John Calvin… he’s back!

The Anglican churches are often described as having a Catholic liturgy welded to a Calvinist 39 Articles. In the last few centuries the drift within much of the Episcopal Church has been to the catholic strands found in the liturgy. But the Christian Science Monitor is reporting that Calvinism, in its purest form, is starting to make a comeback in America.

In a long article that describes what’s happening there’s this intro:

“New Calvinism draws legions to the sermons of preachers like John Piper of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Here at CHBC, the pews and even rooms in the basement are filled each Sunday, mostly with young professionals. Since senior pastor Mark Dever brought Calvinist preaching here 16 years ago, the church has grown sevenfold. Today it is bursting at the stained-glass windows.

Yet the movement’s biggest impact may not be in the pews. It’s in publishing circles and on Christian blogs, in divinity schools and at conferences like ‘Together for the Gospel,’ where the rock stars of Reformed theology explore such topics as ‘The Sinner Neither Able Nor Willing: The Doctrine of Absolute Inability.’

‘There is a very clear resurgence of Calvinism,’ says Steven Lemke, provost and a professor at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

The renewed interest arrives at a crucial inflection point for American religion. After reviewing a landmark opinion survey last year that showed a precipitous decline in the number of people who identify themselves as Christian, Newsweek declared ominously that we may be witnessing ‘the end of Christian America.'”

Read the full article here.

There’s certainly always been a strong strand of Calvinism within parts of the historic low-church party of Anglicanism. Much of John Stott’s thinking has its roots in traditional Calvinism. And a friend told me last week that when he was visiting in a southern US Episcopal diocese, he was asked if he was a full 5-point Calvinist or not, with the implication given that if he wasn’t, then he wasn’t a full Christian.

All in all, this is probably worth reading up on.

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Category : The Lead

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  1. NO “feast of John Calvin” as currently contained in Holy Women, Holy Men.

    Vote it down, deputies. Vote it down. Or the next time you visit another parish, someone will want to know whether YOU subscribe to all 5 Points and since when.

    If it isn’t in the Creed, don’t buy it.

  2. Djoslynsiem

    It certainly is important for TEC to reconcile itself to the Reformed heritage of Anglicanism, especially it’s role in the 16th century. Hooker himself held Calvin in great esteem. His argument was with the implementation of Genevan polity in England, but he and many others were influenced by Calvin’s thought.

    Commemorating Calvin in Holy Women, Holy Men would be no more inappropriate than Martin Luther or Jan Hus, who are currently on the calendar, if the point is to honor those who helped further the reign of God. And any clear-eyed reading of Calvin in his own word would affirm that.

    Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski

  3. One of the Calvinist five points is “total depravity,” which leads me to my one Presbyterian joke.

    Years ago, when the northern and southern branches of US Presbyterianism were uniting, a denominational official remarked to the press that “All Presbyterians should be in a single denomination within five years, but, because of total depravity, it will probably take ten.”

    Concerning aliens in the calendar, I thought I saw that Charlotte Moon, Lottie Moon, a nineteenth-century Southern Baptist missionary to China, was included in the Episcopal calendar. If so, she is probably quite astonished (in heaven) to discover that, since venerating “holy women” or men is no part of Southern Baptist life.

    Paz a tod@s, Craig

  4. Gregory

    It may come as a surprise to Calvinists, but Christianity existed just fine 1,500 years before John Calvin, without many of the novel teachings he set forth.

    One of the disturbing things about Calvinism is how quickly religious notions of divvying up the world into two camps of predestined “saved” and “damned” translate politically into “Übermenschen” and “subhumans.” “Hey, they’re going to hell anyways, so why bother treating them justly now?” That demonizing attitude led to ugly results in America’s treatment of Native Americans, African-Americans and others on the margins of the dominant mainstream, and it still seems to reverberate in how today’s “Religious Right” (sic, on both accounts) speaks of and behaves toward those not of their liking.

    Then, there’s the problem of self-righteousness and self-delusion. Ever met a Calvinist who determined he/she was among those predestined by God to be damned? Funny how that works…

    No thanks. I’ll leave the judgment to God at the end of time and stick with the Jesus who dined with harlots and tax collectors, refused to allow an adulteress to be stoned to death, and brought *good* news to *all* of humankind.

    Gregory Orloff

  5. tgflux

    Including the 39 Articles in the back of the BCP is quite “reconciled” enough IMO, Dan.

    JC Fisher

  6. Gregory

    John Calvin: God predestined, by his own sovereign choice, who is saved and who is damned already.

    Peter the Apostle: God “does not want anyone to be lost, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9).

    Take your pick. Mind you, Peter was about 1,500 years closer to Jesus Christ…

    Gregory Orloff

  7. Christopher Evans

    I agree with Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski.

    Read Calvin. Calvin’s Institutes have rich thinking.

    I would add that Calvinisms (there are several) are not John Calvin or his theology. I too think him no more improper to our calendar than Luther or Hus. Both Calvin and Luther are contributors to our Anglican tradition.

    Does that mean I am for the iconoclasm that is a tendency of the Reformed and of Reformed-minded in our tradition, no. But I cannot say these strands of our tradition have added nothing of value.

  8. Bruno

    Awww, Joseph Smith, Calvin, Augustin, Paul, whats the difference?

    Bruno Finocchio

  9. God save us from these Puritan book-burners, who think they alone are pure enough.

    For their eager self-righteousness, we should never have a John Calvin Day in this Church – no matter what Hooker wrote in his time, place and political situation.

    If it were only about theology one could have a pleasant discussion. But it’s never only about theology with Calvinists; it’s about domination of human thought – the same reason we oppose the pope.

  10. Bill Carroll

    I’m fine with celebrating Calvin. Hus is much more problematic.

    Those who are opposed should really read the Institutes cover to cover some time. He’s certainly a sixteenth century figure, but is no more problematic than some of the other figures we veneraqte.

  11. Dä'ved Äyan | David Allen

    Regardless of their contributions to theology, I have great difficulty “venerating” anyone, in the calendar, or yet to be in the calendar, who was self-righteous enough to believe that they had the right to send other Christians to their deaths because they believed differently.


    No amount of achievement in life excuses or pardons murder.

  12. Ruth Meyers

    Craig asked about Charlotte “Lottie” Moon. She is indeed in Holy Women, Holy Men — on December 22. Southern Baptists honor her with their annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

  13. Chris Arnold

    For me, this is part of my general discomfort with HWHM that I’ve been struggling with since I first flipped through the draft. The new additions to the calendar seem to be less likely to be those who are known for the depth of their Christian faith and witness, and more likely to be simply famous for some value that our progressive church is interested in preserving. I don’t often agree with Fr Dan Martins, but this post scratches the itch that I’m feeling:

  14. Bill Carroll

    My favorite Calvinist is Fred Rogers. Is he in Holy Women, Holy Men?

  15. Good grief, folks, can’t we all just get along? I sometimes call myself an Anglo-Lutheran (Martin Luther) or a Liberal Calvinist (John Calvin). I was also baptized and raised in the Moravian Church (John Hus), with whom I thought we were now happily in communion (as least with the Northern Province). Should I suddenly be worried about the state of my soul?

    Furthermore, I enjoy reading a little of Karl Barth and a lot of Jurgen Moltmann, both of whom seem friendly towards these reformers. So isn’t it possible that not everyone who is positively grace-oriented and believes that God chooses life for the world is an extreme Calvinist?

    On a more humorous note: “I confess to Almighty God and to my brothers and sisters that I do indeed own a Martin Luther Bobble Head Doll ( and would be delighted to own Bobble Head Dolls of the other two guys if they were readily available . . .”

    The Rev. Neil Alan Willard

    St. Stephen’s Church

    Edina, Minnesota

  16. Craig Abernethy

    Please forgive me for commenting a second time, but I just read Fr. Dan Martins’ essay on Holy Women, Holy Men, cited by Chris Arnold, above. If Fr. Martins’ claim that Enriching Our Worship really does deprive worshipers of the “Lord” language for Jesus is true, then that is a far more important issue than the sillier aspects of HWHM, like including the Baptists William Carey, Adoniram Judson, and poor old Lottie Moon in a calendar of Anglican and Roman saints and others (I have nothing against Baptists, the denomination of most people in my family), and how perfectly Orwellian that the proposal to strip the liturgy of the “Lord” language is realized in a collection called Enriching Our Worship!

    Peace, Craig

  17. Mattmarino

    I’m glad I could offer my small contribution to your life in the blogosphere, Nicholas. 🙂

    I am not sure Calvinism ever went away, but it is surely experiencing a resurgence in the evangelical world.

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