- The first reason I think Calvinism has stayed around for so long is not primarily a theological reason (although, of course, it is related); I think Calvinism, at least in America (where I write from), was of such seminal import in the founding (so called) of America (early on), that this heritage (with all of its structural and cohesive power) has simply made in-roads (at a sub-conscious level, often) within the American psyche. I think this is so---and here is a theological piece---because of American Calvinism's (which is at a popular level best signified by the theology that 5 point Calvinism presupposes) because of Calvinism's conception of God (doesn't everything come back to God?). Philosophically, American Calvinism operates from a conception of God that thinks of God as monad, or as a unitary substance (or in individualist terms); and that this God is primarily defined by singular brute power and assertion of this power which are given expression through contractual-law-like ways. If you think about it; this is how American's view themselves---that is, as rugged individualists who sell their mode of individualism (in the market place) through self-confident assertiveness which is captured by contracting with others in order to make a profit. I see this as an inimical aspect that Calvinism has brought to the American psyche; it is the idea of the indomitable human spirit, which ironically finds its correlation and analogy in the individually denominated indomitable godly spirit of the individual, monadic, God whom 'orthodox Calvinists' worship.
- The second reason I think Calvinism has staying power is because of its emphasis on God's grace; so this is a theological reason. This is something that has drawn me to Calvinism, in particular. That is, the intention of thought that understands God's grace and movement in grace towards creation as the ultimate ground upon which God relates to the world.
- The third reason; because it emphasizes that the Bible (sola scriptura) is the ordained place of God wherein He communicates to us. This should be appealing to all Christians, of all stripes. I think Calvinism, in general, has a unique position on this that is admirable and something that has drawn me personally to this tradition.
- The fourth reason is its desire to be christocentric (however that might be described). At least in its Covenantal form (which I am closest too, except of course my Covenantalism comes from the kind of Barth and Torrance) it looks to a so called christocentric hermeneutic of the text of Scripture. Again, this admirable and I would think appealing to almost any Christian---at least in principle, maybe not (of course) in actual nuts and bolts practice (and I mean in the way that Calvinists might employ this as they do, hermeneutically).
- And the fifth reason I think Calvinism has staying power is because of their ferocious usage of social media; whether that be through the radio, pod-casts, blogs, websites, etc. They have more of a presence this way than any other theological tradition that I have noticed. So, in our information age; at least American Calvinists have taken full advantage of so called social media, and in so doing I think they have ensured their staying power in this way---whether that be for good or ill.
Friday, May 11, 2012
American Calvinism: Its Staying Power
I haven't done a post on Calvinism for awhile; so this represents that, just a short off the cuff reflection on why I think Calvinism (in its classic or Westminster instantiation---in its various expressions, i.e. Covenantal, Baptistic, etc.) has stayed around for so long within Christendom. I think I'll use something of a theses format (or even bullet point) for this post.