Having laid the groundwork for the outright brigandage of Calvin, let us turn to his more pervasive corruption of the Cross. In the wake of the revolt against the Papacy, Europeans were frightened, endangered, and even worse, unsure. The lethal weapon at Luther’s command-the printing press-had spread a dangerous outbreak of ideas, against which tyrants have always cursed and abjured. As a result, people were left with a void of security, which is the most primal of all human needs. Thus, a time of uncertainty created a prefect soil for a dark harvester to sow. And sow he did.
Calvin was a prolific writer, so it would be manifestly unfair to cherry pick him lop-sidedly. Some of his commentary was valid, even sagacious at times. But we must review the effects of his work, to see what he left behind for us, and little that was mundane survived him. After all, Luther and other Reformers were better exegetes than himself. What did survive his works was his deadly, deranged doctrine of double predestination.
Free will vs pre-destination: preachers and clerics hate this adversity, for it truly has no resolution before the discovery of particle physics. Arminius, the Dutch Reformer, made effective argument against Calvin’s position, but the truth of the matter is that free will is not mentioned in the Bible, and predestination is. That conflict still drives theology today, what little remains. To boil it down, Arminius claimed that Calvin was making God the author of sin, if He predestined a soul to sin against Him and fall. Without a choice, there is no justice in condemning a sinner, since it was God who wrote his life. A normal person would consider that a problem.
Calvin, on the other hand, had no problem with that at all. That was subsidiary to the Depravity of Man-that men were born into sin, and were damned until saved from it, which Augustine declared from times past. This terrible estate drove the ancient church to practice infant baptisms, to shield a baby from going to hell. This practice was rejected, however, by Protestants, including some Calvinists who made it their flagship issue, who became the Baptists. Baptism had to be chosen, as a sign of accepting the Gospel: and the hard core still maintain that in must be a dunk, not a sprinkle.
Yet, Calvin’s double predestination made it clear that you were not in control of salvation. That was decided by Christ, and Christ alone. This made people even more nervous, since the comfort of salvation was now utterly beyond their reach. Why do anything, then, if you are damned or saved before you were even born? Calvin at least knew that this had to be countered ahead of time, lest he be painted into a corner. So he added another impossible dimension to the axiom.
You cannot control you fate, but, you can show that you are amongst the elect, by working very hard, and adhering to all the rules. A life unstained by indolence, sluggardly repose, and waste was the one way you could know that you were likely a saint in the making. This of course meant that if you were not doing this- keeping perfect piety, working hard, with industry, never wasting time on frivolities (Weber concentrates heavily on the ‘time is money’ that made America and its’ ethic)-then you were not a saint. You still might go to hell, even if you did everything right: but, you could find comfort in being able to believe that you at least had a chance, if you adhered to absolute ardor.
This ethic, of never wasting a moment or a coin, was the security that replaces the old Catholic model. Thus, Weber identifies it as the ‘Protestant Work Ethic’: it is not to imply that Catholics are lazy. It was a specifically Protestant, Calvinist response to not having the assurance of the Roman Catholic paradigm. This idea was horrific; I doubt Calvin even knew what he was unleashing. But it was here that the malice associated with Christianity began in full. The Inquisitions, the barbarity in New Spain-these were atrocious. But they died out, having been rejected over time as evil. Calvin’s idea was only beginning.
The terror of hell, of never being certain-without diligence-created a growing coterie of followers who took to the idea fervently. They developed fanatical strength of will, and extraordinary intellect through discipline. This was, in a sense, a ‘super soldier’ program: it refined the genetic limits of the practicioner. This became its’ own curse, however, and a source of great malice to boot. First, it created the idea that if you were doing well in life, God is blessing you. That it to say, if you are successful-as industrious, focused, pennurious people mostly tend to be-it is a sign of God’s favor. This begins the trend to see unsuccessful people as not favored, and therefore, damned.
Here, we see the beginning of the division of the world into the chosen few, and the great unwashed. There is no pity for the weak or wretched; if they failed, then God did not want them. If their piety was impure, they failed. Such sinful lapses revealed a weak will, and that was only made right through the rectification of the flesh, usually through flagellation. And should the weak be unable to rectify himself-well, the whip hand was always at the ready to drive some righteousness in to their hide.
Since the program of double predestination elicited the very best efforts from people, they tended to be extremely genetically fit, and this eventually became, over time, the basis for not only the superiority of white men over all others, but of the physically adroit of the weak and puny, as a sign of divine affirmation. The Greeks called this idea Charisma: that the beautiful were anointed by the Gods, and the deformed rejected by them. There was no physical defect but spiritual light. You had both or neither. Thus, by the mid 19th century, Calvinism had become the basis for Muscular Christianity, the promotion of fitness as a sign of racial and spiritual signs of the blessing of God. This idea transformed into Eugenics, the elimination of the weak and fallow, to preserve the race-which itself was borrowed by a failed artist in Germany.
The survivors of the terror program of Calvinism lost all compassion, all sympathy, and all pity for those who were defective. As a group, they were traumatized into psychotic behavior, and this, in turn, transferred to any who were deemed unworthy. These are the people who gave us witch hunts, hangings for breach of Biblical code, and the genocide of a people in the Americas, who were assigned to hell as ‘red devils’, and wiped out wholesale where possible. The Puritans were miserable, angry, and repressed, which finally led to the collapse of their societies. By the dawn of the 18th century, The disciples of Calvin were largely divested into new traditions, that excised the madness of Calvin in different measures, creating new denominations like Baptists and Presbyterians.
Unfortunately, the dismissal of Puritan power did not erase the impact of Calvinism. The seeds had already been sown. The dawning New World was febrile with hope and energy, with the possibilities of a vast horizon, ripe for a ‘manifest destiny’. Colonial trade with Europe was thriving, and an age of invention was afoot. A man could own his labor, his freedom, for just a few years indentured servitude to pay for passage across the Atlantic. Then, there were some who could not ever do either, who paid with their very humanity to make across the waves.
Slavery in America is a grotesquely complicated, intricate affair, that cannot be cut like the Gordian Knot. You could fill the credit requirements for a History Major with the classes needed to comprehend the elaborate nuances involved in a mastery of all the data involved. I will address the matter spiritually, which is am inversion of the terrestrial examination of the affair. The making of slave-the commodification of a person-is perpendicular to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This rests on on one commandment:
“Do unto others, as you would have done unto you”
No one wants to be vulgarized beneath humanity, robbed of their freedom and dignity, and converted into property for chattel. You cannot out-argue this position. It has a primacy that cannot be eroded, obviated, or ablated. Accordingly, I can say that the Bible does not condone chattel slavery, or the making of free men into slaves. The estates permitted in the Torah were applicable only to Canaan, and only under extreme strictures.
But we know how history went. Slaves were profitable short term-indentured people as well-as the growing economy was hungry for the production of goods. Profits were there to be made-and if that required indentured serfs, African slaves, or Indian genocide, well-they were obviously not elect. Profit was king, because in advancing in wealth, you were one step closer to God. And God loved you, because you were successful.
I will conclude this unhappy affair in the next post, as it becomes a morbid thing to dwell upon too greatly. When I have shown why the Cross is so despised today, I will put the negative behind us, and return to the voyage of the Kalak, which does have, at least, a happy ending. It should have been a spotless vessel, the tiny boat made to reach all men, all places, all times. It should have been a joy to see, as it brang the tidings of the Good News. What would the world look like today, if it had run the Tigris as it was meant? We will see a window on this ahead, as we examine what it looks like now.