Calvin & Culture, Reconsidered

John Calvin

Anyone who is a child of God should seek to understand how all of their life is lived under the banner of “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done” but for many how they fulfill this is in ordinary life and ordinary work with the gifts God has given you. There has been a drought of many years in the topic of vocation but during the Reformation it was a central tenet. Academic Dean at Patrick Henry College, Gene Edward Veith writing at Ligonier Ministries has something to say about it:

One of the greatest social scientists credits John Calvin for the rise of capitalism and, by extension, modern Western culture itself. That is quite an influence and quite a tribute to Calvin. Nevertheless, though there is some truth to the claim, the specific scholarship behind it demonstrates a profound misunderstanding, not only of Calvin but of the Reformation.

In 1904, the German scholar Max Weber published The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber was exploring the observation that industrialism began mainly in countries that were Protestant rather than Roman Catholic or non-Christian. In doing so, he made a name for himself as the father of modern social science.

Weber argued that Christianity used to be otherworldly. The higher spiritual ideal, according to monasticism, was found in poverty rather than wealth, a life of prayer rather than a life in the world. The Reformation, though, taught the doctrine of vocation, in which the Christian life was to be lived out in the world, and, specifically, in productive labor.

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: Email: Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.


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