Calvinism and Culturernby Steven Wilkinsrn’^^^^^^^^^^BIBSHrn& ‘h^^i^^mrnKgHEF^” ^fl^^^lrn^’W^C^^^rn^^jf’r^^h L’^Hrn’f ‘ ‘^dtz^’^imkrn^^-^sB^EjB^larn’^•” ‘*ok^larn^^rnIs-kv^^^rn^^flHHHrnKWT ^ •^r 1/A FrnT%-4^^ rnJ r^swviirn^^wrl^^^^rn’•• •”.•^fc^^^flMBKL, ‘X Vrnsrn^^C^rn^^rnVrn” ” ; ^ »rnii^HlHi^irnPflPBP^TT^^rnHistorian Christopher Dawson writes that “It is clear that arncommon way of hfe involves a common view of life, commonrnstandards of behavior, and common standards of valne,rnand consec|ncndy a cnltnre is a spiritual community whichrnowes its unity to common beliefs and common ways of thoughtrnfar more dian to any mianimit)’ of physical t)’pe . . . Thereforernfrom the beginning the social way of life which is culture hasrnbeen deliberately ordered and directed in accordance with thernhigher laws of life which are religion.”rnThe most important element in the formation of a cidture isrnthe predominant faith of its people. The foimdation of Westernrnculture is Christianity; in diis country, Reformed ProtestantrnChristianit)’. The majority of the early settlers were seriousrnChristians; most of them were followers of John Calvin. SydneyrnAhlstrom has noted diat “Puritanism provided die moral and religiousrnbackground of fully 75% of the people who declaredrntheir independence in 1776.” Ahlstrom further argues that,rnwhen the influence of the Reformation is considered amongrnEuropean immigrants, die figure is closer to 85 or 90 percent.rnThis was true not only of the Puritans and Separahsts of NewrnF.ngland but of those inhabitants of the Soudiern colonies whorncame from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Huguenot France. Inrnshort, Calvinism was the dominant theological position of thernAmerican colonics in the 17th and 18di centuries.rnKrik von Kuehnelt-Lcddihn —no Protestant—sums up therncase:rnIf we call die American statesmen of the late eighteenthrncentim’ the Founding Fathers of the United States, thenrnthe Pilgrims and Puritans were tiie grandfathers andrnSteven Wilkim is the pastor of the Auburn Avenue PresbyterianrnChurch in Monroe, Limisiana.rnCalvin the great-grandfather. In saying this, one need notrnexclude the Virginians because Anglicanism has essentiallyrnCalvinistic foundations still recognizable in thernThirty-nine Articles, and the Pilgrim Fathers, like the Puritansrngenerally, represented a kind of re-reformed Anglicanism.rnThough the fashionable eighteenth centuryrnDeism may have pervaded some intellectual circles, thernprevailing spirit of Americans before and after the War ofrnIndependence was essenhally Calvinistic .. .rnAll of this changed, however, in the 19tii century. New Englandrnturned away from historic Christianity to embrace thernheresies of Deism, Unitarianism, andl’ranscendentalism. Thisrnapostasy, coupled with the influence of the aberrant—actually,rnheretical—theology of Charles Finney in the West, drove thernmajority in the North away from biblical Calvinism. The doctrinesrnof God’s sovereignty and man’s depravity were discarded.rnMen were left with an irrelevant God (or none at all) and arnsovereign, perfectible man. Harriet Beecher Stowe observedrnthat, in Boston during the niid-19th century, “the only tilingrnworse than an atheist was a Calvinist.”rnThe biblical teaching of human depravit}’ offended modernrnNorthern sensibilities. Man was basically good. “Sin” wasrnmerely the consequence of inadequate education and an unseemlyrnenvironment: Man’s problem was not inside of him butrnsometiiing external to him, in society. There was no need for rebirthrnin the biblical sense: Man was not saved by grace but byrneducation and sociopolitical reform. As a result, the North becamern”movement mad” with societies dedicated to the eradicationrnof every evil under the sun (real or imagined).rnThe Soutii observed this drift into semipaganism witii a mixturernof fear and amazement; while the North was experiencingrna general apostasy, the South was undergoing a revival of the oldrnDECEMBER 2000/1 9rnrnrn