Calvinism - Right Wing Justification For Inequality

John Calvin The Predestinator
“God preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation”

John Calvin

Calvinists hold a belief

that God has already preordained every single thing that happens in the world. Most importantly, even one's own salvation or condemnation to hell is already a done deal as far as God is concerned. By this philosophical scheme, human will is not involved in changing the course of history. All that is left for the "righteous" to do is to play out their pre- ordained role, including their God-given right to dominate everyone else.

Calvinism arose in Europe centuries ago in part as a reaction to Roman Catholicism's heavy emphasis on priestly authority and on salvation through acts of penance. One of the classic works of sociology, Max Weber's -- Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, links the rise of Calvinism to the needs of budding capitalists to judge their own economic success as a sign of their preordained salvation. The rising popularity of Calvinism coincided with the consolidation of the capitalist economic system. Calvinists justified their accumulation of wealth, even at the expense of others, on the grounds that they were somehow destined to prosper. (emphasis mine-jb) It is no surprise that such notions still find resonance within the Christian Right which champions capitalism and all its attendant inequalities.

The hitch comes in the Calvinists' unyielding predestinarianism, the cornerstone of Reconstructionism and something at odds with the world view of evangelical Christians.

The problem is that evangelicals (a category including pentecostal charismatics and fundamental Baptists) believe that God's will works in conjunction with free human will. They believe that salvation is not by the grace of God only but by the faith of individual believers who freely choose to surrender to Jesus. In fact, the cornerstone of the Western religions is the view that God's will and human will work together. Evangelicals believe strongly that humans freely choose sin or salvation and that those already converted have the duty to go out and offer the choice they have made to others. Calvinism, in contrast, undercuts the whole motivation for missionary work, and it is the missionary zeal to redeem sinners that motivates much of the Christian Right's political activism. Calvinism is an essentially reckless doctrine. If God has already decided what's going to happen, then the Dominionists do not have to take responsibility for their actions. (They can kill abortion doctors "knowing" it is the right thing to do.) Evangelicals, even those on the Right, still believe they as individuals are capable of error.

From Let There Be Markets: The Evangelical Roots of Economics, GORDON BIGELOW, Harper's Magazine, May, 2005

These [evangelicals] were middle-class reformers who wanted to reshape Protestant doctrine. For them it was unthinkable that capitalism led to class conflict, for that would mean that God had created a world at war with itself. The evangelicals believed in a providential God, one who built a logical and orderly universe, and they saw the new industrial economy as a fulfillment of God's plan. The free market, they believed, was a perfectly designed instrument to reward good Christian behavior and to punish and humiliate the unrepentant.

At the center of this early evangelical doctrine was the idea of original sin: we were all born stained by corruption and fleshly desire, and the true purpose of earthly life was to redeem this. The trials of economic life-the sweat of hard labor, the fear of poverty, the self-denial involved in saving-were earthly tests of sinfulness and virtue. While evangelicals believed salvation was ultimately possible only through conversion and faith, they saw the pain of earthly life as means of atonement for original sin."

The Calvinists, or the Reformed divinity were less bound to precedent and adjusted itself rapidly to the new economy. With this protestant work ethic of practicing thrift, temperance, honesty, and consideration for others, they became a successful merchant class. As wealth accumulated and the system spread, Puritan restraints began to wane. Righteousness, however, degenerated into a white-washed excuse to get rich by exploiting those not of the same faith. They took advantage of the poor because they had not been granted God's favor of prosperity and squandered their income on worldy pleasures. The countries in which capitalism had made the greatest headway were prevailingly Protestant countries. Ruthlessness itself became a virtue when Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest gained popularity.

The tougher and the more aggressive a man was in business, the more he reached the top by whatever means. As social values declined, imperialism by the "Christian" countries gained a divine mandate where exploitation of the world's resources was justified. Little thought was given to the realities of international order or a social gospel and assumptions were made that world-wide markets would run of their own accord. This new attitude toward economic matters manifested itself among businessmen and may be called the capitalist spirit.

Luther was opposed to the spirit of capitalism and attributed the rise of prices to the rapacity of the capitalists. The great scandal for Marx was that the capitalist system produced surplus goods, and yet the producers themselves, the workers, were unable to purchase them and reap what they had sown. Marxists denounced democracy but not as an ideology, but rather the vulgar and evil manipulation of democracy by the capitalist profiteer, vulgar because he shares the public's bad taste, evil because he perpetuates it.

Tracing today's capitalism to the church leaves an evil mark. The Reformation in its Calvinist version made religion a thing of this world and achieved the miracle of identifying blessings with the accumulation of riches. The shame of profiteering was wiped away and what was formerly lust for wealth became the fulfillment of God's purposes on earth. Capitalism gave birth to the luke-warm church. Since money was no longer loaned primarily to assist those who were in need but for profit, the Biblical, canonical and other restrictions upon usury and mammon worship were either circumvented or ignored. Even church offices and means of grace were frequently viewed in terms of financial returns. Sin piled upon avarice until deregulation and the anarchy of the market created an environment where greed became a virtue and religious way of life. Pretentious saints would pray for financial reward and giving became a means to expect a blessing in return. Hireling pastors preached prosperity from the pulpit to gain more money and faith became a seed for accumulation.


Christian Left said...

How much doe this sound like the philosophy of the greed mongers who wrote "The Price Of Sin". Me thinks
a lot!

POS Watcher said...

Here's a perfect example:

From one of the POS authors.

"We ought to have more disdain for people who suck at this game of life" . . . "We ought to be able to drive by the houses (probably obtained with a ARM and no down payment :) ) of these people who are suckling off of the government teet . . . there ought to be signs in the front yard . . .you people who are using government to make up for your inadequacies ought to have signs saying: I AM NOT CAPABLE OF RUNNING MY OWN LIFE, I SUCK!"

Saint Wall Street said...

Funny thing how the OTBLers had no complaints about no payment down ARMs
when Banks and Wall St. were profiting from them and others earned fortunes "flipping". Where you your complaints about ARMS then Dr. Billiamson?

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