The Genevan Advisors

By Rev. Paul Micheal Raymond

In today’s day and age, one is hard pressed to find Christians who apply sound doctrine to the culture. In the educational sphere, Christians are taught Biblical apologetics and encouraged to teach others the same, but their knowledge never overflows to the political or social spheres, but remains an intellectual exercise. If Christians were accurately familiar with their history, they would quickly realize that their beliefs do not reflect the examples their founders had established, nor do they reflect what the Bible so aptly teaches. The New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy is a Christian higher education facility and seminary with a mission to bridge the gap between knowledge and application, and its new journal, The Genevan Advisor, attempts to put into writing the plans and tactics to reach that necessary goal.

A brief overview of our forgotten Christian history of doctrinal application is essential before realizing the importance of the New Geneva and its journal. Let us begin with an excerpt from the Dutch Declaration of Independence:

“As it is apparent to all that a prince is constituted by God to be ruler of a people, to defend them from oppression and violence as the shepherd his sheep; and whereas God did not create the people slaves to their prince, to obey his commands, whether right or wrong, but rather the prince for the sake of the subjects (without which he could be no prince), to govern them according to equity, to love and support them as a father his children or a shepherd his flock, and even at the hazard of life to defend and preserve them. And when he does not behave thus, but, on the contrary, oppresses them, seeking opportunities to infringe their ancient customs and privileges, exacting from them slavish compliance, then he is no longer a prince, but a tyrant, and the subjects are to consider him in no other view.” The Act of Abjuration 1581 – The Dutch Declaration of Independence

By 1566, King Philip of Spain and his henchman, the Duke of Alva, had oppressed the Calvinists of the Netherlands almost more than they could stand. As a result, many Calvinists fled to Germany and began regrouping as resistance fighters under the leadership of William of the House of Orange. The Dutch Revolt was then poised to actually commence.

In 1581, the Dutch drafted the Act of Abjuration and declared their independence to the known world. Even though the Dutch had always

First page of “The Act of Abjuration”

accepted governing princes and rulers, they required those governors to adhere to a contract of set conditions that would insure liberty. The contract held the prince, and his nobles responsible to a very particular law-standard. They must “govern by law and reason, and protect and love [the people] as a father does his children” in accordance with Scripture. This contract agreement was created to insure that all rules the governors created would be according to God’s Law, as well as the Dutch “chartered privileges, ancient customs, rights and liberties.” The contract was also a comprehensive, binding Christian covenant theory of law, society, and politics drawn from Scripture and the Calvinistic political teachings of that day. If a ruling governor were to neglect the contract and its stipulations, he would be neglecting the princely office of the king, which would declare him a tyrant. By the mid 16th century, this was the situation in the Low Countries.

King Philip’s many offenses against the Dutch Calvinists included high property taxation, quartering of soldiers in individual households, confiscation of private property, and various other assaults on freedom. However, it was not only the Calvinists that were in the crosshairs of Spanish tyranny but also the Catholics, which led to the two groups forming a temporary federation against Spain. As Philips tyranny escalated, so did the rebellion, and by the mid 1570’s, the Dutch Calvinists took the lead with the aid of the “Genevan Advisors”.

The Genevan Advisors consisted of Calvinists such as Theodore Beza, whose writings on the “Rights of Rulers” gave concrete direction as to what a ruler should be if liberty was to survive. Other men such as Hotman, Mornay, Coornhert, Viret, and Johannes Althusius applied Calvin’s and Beza’s writings, making the writings very profitable for the Dutch Reformation and cultural reconstruction. Coupled with the counsel of Genevan Advisory team, and through a deluge of pamphlets, sermons, and position papers, the Dutch gained wide support in the fight against the tyranny of Spain.

Author John Witte explains these historical developments:

“Initially, many apologists saw the Revolt as a proper vindication of the people’s ancient rights, liberties and privileges that had been set out in hundreds of medieval law codes and charters that still governed them. The most important of these documents were the so-called Joyous Entry of 1356 and the Grand Privileges of 1477, both of which came in for endless recitation and discussion. These old treaties…provided something of a digest of the rulers’ duties and the peoples’ rights, including their right to civil disobedience and organized self-defense in the event of tyranny.”

In order to give Spain clarity as to what the Dutch desired and what God had commanded of the prince, William of Orange demanded that the “privileges, rights and freedoms that have been handed down to us” be restored. William called the rights of the people “Divine and Natural, given directly by God. He made it clear that “God has created men free and wants them to be governed justly and righteousness and not willfully and tyrannically.”

Cover page for a book by Johannes Althusius entitled: “Politics Methodically Set Forth and Illustrated with Sacred and Profane Examples”

Legal scholar and theologian Johannes Althusius gave the Calvinists of the Netherlands additional concrete strategies and tactics through his writings. It is interesting to note that most of the passion for liberty and justice came as a result of sermons and pamphlets. It was through the verbal and written medium that the people learned justice and righteousness and how the magistrates had violated those divine standards of Scripture. Althusius’ two-volume work Civil Conversations of 1601 codified a system of ethical techniques on how to speak and listen. This detailed, Christian work on Rhetoric was undoubtedly designed to aid verbal articulation for speeches and sermons, but also for written tracts and pamphlets. His work was a training guide to better effectual arguments on various social matters, most notably the church and the state. He also wrote a massive work on politics in 1603 and a three-volume work on the theory of justice in 1617. In these books, Althusius set forth a comprehensive theory of legal, political, and social order in light of the sovereignty of a ruler and the liberty of the people.

Together with the work and advise of the Genevan Authorities, the Dutch were able to claim their liberty, setting the stage for the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. Religious rights were always yoked to general liberty and especially liberty of conscience. To violate any of these rights was to signify a tyrannical move to total oppression. Althusius stated, “For the magistrate or anyone else to invade the sanctuary of conscience is to impugn the sovereignty of God. For the magistrate to impose a penalty on the thoughts of men is to obstruct the work of the Holy Spirit.” He also wrote, quoting Beza, “Rulers were made for the people, not the people for the rulers. The people can exist without the ruler but the ruler cannot exist without the people.”

While a single act of violation was not immediately met with resistance, it was an indication to the faithful that a pattern may be emerging. One solitary act of violation, in turn, invoked a verbal and written outcry lest the rulers imagined that the oppressive move was acceptable. If a verbal outcry wouldn’t remedy the oppression and stop the tyrrany, then physical resistance was permitted and even encouraged.

The Dutch, however, were not lawless libertines. They were peace-loving Calvinists and therefore understood the rules of resistance, which were patterned after Calvin’s doctrine of interposition. Interposition, commonly known as the doctrine of the lesser magistrate, is what prompted the Dutch to call upon William the Duke of Orange. Under the leadership of lawfully elected magistrates, resistance took on a completely legitimate form. These resistance paradigms were basic for the American War for Independence of 1776.

John Witte, in reference to Thorold Rogers’ Review of William E. Griffis’ three volume work “The Rise of the Dutch Republic: A History”, and also George Henty’s “By Pike and Dyke: A Tale of the arise of the Dutch Republic”, states, “I hold that the revolt of the Netherlands and the success of Holland are the beginning of modern political science and of modern civilization…To the true lover of Liberty, Holland is the holy land of modern Europe.” He continues, “The analogies between the Dutch revolt and American Revolution still remain striking to historians today, and it remains undeniable that the Dutch experience was inspirational to a number of American founders. John Adams, for example wrote, ‘the originals of the two republics are so much alike, that the history of one seems but a transcript of the other.”

Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration was almost a carbon copy of the Dutch declaration, with only minor adjustments to address King George III of England’s specific charges of tyranny. James Madison argued that the “example of Holland proved that a toleration of sects dissenting from the established sect was safe and even useful” There can be no debate that the American idea of independence, eclectic as it was, gained its basic tenants from the Calvinist Dutch.

By the mid 1600’s, John Milton had taken the lead for liberty, setting forth a plethora of tracts, pamphlets and various writings. Among the pamphleteers of Milton’s age was Sir Edward Coke, John Lilburne, Richard Overton, and William Walwyn. While many of these men have been long forgotten, their work remains the foundation of English and American liberty.

Conclusion

During this tyrannical period of history, the Dutch sought a redefinition and reconstruction of society using Biblical truths. It would be a mistake to define these men as anything but Dutch Calvinists who were advancing the ideology of Christian Reconstruction in Europe. Using God’s Law as the standard for cultural transformation, these reformers were mostly Theonomic, especially since they understood that princes and magistrates are not exempt from their political covenant obligation.

The strategy was simple: resist the tyrant and educate the masses to gain more and more support for liberty under God. They accomplished this strategy through sermons and pamphlets. Yet, these were not just any kinds of sermons, nor were they simply gospel salvation tracts. These were cutting expositions of what God had ordained for princes and people and what was actually taking place in Holland. There was no mincing of words. The Calvinists’ writings were so passionate and persuasive that even after two hundred years, the work affected the American .

Our strategy should be similar. The successful pattern of past generations is the pattern God has given us for our own generation. The New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy and its college journal, The Genevan Advisor, using the pattern of the past, advances the Calvinistic view of Liberty under God so that our nation can once again regain its place as a godly city upon a hill.

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