Martin Luther, John Calvin,

Cite a specific reason why you agree with your classmate’s choice of preferred theologian. Your reply must add an original point to advance the discussion. Each reply must be at least 200 words.

Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Richard Hooker all share similar but ultimately different views of the relationship between Church and State. My view is that John Calvin’s beliefs best encompass biblical Christianity and its role in government. John Calvin understood the total depravity of man and saw both the church and the state as the only necessary deterrent and means for deterring that depravity. Calvin saw that both church and state were partners in the temporal realm to manage the depravity of man. Government, as Calvin saw it, was the physical deterrent to man’s depravity. One author, Leo Strauss, notes that, “Luther is somewhat reluctant, as a theologian, to say much about how the State should restrain evil except in the most general terms, but Calvin does not hesitate to go into considerable detail: temporal government exists “to adapt our conduct to human society, to form our manners to civil justice, to conciliate us to each other, to cherish common peace and tranquility” (Strauss 1963). He held the view that government should provide the means of punishing mankind that give into evil. Romans 13 says that the role of government is to be agents of God’s wrath and punish wrong doers. Human beings are deterred from evil when they fear the authorities who have the power to punish them for doing wrong. This is a check on mans depravity. The church on the other hand, is a partner in governance and provides the clear understanding of the moral responsibility of humankind. Therefore, when the church and the state work together Calvin believed that it was a check on man’s depravity. The government represents the temporal responsibility of human conduct and the church provides the moral imperative that appeals to the eternal spiritual responsibility of humankind.

Although Luther saw things many ways like Calvin, he saw the Church as invisible, working solely in the background, whereas Calvin believed that the Church needed to take an active role in partnering with government. I did not choose Luther because I believe the church should be active in society and work in union with government to temper the moral depravity of humankind. According to Strauss, “Luther, like Wyclif and Hus before him, lays greater stress on the invisibility of the Church, and is not overly concerned with its worldly independence except in relation to doctrine, preaching, and the sacraments” (Strauss 1963). I did not choose Hooker, because I do not believe his views represent biblical Christianity. He believes that the church is not separate from the state. He believes the church is the primary vessel and tool for moral authority in the governance of humankind. This had been the position that the church had played four year prior to the Reformation. Although the church is the authority in morality, the Church should not be the one responsible for executing judgement and punishment upon humankind. The New Testament scriptures clearly delineate that that is the role of government, separate from the Church. Hookers belief was that Israel was a model of proper government, but Israel was a unique condition. The government of Israel represented a theocracy where God and government were one. That was not a model for the other nations of the world. The New Testament writers understood the role that the church was to be in the world, but not of the world. In other words, the Church should be an influence in the world, but the church should not be the ones responsible for caring out the authority of governance. The church should play the role of the moral conscience of the nation, but not the execution of the will of government. They should be in partnership, not be one.

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