Monday, October 11, 2010

Don't Blame the Calvinists for This One

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds favorably cites Jim Bennett's explanation that responsibility for American liberal hostility toward Christopher Columbus lies with "the Calvinist Puritan roots of American progressivism." This is ahistorical nonsense. For one thing, the Puritans were not nearly as puritanical as modern progressives, as the former group's reputation was ruined by generations that came after them. Those who only know the Puritans based on what Mencken and Hawthorne had to say about them might consider reverting to original sources -- or less biased secondary ones . In addition, even to the extent that the Puritans may have had puritanical attitudes, it is not at all clear that Calvinist theology would have been the cause.

Besides that, if Mr. Bennett is going to impugn a group in that way, he might at least have the intellectual decency of getting his facts straight. Mr. Bennett makes multiple errors when he claims that "Calvinists believed in the centrality of the depravity of man, with the exception of a minuscule contingent of the Elect of God." If any of that were remotely true, Mr. Bennett might have a point. However, Calvinists believed, and still believe, in the centrality of the grace of God (their doctrines related to salvation are sometimes referred to as "the doctrines of grace"), not human sinfullness. More importantly, Calvinists were quite certain of their own depravity: the miniscule contingent of the non-depraved consisted only of Christ. Anyone with even the remotest familiarity with Puritan writings would know this, though the intellectually sloppy or dishonest may not.

There is much to dislike about the self-righteous absolutism of far left ideologues. However, the Calvinists do not deserve the blame.

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