The Reformation thinker John Calvin had significant and unusual things to say about life in public encounter, things which both anticipate modern thinking and, says William Stevenson, can serve as important antidotes to some of modern thinking's broader pretensions. This study attempts to give a coherent picture of Calvin's political theory by following the stream that flows from his fascinating short essay, "On Christian Freedom," one chapter in the magisterial Institutes of the Christian Religion. Stevenson argues that a full examination of this essay yields not only a more thorough explication--and historical placement--of Calvin's political ideas proper but also a more complete and coherent picture of their theological underpinnings.
"The Calvin scholarship in this work is impressive. Stevenson draws on Calvin's sermons, tracts, letters, commentaries, and other works. He has an excellent command of recent secondary material. Moreover...Stevenson draws out both the revolutionary and conservative elements of Calvin's thought. However,...he uses Christian liberty to reconcile them, rejecting the idea that Calvin is a schizophrenic thinker emphasizing both radical change and political order.
Anyone who has ever worked on Calvin will appreciate Stevenson's learning."--Journal of Religion
"This is more than just a good study. It is wise, penetrating, and opened up for the reviewer the political aspect of Calvin's work that I have been (perhaps!) overly critical of....we learn a great deal we hadn't seen before about Calvin and human freedom, enough to cause subsequent scholars to nuance their assumptions about Calvinism and the political arena."--IRT Bulletin