the devil attempt to establish a culture but refuse to believe that God requires it of His people. The stern warning of one prominent clergyman against all attempts at establishing Christian reform leading to a Christian culture is this: “You don’t polish brass on a sinking ship!” If, indeed, the world is a sinking ship, then all brass–polishing is futile. But if the world is destined to fulfil all the prophecies of Isaiah, and of all Scripture, and culminate in a glorious peace (Isa. 2:4) and a joyful reign of Christian law and order, then crumb–pickers are opposing Jesus Christ.

Culture has been defined very simply as “the way of life of a society.” When that way of life sees life as meaningless, then society either stagnates and declines, or it collapses. To see life as meaningless is to make death your “way of life.” Oriental societies adopted philosophies of world and life negation; they declared that nothingness and meaninglessness are ultimate. The consequence for them was stagnation and ultimate conquest by the West, first by Islamic forces, then by Christian powers. The luxury of stagnation is now gone; history’s more rapid pace brings swifter judgment to those who fail. As a result, when the culture, the way of life of a society, is unable to provide either order or meaning to life, its destiny is death.

Facing, thus, the end of an age, particularly one which deserves to die, the Christian must again reassert Christianity as a total way of life. This means that the Christian and the churches are derelict in their duty if they do not rethink every field of life, thought, and action in terms of Scripture. Christian schools are an excellent beginning, but no area of thought can be permitted to remain outside of the dominion of Christ. To the extent to which the churches and Christians pursue a crumb–picking operation rather than an exercise of dominion, to that extent the world will flounder in its own decay and ruin before renewal comes.

Henry Van Til has given an able statement of Schilder’s view of Christ as the key to culture:

Since the Christian is one who partakes of the anointing of Christ (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 12), his concern with culture is inescapable. For, by his anointing Christ was declared the legitimate heir of the first Adam and commissioned as God’s officer of the day to do the work which our first father failed to perform, namely, to glorify God in his handiwork. But Christ was not only empowered, he was also enabled by the Spirit. His anointing was the guarantee of achievement, for he came to reconcile all things to the Father (Col. 1:20). As such Christ does not bring something altogether new, but he restores what was from the beginning, and actually brings to pass what God designed from the first. Adam as a living soul was indeed the father of human society, but Christ is the life–giving spirit, who calls men into his fellowship and fashioned them for the fulfillment of the obligation given at creation to the first Adam. The latter must be seen primarily as image–bearer and consequently office–bearer of God, a servant–son who as prophet, priest and king received the cultural mandate to cultivate the ground, to replenish the earth and have dominion over it. This was for man the service of God, true religion. This was the original cosmic order, in which the idea of vocation, of being commissioned and called was determinative for the nature of culture.

But man rebelled and denied his relationship to the Father, becoming an ally of God’s enemy, the Devil. As part of the created world of nature man had both consciousness and conscience, was both letter and reader (interpreter) in God’s book. He was called to cultivate the good earth and to bring to expression what was implicit, to fruition what was latent, and thus to be a co–worker with God, the creator. For although God pronounced his creation good, it was not a finished product; there was to be an evolution and a development abetted by the cultural activity of man. And only thus the sabbath of God’s eternal rest would be ushered in.4

Until there is Christian Reconstruction, there will continue to be radical decline and decay.

1. Bernard M. Baruch, A Philosophy for Our Time (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954), 4.

2. “I Could No Longer Breathe,” Time, 8 August 1969, 30.

3. John Vriend, “Christ and Culture.” Review of Christus en Cultuur by K. Schilder. Torch and Trumpet 1, no. 1 (April/May 1951): 11.

4. Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1959), 138.


The Legacy of John Calvin

David Hall identifies 10 seminal ways that Calvin's thought transformed the culture of the West, complete with a nontechnical biography of Calvin and tributes by other leaders. The Legacy of John Calvin is brief enough for popular audiences and analytical enough to provide much information in a short space.

"This gem of a book is the perfect introduction to John Calvin on the 500th anniversary of his birth. Typical errors and caricatures are gently debunked. More importantly, David Hall shows us how so many of the blessings of modern life we take for granted are the legacy of the Genevan Reformation. . . . Most of all, in this marvelous book Calvin's humanity is revealed; he even becomes our friend." --William Edgar, professor of apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

"David Hall has gifted us with an innovative, succinct book on John Calvin and his influence on church and society in everything from education and benevolent assistance to politics and economics. . . . Some sections, such as Hall's description of Calvin's humility, are the finest I've read in all of Calvin literature. For a quick yet informative read about Calvin and his massive influence in the church and the world, this is the book." --Joel R. Beeke, president, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids

"David W. Hall makes many bold claims about the influence of John Calvin . . . and then provides the evidence to back up those claims. As a pastor who has read widely and deeply on his subject, Dr. Hall provides a positive appreciation of Calvin's life and influence for those celebrating the 500th anniversary of his birth." --William S. Barker, professor of church history emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary


Lectures on Calvinism

"Lectures on Calvinism," a series of lectures sponsored by the Stone Foundation, was delivered by Abraham Kuyper at the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1898. Over the course of the lectures, Kuyper discusses Calvinism and the way it pertains to many aspects of life including politics, science, and art. According to Kuyper, Calvinism has a natural affinity for scientific investigation, because like scientific inquiry, Calvinism seeks to unify the cosmos under universal laws. Predestination, he says, proves that a set of laws exist to govern the world, and science is merely trying to figure them out. In "Lectures on Calvinism," Kuyper launches into a defense of Calvinism, which is often maligned as a religion that seeks to stamp out art and its significance. Readers will find here a thorough and elegant explanation of Calvinism and its particular outlook on life. Anyone wanting to know how the religion is unique among the many Christian sects will find "Lectures on Calvinism" an enjoyable and informative read.


Calvin and Culture

Calvin's worldview extends far beyond theology. Here fourteen authors demonstrate how Calvin's ideas have transformed many fields of human study and how his worldview continues its powerful influence to this day.


Calvin in the Public Square

Explores John Calvin's extraordinary influence on what we consider the key elements of a modern, compassionate, and just society—particularly the fields of liberal democracy, rights, and civil liberties.


The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World

The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World: The Influence of Calvin on Five Governments from the 16th Through 18th Centuries~ is a thoughtful challenge to conventional Enlightenment historiography. Kelly's book illustrates the influential Protestants roots of ordered liberty in the Western world, particularly in the United States today. The forgotten founding father of America was really John Calvin. Douglas Kelly illustrates how Calvin and Knox inspired the Protestant doctrine of interposition by the lesser magistrates and public officers against the usurpations of absolutists and despots in the higher echelons of power, and on behalf of the people. Some manner of institutionalized corporate resistance is vitally requisite to preserve any free constitution.

Douglas Kelly is not alone in his thesis. Also, respected historian Bernard Bailyn accounts for this covenantal influence in American political thought in his acclaimed book 'The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.' Bailyn illustrates the multi-faceted intellectual antecedents animating the American Cause of 1776, which includes the rich covenantal influence that saturated the American colonies. The American War for Independence was derided by its Tory detractors as a Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion and perhaps for good reason. The animating force behind the ideas fueling the colonial resistance was the ideas of John Calvin more so than John Locke. The American colonial charters preceded the birth of Enlightenment thinkers John Locke, John-Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu by more than a century. It was an appeal to the customs and conventions of those charters, and their preservation, that compelled the colonial resistance led by James Otis and Samuel Adams to denounce the Tory oppression as unconstitutional.


How Christianity Changed the World

Western civilization is becoming increasingly pluralistic, secularized, and biblically illiterate. Many people today have little sense of how their lives have benefited from Christianity’s influence, often viewing the church with hostility or resentment. How Christianity Changed the World is a topically arranged Christian history for Christians and non- Christians. Grounded in solid research and written in a popular style, this book is both a helpful apologetic tool in talking with unbelievers and a source of evidence for why Christianity deserves credit for many of the humane, social, scientific, and cultural advances in the Western world in the last two thousand years. Photographs, timelines, and charts enhance each chapter. 


The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

To the original text of what has become a classic of American historical literature, Bernard Bailyn adds a substantial essay, "Fulfillment," as a Postscript. Here he discusses the intense, nation-wide debate on the ratification of the Constitution, stressing the continuities between that struggle over the foundations of the national government and the original principles of the Revolution. This detailed study of the persistence of the nation's ideological origins adds a new dimension to the book and projects its meaning forward into vital current concerns.


Law and Revolution, II: The Impact of the Protestant Reformations on the Western Legal Tradition 

A unique contribution to the history of the Western legal tradition. Harold Berman is a master at integrating detail with larger themes, presenting the material in a way that the point is never lost. A great deal will be almost entirely new to English-speaking readers. The treatment of the development of jurisprudence within Protestant Germany is especially valuable. The role of 'revolutions' in shaping but still preserving the essence of the Western legal tradition is one that Berman has made his own. This is a substantial achievement. (R. H. Helmholz, University of Chicago Law School)

A wonderfully stimulating work that highlights a very important aspect of the development of European law that has so far been largely neglected. Well written and lucidly presented, it maintains a good balance between the general and the specific, and is based throughout on original research of sources that are neither easily accessible nor easy to interpret. With this book, Harold Berman offers another distinguished contribution to legal scholarship. (Reinhard Zimmerman, Max Planck Institute, Hamburg)

For those interested in the ongoing debates about the social consequences of the Protestant Reformation for subsequent Western history, this book of great learning is a welcome contribution to the literature. [It] has also been a much anticipated book, coming now twenty years after Harold Berman's path-breaking first installment, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition. In the present volume, Berman continues his provocative analysis of theological and ecclesiastical roots of the legal tradition that has been developing in the West for nearly a millennium, but that he fears is presently in crisis...This second volume of Law and Revolution is a work of vast erudition that few other scholars would be capable of producing. The synthesis of legal and theological scholarship, as well as the integration of intellectual, ecclesiastical, and political developments, are crucial to the claims of this book and are impressive throughout. The author's claims are persuasively argued and one can confidently conclude that scholars working on related issues in the future cannot safely ignore his conclusions. (David VanDrunen Westminster Theological Journal 2005-05-01)

Berman is at his best when illustrating the effect that a judicious study of law has on our appreciation of Western history. His meticulous and impassioned parsing of the theological and philosophical roots of the German legal academy or of the English adversarial system is instructive to a degree surpassed only by his previous work in Law and Revolution. His prescient call for an 'integrative jurisprudence' will surely be heeded, and is arguably already the norm in legal practice, though perhaps not in legal theory. (Victor M. Mũniz-Fraticelli Foundations of Political Theory 2004-11-12)

The present volume...will be of interest mainly to the general reader seriously concerned about the moral direction of our troubled time. For such a reader there is much to learn and ponder in this compendious book. Berman gives close attention to the efforts of Lutheran theologians, jurists, and politicians to reconcile divine law and natural law, the former revealed in Scripture, the latter accessed by reason. (Gerald Strauss Law and History Review 2005-09-01)

It is not necessary to share Berman's belief in order to appreciate much in this book. (Michael D. Gordon American Historical Review 2005-06-01)

Berman repeatedly [shows] the interrelationship between history, religion, and law. (Henry Cohen The Federal Lawyer 2004-07-01)

A careful reading of this relevant volume, Law and Revolution II, provides much food for thought. The author, Harold J. Berman, examines the present dilemma by looking at the past...This volume and its valuable footnotes contain a wealth of information...This volume is relevant for today. (Byron Snapp The Chalcedon Foundation)

In the second volume of his magnum opus, Harold Berman intends to rescue from neglect Lutheran legal teachings, and does so by expanding his attention beyond Luther to include the works of the humanist theologian Philip Melanchthon, and the lesser-known Lutheran jurists, Johann Apel, Konrad Lagus, and Johann Oldendorp. His close reading of these jurists makes the most significant contribution to the study of early modern continental legal philosophy and its possible ramifications...Not only Europeans, but heirs of legal institutions and ways of thinking about states, rights, and religion that flowed from the European experience, need to heed the call to a more self-conscious and deliberate questioning of whether a narrative that traces the law's 
liberating trajectory from confessionalism and beyond nationalism is persuasive at all. Berman...provides provocative and rewarding investigations of where and how our current dilemmas 
with that narrative began. (A. G. rieber Law and Social Inquiry)

Taken together, Berman's two volumes offer a sweeping panorama of the rise of modern law in the West, from its medieval beginnings to the start of the eighteenth century. In scope, learning, and ambition there is nothing else quite like them, and they constitute one of the deepest contributions to scholarship to have emerged from the legal academy in decades. In calling attention to these neglected episodes in the history of Western law, Berman has raised a host of difficult questions for historical and philosophical investigation, and one can only hope that others will follow his footsteps and explore the territory he has charted. (William B. Ewald Constitutional Commentary)