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Calvinism

CALVINISM

CALVINISM. Traditionally placed after Lutheranism as the second major part of magisterial Protestantism, "Calvinism" is now used by experts as a somewhat old-fashioned shorthand for something they prefer to call the Reformed theological tradition, which spawned a cluster of different but doctrinally related churches scattered across several disconnected parts of Europe and its colonies; it included many other Protestant theologians from several European countries, including places where this type of church never flourished. The Reformed tradition preceded John Calvin (15091564), who was simply its single most influential exponent; indeed, "Calvinist" was an insult coined in 1553 to describe Protestants who were willing to burn other non-Catholic Christians as heretics. Therefore, this entry will describe some of Calvin's achievements in his adopted city of Geneva, which certainly deserves its nickname of the "Calvinist Rome," and examine the various fates of Calvinism not only where it became the established religion (as in Scotland, New England, and the Netherlands), but also where it enjoyed only limited success, as in Calvin's native France, the German Empire, and England. Calvinism's enduring reputation as an unusually austere and highly disciplinarian form of Protestantism, notorious for an obsession with the problem of double predestination, seems at least partly justified.

Experts often prefer to begin the history of Calvinism not with Calvin himself, but with Huldrych Zwingli (14841531) and the early Reformed tradition in Switzerland. By the time Calvin became a Protestant theologian and reached Geneva, the Protestant movement begun in Zurich by Zwingli and continued by Heinrich Bullinger (15041575) after Zwingli's early death at the battle of Kappel in 1531 had deeply colored the theological and political backgrounds where Calvin worked. Bullinger's forty-four years in Zurich over-lapped Calvin's ministry in Geneva (15361564) on both ends; fortunately for the Reformed church, his relations with Calvin were entirely amicable. Bullinger's influence on Calvin is difficult to assess: Bullinger's writings saw about three-fourths as many sixteenth-century editions as Calvin's; and Bullinger was a prodigious letter writer, with a corpus of about fifteen thousand extant letters (roughly three times as many as Calvin), so extensive that no scholar has yet managed to read all of them.

Although Calvin is most famous for his Institutes of the Christian Religion, which he reworked and expanded several times between 1536 and 1560, it was only one of his many published works. They were widely distributed across Europe, going through almost five hundred different editions in nine different languages between 1532 and 1600. Almost two hundred titles by Calvin were printed in his native French and over one hundred fifty more in Latin, the best vehicle for reaching educated people anywhere in Europe. Another sixty-six editions of Calvin's works appeared in English before 1600, and twenty-eight editions in German. However, the number of sixteenth-century vernacular editions of Calvin's works does not necessarily match the degree of success his ideas enjoyed; for example, there were only fifteen editions in Dutch, although Calvinism became the official state church of the Dutch Republic, barely exceeding his eleven editions in Italian, when Italy had no Calvinist churches whatsoever.

Calvin's emphasis on predestination bothered Bullinger and other fellow Protestant theologians, who agreed with most of the theory but thought it was imprudent to preach in public. However, this doctrine did not necessarily frighten Calvin's local audience. One of them, Michel Roset (15341613), a Genevan chronicler, claimed that "great and small spoke of the subject" and called it "a singular grace and counsel of God, who by this means made this subject of predestination (previously obscure and almost inaccessible for the most part) most familiar in this church for the consolation and assurance of its children, who know that their salvation is founded on his eternal and unchangeable judgement" (quoted in Benedict, p. 303). To an optimist, it provided a source of comfort, rather than anxiety, in troubled times.

DISCIPLINE AND THE CONSISTORY

The most famous institution associated with Calvin, the Genevan consistory, was undoubtedly central to his purpose of reforming Geneva's inhabitants into correctly educated Christians who behaved as such. Bullinger, his indispensable ally in Zurich, expressed uneasiness about its "excessive sharpness" and its independence from the magistracy. Nevertheless, Calvin's consistory was widely admired and copied because early Reformed churches needed some way to maintain discipline over their members so that the Lord's Suppertheir only important ceremony, usually celebrated only four times a yearcould be properly administered. The elders, who staffed and implemented proper Christian discipline, comprised the third of Calvin's four orders of a Reformed ministry, ranking behind the rather ill-defined teaching ministry and ahead of the deacons who were responsible primarily for social welfare. (The four orders are preachers, teachers, elders, and deacons.)

Geneva's new consistory began work in February 1542, shortly after Geneva's government had approved Calvin's set of ecclesiastical ordinances. Lay elders always presided, but Calvin personally attended its meetings whenever he could; in the 1540s, he was frequently the only pastor present. Although its first ten cases concerned marriage promises and it soon handled a few divorce cases, such matters were never its principal concerns. Within a month, the consistory required people summoned before it to demonstrate a satisfactory knowledge of the Lord's Prayer and a short version of the Apostles' Creed in their spoken language, not "papist" Latin. By year's end, although most people were summoned for faulty doctrine or failure to attend sermons, others were accused of quarreling in public, fornication, blasphemy, gambling, singing parodies of hymns, using superstitious cures, or even being disobedient to their parents. Although the consistory occasionally investigated doctrinal issues, such behavioral problems preoccupied it by the mid-1540s and remained predominant until Voltaire's day.

Only after a hard struggle in the mid-1550s was Calvin able to impose the consistory's autonomous power to excommunicate obstinate sinners. Its activities multiplied prodigiously. At its statistical peak in the late 1560s, Geneva's consistory summoned almost one adult in eight every year for reprimands. Nearby rural parishes, which were far slower to become "Calvinist," saw many people excommunicated for superstition, dancing, singing lewd songs, or fornication. Urban misbehavior was different, mainly involving quarrels with family or neighbors and a huge range of "scandals," including such trivial offenses as a woman urinating in a cooking pot or a man urinating in the street without turning his back. No other place in Europe, Protestant or Catholic, even remotely approached these levels of official moral surveillance.

Such extreme measures apparently got results. For example, some bits of statistical evidence support the claim of John Knox (c. 15101572) that Calvin's Geneva became "the most perfect school of Christ seen on earth since the days of the apostles." One indication comes from baptisms of illegitimate children, which were recorded throughout Europe in this era. At Geneva, they reached the lowest levels yet found by demographic historians: barely one illegitimate child per thousand live births, a ratio that seems unimaginably low anywhere in the world today. Another indication gains value because it comes from an extremely hostile source, an Italian Jesuit who visited Geneva in 1580. "What caused me some surprise," he noted, "was that during the three days I was in Geneva, I never heard any blasphemy, swearing, or indecent language, which," he hastened to add, "I attributed to diabolic cunning to deceive the simpleminded by having the appearance of a reformed life" (quoted in Benedict, p. 103).

THE MARKS OF CALVINISM

Calvinism and the Reformed tradition expanded rapidly after the mid-sixteenth century. From their original base in modern Switzerland (its early French-speaking strongholds, including Geneva, did not become Swiss cantons until the nineteenth century), they reached into most parts of European Christendom, except Scandinavia, which remained entirely Lutheran, and Mediterranean Catholic countries with national Inquisitions (Spain, Portugal, and Italy), where its nascent movements were successfully repressed. Everywhere elsefrom southern France to Scotland in western Europe, through the Netherlands and scattered bits of the Holy Roman Empire, as far east as Poland and Hungarynetworks of Reformed churches were established, decreeing professions of faith and organizing synods. Most of them also included disciplinary organizations modeled to some degree on Calvin's consistory.

Although no early "Calvinist" churches adopted exactly the same confession of faith, they shared many common features. One easy and simple way to distinguish them from other Protestants is by considering what sixteenth-century theologians called notae, or marks of the true church. Lutherand every other Protestant leaderinsisted that preaching the Word of God correctly was the very first requirement. Nearly all of them added a second mark: the correct administration of the sacraments (Protestants agreed that there were only two, baptism and the Eucharist, but disagreed vehemently from the outset about how to perform them). Beyond these two, Luther occasionally mentioned other signs of a true church, including proper discipline; some of his more radical rivals added even more (the founder of the Mennonites had six, while other Anabaptists went up to a dozen). In general, churches within Calvin's Reformed tradition acknowledged only three notae, placing a correct form of church discipline immediately after correct preaching and administration of both sacraments. Interestingly, Calvin himself, despite the care he lavished on creating and maintaining Geneva's consistory, never insisted that discipline was a necessary mark of the true church. But many early official confessions of Reformed churches, including those made during Calvin's lifetime between 1560 and 1562 in Scotland, Belgium, and Hungary, made discipline their third and final mark. It was clearly a fundamental aspect of mainstream Calvinism and remained so.

THE SPREAD OF CALVINISM

In the Holy Roman Empire, the year 1555 saw the Religious Peace of Augsburg with its famous formula cuius regio, eius religio the religion of the prince determines the religion of his people. This was precisely the moment when Calvinism began spreading extremely rapidly across many parts of Europe, and its relative degree of success usually depended heavily on the ruler's attitudes toward the Reformed faith. For example, in France, Calvin's native land and Europe's largest kingdom, steadfast royal opposition prevented its triumph. In the Holy Roman Empire, only one important ruler adopted it: an electoral prince established Calvinism after 1563 much as a Saxon elector had established Lutheranism a generation earlier. Elsewhere, unusual circumstances did enable it to triumph twice despite a sovereign's opposition. In Scotland, an incompetent sovereign enabled Calvinism to become the official faith, while in England, a Protestant (but not Calvinist) sovereign struggled to tame it. In the Netherlands, a powerful but distant and unpopular sovereign ultimately failed to prevent Calvinism from triumphing in half of his landsalthough not in the regions where it had originated.

In France, the Reformed faith grew with amazing rapidity in the late 1550s, establishing clandestine churches in towns throughout the kingdom and converting many noblemen, including some from princely houses. Starting in the 1560s, both France and the Netherlands experienced extremely long and bitter cycles of civil wars, which historians conventionally call the "Wars of Religion." Much ink has been shed over how far the Reformed churches went, in both France and the Netherlands, in provoking revolts against legitimate rulers; it seems clear that they provided some of the logistical infrastructure as well as most of the propaganda for these risings, and they reaped the benefits of whatever successes the rebels enjoyed. Although French Huguenots lost both battles and members during the wars, the French crown repeatedly granted them some freedom of worship in order to stop the fighting. In the Netherlands, the rebels also lost most of the battles. However, after they gained a foothold in defensible northern positions after 1572, the greatest civilian mass migration in sixteenth-century Europe eventually brought dozens of thousands of Calvinists into the region. Although the rebels soon established the Reformed faith in Dutch provinces, historians have pointed out how few full members these "official" churches actually had even in the mid-seventeenth century.

In the British Isles, the rapid success of Calvinism in Scotland, destined to become one of its major strongholds, was unexpected. But despite the popularity of both Calvin's works and the Geneva Bible in England, it never dominated the doctrines of the established Protestant church there. In a way, both results connect to a notorious 1558 pamphlet against the "monstrous" rule of women by John Knox, the most famous English-speaking sixteenth-century Calvinist. Knox wrote a history of the Reformation in Scotland, recounting how he outmaneuvered and bullied Queen Mary Stuart until she lost her throne in 1567; however, Elizabeth I, who became England's Protestant ruler in 1558, never trusted Knox or his followers afterward.

The conversion of an unusually studious German prince, the elector palatine Frederick III (ruled 15591576), provides our clearest example of a major Calvinist church established solely by the ruler's will. In 1563, he issued a new church order that followed the Reformed manner of celebrating Communion and accompanied it with a relatively brief catechism that quickly provoked Lutheran wrath for upholding the "damnable sect" of Zwingli and Calvin. When other Protestant rulers had Frederick summoned in person to the 1566 imperial diet and questioned him about his religious beliefs, he solemnly swore before the emperor that he had read some of Luther's writings but nothing by Calvin, and pointed out that he had signed the Augsburg Confession. This sufficed. The Palatinate, home of Germany's oldest university at Heidelberg, became Germany's first major Reformed state. It was also the only important one. On the eve of the Thirty Years' War (16181648), the German empire counted about a dozen Reformed state churches (scattered among more than two hundred lay and ecclesiastical principalities) and four civic churches (among eighty free cities), plus two confessionally mixed regions in the far northwest. Overall, Reformed Protestants comprised only 6 percent of Germany's population and controlled four of its twenty-six universities, including Heidelberg.

Isolation apparently increased Palatine aggressiveness. Frederick III intervened militarily to help French Huguenots; by grasping for the Bohemian crown in 1618, his successors ultimately devastated their possessions, although the Reformed church they built proved sufficiently sturdy to survive subsequent persecutions. In theological terms, they provided the Reformed faith with one of its major confessional documents, the Heidelberg Catechism; it was adopted by the synod of Emden, on the Dutch border, in 1571, and soon afterward by the Reformed churches of Hungary and Poland. In ecclesiological terms, the Palatinate created the largest network of consistorial discipline in central Europe; but it also produced the doctrine of Erastianism, the most extreme Protestant version of the subordination of church to state.

In eastern Europe, state power was far weaker, and the Reformed church acquired a different configuration. The widespread use of Latin among the nobility and literate minority enabled Calvin and Bullinger to get their message across in Polish- or Magyar-speaking lands. Calvin sent numerous letters to Poland's king and leading noblemen in 1555, and local Protestant churches invited him to come and advise them. Before the tide began turning against them after 1580 and exposed the shallowness of their roots, over 250 Reformed churches had been established in Poland and another 225 in the Lithuanian parts of the kingdom; at that moment, Calvinists formed the largest single religious group in the Polish Senate. Meanwhile, Calvinism sank much deeper roots in the kingdom of Hungary, shattered by a Turkish victory that left Budapest under Ottoman occupation for 150 years. By 1600, the Reformed church claimed almost half of Hungary's population, and they even proselytized among the Orthodox Romanians. Many of Hungary's Reformed churches, like those in the Palatinate, managed to survive despite political persecutions in the seventeenth century.

SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY CALVINISM

The history of Calvinism changed dramatically in the seventeenth century. In Europe, it stopped growing through armed struggle with Catholic governments, and instead it lost ground in many places. In Poland-Lithuania, it disappeared entirely through a peaceful Catholic reconquest. Its only new foundations, destined to become important in subsequent centuries, were in overseas colonies like New England or South Africa. Occasionally, Calvinism still seemed bellicose after 1600. Historians still debate the extent to which an international Calvinist conspiracy provoked the Thirty Years' War in 1618 by encouraging the ill-fated adventure of the elector palatine Frederick V, who became Bohemia's "Winter King." It was a last gasp, like the final Huguenot rebellion in France, which broke out in 1621 and ended with Cardinal Richelieu's capture of the greatest Huguenot stronghold, La Rochelle, in 1628. Ironically, the only successful military rising by seventeenth-century Calvinists came against a Protestant ruler, Charles I of England, in 1639. In places where it had become established, like the Netherlands or Scotland, Reformed church membership continued to increase, and Calvinism sank much deeper roots among the population. But elsewhere, it often receded into insignificance. Even in Calvin's native France, where the Reformed church seemed safely protected by the Edict of Nantes after 1598, its seventeenth-century membership eroded slowly before it was formally abolished by Louis XIV in 1685.

Most historians consider the seventeenth century the apogee of a "confessionalized" Europe, and Calvinism fits this pattern perfectly. From the beginning, all Reformed churches had demanded a properly trained clergy; at Calvin's insistence, Geneva had created a famous academy in 1559, and Dutch rebels founded a university at Leiden in 1575. By the time Harvard College was founded in Massachusetts in 1636, Reformed churches had created at least two dozen institutions of higher learning. After 1600, at least 95 percent of all Reformed pastors in the Netherlands or the Palatinate boasted university training in theology; most did even in the remotest Scottish isles. In such places as Scotland, Zweibrücken in Germany, or New England, a typical seventeenth-century Calvinist pastor owned over a hundred books, or about four times as many as their Catholic counterparts in northern Italy (Benedict, p. 450). Under such conditions, theology and ecclesiology, rather than politics, came to dominate its seventeenth-century history. Two major theological "summit conferences" were held, where issues about predestination dominated discussions, with questions about the proper organization of church discipline close behind. Protestantism has always displayed a penchant for spinning off new branches. Even in places where it was established, seventeenth-century Calvinism splintered: Remonstrants opposed Counter-Remonstrants in the Netherlands; Presbyterians and Episcopalians quarreled violently in Scotland. New variants, most notably Congregationalism, emerged elsewhere.

The Synod of Dort (Dordrecht) in the Netherlands, summoned in order to resolve the conflict between Remonstrants and Counter-Remonstrants, offers the closest approximation to the Council of Trent within the Calvinist or Reformed tradition. It held no fewer than 154 official sessions between November 1618 and May 1619, and included nineteen voting colleges representing four national churches (the French Reformed church also tried to send delegates, but King Louis XIII forbade them to leave the country). A majority of the voting colleges represented the host nation: nine provincial synods, plus the Walloon churches and the theological faculties of Dutch universities, while the other eight colleges represented British, Swiss, and German churches. The Synod of Dort succeeded in its original purpose by marginalizing the Remonstrants (who included the world-famous jurist Hugo Grotius, already imprisoned before the synod met). Two details suggest its importance in the English-speaking world. John Robinson (c. 15751625), the theological leader behind the 1620 Plymouth Pilgrims, greatly admired it; King James I (ruled 16031625), who famously vowed to "harry [Puritans like Robinson] out of the land," forbade any public criticism of its resolutions.

The Synod of Dort canonized what subsequently became known as the five cardinal points of official Calvinism, which English-speaking followers memorized through the acronym TULIP: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. Considering the importanceand now, the relative obscurityof these doctrines, they deserve a bit of elaboration. "T" (also known through the famous rhyme in the New England Primer, "in Adam's fall/we sinned all") means that ever since Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, all of humanity has been in a state of corruption and helpless to obtain salvation. "U" asserts that election is founded on God's purpose "even before the beginning of the world." "L" claims that Christ's atonement applies only to the elect but not to the rest of corrupt humankind. "I" claims that the soul's inner regeneration is entirely the "mysterious and ineffable" work of God. And "P" asserts that God will somehow preserve the elect from falling from grace, despite their occasional and inevitable lapses into sin.

A second and much longer lasting institution met during the Puritan revolution and eventually reshaped English-speaking Calvinism into its best-known forms. From July 1643 until February 1649, an Assembly of Divines held 1,163 sessions in Westminster Abbey. Of its 151 members, all but 30 were "learned, godly and judicious divines" hand-picked by the Long Parliament (three, who had settled in Massachusetts, declined the invitation); the remainder were themselves members of Parliament. The assembly prepared a book of discipline for the English church, providing a presbyterian form of discipline similar in essential aspects to arrangements among French and Dutch Calvinists. It then prepared a confession of faith, which essentially repeated the "LIP" parts of the Dort formula while avoiding the most abstract aspects of predestination. In 1647, it produced both shorter and longer versions of what we now call the Westminster Catechism.

Although created in England, the presbyterian system was essentially stillborn in its native land long before the Church of England was restored in 1660. Even in London, its greatest center of support, presbyteries were founded in only 64 of the city's 108 parishes (Benedict, p. 402). However, its arrangements were enthusiastically adopted in Scotland, where they had a durable impact. Following a long episcopalian parenthesis after 1661, they were grudgingly reimposed in 1690 after a Dutch prince, William III, who believed in predestination and spoke about achieving consensus on terms "wherein all the Reformed churches do agree" (Benedict, p. 415), occupied the Scottish as well as the English throne.

In New England, a local "summit conference," the Cambridge synod, which lasted from 1646 until 1648, also adopted the Westminster Assembly's theological decrees. The preamble to its resolutions, which retained nominal authority in New England until about 1760, boasted of their doctrinal agreement with "all the reformed churches of Christ in Europe." But in Massachusetts, Westminster's "presbyterian" decrees about polity and discipline were replaced by an entirely different system, stressing the complete autonomy of every parish. The Cambridge synod thus created a new branch of Calvinism, the one we now call Congregationalism, which became a de facto established church throughout most of New England.

New Englanders were the most famous Calvinists to settle in America before 1700, but they were certainly not the only ones. The Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam, later New York, had established their Reformed church by 1640 (by 1665, the Dutch had also established it in South Africa, which still remains a bastion of the Dutch Reformed church). After 1685, some two thousand Huguenots, fleeing France after Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, reestablished their Reformed churches after settling in places as far apart as Boston and South Carolina. Soon afterward, thousands of Scots-Irish colonists from Ulster (Northern Ireland) fled in order to escape Protestant persecution; they settled mostly in the middle colonies and formed their first presbytery at Philadelphia by 1706. Methodism, the largest neo-Calvinist Protestant church in America, arrived there by the mid-eighteenth century. As the history of Calvinist emigration to America testifies, such seventeenth-century intra-Protestant confessional quarrels were often high-stakes issues for laymen. They were even more so for clerics because public authorities quickly removed ministers from theologically incorrect factions. After 1619, Remonstrants were deprived throughout the Netherlands; in Scotland, many Episcopalians were deprived after 1639, and Presbyterians were deprived in about one-fourth of its thousand parishes after 1661. The situation was worst in Stuart England, which exceeded its previous pastoral purges under the Tudors in 1553 and 1559. During the Puritan Revolution, over two thousand of England's nine thousand parishes lost Royalist pastors for being insufficiently Calvinist. After the Restoration of 1660 gave the Church of England a head (Charles II) who had once remarked that "Presbyterianism is not a religion for gentlemen," two thousand more were removed as insufficiently Episcopalian. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688, another four hundred British clergy were deposed for refusing to swear allegiance to William and Mary.

CALVINIST AUSTERITY

The most important features linking the practices of Europe's various "confessionalized" Reformed churchesand simultaneously separating them from other Protestant as well as Catholic traditionsrevolved around their methods of disciplining church members for various forms of misbehavior. Wherever the Reformed faith became an official church, as in Scotland, the Netherlands, or the Palatinate, its organizations for ecclesiastical discipline operated hand in glove with public authorities. Records from such institutions in various parts of Europe enable us to form some general impressions about how Calvinist discipline actually worked in the heyday of confessionalism. The first thing to notice is that no established Reformed church even remotely approached the levels of investigation or punishments found in Calvin's Geneva. Consistories in Scotland or French Switzerland summoned between one adult in thirty and one in sixty each year, while those in Holland or France excommunicated no more than one adult in one hundred fifty each year; both ratios were roughly six times higher in Calvin's Geneva.

Another distinctive feature of Reformed Protestantism was its remarkably small number of official holidays. Calvin himself saw no need and no scriptural basis for any holiday other than Sunday, and Reformed Protestants usually celebrated extremely few of them. Their most austere churches, Geneva and Scotland (or seventeenth-century New England), observed none at allnot until Geneva's magistrates overruled their pastors and finally declared Christmas an official holiday in 1694. Such situations were, however, exceptional. The mainstream of established Calvinism, the Reformed churches of Zurich, Bern, France, the Netherlands, and the Palatinate, celebrated four holidays besides Sundays: Christmas, Easter, Ascension Day, and Pentecost; the Dutch and the Palatinate also added New Year's Day. Keeping only a handful of holy days marked an enormous departure from Catholic practices, which in most places celebrated anywhere from forty to sixty holidays each year. Other mainstream Protestants were far less radical than Calvinists: Lutherans kept a large number of holy days, while the Church of England became a target for Puritan scorn by observing a total of twenty-seven holidays. Early Massachusetts went further and took the most extreme Calvinist position about the Christian calendar: not only did the colony ban all holidays, but its General Court briefly reformed the "pagan" names of the months as well, dating by "first month," "second month," and so forth.

Many Calvinists compensated for this paucity or absence of other holidays with a strict observance of Sunday, almost in an exact correlation. Scotland became Europe's most notorious example in 1579, when serious punishments were first threatened for Sabbath-breakers; by 1649, they had forbidden such practices as fishing on Sunday. Scotland's extremely rigid taboos about Sabbath observance lasted far into modern times; it has been suggested that "Thou Shalt Not" made the best title for a history of Scotland, with its longest chapter called "Never on Sunday." Another specifically Calvinist ritual was the special day of community fasting, proposed by pastors and decreed by secular authorities, usually intended to divert God's wrath at times of extraordinary danger. We find fast days observed as early as the 1560s by the beleaguered churches of the Low Countries or France, and later in seventeenth-century New England; they remained a feature of Genevan life until the nineteenth century.

CONCLUSION

Calvinism's distinctive cultural contributions to the modern world seem more problematic than they did fifty years ago, when historians confidently assumed that Reformed churches had consistently opposed tyranny and fostered individualism. They seem vastly more problematic than they did a century ago, when the German sociologist Max Weber asserted a causal connection between Calvinist self-discipline, which he called "other-worldly asceticism," and economic success. The best way to approach such major issues today is by noting that although Calvinism's various European branches were mostly stable or defensive after 1650, they remained dynamic in Europe's overseas colonies and former colonies until the twentieth century. The consequences seem peculiarly paradoxical in America, where advanced education has become entirely secular, while a crypto-Calvinist "salvation- ist" evangelical Protestantism maintains an enduring hold over much of the population.

Few readers today will swallow the assertion that New England's Calvinist Puritanism "produced a type of human being that no just and informed mind can think of without admiration" (McNeill, pp. 340341). Nevertheless, Calvinism, argues its most prominent recent historian, "still merits a prominent role in certain metanarratives of Western modernization" (Benedict, p. 542). By shrinking beliefs about holy days and seasons to a minimum, it affected a more thorough, although incomplete, "disenchantment of the world" than its rivals, and its strict codes of individual conduct powerfully reinforced individual consciences.

See also Calvin, John ; Dort, Synod of ; Dutch Republic ; Geneva ; Grotius, Hugo ; Huguenots ; Knox, John ; La Rochelle ; Luther, Martin ; Lutheranism ; Methodism ; Palatinate ; Puritanism ; Reformation, Protestant ; Reformations in Eastern Europe: Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox ; Zwingli, Huldrych .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The outstanding recent synthesis by Philip Benedict, Christ's Churches Truly Reformed (New Haven, 2002), includes an extremely rich and up-to-date bibliographical survey about various topics connected with "Calvinism." It almost entirely replaces the older account by John T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (Oxford, 1954).

Its fragmented history has often made Calvinism a topic for collective research in multinational contexts during the past generation. A slightly older example of this genre is Menna Prestwich, ed., International Calvinism, 15411715 (Oxford, 1985). Three useful and relatively recent collections of documents and essays should also be mentioned: Alastair Duke, Gillian Lewis, and Andrew Pettegree, eds., Calvinism in Europe, 15401610: A Collection of Documents (Manchester, U.K., 1992); Andrew Pettegree, Alastair Duke and Gillian Lewis, eds., Calvinism in Europe, 15401620 (Cambridge, U.K., 1994); and Raymond A. Mentzer, ed., Sin and the Calvinists: Morals Control and the Consistory in the Reformed Tradition (Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, XXXII; Kirksville, Mo., 1994). Those who read French can enjoy a handsome coffee-table book: Pierre Chaunu, ed., L'aventure de la Réforme: Le monde de Jean Calvin (Paris, 1986); even those who cannot might enjoy its illustrations. There are some valuable essays in Karen Maag, ed., The Reformation in Eastern and Central Europe (Aldershot, U.K., 1997).

William Monter

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Calvinism

CALVINISM

CALVINISM, in its broadest sense, is the entire body of conceptions arising from the teachings of John Calvin. Its fundamental principle is the conception of God as absolutely sovereign. More than other branches of Protestantism, Calvinism emphasizes the doctrine of predestination, the idea that God has already determined whom to save and damn and that nothing can change his decision. The 1618–1619 Synod of Dort produced five canons that defined Calvinist orthodoxy: total depravity, the belief that original sin renders humans incapable of achieving salvation without God's grace; unconditional election, that the saved do not become so as a result of their own virtuous behavior but rather because God has selected them; limited atonement, that Christ died only to redeem those whom God has already chosen for salvation; irresistible grace, that individuals predestined for salvation cannot reject God's grace; and perseverance of the saints, that those whom God has chosen for salvation cannot lose that grace. The statement of Calvinism most influential in the United States was the Westminster Confession of 1647. New England Congregationalists accepted its doctrinal portion and embodied it in their Cambridge Platform of 1648. American Presbyterians coming from Scotland and Northern Ireland were sternly Calvinistic. The Synod of Philadelphia, the oldest general Presbyterian body in the United States, passed the Adopting Act in 1729, which required all ministers and licentiates to sub-scribe to the Westminster Confession. Other Calvinistic bodies in the United States are the Dutch and German Reformed churches and all Presbyterian bodies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cashdollar, Charles D. A Spiritual Home: Life in British and American Reformed Congregations, 1830–1915. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.

Hirrel, Leo P. Children of Wrath: New School Calvinism and Antebellum Reform. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998.

Howard, Victor B. Conscience and Slavery: The Evangelistic Calvinist Domestic Missions, 1837–1861. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1990.

Pahl, Jon. Paradox Lost: Free Will and Political Liberty in American Culture, 1630–1760. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

William W.Sweet/a. e.

See alsoBaptist Churches ; Cambridge Platform ; Congregationalism ; Presbyterianism ; Puritans and Puritanism ; Reformed Churches ; Religion and Religious Affiliation .

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Calvinism

Calvinism, the creed of Jean Calvin (1509–64), was largely as formulated in his Institutes, published 1536. Calvin was greatly influenced by St Augustine in inferring predestination from divine foreknowledge, and he therefore presumed that the elect, chosen for salvation, were known to God from before the creation. Free will was an illusion: ‘we call predestination God's eternal decree, by which he determined with himself what he willed to become of each man … eternal life is fore-ordained for some, eternal damnation for others … it is very wicked merely to investigate the causes of God's will … when one asks why God has so done, we must reply, because he has willed it.’ [Institutes, iii. xxi. 5; xxiii. 2.] Church organization followed from that basic premiss, that the chosen of God—the elect—were entitled to no inferior place in worship, but should share government with the ministers. While Luther subordinated church to state, Calvin insisted on the supremacy of the church, with a presbyterian form of government. Doctrinally, Calvin shared with Luther belief in the absolute authority of the bible and in justification by faith alone. Taken into Scotland from Calvin's Geneva in 1559 by John Knox, Calvinism became the national creed and was recognized as the established church in 1690. In England it struggled first to influence Anglicanism, then to overthrow it, and was in command from the Civil War to the Restoration. After 1660 it was at first the most powerful of the dissenting sects but lost ground rapidly to the baptists and congregationalists and in the early 18th cent. was infiltrated by socinianism and unitarianism. Its theology continued to influence groups within the protestant dissenting churches, particularly the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion and the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists. But the appeal of so austere and harsh a creed faded in an age of enlightenment and humanitarianism, and at the religious census of 1851 the Presbyterian churches had no more than 160 places of worship, while the Huntingdon Connexion had 109, the Welsh Calvinist Methodists 828, the congregationalists more than 3,000, and the methodists more than 10,000.

J. A. Cannon

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Calvinism

Calvinism, term used in several different senses. It may indicate the teachings expressed by John Calvin himself; it may be extended to include all that developed from his doctrine and practice in Protestant countries in social, political, and ethical, as well as theological, aspects of life and thought; or it may be employed as the name of that system of doctrine accepted by the Reformed churches (see Presbyterianism), i.e., the Protestant churches called Reformed in distinction from those professing Lutheran doctrines (see also Reformed churches). Early Calvinism differed from Lutheranism in its rejection of consubstantiation regarding the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, in its rigid doctrine of predestination, in its notion of grace as irresistible, and in its theocratic view of the state. Luther believed in the political subordination of the church to the state; Calvinism produced the church-dominated societies of Geneva and Puritan New England. Calvinism, stressing the absolute sovereignty of God's will, held that only those whom God specifically elects are saved, that this election is irresistible, and that individuals can do nothing to effect this salvation. This strict Calvinism was challenged by Jacobus Arminius, whose more moderate views were adopted by the Methodists and the Baptists. Calvinism challenged Lutheranism throughout Europe, spread to Scotland, influenced the Puritans of England, and received its expression in the United States in the modified New England theology of the elder Jonathan Edwards. The doctrinal aspects of Calvinism receded under the rationalism of the 18th and 19th cent. In more recent times, however, in the Reformed theology of Karl Barth, the Calvinist stress on the sovereignty of God found new and vital expression.

See J. T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (1954, repr. 1967); B. G. Armstrong, Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy (1969); M. Prestwich, ed., International Calvinism, 1541–1715 (1987).

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Calvinism

Calvinism


The term Calvinism was originally a polemical label meant to denigrate those deemed to be followers of the French reformer John Calvin (15091564). Those who in fact were most influenced by Calvin chose not to be named after a personCalvin or anyone elseand instead most commonly referred to themselves as members of the "Church reformed according to the Word of God" or simply as "those of the cause."

If Calvinism cannot be traced exclusively to one person, it also cannot be reduced to the presence of two or three fixed teachings. If one is to judge from the Westminster Confession and Catechisms (16461647), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), the most prominent components of Calvinism include the centrality of the person and work of the Mediator; the work of the Holy Spirit in the right interpretation of the normative Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; the emphasis on the Church as the body of the elect and their assurance of salvation; justification and sanctification by grace alone through faith and the positive use of the law in guiding believers; the importance of the ordinary means of grace; and the need to translate the sovereignty of God into transforming political, educational, and economic structures. In polemical debate Calvinists were often divided over the implications of any given doctrine of predestination, especially concerning the question of free will and whether atonement is universal or limited.

See also Christianity, Reformed, Issues in Science and Religion


Bibliography

graham, w. fred, ed. later calvinism: international perspectives. kirksville, mo.: sixteenth century journal, 1994.

mcneill, john thomas. the history and character of calvinism. new york: oxford university press, 1962.

prestwich, menna, ed. international calvinism: 15411715. oxford: clarendon, 1985.

e. david willis

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Calvinism

Calvinism. The religious ideas of bodies and individuals who were profoundly influenced by the 16th-cent. church reformer John Calvin, or by his writings. In Calvinism there is typically a strong stress on the sovereignty of God over every area of life, and on the supremacy of scripture as the sole rule of faith and practice, an authority confirmed by the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of predestination was never a leading axiom of Calvin's thought. But many of Calvin's early followers (e.g. Theodore Beza) were quick to establish the divine ‘decree’ (to eternal life and death) as the principle from which all other ideas were derived, and on this basis elaborated logically rigorous theological systems. Calvinist theology reached powerful expression in the Helvetic Confession (1566) and at the Synod of Dort (1618–19). The latter expounded the so-called ‘five points’ of Calvinism: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the final perseverance of the saints.

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Calvinism

Calvinism Set of doctrines and attitudes derived from the Protestant theologian John Calvin. The Reformed and Presbyterian churches were established in his tradition. Rejecting papal authority and relying on the Bible as the source of religious truth, Calvinism stresses the sovereignty of God and predestination. Calvinism usually subordinates state to church, and cultivates austere morality, family piety, business enterprise, education and science. The development of these doctrines, particularly predestination, and the rejection of consubstantiation in its eucharistic teaching, caused a split in Protestantism between Lutheranism and Presbyterianism. The influence of Calvinism spread rapidly. Important Calvinist leaders include John Knox and Jonathan Edwards.

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Calvinism

Cal·vin·ism / ˈkalvəˌnizəm/ • n. the Protestant theological system of John Calvin and his successors, which develops Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone and emphasizes the grace of God and the doctrine of predestination. DERIVATIVES: Cal·vin·ist n. Cal·vin·is·tic / ˌkalvəˈnistik/ adj. Cal·vin·is·ti·cal adj.

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Calvinism

Calvinism the Protestant theological system of the French Protestant theologian and reformer John Calvin (1509–64) and his successors, which develops Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone into an emphasis on the grace of God and centres on the doctrine of predestination.

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