Magistrate’s duty to fight evil includes Vandy’s pinching of Christians

Graduate students Sara Kersh, right and Elizabeth Meadows talks with professor Carolyn Dever, center, outside of Garland Hall.(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)


By David Fowler

Calvin’s Institutes were very enlightening to me 20 years ago when I began to awaken for the public college and law school fog that had descended upon me and which the modern church’s pablum did not dissipate.  The bill in question is, for me, a hard one as it was for even those who voted for it.

I do not see here any kind of rebellion or insurrection as would have been against kings as the government that God has ordained for us has placed a measure of His power in our hands to exercise in the realm of government. So to urge the Governor not to veto the bill is not a problem for me, if that’s what you were trying to say in part of your remarks.

But, as for Calvin in regard to the responsibility of the government and sphere’s of authority,  I think it important that we acknowledge the other strains of thought in the section on the Civil Magistrate to which you made reference.  As best I read him, he believed that part of the job of the civil government was to defend the sacred faith.


But as we lately taught that that kind of government [civil]  is distinct from the spiritual and internal kingdom of Christ, so we ought to know that they are not adverse to each other. The former, in some measure, begins the heavenly kingdom in us, even now upon earth, and in this mortal and evanescent life commences immortal and incorruptible blessedness, while to the latter it is assigned, so long as we live among men, to foster and maintain the external worship of God, to defend sound doctrine and the condition of the Church, to adapt our conduct to human society, to form our manners to civil justice, to conciliate us to each other, to cherish common peace and tranquillity.
And, Calvin again:
But we shall have a fitter opportunity of speaking of the use of civil government. All we wish to be understood at present is, that it is perfect barbarism to think of exterminating it, its use among men being not less than that of bread and water, light and air, while its dignity is much more excellent. Its object is not merely, like those things, to enable men to breathe, eat, drink, and be warmed (though it certainly includes all these, while it enables them to live together); this, I say, is not its only object, but it is, that no idolatry, no blasphemy against the name of God, no calumnies against his truth, nor other offences to religion, break out and be disseminated among the people.”
And Calvin again:
Seeing then that among philosophers religion holds the first place, and that the same thing has always been observed with the universal consent of nations, Christian princes and magistrates may be ashamed of their heartlessness if they make it not their care. We have already shown that this office is specially assigned them by God, and indeed it is right that they exert themselves in asserting and defending the honour of him whose vicegerents they are, and by whose favour they rule. Hence in Scripture holy kings are especially praised for restoring the worship of God when corrupted or overthrown, or for taking care that religion flourished under them in purity and safety. On the other hand, the sacred history sets down anarchy among the vices, when it states that there was no king in Israel, and, therefore, every one did as he pleased (Judges 21:25). This rebukes the folly of those who would neglect the care of divine things, and devote themselves merely to the administration of justice among men; as if God had appointed rulers in his own name to decide earthly controversies, and omitted what was of far greater moment, his own pure worship as prescribed by his law. Such views are adopted by turbulent men, who, in their eagerness to make all kinds of innovations with impunity, would fain get rid of all the vindicators of violated piety.

Flowers bloom at Vandy in Nashville. (Photo courtesy of Steve Green/Vanderbilt University)

While I suspect that you and I would not necessarily agree with him on these points, the consideration in my mind that weighed in favor of the bill was that:➤  Vanderbilt was misapplying a federal law (and exemption in Title IX for Greek organizations) to circumvent the very Supreme Court ruling Vandy pointed to as justification for its all-comers policy and the knowledge that almost 50 members of Congress was to have announced Friday its disagreement with Vandy’s use of this law.➤  Vanderbilt does get millions of dollars from taxpayers many of whom would not want their money being used to support an entity that is destroying these campus ministries.

➤  The knowledgment that other private and public colleges were looking at Vandy to see if they could get away with this misuse of federal law so that they could follow suit, and finally and perhaps most importantly

➤  The “intrusion” was for a fixed, definite time of 13 months so that Congress and all other interested parties could try to find a way out of this mess without these Christian ministries being soon disbanded at Vandy.


Attorney and former state senator David Fowler is president of Family Action of Tennessee, a lobby dedicated to preserving and strengthening families in Tennessee. The group works alongside the nonprofit Family Action Council of Tennessee to promote and defend a culture that values the traditional family from a Christian perspective for the sake of the common good.