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Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 38, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2018

David P. Henreckson
Pages 43-57

Resisting the Devil’s Instruments: Early Modern Resistance Theory for Late Modern Times

In the midst of religious conflict in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, a number of prominent Protestant theologians and lawyers wrote on the collective moral obligation to resist systemic injustice. My essay focuses on Johannes Althusius, who offers a theological account of the political community and its obligation to preserve the common good and resist injustice. Thinking alongside Althusius, I will consider not only the conditions that may prompt acts of resistance but also the lawful means and ends of resistance. In other words, how might resistance be carried out rightly? By whom? And to what end? Finally, I argue that we have good reasons to use Althusius’s political thought to revive an account of resistance that is internal to the Christian theological tradition—an account that relies on a broader conception of divine justice, covenantal responsibility, and mutual accountability.

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