Sunday, December 20, 2009

Calvin, Ponnet, and Deposing Tyrants

Jon Rowe stated the following in his last post about Romans 13:

"Another authentic expression of orthodox Trinitarian political theology is that Romans 13 gives guidelines for rulers, but ultimately demands submission to government no matter WHO is in power, even if pagan tyrants. This was Calvin's position. Arguably this was St. Paul's position when he told believers to submit to the pagan psychopath Nero. Thus revolt -- whether to Clinton, Obama, Reagan, GW or GHW Bush, Stalin or Hitler -- is forbidden. But godly rulers, once in power, are free to enact biblically influenced laws, for instance the burning of heretics at the stake. "

This seems to state that Calvin taught that to revolt against a tyrant was forbidden with NO exceptions.  If that is in fact what Jon is stating here he is completely mistaken.  The following is Calvin's own words:

"I speak only of private men. For when popular magistrates have been appointed to curb the tyranny of kings, (as the Ephori, who were opposed to kings among the Spartans, or Tribunes of the people to consuls among the Romans, or Demarchs to the senate among the Athenians; and, perhaps, there is something similar to this in the power exercised in each kingdom by the three orders, when they hold their primary diets.) So far am I from forbidding these officially to check the undue license of kings, that if they connive at kings when they tyrannise and insult over the humbler of the people, I affirm that their dissimulation is not free from nefarious perfidy, because they fraudulently betray the liberty of the people, while knowing that, by the ordinance of God, they are its appointed guardians."(bold is mine)

Jon states elsewhere that Calvin's position is Frazer's position.  This is simply not true.  Frazer says there are no exceptions.  Now I might be missing what Frazer has stated over and over again so I will leave room for him to clarify.  But it seems clear to me that Frazer's words on the subject are not Calvin's words.  So I must ask Jon again to explain himself.  Frazer obviously is not going to comment on this or he would have.  It is a simple question that I think deserves a simple answer.  

Jon also stated:

"Needless to say what Locke argued for was NOT interposition but revolution and Calvin's and Locke's positions on the matter were almost 180% different."

It is "needed" that this is backed up with some facts.  What is the difference between a "revolution" and an "interposition"?  Ponnet was essentially a contemporary of Calvin and from what I read was a Calvinist.  Here is what John Adams had to say about Ponnet and Locke:

"There have been three periods in the history of England, in which the principles of government have been anxiously studied, and very valuable productions published, which, at this day, if they are not wholly forgotten in their native country, are perhaps more frequently read abroad than at home.

The first of these periods was that of the Reformation, as early as the writings of Machiavel himself, who is called the great restorer of the true politics. The "Shorte Treatise of Politick Power, and of the True Obedience which Subjects owe to Kyngs and other Civile Governors, with an Exhortation to all True Natural Englishemen, compyled by John Poynet, D. D.," was printed in 1556, and contains all the essential principles of liberty, which were afterwards dilated on by Sidney and Locke."

This clearly states that one of the three men responsible for the drafting of the Declaration of Independence says that Ponnet's "Short Treatise" contained all the same principles of liberty as the writings of Locke and Sidney.  In other words, there is little difference between the political theologies of Ponnet, Locke, and Adams.  Let's see what Ponnet had to say about unlimited submission to tyrants:

As there is no better nor happier commonwealth nor no greater blessing of God, than where one rules, if he is a good, just, and godly man: so there is no worse nor none more miserable, nor greater plague of God, than where one rules, that is evil, unjust and ungodly. A good man knowing that he or those by whom he claims was to such office called for his virtue, to see the whole state well governed, and the people defended from injuries: neglecting utterly his own pleasure and profit, and bestows all his study and labor to see his office well discharged. And as a good physician earnestly seeks the health of his patient and a shipmaster the wealth and safeguard of those he has in his ship, so does a good governor seek the wealth of those he rules. And therefore the people feeling the benefit coming by good governors, used in times past to call such good governors, fathers: and gave them no less honor than children owe to their parents. And evil person coming to the government of any state, either by usurpation, or by election or by succession, utterly neglecting the cause why kings, princes, and other governors in commonwealths be made (that is, the wealth of the people) seeks only or chiefly his own profit and pleasure. And as a sow coming into a fair garden, roots up all the fair and sweet flowers and wholesome simples, leaving nothing behind, but her own filthy dirt: so does an evil governor subvert the laws and orders, or makes them to be wrenched or racked to serve his affections, that they can no longer do their office. He spoils the people of their goods, either by open violence, making his ministers to take it from them without payment therefore, or promising and never paying: or craftily under the mane of loans, benevolences, contributions, and such gay painted words, or forbear he gets out of their possession that they have, and never restores it. And when he has it, consumes it, not to the benefit and profit of the commonwealth, but on whores, whoremongers, dice games, cards, bankletting, unjust wars, and such evils and mischiefs, wherein he delights. He spoils and takes away from them their armor and harness, that they shall not be able to use any force to defend their right. And not content to have brought them in to such misery (to be sure of his state) seeks and takes all occasions to dispatch them of their lives. If a man keeps his house, and nothing in metal, than shall it be said that he frets at the state. If he comes abroad and speaks to any other, further with it is taken for a just conspiracy. If he says nothing, and shows a merry countenance, it is a token, that he despises the government. If he look sorrowful, than he laments the state of his country, how many so ever be for any cause committed to prison, are not only asked, but are racked also to show whether he is privy of their doings. If he departs, because he would live quietly, then he is proclaimed an open enemy. to be short, there in no doing, no gesture, no behavior, no place can preserve or defend innocence against such a governor's cruelty: but as a hunter makes wild beasts his pray, and uses toils, nets, snares, traps, dogs, ferrets, mining and digging the ground, guns, bows, spears, and all other instruments, engines, subtle devises and means, whereby he may come by his prey: so does a wicked governor make the people his game and prey, and uses all kinds of subtleties, deceits, crafts, policies, force, violence, cruelty, and such devilish ways, to spoil and destroy the people, that be committed to his charge. And when he is not able without most manifest cruelty to do by himself that which he desires, then fain unjust causes to cast them into prison, where like as the bearwards muzzle the bears, and tie them to the stakes, while they are baited and killed by mastiffs and curies, so he keeps them in chains, while the bishops and his other tormentors and heretical inquisitors do tear and devour them. Finally, he says and denies, he promises and breaks promises, he swears and forswears, and no other passes on God nor the devil (as the common saying is) so he may bring to pass that which he desires. Such an evil governor men properly call a tyrant.

Now for as much as there is no express positive law for punishment of a tyrant among Christian men, the question is, whether it is lawful to kill such a monster and cruel beast covered with the shape of a man. And first for the better and more plain prose of this matter, the manifold and continual examples that have been from time to time of the deposing of kings, and killing of tyrants, do most certainly confirm it to be most true, just and constant to God's judgmentThe history of kings in the Old Testament is full of it. 

And as Cardinal Pole truly cites, England lacks not the practice and experience of the same. For they deprived King Edward the Second, because without law he killed his subjects, spoiled them of their goods, and wasted the treasure of the realm. And upon what just causes Richard the Second was thrust out, and Henry the Fourth put in his place, I refer it to their own judgment. Denmark also now in our days did nobly act the same, when they deprived Christierne the tyrant, and committed him to perpetual prison."

Sounds like a long list of abuses and then a dissolving of political bonds with a tyrant to me.  Anyone see anything different than what Calvin said above and Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence? It looks like a long list of abuses that violates the covenant between ruler and ruled that ends with the tyrant being deposed.  Looks like Calvin and Frazer may disagree?  The plot thickens....

(PS Ponnet's description of what King's do fits right in with God's prediction of what king's would do when Israel asked for a king in the book of 1st Samuel)

No comments:

Post a Comment