Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview
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In the field of history, Calvinism has developed an interpretive restraint that allows the Christian to find meaning in history while still holding that God has a perfect knowledge of history. Although God has revealed only part of His mind to man, He does reveal an extensive amount of material about Himself in nature, in His written Word, and in His revealed Word His Son. Calvinism impresses on the historian the realization that meaning will not be found outside the boundaries of Scripture. It is Scripture that gives meaning to historical events, nature, and society.
In the field of law, Calvinisms impact is seen most clearly in the ability of both Church and State to work together while still maintaining separate expectations, evaluations, and distinct responsibilities. A discussion of the arts reveals that Calvinism is hard to trace, but is not absent. Calvin taught, and his followers continue, a balance between the extremes of sentimentality and nihilism. This balance demonstrates that true hope is only found in God alone.
Calvin's contribution to the discipline of economics is intriguing. Calvin himself was personally inconsistent with his teachings regarding finance and economics, yet his teachings have helped others make tremendous advances in the field. Calvin's stance on economics most closely parallels a historical classical liberalism that viewed wealth as helpful, not evil.
Literature has benefited from Calvin's teachings as well. A faithful application of Calvinism will result in the understanding that we are created to be creative beings who can recognize and appreciate beauty. While some will reject certain aspects of literature, Calvin teaches that not everything needs to be rejected simply because all cannot be approved. Calvin teaches an informed model of evaluation for literature.
By insisting that God's glory is of primary concern and that the only reasonable dependence fallen mankind may have is on God's grace, Calvinism has had a voluminous impact on the field of philosophy. God's grace and glory are key to thinking and to processing those thoughts. This careful thinking naturally leads to how societies govern. Indeed, Calvinistic thought led to more participatory forms of government. While holding that God is sovereign over all, Calvin teaches that God gives individuals responsibility for their actions and governance.
When considering the field of science, John Calvin taught that Scripture is not at odds with science, nor is science a stumbling block to Scripture. In fact, they complement each other quite well. It is not Scripture or science that is at odds with one another it is the people trying to force one or the other into a pre-conceived notion or hypothesis.
Other chapters discuss Calvin's impact on business, music, medicine, and journalism. Throughout the book, one is impressed with the realization that "Calvin wanted people to become Christians, not Calvinists" (p. 236). Indeed, it is this over-arching thought that characterizes not only Calvin's life but this study of his impact on modern society. If believers today would focus more on increasing their knowledge of and familiarity with God, the impact on society would be just as great as the one made by the famous preacher from Geneva.
This book would be greatly helpful to clergy and laity, professional theologian as well as professional in any area of work. The helpful connections between what is believed and what is lived are carefully made and demonstrated. I commend it heartily. Charles Eldred, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Calvinism and Culture is a powerful reminder of the legacy of a man and a world changing movement that created a framework for the explosion human liberation and flourishing. This book demonstrates that Calvinism is not simply a discussion of personal salvation but a robust vision of Christianity in a world where the claims of Christ apply to every aspect of human life. We need Calvinism and Culture to challenge our imagination about the future of human society and to deconstruct the mythology of a sacred/secular distinction in Christianity.
In the public eye, the breadth of John Calvins thinking beyond his biblical commentaries and Institutes of the Christian Religion rarely receives recognition. Western civ texts and college courses on Early Modern History, if they broach the subject of Calvins wider worldview at all, almost treat it as the trade secret of Reformed Christians. This fine collection of essays explodes any idea that Christianity represents a narrow, privatized and anti-cultural faith. Calvinism and Culture serves as an updated expansion of Abraham Kuypers Lectures on Calvinism. Regardless of your field of interest law, medicine, politics, art, science and eight others you will find that careful analysis and cogent discussion characterizes this study.
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