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Book Recommendations

In this provocative study, David W. Hall argues that the American founders were more greatly influenced by Calvinism than contemporary scholars, and perhaps even the founders themselves, have understood. Calvinism's insistence on human rulers' tendency to err played a significant role in the founders' prescription of limited government and fed the distinctly American philosophy in which political freedom for citizens is held as the highest value. Hall's timely work countervails many scholars' doubt in the intellectual efficacy of religion by showing that religious teachings have led to such progressive ideals as American democracy and freedom.


In this learned and illuminating study, David W. Hall argues compellingly that to understand the political thought and culture of the American founding one must first understand John Calvin and his Geneva. This thoroughly researched and thoughtful volume is sure to challenge and change conventional thinking on the intellectual origins of the American republic. (Daniel L. Dreisbach, American University)

David Hall has done a superb job not only of tracing the development of Calvinist political thought but also of demonstrating its profound influence on the theory and practice of America's founding fathers. (E. Calvin Beisner, Knox Theological Seminary)

David Hall goes behind the stage sets of the "Enlightenment" from which most historians begin the story of the founding, and tells of earlier actions that set the drama in motion. For instance, the shocking idea, "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God," which Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson proposed as the motto for the new United States, sprang from the reflections of John Knox in 1558. So also, John Calvin's insistence on limited government, human sinfulness and unreliability, and liberty as God's great gift shaped the thinking of the great majority of Americans prior to 1787, even those who (like Jefferson) were not Calvinists. These great brakes on Enlightenment enthusiasm spared America the agonies of France and much of Europe for the next two hundred years. (Michael Novak, Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, 1994 Templeton laureate)

His book makes a serious contribution. It is based on wide reading and is packed with informative detail. (Themelios)

This volume needs to be in the possession of history and political science students, as well as all who are interested in the theological foundations that formed America. (Chalcedon)

   About the Author

David W. Hall is an author, pastor, conference speaker, and political commentator. He is the founder and Senior Fellow of the Kuyper Institute, a political think tank in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Dr. David W. Hall has served as the Senior Pastor of the historic Midway Pres-byterian Church (PCA) in Powder Springs, Georgia since 2003. Previously, he served as Pastor of the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (1984-2003) and as Associate Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Rome, Georgia (1980-1984). 
Dr. Hall's undergraduate degree from the University of Memphis (B. A., 1975) was in philosophy. After completion of his undergraduate studies, Pastor Hall studied at Swiss L'Abri and then enrolled at Covenant Theological Semi-nary in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating in 1980. He later earned a Ph.D. in Chris-tian Intellectual Thought from Whitefield Theological Seminary. 


The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World: The Influence of Calvin on Five Governments from the 16th Through 18th Centuries~ is a thoughtful challenge to conventional Enlightenment historiography. Kelly's book illustrates the influential Protestants roots of ordered liberty in the Western world, particularly in the United States today. The forgotten founding father of America was really John Calvin. Douglas Kelly illustrates how Calvin and Knox inspired the Protestant doctrine of interposition by the lesser magistrates and public officers against the usurpations of absolutists and despots in the higher echelons of power, and on behalf of the people. Some manner of institutionalized corporate resistance is vitally requisite to preserve any free constitution.

Douglas Kelly is not alone in his thesis. Also, respected historian Bernard Bailyn accounts for this covenantal influence in American political thought in his acclaimed book 'The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.' Bailyn illustrates the multi-faceted intellectual antecedents animating the American Cause of 1776, which includes the rich covenantal influence that saturated the American colonies. The American War for Independence was derided by its Tory detractors as a Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion and perhaps for good reason. The animating force behind the ideas fueling the colonial resistance was the ideas of John Calvin more so than John Locke. The American colonial charters preceded the birth of Enlightenment thinkers John Locke, John-Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu by more than a century. It was an appeal to the customs and conventions of those charters, and their preservation, that compelled the colonial resistance led by James Otis and Samuel Adams to denounce the Tory oppression as unconstitutional.