The Calvinism is a theological movement on the teachings of the republic of Geneva -working French reformer John Calvin rests, whose thought the Reformed churches and the continental Europe Presbyterians , Congregationalists and some other churches has left a lasting impression especially in the Anglo-American world.
The term "Calvinism" was first used in 1552 in the writing of the Lutheran theologian Joachim Westphal . Calvin himself decidedly rejected this designation. Nevertheless, the term has gained acceptance, although the churches influenced by Calvin do not use it as a self-designation. Rather, they call themselves - following Calvin's phrase "renewed according to the order of the gospel" - Reformed churches . This includes the Presbyterians , Congregationalists, and a number of other churches, particularly in the United States of America . After 1553, Calvinism rose "through its establishment in all of Western Europe to a world power". This was mainly due to the fact that Calvin's thinking had a more or less strong effect on almost all other churches in the Anglo-American region, in addition to the Reformed churches. The confessional basis of the Anglican Church in the form of the 39 articles is mainly influenced by Ulrich Zwingli and Calvin. The same is true of the Baptists , especially the Strict Baptists , and that branch of the Methodist who referred to George Whitefield (see below).
The theology of Calvin emphasizes the absolute holiness of God . All human work, even the decision to believe and not least the cult of the Catholic Church with sacraments , relics or indulgences , he saw as attempts to restrict God's sovereignty and to bind it to earthly things. The sometimes harsh features of Calvin's doctrine of revelation , grace and redemption were exacerbated in the dispute between the Calvinists and the “ Arminians ” in the 17th century by the resolutions of the Dordrecht Synod and the Westminster Confession ; this applies in particular to Calvin's doctrine of the double predestination , according to which God predetermined once and for all whether a certain person was on the way to eternal bliss or to eternal damnation.
The four Reformation “solos” as a basis
As with all directions that emerged from the Reformation, the four solos belong to the basis of Calvinism:
- sola scriptura - Scripture alone is the basis of the Christian faith (not tradition)
- solus Christ - Christ alone (not the Church) has authority over believers
- sola fide - man is justified only by faith (not by good works)
- sola gratia - man is saved only through grace. This is the essence of the five points of Calvinism, also called "the doctrines of grace."
The five points of Calvinism
In addition, the specific doctrine of Calvinism is often summarized in five points, with the English acronym TULIP for Total depravity (total depravity), Unconditional election (unconditional election), Limited atonement (limited atonement), Irresistible grace (unstoppable grace), Perseverance of the saints :
Total depravity / incompetence
Because of the Fall, which dominates sin the whole man, his thoughts, his feelings and his will. Hence the natural man is unable to understand the gospel message , he is completely spiritually helpless and lost. Man can only understand God's saving message after he has been enabled to do so by the Holy Spirit ( Rom 5.12 LUT , Mk 4.11 LUT ).
This is Calvin's principle of dual predestination . According to Calvin, the election for salvation takes place as follows: God has divided people into a group of the elect and one of the non-elect. For the elect, God determined his knowledge and foresaw the resurrection . The remainder remain ignorant of God and the gospel. According to Calvin, they are damned by God on their way to eternal hell . This decision was made before the creation of the universe and therefore even more so before the birth of the individual person and before any decisions that the person makes in his life. The reasons God chose some are unknown. But it is obvious that it was not because of some good works on the part of the chosen one. In this respect, the election is not linked to any conditions inherent in the person of the chosen one ( Rom 9,15 LUT .21 LUT ).
Limited reconciliation / atonement
What is meant is that one cannot turn down the grace of election. In this regard, man has no free will, since he is dead in his offenses and therefore has no power to decide for God ( Eph 2,1 LUT ). Only through the call of God can a person be spiritually awakened to life ( Eph 2.5 LUT ) and thus come to God. Everyone whom God has chosen will know God. The elect cannot withstand God's call ( Joh 6,44 LUT , Rom 8,14 LUT ).
The perseverance of the saints
Other characteristics of Calvinism
In addition, Calvinism is characterized by:
- a strong expression of federal theology ,
- Protestant asceticism ,
- strict church discipline , i.e. the congregation can impose various penalties on its members if they behave immorally,
- Diligence and zeal for work, whereby economic prosperity in Protestant ethics is sometimes interpreted as a sign of election,
- Independence from the state,
- non-hierarchical church order ( general priesthood ),
- Last supper as a commemorative celebration, no belief in the real presence .
Controversies about predestination
Calvin saw a threefold benefit in his doctrine of predestination: It led to certainty, humility and gratitude. With regard to certainty , however, the objection is that even those who believe in predestination cannot be certain of their salvation, because human knowledge is always prone to errors, and the saved should be able to recognize "the signs of his election" in his life. Calvin himself pointed out that it is easy to be mistaken with such "recognition of signs". As for humility , it is objected that God created man “in his own image”; H. as a personality capable of making decisions, in contrast to objects with no will. If this ability, granted to man by God, to decide for himself (with Calvin) is denied, then it has nothing to do with humility (maybe it is due to fearfulness?). And with regard to the gratitude mentioned by Calvin, the objection is that it would be the gratitude of an egoist who doesn't care that other people whom God could have saved as well, and - according to the Calvinist point of view - also are not worse or more negative to face a terrible fate solely on the basis of God's decision.
Such an image of God, according to which God arbitrarily chooses certain people for salvation and rejects others, is rejected by many Christians. The critics point to God's universal will to save as expressed several times in the New Testament, for example:
"The Lord ... does not want anyone to perish, but that everyone should be converted."
In addition: "God ... wants all people to be saved" ( 1 Tim 2 : 4 EU ), "the grace of God appeared to save all people" ( Tit 2.11 EU ) or "Make disciples of all nations" ( Mt 28:19 LUT ). On the basis of such biblical passages, the question to Calvinism arises: Why should God "arbitrarily withhold from a part of humanity what he gives to other people - who have just as little deserved it?"
The individual denominations each have their own reasons for rejecting Calvinism:
- Liberal Christians of various denominations consider the strictly Calvinist teaching to be anti-liberal and intolerant.
- The Catholics firmly reject all five points (see above), in addition to a number of other important teaching points, including those relating to ecclesiology and the sacraments.
- For the Orthodox , free will , which Calvin rejects, is a basic teaching of the Bible. Redemption is not a one-off act of grace that can be received in a purely passive manner and not a question of knowing oneself saved, but rather an ongoing active cooperation of the Holy Spirit with believers.
- The Methodists : Even John Wesley did not accept the double predestination represented by the Calvinist George Whitefield , which led to the separation of the two.
- The Lutherans reject a double predestination and hold fast to the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper .
- The Quakers also reject predestination. See: Quaker Theology .
The Arminianism , the teaching of so-called Arminianism , provides an explicit theological counter-position to Calvinism within the Calvinist areas of northwestern Europe and the English-speaking countries in the 17th century is.
One does not do justice to Calvinism if one restricts it to its theological positions of the sixteenth century. Regardless of how you feel about Calvin, you have to take note of the fact that his view of the Bible convinced hundreds of thousands of people within a few decades, so that despite the harshest persecution (e.g. Huguenots ) they formed communities and were more likely to accept martyrdom or flight than to forsake their faith. From the 17th century, Calvinism developed, especially under the influence of Arminianism, a large theological spectrum that continues to this day, especially in the United States. For example, universalist and Unitarian churches emerged there in the 18th century from a number of Congregational and Presbyterian congregations . The development of a liberal theology in Protestantism is partly due to the work of Reformed theologians. For example, Friedrich Schleiermacher came from a Reformed family.
In the 20th century, Reformed theologians (e.g. Otto Weber ) emphasized that Calvin - despite his repeated warnings against speculation about God's will - succumbed to it by opposing election with its logical counterpart, rejection and so came to the double predestination. In particular, the Swiss Reformed Eduard Thurneysen as well as Karl Barth and his students understood the doctrine of predestination more Christologically than Calvin: In Jesus Christ, according to Eph 1,4-14 LUT, the election took place and is given to people in the proclamation of the Gospel. The fact that there are still people who reject salvation is an enigmatic, from the point of view of faith, oppressive mystery that cannot and must not be resolved in thought.
As a non-denominational church, the modern Evangelical Reformed Church in Switzerland sees itself not bound by the beliefs of its founders. Every theologian and member is free to form their own picture on the basis of the Bible and life experience.
Calvinist work ethic
Since the intentions of God remain hidden from people, everyone must act in the sense of a virtuous lifestyle, that is, as if he had been chosen by God. Unrestrained industry, individual and economic success can subsequently be seen as signs of the state of grace. However, man has no influence on the divine decision. Whether someone ends up in hell or ascends to heaven after death was determined at the beginning of time. What man tries now is to make himself certain through his virtue that he must be chosen.
As a result of the test act of 1673 in England, in addition to Catholics, the Calvinist Puritans (congregationalists), Baptists, Quakers and, from the end of the 18th century, the Methodists from all state offices and parliament, were excluded from all government offices and parliament, which pushed them into private business. In the 18th century, almost half of English inventors, merchants and entrepreneurs were Calvinists, although they were a minority in the general population of Britain.
According to the " Protestantism thesis " of the German sociologist Max Weber , Calvinism had a decisive influence on work morale and ethics in England, Holland, Switzerland and some areas of Germany, especially in the states ruled by the Hohenzollern reformed since 1613 and legitimized. He sets a benchmark for the usefulness of human action, with economic success in the foreground: Wasting time is the worst sin , including excessively long sleep or luxury . Work is life's end in itself, prescribed by God . With his specific work and business ethics he created an essential basis for the industrial revolution and modern capitalism .
What is indisputable about these theses is that, like all reformers, Calvin was of the opinion that the redemption that took place in Christ leads to a life that is characterized by obedience and gratitude through diligence, (self) discipline, thrift and frugality (Max Weber: "Inner-worldly asceticism"). When Calvin broke the traditional connection between economic success and a life of luxury, the money saved was free for new investments. This leads to further economic success, especially since the latest and most effective methods, devices and machines are used. At this point, economic life on the one hand and natural science and technology on the other are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. The latter, like the humanities , enjoyed a great upswing in the Protestant area, as the reformers had strongly promoted education . They believed that every church member should learn to read and write in order to study the Bible on their own. The focus of this development was the Anglo-American world, permeated by Calvin's thinking.
State and society
The strict separation of church and state had been practiced by the Huguenots and the also persecuted Anabaptists , who patiently demanded freedom of religion despite their suffering , had been practiced since their formation in the 16th century. But the Huguenots for their part also waged a violent war and did not spare their opponents, but more precisely it was not so much wars by or against the Huguenots, but rather it was wars of conservative Catholicism and the rulers who advocated it against the Huguenots and their nobles Leader.
In the Netherlands , where no state church could establish itself, the desire for religious freedom was more pronounced. In addition to Orthodox Calvinists, there was the small church of the Arminians , who rejected Calvin's doctrine of predestination , as well as smaller Catholic and Anabaptist communities.
"The church diversity had a loosening effect on Calvinism."
Since the breakaway from Spain (1579), the Republic of the Seven United Provinces under the leadership of the Calvinists were, alongside England, a free country in certain aspects of constitutional law. The Arminian Hugo Grotius was able to teach his natural theology , his natural law and his historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible here .
Even more powerful in history than the liberal development in the Netherlands was the emergence of English and especially American democracy. In the Middle Ages , state and church formed a unit. Both were strictly hierarchical. With his doctrine of two kingdoms, Luther carried out the fundamental separation of the spiritual and the secular. Calvin adopted this doctrine and, proceeding from it, created the intellectual prerequisites for the development of democratic structures in two ways.
On the other hand, there was also the pronounced intolerance of the Calvinist-oriented administration and leadership elite in the Geneva Republic .
The first prerequisite was the extraordinarily strong appreciation of the laity in the church through Calvin's doctrine of four offices . The adult male members of the community selected from among them in time Oldest ( elders , Church council ), which introduced together with the minister the churches. (In the twentieth century, women were also given active and passive ecclesiastical voting rights.) In Geneva , the elders were also elected members of the city council. The Huguenots , who as a persecuted minority church could not rely on secular authorities, supplemented this presbyterial system at regional and national level with elected synods in which lay people and clergy were also members with equal rights. The other Reformed churches adopted this church order, sometimes with some minor changes. Quakers, Baptists, and Methodists are organized in a similar way. Thus, the Reformation Christians who were shaped or influenced by Calvin practiced ecclesiastical self-government that represented a representative democracy.
In the further course of this century, John Milton and John Locke in particular played an important role in the sometimes dramatic religious, cultural and political conflicts in England . Both were influenced by the Baptist advocacy of religious freedom. In the Presbyterian Milton, a committed collaborator of Cromwell, “all the tolerance motives of the time are embodied in great unity. For him, freedom of conscience was the original Christian and Protestant principle and the basis of all civil liberties. That is why he called for a complete separation of church and state beyond Cromwell. ”Milton advocated the right to divorce, freedom of speech and freedom of the press . Freedom of the press was eventually introduced in England and its colonies as a fruit of the Glorious Revolution in 1694.
Locke, who came from a Puritan family, was firmly rooted in a strongly Calvinist-influenced Protestantism. He was convinced that the Christian faith was reasonable . He derived the equality of men, including the equality of men and women, not from philosophical premises , but from Genesis 1 : 27f, the theological doctrine of Imago Dei . The equality of the people is a basic condition of every democratic constitutional state. For Locke it followed from this that a government may only exercise power with the consent of the governed.
The Influence of Calvinism in the Anglo-Saxon and New World
The second prerequisite for the emergence of democratic structures in the Anglo-American area was that Calvin favored a mixture of democracy and aristocracy as the best form of government. The monarchy was out of the question for him because, according to historical experience, kings tended to usurp all power - to the detriment of their subjects. But the well-being of the common people was Calvin's criterion for a good form of government. In order to prevent the abuse of political power, he therefore proposed a system of secular authorities that limit and control one another ( separation of powers ).
He was aware of the merits of democracy:
"It is an invaluable gift when God allows a people to be free to choose heads and authorities."
Another important aspect of Calvin's theory of the state was his view of the right to resist a tyrannical ruler. According to Calvin, this right of resistance is not available to the individual subject, but to the estates, the nobility, "middle magistrates" or ephors. They have the right - and the duty - to act against a tyrant, especially if he threatens obedience to God or makes it impossible.
In Scotland, in 1567, the Puritan nobility forced the Catholic Queen Maria Stuart , in favor of her Protestant son, Jacob VI. to abdicate. This cleared the way for the Reformation in the country. From 1603 to 1625 he was also King of England as James I. Under him and his successor Charles I , the Dissenters , mostly Puritan or separatist Congregationalists (Independents), were severely persecuted.
During the English Civil War they took power in the country under Oliver Cromwell and temporarily inaugurated an authoritarian regime . Because of his absolutist claims to power and the favor of the Catholics, Charles I was executed in 1649 and the country declared a republic ( Commonwealth of England ). For the same reasons, Parliament deposed Jacob II in the Glorious Revolution in 1688 and transferred the royal dignity - albeit with limited powers - to his daughter Maria and her husband Wilhelm III. of Orange . Both were Protestants. This created the basic features of English or British democracy. In 1776 the American colonies of Great Britain under George III. independently. In all of these revolutions, which were milestones on the way to modern democracy, Calvin's theory of state and resistance played a prominent role; each time the revolutionaries acted with the support of the vast majority of the population.
Calvinist beliefs and thought also contributed to the emergence of American democracy - and human rights - through Reformed federal theology . Through his election, God concludes a covenant or contract (English covenant ) with the believers, who are thereby simultaneously brought together to form a community. Among the congregationalists, these theocratic ideas condensed into the political form of democracy, which, however, could not be realized in England. The separatist or puritan congregationalists persecuted there, who emigrated to what would later become Massachusetts in 1620 , were convinced that democracy is the "godly form of government" ( Pilgrim Fathers , Mayflower Treaty ).
In some North American colonies, the democratic form of government and its civil liberties were combined with the central human right of religious freedom . Luther had rejected the medieval inquisition procedure and the state persecution of people of different faiths. Belief, according to Luther, cannot be forced. It is a work of the Holy Spirit. The theologian Roger Williams , who created the colony of Rhode Island in 1636 , which was governed on democratic principles and granted unrestricted freedom of religion, took the same view . Williams was initially a Congregationalist, later he joined the Baptists. The Connecticut colony, under the leadership of Thomas Hooker , also a congregational theologian, did not require its citizens to test their faith. Together with Pennsylvania , founded by Quaker William Penn (1682), these colonies became places of refuge for religious minorities persecuted in Europe, including Jews.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the Baptist churches emerged from the English Anabaptism (see above). Baptists like John Smyth and Thomas Helwys vehemently demanded freedom of belief and conscience in pamphlets.
The first was “ congregational democracy ”. Since there were far too few clergymen in the English colonies, lay people took over the founding and maintenance of parishes, which they led according to democratic principles. This happened not only in the churches shaped or strongly influenced by Calvin, but also widely in the Anglican communities. The revolution took place about a generation after the (first) Great Awakening (Great Awakening; Jonathan Edwards , George Whitefield et al.), Which had strong aftermath.
The second source for the intellectual justification of the American Revolution as well as the economic-economic, political and legal design of the new constitution was the ideology of the radical Whigs ( Commonwealthmen ), an English party that relied on its masterminds in the 17th century, especially Milton and Locke, called. The colonists felt "enslaved" by the actions of George III, his ministry and the British Parliament. "The radical Whigs' theory of the state found widespread support in America because it revived the traditional concerns of a Protestant culture that had always been very close to Puritanism ."
In accordance with the religious and intellectual attitude of the colonists, the American Declaration of Independence does not justify human rights in terms of philosophy and natural law, but rather biblically and theologically. The “Creator” gives people these inalienable rights, which include “life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness”. The Declaration of Independence, the American Constitution and the (American) Bill of Rights with their elementary civil rights and human rights became models for many other states in all parts of the world, e.g. B. Latin America. They had a strong influence on the French Revolution . An important link between the two upheavals was the Masonic-oriented Marquis de la Fayette , who, as a French officer, had commanded part of the victorious American revolutionary army. He was celebrated as a great war hero in both countries. An avid supporter of American constitutional principles, he called on all states to follow suit. He was one of the leaders in the first phase of the French Revolution and wrote the most convincing draft for the Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen ( Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen ).
In the 19th century, the churches influenced or influenced by Calvin were involved in many social and political reforms in the Anglo-American world, for example the abolition of slavery ( William Wilberforce , Harriet Beecher Stowe and others), the introduction of women's suffrage , the establishment of trade unions and the British Labor Party .
The Reformed churches have always operated a large number of diaconal and humanitarian institutions (hospitals, retirement homes, institutions for the disabled, schools, universities, etc.) at home and abroad (e.g. developing countries). For example, Congregationalists in Massachusetts founded Harvard College as early as 1636 . Yale and a dozen other colleges followed in the 18th century . Today they are mostly independent institutions.
The principles of the American constitution found their way into the charter and the declaration of human rights of the United Nations , which give universal validity to the democratic form of government and human rights.
The Prussian constitution of 1848/49 , the constitution of the Weimar Republic and the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany were also based on the American constitutional principles (e.g. republican and federal form of government, canon of fundamental rights, Federal Constitutional Court).
In response to the impoverishment of large parts of the rural and urban population in England, members of the congregationalists, Methodists, other free churches and Anglicans started cooperatives as self-help organizations from 1844 onwards . In Germany, the Reformed Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen created a dense network of cooperatives from 1846 onwards. Henry Dunant , a Reformed Pietist , made a great contribution to international humanitarian law . The Red Cross was his foundation. He was also the driving force behind the formulation of the Geneva Conventions .
In the early days of the Reformation, the ban on images in Reformed churches and the restriction of sacred music to simple unanimity and faithfulness to the Bible pushed large parts of art out of the church. Painting turned to secular motifs ( Rembrandt , Frans Hals ). The polyphonic music and the organ were allowed again in the 16th century; The polyphonic settings of the Geneva Psalter by Claude Goudimel were sung in Reformed churches in France and Switzerland, and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck remained a church organist in Amsterdam after the Reformation. Calvinism had a fruitful effect on parts of Western literature ( Nathaniel Hawthorne , John Milton , Jeremias Gotthelf , Conrad Ferdinand Meyer , Friedrich Dürrenmatt , John Updike and others)
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