Friday, September 16, 2005


Written on 9/9/05 but posted today.


As I said earlier, there is some comfort in reading about the troubles of other times, particularly in this sad time.

And then, and I dig in on Calvin and the arguments about predestination (some of the early reformers were more enthusiastic in the 1520s, less so a decade later), and the attempts in Italy among Catholics to perhaps find common ground only to not find it, and the reformation begins to feel like a soccer ball, with Christian belief and community pushing, reeling, jagging in out, back and forth.

I am in the middle of Chapter 5 (woefully behind you). I had to laugh at MacCulloch's talking about Calvin banning dancing in Geneva (I went to Baylor undergraduate, where I think they first allowed on-campus dancing in the last five or six years), and MacCulloch describing Calvin as somebody who you would probably not invite to dinner.

Hovering over all this is Augustine of Hippo, and his dark pessimism over humankind's fallen nature, and we get at the heart of a protestant religion that I instantly recognized: salvation. Who's in and who is out.

My sense is that the medieval church had never really answered that question definitively (or didn't considered that it was an either/or preposition), hence the elaborate limbo of purgatory, the need for special prayers, assistance from saints, and indulgences. MacCulloch says that Luther thought only a few would get to heaven, an elect.

Calvin defined and re-defined this elect. I remember a passage of his I read in college, his description of our depravity. He couldn't imagine God's grace to cover the majority.


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