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Posts Tagged ‘Calvinism’

“For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship–and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. (Ac.17:23-NIV)”

Luther’s protest movement in Germany only recently marked 500th anniversary. Equally important was the emergence of another sect which can well be a Christian equivalent to the pagans St Paul addressed in the verse quote here above; and it created a troublesome facet to the body of Christian thought. After all Calvin was an accidental theologian and reformer who had a troublesome relationship with his father. He originally chose a career in law but had a prick of conscience after the death of his sire.

‘While Lutheranism was largely confined to parts of Germany and to Scandinavia, Calvinism spread into England,  Scotland, France, the Netherlands, the English-speaking colonies of North America, and parts of Germany and central Europe. This expansion began during Calvin’s lifetime’. (www.britannica.com)

  • A merciful God, however, took pity on man and sent his Son to redeem some of the damned. No man was deserving of such grace, but God freely offered salvation to an unspecified number (thought to be very small) of sinners. These fortunate individuals were known as the Elect; their fate was determined by God before their births (predestination) and was irreversible.

Calvin’s appalling ignorance of the nature of God as revealed by the Spirit and of the role of the Son would sow great mischief. It went against sense and truth of God’s Will. By his lack of spiritual discernment he made Jesus Christ a lie. “All things were created by him…for him /And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.(Col.1:16-17)”. In the next verse we read that “For it pleased the Father that in him  should all fulness dwell. Against this categorical statement what does limited Atonement signify? His confusion to determine where his will got in and where God’s Will glossed over since then would haunt his followers. Naturally Calvinism cast fogginess of his own mind and obscured God’s eternal word and fed a witches brew sort of, on their followers in America and elsewhere.  Sternness of expression and severity in judgment does not make a Christian who trusts in a merciful God. ‘Make your calling and election sure’ we are taught. But our peace of mind comes from the assurance that Jesus Christ came and died for you and me. Learn to live as taught of our Savior Lord and no more such a question of election would come to trouble us. This is how I look at it.

Whereas what does Calvinism do? “No one knew who was among the saved. It was commonly accepted by many Calvinists that saintly behavior was a sign that a person was a member of the elect, but doctrine taught that good conduct could not “win” salvation for anyone. God had decided that matter long ago. On the other side of the coin, it was almost universally believed among Calvinists that a life of dissipation was a sure sign of damnation.

Such a system of beliefs exerted a mixed impact on society. Good conduct was encouraged because many people, perhaps unconsciously, wanted to convince themselves that they were among the elect. However, there were negative influences from Calvinism as well. Anxiety was high in these communities as anguished believers contemplated their fates. There also was a rather constant and unpleasant interest in one’s neighbors’ activities. Comfort was found by observing the moral failures of others and concluding that they were no doubt among the damned. Do we not see activism of the Evangelicals in the US drew muscle historically as well as primed by a feel good conviction of being the elect?

The Calvinists shared with the Lutherans a dependency on Scripture to discern God’s word, but the nature of that word was the subject of great dispute. Luther had taught that salvation was based on faith and rejected the Calvinistic conception of predestination. The Calvinists insisted on an austere society governed by theocrats (as Calvin helped to establish in Geneva); Lutheran communities were more accepting and forgiving. Both the Calvinists and Lutherans would be at odds with later, more emotionally charged Christian sects, in which each group (and sometimes each individual) would interpret Scripture.

Calvinism would have a great impact on the development of colonial America, especially in the New England region, where the so-called Reformed churches(puritan and Huguenot elements were already dominant before the new nation came to birth.(Ack:http://www.u-s-history.com/)

Benny
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During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Catholic and Protestant theologians were at the forefront in the attempt to resolve the moral dilemmas posed by the changing economies of the Mediterranean, the Atlantic world, and the Baltic. They notably agonized over how to square Christian doctrinal and legal positions with banking ethics and the prohibition of usury. Figures as diverse as Calvin and Cardinal Cajetan did not reject the emerging banking houses and their place in society, with their increasingly sophisticated forms of credit, but they strove to define what constituted ethical commerce.

Thinkers of that era grappled as well with anxiety. It lay at the heart of the Protestant Reformation, and of Calvinism in particular, and formed the basis of Max Weber’s understanding of the “Protestant work ethic.” Weber shrewdly perceived that the radical separation of the spiritual and material in the Re- formed tradition, a “disenchantening” of the world, left humanity worried that there was no discernable path to the divine. He saw the anxiety engendered by this shattering realization as transformative.

Signs of Salvation

Weber primarily looked to seventeenth-century Puritans, but the story begins earlier. Following Martin Luther, John Calvin’s conversion experience in the 1530s arose from a deep sense of spiritual anxiety. Calvin never questioned his own election, though he chose not to write about it, and when dealing with parishioners wracked by doubt he directed them to the love of Christ. Outward actions and events – he was emphatic – could never be taken as signs of salvation. Pastorally, however, this proved deeply troubling to the Reformed faith, and Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza, made greater accommodation by allowing human deeds to be at least partial indicators of God’s love.

The question of certainty and its attendant pastoral issues remained in tension within the Reformed churches as they emerged in the Netherlands, England, and New England. The matter was not abstract, but hotly contested in terms of how the Bible was to be read, of relations of the church to temporal authority, and of the Christian in the secular world. The Reformation principle of sola scriptura had thrown open the question of how the Bible should be interpreted. Calvin and the Reformed leaders sought to ground interpretation once more within the church, but in so doing they faced fierce criticism that they were doing little more than restoring Roman authority. The Reformation made Christianity’s sacred text a battleground over contesting claims to authority – another source of the new anxiety.

With regard to the state, the issues were no less momentous. Although Calvin did not anticipate the separation of church and state, there can be little doubt that in Geneva during his lifetime significant developments began the process of secularization. Drawing on the Augustinian model of the separation of the two kingdoms, Calvin passionately believed that the church should be free in questions of doctrine and discipline. He fiercely resisted what he regarded as the unwarranted intrusion of the magistrates in the central affairs of the church.

In Geneva, however, he lost this battle. The Swiss model of churches ruled over by secular authorities prevailed, and Calvin was bitterly disappointed. Nevertheless, what emerged from his thinking is highly significant for modernity. Calvin increasingly conceived of a state where the rulers were limited in order to ensure protection of religion. They were expected to preserve the circumstances in which true religion could be practised. This was the resolution of the devastating Thirty Years’ War in 1648 when the Peace of Westphalia essentially removed religion from the political equation.

Building on medieval models, Protestantism of the sixteenth century named and sanctified work and commerce as part of the godly life. Calvin viewed economics as a way of linking the life of the community with the divine will. In many respects his perspective was entirely practical: as the leading author in Geneva he was responsible for the growth of its printing industry. He involved himself in the commercial life of the city, while his brother Antoine controlled his financial affairs. Calvin understood that loans and lending were an essential part of the market and of Geneva’s place as a trading center at the heart of Europe. He approved of the charging of interest and rejected older notions of usury on the condition that it not be abused. The poor, for instance, should not be forced to pay interest.

Theology of Work

Calvin argued for moderation in business ethics. Lending and profit-making should be permitted only insofar as they were useful, never simply to build personal wealth. All of this fell within his understanding of work and labor as vocations. In performing useful work a person served both God and humanity, and the rewards should be commensurate. His arguments were not new or radical in themselves, but they formed part of his larger theology that sought to understand the relationship of the human and divine. Work and service were for the honor of God, but once more the door was opened to a new, more secular view, that work might exist for its own sake.

This gathering tension in the relationship between the fruits of labor and vocation became explicit after Calvin’s death, during the golden age of the Dutch Republic. In his magisterial account, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (Vintage, 1997), Simon Schama has related how the prosperous Calvinists of the Republic were deeply unsettled about their material success, seeing it less as a sign of election than as a form of reprobation. The enormous wealth generated by the Republic’s trading empire financed the nation’s protection against enemies. At the same time, however, it brought material temptations that could destroy the godly society from within. The result was an unresolved anxiety that, in Schama’s interpretation, deeply troubled any sense that capitalism and Protestantism were easy companions.

In performing useful work a person served both God and humanity, and the rewards should be commensurate. His arguments were not new or radical in themselves, but they formed part of his larger theology that sought to understand the relationship of the human and divine.

Revisiting Weber

This returns us to Max Weber’s famous account Protestantism and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904/5), in which he interpreted the Calvinism of the seventeenth-century as an important source of modern economic practice. The broad outlines of the argument are familiar, though more often than not crudely caricatured. Weber was a subtle and perceptive student of history, theology, and economics. He never argued for a simple causal relationship between Protestantism and capitalism. Rather he identified the ways in which Calvinism contained a “spirit” or “ethic” that made possible the rise of capitalism and granted it legitimacy.

In brief, he wrote that the God of Calvinism is remote and inscrutable, leaving humans uncertain of their salvation. He focused his analysis on the doctrine of predestination and its effects. It is salvation anxiety that drives the desire to pursue with rigor a secular calling in the world. The pastoral literature of English Puritans revealed to him the depth of this uncertainty. The unknowable nature of God pushed Calvinists to seek signs of election in the world,

(Selected from: Calvinism and Capitalism: Together Again? byBruce Gordon/Yale Divinity School)

 

 

 

 

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The Bible is written by inspiration of God. Inspiration of God is not lost but words in the Scripture in transmission can be misunderstood or make weak impression. The reader of the Bible requires the self-same inspiration in order to change his scepticism. His mind-set is often shaped by his cultural background and unbelieving society. No church is the Church founded on the risen Christ. Each church is like a workshop engaged in spiritual transformation of souls who have accepted Jesus Christ as the saviour.  When some sects do not accept atonement paid by Jesus Christ as full and covers all what shall we make of it?

If Calvinism has underpinned the capitalist society of the USA, fine. Virtue of a dollar gives rise to industry and wealth. When it has given rise to 1% of the nation cornering national wealth (and consequently leaving great many to institutionalized indigence) we ned wonder how far the wrong interpretation of the Word has played a role. Without giving Jesus Christ as focus to which all scriptural passages must fall to we are building false values. Industry of wealth where the word of God does not fully reflects is as good as coming from mammon. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Those who preach prosperity theology and made themselves prominent are heard. Their reward is only for now and this world. When these TV preachers and false preachers promote values of Trump and narrow ideology of the right we may be sure how the word has been falsified. Such is devil’s trick when Christians have been fed with interpretation of the Bible where Christ is no longer the core value.

One shall never know when Jesus Christ shall come but the signs are becoming clearer and peace is eluding the nations around the world. It is time to know the truth.

Marginalia in 2 vol. A concise guide to the Bible

Author: Benny Thomas, the Netherlands

Tags: inerrancy, sound doctrines, Faith,

 

Paperback:

Vol.1 148 pages  priced $7.00

Vol-2  265 pages   $14.25

e-books/kindle available

Vol. 1 120 pages $3.85

Vol-2 200 pages $5.06  Amazon/Kobo/Barnes&Noble/google play, Apple i-book etc.,

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JOHN CALVIN (1509-1563) French
reformer
Martin Luther was the lightening of the Protestant Reformation and Calvin provided its thunder.
Born as John Cauvin few theologians have had more influence on Western Christian thought and culture than he. He was only eight when Luther nailed the 95 theses upon a Wittenburg church door. Within 30 years he would come to spearhead the reformation. Born to a Roman Catholic family of means, Calvin was schooled in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, philosophy, and law in Paris, Orleans and Bourges. When John went to Paris the reformation was very much in the air and his conversion was anathema to Church and state. He took refuge in Switzerland from where he became the voice for a new moral order. He was at first expelled from Geneva but the city was fated to have him for better or worse. Fiercely doctrinaire he was God’s ‘angry man who spoke harshly on every lapse he found there.

Around 1533 he had what he later described as “conversion,” and by 1534 religion had become foremost in his writing and work. In Basel in 1536 Calvin published Institutes of the Christian Religion, a six-chapter catechism that grew to 80 chapters by its final edition in 1559. It is widely regarded as the clearest, most systematic treatise of the Reformation. Calvin’s is the most famous presentation of the much debated doctrine of predestination: that God decided, before creating the world, who will and will not be saved. After years as a minister, writer and leader in Geneva and then Strasbourg, Calvin returned to Geneva and resumed efforts to make the city a model Christian community, in part through tight restrictions on individual and social behavior and by the scrutiny (and punishment) of citizens by church and civil authorities. Thus Calvin’s name is often connected with grim moral austerity and denial of pleasure, though this is probably an unfair oversimplification of his theology. Calvin’s influence went as far as Scotland via John Knox and also to the New Word where Jonathan Edwards was America was his follower.
In 1559 Calvin founded what is now the University of Geneva… A prolific writer, Calvin differed from Luther on key theological points, including the nature of the Lord’s Supper. The two were a generation apart and never met… Some scholars attribute capitalism to Calvinism’s influence. Among the first was Max Weber in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904) Hi teachings seemed to assure a richman that wealth was part of God’s plan and a virtue rather than a sin. ‘In God we trust’is on every cent that for GOP come to mean ‘In God and Mammon we trust.’

Calvin married Idelette de Bure in 1540; she died in 1549. Their only child, Jacques (1542), died as an infant.
One blot on his otherwise austere life was the 1553 trial, conviction and death by burning of Michael Servetus for heresy.

benny

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