Monday, September 14, 2009
High on the Hogg on Calvin's 500th
It's great religious thriller, depicting predestination theology run amok.
Predestinationism has to be at root of the claims to certainty espoused by some people, which they then demand of others. This ol' book'll show you the roots.
I think you're giving Calvin and predestination waaay too much credit, ER. Those folks would be twits whether Calvin ever existed or not.
(And it isn't like those folks actually believe in predestination anyway. I've found over and over that if you scratch the surface you'll see their theology of salvation is simply and completely works-based.)
Predestination, when properly understood, is simply understanding the comfort that comes from knowing that we do not have to worry at every moment whether or not something we do, or do not do, is going to damn us to eternal perdition.
The doctrine gets a particularly bad wrap, but any theological doctrine, when taken out of context, mis-applied, and/or used as a test for orthodoxy can be just as problematic.
Ala kaffi el Qadar numshi wa la nudri 'An elMaktoob
على كف القدر نمشي ولا ندري عن المكتوب
On the palm of fate we walk and do not what is written(predestined).
And even this is not old enough.
But I think it would be worth a discussion somewhere to drill down a bit into Calvin's conception of election as a "consolation for the righteous." His offer of consolation has a brilliant, if severe, source in a strict logic, not at all un-pastoral of a kind for its time, but depending more on theological persuasion than profound psychological insight into the human life.
His dependence on Augustine, thereby marrying antiquity's disgust of human nature with Calvin's legal vocation, was bad chemistry.
(Alan's presentation - to me - is a modern reworking that honors the living community by wearing down the hard edges of the foundational theology.)
The Institutes are a tour de force, but little comfort.
The consolation just didn't seem to take hold over the generations, though the logic within the system was rigorous.
Over the centuries, the proliferating schims within Calvinism seem altogether due to a restlessness for surety of election, not an opposition on principle...
simply a disconsolation... time after time after time.
To sum up - I'd rather many of today's children of Calvin, those like Serene Jones, Alvin Plantinga, Alan himself and ER, congregationalist that he is, represent the tradition than the man who was once called, "the nickname for biblical Christianity."
"The consolation just didn't seem to take hold over the generations, though the logic within the system was rigorous."
I wonder how much of that is due to an aspect of human nature which leads us to believe that a just God could not possibly allow the salvation of people we don't like very much, rather than a misunderstanding of what Calvin was trying to do in his theology.
That is, I think the use of election as a bludgeon are more about the innate human need for competition and revenge than particular weaknesses of the theology. But the theology does provide a convenient excuse.