Conference Proceeding

Economic and social ethics in the work of John Calvin

Matthias Freudenberg
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 65, No 1 | a286 | DOI: | © 2009 Matthias Freudenberg | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 June 2009 | Published: 06 November 2009

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Matthias Freudenberg, Theological Seminary, Wuppertal, Germany

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John Calvin and Reformed Protestantism interlinked questions of life and death with questions of faith. Not only faith and the church, but life in general call for constant renewal through the word of God. These processes of renewal incorporate society and the economy. In contrast to the popular assertion that Calvin and Calvinism are responsible for capitalism and its aberrations, Calvin in particular shows a deep sensibility for human beings trapped in economic deprivation. In his sermons Calvin exhorts the rich to consider the poor as ‘their’ poor and to thank God by practicing generosity. This appreciation of social questions within an ecumenical context is demonstrated in the Reformed church in a whole array of charitable services. It will be crucial for the current debate on economic ethics to assess economic processes in relation to how they serve life. For it is liberty, justice and fellowship – as gifts of God – that serve as an orientation and an obligation to be aware of human beings suffering from the negative consequences of globalisation.


economic and social ethics; Calvin; reformed Protestantism; economic processes; globalisation


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