John Calvin Made Him a Catholic

John Calvin Made Him a Catholic January 14, 2014

according to David Anders.

It’s funny.  Some of my favorite people I’ve come to know since becoming Catholic are former Calvinists.  And yet my own experience of encounter with Calvinism was of nothing but a bone-chilling encounter with satanic pride and evil that almost destroyed my hope in the goodness of God. One of the reasons I loved Chesterton was that he not only deeply hated Calvinism as a monstrously evil thing, but could put into words my intuition that it was the clean, well-lit prison of a single idea.

I think my encounter with Calvinism was so toxic and destructive because it happened to be a system of thought that simply ran roughshod over the most wounded places in my personality. The entire problem was really summed up in a conversation over at Steve Ray’s board years ago. A curious non-Christian asked, “Does God love me?” and the Catholics all responded, “Of course.”

The lone Calvinist replied, “I don’t know.” It was perfectly consistent to the diagram that is Calvinism. If you are elect (according to the diagram) then yeah. Otherwise, you’re fodder for hell, where God will send you and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Cuz he hates you.

Other, healthier people, were able to see what was good in it, but not me. However, I was able to see the good in the former Calvinists I got to know and that helped me get past my loathing of the system to get to like the people who found what was good in it. Scott Hahn once told me he thought of Calvinism as “monotheism come of age” but that he realized the Catholic faith was *trinitarian* monotheism come of age. For me, it’s always struck me as a form of theology that prizes diagram over actual humans and theory over reality, but as I say, it seems to have some kind of attraction for people go on to make gung ho and committed Catholics when the convert, so I have to give it that. At any rate, I’m grateful for the many converts from Calvinism I have come to know in the past couple of decades and think the world of them. So God’s strange process of healing and reconciliation seems to still be doing its quiet work in the world.

"It is utterly contemptible to use Veterans Day to defend a swine who treats vets ..."

On This Veterans Day…
"On the contrary, Veteran's Day is the best day to point out what Trump really ..."

On This Veterans Day…
"Busy. But your failure to ever answer my simple question says everything we need to ..."

The Amazon Synod: Fortress Katolicus vs. ..."
"Took ya a day to come up with that as well. Pathetic."

The Amazon Synod: Fortress Katolicus vs. ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • GoodBerean

    Forget Calvin/Calvinism. That only the elect — those who believe — are saved is what Scripture says. That God loves everybody is not what Scripture says.

    John Lofton, Recovering Republican
    Dir., The God And Government Project
    Active Facebook Wall

    • Dave

      The demons believe too. Keep reading that Bible. Take a look at Matthew 25 and 1 Corinthians 13. John 6. Matthew 7:21. 1 Peter 3:21. 1 Timothy 3:15. 1 John 4:10. Gotta read it all. Not just your favorite verses. Might want to investigate who wrote that Table of Contents too.

    • chezami

      Enjoy your diabolical and inhuman diagram.

    • said she

      This Berean appears to be another one of those who place their political loyalty above the faith.

      Sola Scriptura: feeding pride and breeding dissent, division, disunity, and delusions for nearly 500 years.

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    I like that Scott Hahn quote. I would say further that “monotheism come of age” could be said perhaps even more fully of Islam, and a good case can be made that Calvinism is the Islamicization of Christianity. Now in all fairness the analogies are not complete by any means (Islam denies original sin while having a strong doctrine of predestination), and this is really just a rhetorical counterblast to the common claim that Catholicism is “paganized Christianity.” But there are undoubted similarities: predestination and the focus on God’s sovereignty, the exaltation of a holy book as the ultimate authority, with a strong tendency to treat it as a code of law, and so on.

  • Mark, serious question: is your experience with Calvinism possibly one reason why the reactionary trads get under your skin to the extent they do? It seems like the reactionary trads are sort of “Calvinist Catholic” in a way, in that some of them seem to find the idea that God might save more people than they expect Him to to be dangerous and/or disappointing.

    • James

      Calvinist thought has crept into Catholic circles on several occasions. The most famous was the Jansenist heresy in 17th century France. A similar strain, which is often mistaken for Jansenism, crept into the English and Irish churches in the 19th century. This strain influenced the US Church, especially in Irish dominated areas, and is often the “tradition” many reactionaries in these countries are trying to restore.

      I live in an area where Calvinism is “in the water”. Many Protestant converts, even if no longer theologically TULIP Calvinists, had a heavy Calvinist influence in their upbringing. It’s not surprising to see them gravitate toward the the “traditionalist” Catholics, which can cause problems.

      • Thanks, James! I’ve never connected Jansenism with Calvinism before (let alone the Irish/English thing), but it makes a lot of sense that Calvinism would have been the “seed bed” of such thinking.

  • Lynn

    I was a Calvinist for years because I thought I had no other choice. Now one of my favorite parts of being Catholic is when somebody asks me if Catholics are Calvinist or Arminian, I get to say, “Neither! They’re both heretics!”

  • The Deuce

    Hi, Mark, I’m raised Presbyterian, and still am one, though I’m not convinced on Calvinism, and have been ruminating over Calvinist vs Catholic thought on salvation for a while now.

    Have you ever read Jimmy Akin’s breakdown of the matter?

    It seems that the doctrine of total depravity (which means that there is no “unfallen” part of you that might rise up by itself and save the rest of you sans special grace), and hence the need of special grace granted to the elect to enable any supernatural good (such as salvation) is actually the part of Calvinism that most closely matches what Catholicism teaches, and that the bigger differences are regarding irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints (which teachings imply the “once saved, always saved” mantra that Catholics disagree with), and especially with limited atonement.

    • Kristin

      Eep. That article stirred up my scrupulosity something fierce, but maybe it’s because I don’t quite understand efficient and sufficient grace. It almost sounds like, in the Catholic view, that God doesn’t give everyone the opportunity to enter Heaven, even if he doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell. Is that correct?