Why We have Three Branches of Government (from John Calvin)

The US Constitution divides our government into three parts: the judicial branch, the legislative, and the executive. We see this today in the Supreme Court, Congress, and the Presidential office, which have different roles that keep the others in check.

This three-part separation was first used by John Calvin in Geneva. There are two reasons behind it:

1) It is modeled after God’s offices as our ruler

For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver;
the LORD is our king; he will save us.
(Isaiah 33:22 ESV)

God is Lord. The Bible is clear: “the Lord is King Forever and Ever” (Ps. 10:16). God is the ultimate power over all nations. Therefore, our own government of the nations should be modeled after God’s government. God Himself demonstrates three separate areas of government: lawmaking, judging, and ruling.

2) It tries to limit the power of sinful men

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
(Romans 3:10-18 ESV)

This three-part separation of powers has at its core the understanding that men are sinners and thus their sinful nature must be put into check and their power must be limited. Despite the fact that our humanistic culture assumes men are good, we still greatly benefit from this separation of powers in our government and even in public corporations.

Don’t knock your foundations

With the growing rise of socialism and atheism in this country, there is a growing hatred of Biblical Christianity. This hatred is foolish on many levels, but especially in how it attacks the very foundation that this country stands on. When we throw out all the assumptions and values that formed the basis of our governmental structure (such as limiting man’s power because of his sin) then those foundational assumptions will crumble and the benefits of this government which we have long enjoyed will be taken away. Even today we’re seeing a rapid centralization of power into the executive branch, with the president slowly acting more like a monarch than a limited manager. This will have terrible repercussions.

Thankfully, God is my King and His Kingdom will never be shaken.

Did you like this? Share it:

Related Posts:

7 thoughts on “Why We have Three Branches of Government (from John Calvin)”

  1. You should read the entire article. Indeed, the idea of separation of powers existed long before Calvin or Montisque. We see it in Isaiah 33:22, written about 700 BC. We also see it in various republic forms of government. Montisque coined the term “tripartite”, but that was a label he was affixing by observing governments that already were functioning.

    Geneva functionally had a tri-part government, with the Councils (Large and Little), Syndic, and then God being the King who dictated through the Bible, with John Calvin being its primary interpreter.

    Note that the Plymouth colony – founded by convinced Calvinist Congregationalists – set the stage for what would later become the US government in 1620. It had a covenant that guaranteed a division of powers. This model was followed by much of the other major colonies in New England, which in turn influenced our Constitution.

    Its silly to give Locke (1632-1704) and Montisque (1689-1755) credit for something other people had already been doing. You don’t credit a reporter with the idea.

  2. Thank you for your chart and explanation. I shared your chart on Facebook and then realized you have #1 and #3 backwards at the very top by the stars. I don’t know if you realized it or if it is something you can even correct.

  3. Everything you write here is ridiculous.
    Separation of powers in government is Grecian in origin, and was not practiced by Calvin anyway. He was absolute authority in Geneva regardless of any outward forms they claimed to observe.
    The Pilgrims, and subsequent American lawmakers, were more influenced by the Algonquin’s system of government in creating a balance of powers.

  4. Separation of powers has its origin in God, and also is found in cultures more ancient that Greece.

    Calvin was by no means an absolute authority but rather fought against having such power. He set up the first modern example of a republic government with a tripartite system (legislative, judicial, and executive). Let us hear from John Adam’s himself, one of the primary framers of our government, on John Calvin:

    “After Martin Luther had introduced into Germany the liberty of thinking in matters of religion, and erected the standard of reformation, John Calvin, a native of Noyon, in Picardie, of a vast genius, singular eloquence, various erudition, and polished taste, embraced the cause of reformation. In the books which he published, and in the discourses which he held in the several cities of France, he proposed one hundred and twenty-eight articles in opposition to the creed of the Roman Catholic church. These opinions were soon embraced with ardor, and maintained with obstinacy, by a great number of persons of all conditions. The asylum and the centre of this new sect was Geneva, a city situated on the lake ancient, called Lemanus, on the frontiers of Savoy, which had shaken off the yoke of its bishop and the Duke of Savoy, and erected itself into a republic, under the title of a free city, for the sake of liberty of conscience.

    Let not Geneva be forgotten or despised. Religious liberty owes it much respect.”

Leave a Reply