Thomas Ramey Watson

Calvinist Theology and Western Culture

Always interested in the role of theology and theologians on Western Culture, I just read David Gibson’s editorial on Calvin in Politics Daily.

A couple of Gibson’s  points are especially worth pondering (in italics below).

In the current economic climate, the man credited with shaping a sober form of capitalism — Calvin’s thought lay behind Max Weber’s landmark 1905 study, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” — may have more to say to us today than ever.

Calvin’s fierce writings against materialism, and his equation of theft with murder, and the rich

with thieves, certainly strike a satisfying chord as we look around at the Bernie Madoffs of the world.

“Calvin said if you have so much then you probably stole it!” as Stanley Hauerwas, the quotable theologian and social ethicist at Duke —

and fan of Calvin –put it to me.

But Emory Law School’s John Witte, Jr.

also argues — in his new book, “The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism” — that Calvin’s ideas were the “seedbed” of American constitutionalism and that core ideas like “popular sovereignty, federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances, church and state, and more” were the product of “Calvinist theologians and jurists.” (Read a Books & Culture review of Witte’s book by Michael W.

McConnell, a federal appeals court judge and constitutional law scholar.) Politics Daily

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