Calvinism and Liberalism

I was reading a very interesting book on Oliver Wendell Holmes, the great American jurist. He grew up in Boston during the later half of the 19th century. This was the time when New England rejected the Christian Faith.

The book observed how New England was founded by the Puritans who espoused Calvinism. From there Calvinism was engrained into every part of life in New England. This lasted until the middle of the 19th century.

About that time, people began to reject Calvinism. The God of Calvinism, according to the book (and I tend to agree), was cruel and arbitrary. They rejected the doctrine of double predestination. And they rebelled against the doctrine of total depravity. The result was the Unitarian Church, the classic Liberal church. In a very real sense, therefore, the theological predecessor of Liberalism is Calvinism.

I’m not a prophet, but I have a prediction. In the current theological climate, Calvinism is sweeping the nation. It defines itself as the only true church. It is becoming increasingly intolerant of decent from the Westminster Confession. I wonder, and will venture a prediction, that in a few generations people will reject Calvinism and there will be a rise in Liberalism again.

I don’t know if you can draw a direct correlation between the fall of Calvinism and the rise of Liberalism. But I’m venturing the guess based off of my knowledge of theology, humanity, and personal experience. It would be an interesting study to trace the history of the philosophies. But, as with most questions, I don’t have time for a full study.

By Nate Labadorf

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