Thursday, July 23, 2015

“Equality” and Social Hierarchy in Calvin’s “Two Kingdoms”

Calvin’s Social Agenda:
Calvin’s two-kingdom theology, though affirming spiritual equality in the (spiritual) kingdom of God, does not support the “flattening” of social distinctions (that is, the reforming of social hierarchy into social egalitarianism) in the civil realm; nor does it have much room for what we today call “equal opportunity.” At the same time, it does call for what today would be a rather radical social agenda….

According to Calvin, the spiritual, inward kingdom of God does not “disturb civil order or honorary distinctions.” … For Calvin, consistent with others in the Christian tradition, the hierarchical social order is natural and “it is not without reason that he has been pleased to join us together in this way.”

“Servants must also be cognizant of their rank and station; and everyone must apply himself in the thing which he has been called. It certainly accords well with Christianity that the rich man should enjoy his wealth (provided, of course, that he not devour everything without attending to the needs of his neighbors), and that the poor man should endure his station patiently, and beseech God, not desiring more than is proper.”

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