The effect of Calvin on Paul's life

The Calvinist lifestyle

The Calvinists believe that God has already chosen the "elect," those who are going to heaven and who will be saved. Their belief is that if one is part of the "elect" then you can not lose your salvation. And one who is not elect can not gain salvation. (The Calvinist Corner: Predestination)

Because Paul has a picture of John Calvin above his bed, I would have to guess that his family belongs to the Calvinist faith. That would explain why Paul was so materialistic. If you can not lose your salvation if you have it, and you can not gain salvation if you don't, then there is no reason to behave any differently than if you were not religious.

It makes it very easy for someone to say, "Well, I'll find out if I am chosen eventually, no need to worry about it now. I'll just live life to the fullest."

I think that is why Paul is so stuck on material objects.

Also, I think Calvinism legitimates the abuse that Paul's father puts him through. It is not a large leap in logic for Paul's father to say that regardless of how he treats Paul, he is either going to heaven or hell and there is nothing he can do to change it one way or the other. Also, no matter what Paul's father does to him, Paul is going to one or the other, regardless.

In all, I think Calvinism was an interesting choice for Cather to make. It helps her story out a lot if you know about the religion.

Back to The Paul's Case Homepage

A Real-Life Calvinist Responds to My Calvinism Page!

Actually, I received the following email from a Calvinist who found my page and he defends against my take on Calvinism. This is presented exactly how he wrote it. You can contend with some of his conclusions and what he attests, but you can then also research that on your own. I do not attest to the veracity of all of his claims. However, he is correct in that I was using the term "elite" instead of "elect" which was my intent. That has been corrected. My reasons for posting this follow the email text. With no further ado, my fan-mail re: Calvinism from Reader Eric:

I happened to stumble upon your page.

Being a Calvinist myself, I took interest in your theories regarding the theology of Calvinists. It seems your theories regarding "Paul" is based on your understanding of Calvinism. Your threories would crumble if your understanding of Calvinism were faulty. Trust me, they are.

You seem to believe that "John Calvin is a man who said that it doesn't matter whether one lies (among other sins) or not, it has already been decided who will go to Heaven and who will go to Hell and there are no two ways about it." You also claim that "Calvinists believe that God has already chosen the "elite," those who are going to heaven and who will be saved."

This is a gross caricature of true Calvinist theology. Calvin actually declared that "We are justified by faith alone [without works] -but the faith that justifies is never alone [never without works].

See what one on-line resource declares of the Calvinist view:

"But, as John Calvin wrote: 'We are justified by faith alone - but the faith that justifies is never alone!' He meant, of course, that true saving faith is always accompanied by a holy life and by good works. Justification of necessity entails sanctification. In the words of Robert Murray McCheyne, 'If Christ justifies you, He will sanctify you! He will not save you and leave you in your sins.' Bishop Ryle put it yet more succinctly:'No holiness, no heaven!' The very real power of salvation, effective in every area of our lives, is the power that actually does transform a sinner into the very image of Christ."

Note that Robert M. McCheyne and John Charles Ryle (Bishop Ryle) were both ardent Calvinists.

Also from the writings of Calvin himself in his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion:

"Why, then, are we justified by faith? Because faith we apprehend the righteousness of Christ, which is the only medium of our reconciliation to God. But this [justification] you cannot attain, without at the same time attaining to sanctification.... Christ therefore justifies no one whom he does not also sanctify. For these benefits are perpetually and indissolubly connected, so that whom he illuminates with his wisdom, them he redeems; whom he redeems, he justifies; whom he justifies, he sanctifies.... Since, then, the Lord affords us the enjoyment of these blessings only in the bestowment of himself, he gives them [justification and sanctification] both together, and never one without the other. Thus we see how true it is that we are justified, not without works, yet not by works; since union with Christ, by which we are justified, contains sanctification as well as righteousness." -Book III, Chapter xvi, Section 1

"Sanctification" is the process of our lives becoming more and more Christ-like and less and less sinful.

You also claim that "Calvinists believe that God has already chosen the "elite," those who are going to heaven and who will be saved. Their belief is that if one is part of the "elite" then you can not lose your salvation. And one who is not elite can not gain salvation."

While I have heard some call Calvinism "elitist", the term "elite" most definately is not used of the Calvinist to describe the "chosen". I suspect you are confusing this with the term "elect". The term "elect" simply is another way to describe those who are "chosen".

In fact, the Bible uses ~BOTH~ terms:

Matthew 22:14 "For many are invited, but few are chosen."

Matthew 24:31 "And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other."

Considering that these are quotations from the lips of Christ himself, I don't think it is "elitist" to use the term "elect".

Now, you also make the claim that "the two pictures [are] binary opposite examples of role models. Paul has probably been taught throughout his life that these are men who should be looked up to, even though they represent opposite sides of a coin."

You should note that George Washington was a member of the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church subscribes to the "39 Articles of Religion" which are the same articles of the "mother church" of the Episcopal Church which is the Anglican Church. The Episcopal Church simply is the American version of the British Anglican Church.

Article X of the "39 Articles of Religion" states regarding "Free-Will":

"The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will."

Article XVII of the "39 Articles of Religion" states regarding "Predestination and Election":

"Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God's mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God."

Both these articles are non other than the Calvinist Doctrines of "Total Depravity" and "Unconditional Election" (The "T" and "U" in the Calvinist "T.U.L.I.P.").

Furthermore, we read this about the TRUE history of Calvinism as it relates to the establishment of the United States:

"When we come to study the influence of Calvinism as a political force in the history of the United States we come to one of the brightest pages of all Calvinistic history. Calvinism came to America in the Mayflower, and Bancroft, the greatest of American historians, pronounces the Pilgrim Fathers "Calvinists in their faith according to the straightest system."1 John Endicott, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; John Winthrop, the second governor of that Colony; Thomas Hooker, the founder of Connecticut; John Davenport, the founder of the New Haven Colony; and Roger Williams, the founder of the Rhode Island Colony, were all Calvinists. William Penn was a disciple of the Huguenots. It is estimated that of the 3,000,000 Americans at the time of the American Revolution, 900,000 were of Scotch or Scotch-Irish origin, 600,000 were Puritan English, and 400,000 were German or Dutch Reformed. In addition to this the Episcopalians had a Calvinistic confession in their Thirty-nine Articles; and many French Huguenots also had come to this western world. Thus we see that about two-thirds of the colonial population had been trained in the school of Calvin. Never in the world's history had a nation been founded by such people as these. Furthermore these people came to America not primarily for commercial gain or advantage, but because of deep religious convictions."

"With this background we shall not be surprised to find that the Presbyterians [Calvinists] took a very prominent part in the American Revolution. Our own historian Bancroft says: "The Revolution of 1776, so far as it was affected by religion, was a Presbyterian measure. It was the natural outgrowth of the principles which the Presbyterianism of the Old World planted in her sons, the English Puritans, the Scotch Covenanters, the French Huguenots, the Dutch Calvinists, and the Presbyterians of Ulster." So intense, universal, and aggressive were the Presbyterians in their zeal for liberty that the war was spoken of in England as "The Presbyterian Rebellion." An ardent colonial supporter of King George III wrote home: "I fix all the blame for these extraordinary proceedings upon the Presbyterians. They have been the chief and principal instruments in all these flaming measures. They always do and ever will act against government from that restless and turbulent anti-monarchial spirit which has always distinguished them everywhere."2 When the news of "these extraordinary proceedings" reached England, Prime Minister Horace Walpole said in Parliament, "Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson" (John Witherspoon, president of Princeton, signer of Declaration of Independence)."

"History is eloquent in declaring that American democracy was born of Christianity and that that Christianity was Calvinism. The great Revolutionary conflict which resulted in the formation of the American nation, was carried out mainly by Calvinists, many of whom had been trained in the rigidly Presbyterian College at Princeton, and this nation is their gift to all liberty loving people."

"J. R. Sizoo tells us: "When Cornwallis was driven back to ultimate retreat and surrender at Yorktown, all of the colonels of the Colonial Army but one were Presbyterian elders [Calvinists]. More than one-half of all the soldiers and officers of the American Army during the Revolution were Presbyterians." "

"The testimony of Emilio Castelar, the famous Spanish statesman, orator and scholar, is interesting and valuable. Castelar had been professor of Philosophy in the University of Madrid before he entered politics, and he was made president of the republic which was set up by the Liberals in 1873. As a Roman Catholic he hated Calvin and Calvinism. Says he: "It was necessary for the republican movement that there should come a morality more austere than Luther's, the morality of Calvin, and a Church more democratic than the German, the Church of Geneva. The Anglo-Saxon democracy has for its lineage a book of a primitive society the Bible. It is the product of a severe theology learned by the few Christian fugitives in the gloomy cities of Holland and Switzerland, where the morose shade of Calvin still wanders . . . And it remains serenely in its grandeur, forming the most dignified, most moral and most enlightened portion of the human race."

(citation from: -Calvinism in America by Loraine Boettner.

So, we see that it is not inconsistant AT ALL to have a picture of George Washington and John Calvin hanging up on one's wall.

I hope this information can be enlightening and can be of value to you.
Author's Note: I have received a lot of mail over the years and I have never posted any of it, although I have always intended to. However, I wanted to post this to give a Calvinist's view of his own religion. This gentleman simply wanted to give me his own religion's explanation of itself, which I can respect. This page is mainly used by students doing research papers and I wanted them to have a complete source, rather than my uneducated opinion. As I implied before, much of this is the Calvinist party line, but much of it is also a look at the filter through which Calvinists see the world, which is what I was trying to do with this page in the first place. Thanks, Paul

Eric sent a second email with more info after I posted this and alerted him to it. I had originally contended that most of the founding fathers were deists and not Christian at all, let alone Calvinists, but I realize that my opinion doesn't really belong on this page aside from its relation to "Paul's Case," but if you happened to find this page in reference to a google search on Calvinism, Eric has a great reference listed that you should investigate. This is excerpted from a larger email, but the relevant part is exactly as I received it:

[T]he "fact" that "many" of the founding fathers were deists is "propaganda". Of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence (55), only 3 were deists.

In fact, Constitutional Law expert Marci Hamilton has a book coming out documenting just my claim. She was a clerk for Sandra Day O'Connor. Her book will hopefully be out in a year and will be titled:

"Why the People Do Not Rule: How the Presbyterians Affected the Course of the Constitutional Order"

Read up on her thoughts on the following page:

If you understand that the Puritans were ardent Calvinists and the first persons to settle the "New World" as well as the great influx of the Dutch Reformed in the 17th Century, you will see that my claim is not "propaganda" or even a "stretch". Dr. Boettner has his sources well documented. Note especially his citation of Emilio Castelar the Spanish Roman Catholic who credited Calvin with the movement for Republican Governement (not the political party -the system of government). Feel free to verify Mr. Castelar's comments.

Also, one need only look at the Presbyterian form of church governement to see the similarities between it and our own governement. The Presbyterian form of church government dates back to Calvin as he formed this type of government based on a Biblical model. The Presbytrerian form of church governement was the model for our own government structure.

Works Cited

The Calvinist Corner: Predestination {Visited on Feb. 25, 2003}
John Calvin Picture

Emails from Eric, a reader on my page.