Personal belief as to the reasons of the Calvinist resurgence

, posted by Martin Glynn

I want to talk about culture and why I believe Calvinism has been becoming more popular in the past couple of years.This represents the views of this poster, not all of SEA.

Ever since the Enlightenment in the 17th century, Western culture has been grounded in what is now being referred to as “modernism”. The USA in particular is grounded upon modernist philosophy, serving as the backbone of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. However, due to Naziism in the 1940s, and the anarchy of the 1960s, the foothold that modernism has on Western culture has been shaken, and practically lost. The result is that we have become a people without a culture, struggling for meaning. This results in a few things:

  1. Pluralism- people are grasping for anything which may give them some sense of meaning. The common orthodoxy of our culture is gone with nothing to replace it. So any belief will do.
  2. Individual Mastery of Ideas- instead of reason or orthodoxy being the judge of an idea, now only the individual is left to make up their mind. This is because of a loss of trust in institutional authorities, especially educational and religious ones. The result is that each person is responsible for completely understanding and evaluating the whole of their theology.
  3. Polarization- Due to the Mastery of Ideas, the belief systems which can be believed, due to practicality, are the simple ones, which are also the extreme ones. Additionally, the lack of any level of common ground with others makes for a highly polemical environment, despite the irenic jargon.
  4. Reaction- Due to Polarization, there is also a reaction which is trying to reassert modernism.

To this environment, Calvinism with its 5-point gridwork is quite alluring. Calvinism is, itself, a polemical point of view. It is the codification of the original Reformed ideas which were formed, not just in relation to Scripture, but also in opposition to Catholicism. Calvinism also is a self-contained philosophy, making its mastery simple. It can create an easy to use theological system that one can easily master, as well as a very simple apologetic/polemic against other ideas. Now, most of this apologetic/polemic is false, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that it sounds true, and a relative theological novice can master the ideology.

Also, because it is a philosophy which has many logical aspects, it is also particularly popular among the reactionary movement. Its historical origin and orthodoxy, even though Arminianism is just as historically orthodox, also makes it seem more mainstream than it actually is.

Therefore, people, in search of something to believe in, are flocking to Calvinism. This isn’t because Calvinism is more logical or biblical than Arminianism, but because it satisfying certain cultural needs better than Arminianism does.

A qualification on this. I am not saying that everyone who is Calvinist is Calvinist for this reason. However, I do think this is the reason for the resurgence in the past couple of years.