Polemics & Exchanges

Don’t Blame Calvin

In “1865: The True American Revolution” (Views, April) Claude Polin asserts that Calvinism somehow led to the division between North and South.  Such an assertion is unsupportable.  The main flaw lies in his defining Calvinism as built upon self-confidence that leads men “to rely exclusively on themselves to steer their lives.”  The key tenet of Reformed theology, which is often associated with Calvin, is the sovereignty of God.  It is theocentric rather than anthropocentric.  This, coupled with the teaching that Original Sin corrupts our whole nature, breeds an attitude of humility rather than of confidence.

Based on his erroneous definition, Polin then argues that “It was natural for [Calvinist] man to treat nature as he saw best.”  This, in turn, he asserts, leads to industrialism and centralized government.  Polin would have done well to read Calvin’s commentary on Genesis: “Let him who possesses a field so partake of its yearly fruits that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence; but let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated.  Let him so feed on its fruits that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits it to be marred or ruined by neglect.”  Calvin and the Reformers had a high view of...

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