Damon Linker on Calvin and American Exceptionalism

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar rob
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    says:

    While I’m not exactly a scholar of American religious history, I think there’s a lot of slight of hand in Linker’s piece — he skips far too easily from Calvin (expressing a particular view about the relationship between God and history) to a series of paragraphs filled with fairly generic quotes by American Christians (ranging from the Puritan-specific “picked out for the work” of founding New England “by the provident hand of the most high” to the contemporary “visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of liberty.”)

    Someone more knowledgeable than I can correct me if I am wrong, but I would say that [a] these sentiments are quite typical of American Christians in general [b] that the relationship between Calvin and these sentiments is tenuous, owing much more to the historical exigencies of the Puritan situation than to anything specific in Calvin’s writings (note that Linker’s discussion of Calvin himself adds up to little more than a “Calvin thought God was working his purposes through historical events”, which is not, as far as I know, considered to be one of the more controversial points of Calvinism in relationship to other major strands of Christian theology) and [c] that Calvinism, though influential in America through the Puritans, has never been anything more than a minority strain of Christianity.Report

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