Calvinism Under Jove

Reformation Calvinism was born under Jove. It flourishes under Jove, and is spiritually healthy there. But for the last several centuries (at least) it has come under the baneful influence of Saturn.

For those who dismiss my “pagan tomfoolery” — planatary influences and theology indeed — with a sneer and say that they want a Calvinism under Christ, thank you, the better to enable us to get back to the gospel-preserving debates about supralapsarianism, not to mention how many eggs your wife is allowed to cook on the Lord’s Day, several things have to be said.

First, they haven’t understood my point. Nobody around here has any sympathy for pagan unbelief and superstition. Christ is Lord, and only Christ. But when my point is misunderstood this way, folks haven’t understood it because they are under the baneful influences of Saturn.

Second, this is not a minor issue. Just as Lucy and Susan wouldn’t feel safe around Bacchus unless Aslan was around, I don’t feel safe around Calvinists under Saturn. When these precious doctrines of ours are used to perpetuate gloom, severity, introspection, accusations, slander, gnat-strangling, and more, the soul is not safe.

Third, the original Protestants, and the Puritans especially, were not at all under Saturn.

“But there is no understanding the period of the Reformation in England until we have grasped the fact that the quarrel between the Puritans and the Papists was not primarily a quarrel between rigorism and indulgence, and that, in so far as it was, the rigorism was on the Roman side. On many questions, and specially in their view of the marriage bed, the Puritans were the indulgent party; if we may without disrespect so use the name of a great Roman Catholic, a great writer, and a great man, they were much more Chestertonian than their adversaries” (C.S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays, p. 116).

And fourth, with this as the good news, over the last generation, there have been a number of indications that our saturnine exile may be coming to an end. Many Calvinists are again becoming jovial — which should not be reduced to a willingness to tell the occasional joke. The issue is much deeper than that — we are talking about rich liturgy, robust psalm-singing, laughter and sabbath feasting, exuberant preaching, and all with gladness and simplicity of heart. The winter is breaking. This is not just a thaw, but promises to be a real spring.

But occasional jokes are certainly okay, and speaking of them, Peter Leithart took the prize this last week at Auburn Avenue. It seems that President Bush’s advisors came into his office to notify him that three Brazilian soldiers had been killed. He went white in the face, and passed out. When he came to moments later, still ashen, he looked at his advisors and said, “Just . . . just how many is three brazilian?”

Theology That Bites Back



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