Blog 198: 4.11. 2 - 4.11.7

Calvin's interpretation of the "keys of the kingdom" (Matt. 16:19; 18:17-18) contends with Roman views advocating the primacy of the Roman see. "[T]hey know so well," Calvin comments, "how to fit their keys to any locks and doors they please that one would say they had practiced the locksmith's art all their lives!"

Calvin weighs in on what today might be called the "spirituality of the church," proposing a view which sees the function of the church and the state as separate but mutually supportive: "the magistrate ought by punishment and physical restraint to cleanse the church of offenses, so the minister of the Word in turn ought to help the magistrate in order that not so many may sin. Their functions ought to be so joined that each serves to help, not hinder, the other" (Inst. 4.11.3).  The "keys of the kingdom" belong to the church (part of the disciplinary responsibility of the visible church). Calvin's view seems at odds with the traditional (Southern Presbyterian) defense of the separation of the church and state - one which may advocate that the state has no involvement in the maintenance of piety, but this conclusion as to Calvin's view would be a mistaken one. Whilst Calvin did not advocate a theonomic view of the role of the civil magistrate in upholding and enforcing the moral law, he did see a responsibility of behalf the sate to enable true religion to flourish. Additionally, Calvin applied the brakes to any view that supported the granting of civil powers to the church. Thus the church cannot baptize the state (or a political party). Later, we shall see Calvin deny the right of the state to persecute on the grounds of irreligion, but not by withdrawing from the state the right to magistrate to administer "punishment and physical restraint to cleanse the church of offenses" (Inst. 4:11.3).

Calvin fails to gladden those on the left and right of this issue.