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Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Calvinism is not quite a Cult

In an earlier post, I addressed the question as to whether or not Calvinism was a cult. The comments I received tended rather strongly toward the negative, with Ruth A. Tucker declaring,

"Calvin certainly had an authoritarian way about him, but he wasn't a one man show as most cult leaders are."

It is true that Calvin shared much of his secular power with Farrel and the Geneva Council. But in matters of theology, Calvin, through the publication of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, stood alone. It is not for nothing that followers of Reformed Theology are called Calvinists to this day. There are no Farrelites, there is no Genevan Reformed Church. Pastors do not stock their libraries with The Complete Works of William Farrel, or, for that matter, the Complete Works of Jacobus Arminius--whose writings were eclipsed by those of a much later and more prolific theologian, John Wesley.

In his own lifetime, Calvin's theological writings attained the very status of holy writ, if not as infallible inspiration, at least as infallible interpretation. And this has not changed; rather than going out of print, Calvin's Institutes has generated its own line of translations, versions, commentaries, and reader's guides--just as has the Bible itself. And this is a classic sign of a cult--elevating their guru's teachings to the level of Scripture.

Another sign of a cult is elevating the guru himself to the very apex of the ecclesiastical hierarchy--a man without equals. This is especially easy to do if the leader is dead, and doesn't have to fit a particular spot in the pecking order. Notice how Doug Phillips personifies the biblical and materialistic world views as a battle between--not Jesus--but Calvin and Darwin. Apparently Calvin was the Last of the Prophets, with no one having arisen since him who could take on the Giant of Galapagos.

Dr. Tucker is right, to a point; Calvinism doesn't quite fit the sociological description of a cult, as there never really has been any position at the top of its hierarchy. But in theological matters, one man still rules supreme, though from the grave. There's no question in Doug Phillips' mind: John Calvin, "Weighing in at five hundred years," is still a one-man show.



  2. 66 volumes of John Wesley--plus, if you act now, they'll throw in 3 volumes of Arminius free.


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