In the summer of 2009, when scholars, pastors, and the historically minded laity were celebrating the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth, The Washington Post ran an op-ed piece by a constitutional attorney who attempt-ed to give reasons for not only Protestants but all Americans to commemorate the Frenchman's birth. Ac-cording to Doug Phillips, "On July 10, six days after our own Independence Day, the world will celebrate the birthday of John Calvin, the man most responsible for our American system of liberty based on Republican principles of representative government." Calvin would likely have been surprised to see comparisons between his own church-dominated Geneva and a new nation that rejected state approval to all churches and religious bodies. But for Phillips, the fact that so many founders (such as John Adams) claimed Calvin as an influence was decisive. What also mattered was the Geneva pastor's "anti-statism, the belief in transcendent principles of law as the foundation of an ethical legal system, free market economics, decentralized authority, an educated citizenry as a safeguard against tyranny, and republican representative government which was accountable to the people and a higher law." These convictions, which may not exactly represent Calvin's political ideas, were so widespread among the first settlers of the United States that the historian Leopold von Ranke, whom Phillips quoted, could assert that "Calvin was virtually the founder of America."
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Issue: "The Great Assurance" Nov./Dec. 2011 Vol. 20 No. 6 Page number(s): 39-40
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