A while ago I posted a few thoughts on the idea that Evangelicalism is somehow dying, and while we’re waiting for the next round of statistical data to roll in, the Christian Science Monitor — which first popularized the idea that Evangelicalism is about to collaspe — has come up with this hearty piece on something else happening in Evangelicalism.
When people today hear the name John Calvin, they think mainly of predestination – the controversial idea that God has foreordained everything that will happen, including who will and won’t be saved, no matter what they do in life.
What people often forget is that the 16th-century French theologian transformed Western thought both by what he taught and how he taught it. His 700-page “Institutes of the Christian Religion” became the reference manual for Protestant faith. And his detailed and explanatory style of preaching – he spent five years expounding on the book of Acts, verse by verse – became an example for generations of clergy.
Detractors, and there are many, see Calvin as a harsh theocrat who punished heretics (including one who was famously burned at the stake) while molding the city where he preached, Geneva, into a model of his fatalistic and hopeless ideology.
But supporters view him as a man who recovered God-centric Christianity, set the stage for religious freedom, and encouraged countless believers to read the Bible for themselves.
“Like it or not, he is one of the great minds that shaped our modern world,” says Gerald Bray, a professor at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala. “Ideas of democracy, open-market capitalism, and equality of opportunity were aired in his Geneva and put into practice as far as they could be at that time.”
You might read the whole thing before you register your objections in the comments.