John Brown the Calvinist

Calvinism rightly understood is a threat to the autonomy of modern man in modern America

In modern America, Calvinism is associated with fanaticism and hate. Calvinists are a deluded sort! Modern America is not threatened by evangelicalism. Modern America is not threatened by fundamentalism. However, Calvinism is a different story. In my mind, Calvinism rightly applied, is the only real threat to the fulcrum of a godless America. Calvinism which is first of all a theology of grace is also a theology of sovereignty. 

 

 

Watching PBS on a Sunday Evening provides an alternative to the trivial and often profane nonsense inherent in most of modern television.  Last Sunday evening after watching the exploits of the masters and servants on Downtown Abbey, I watched the first of a new series on The American Experience about the Abolitionists prior to the Civil War.

Anytime PBS presents a special, I’m always hesitant to watch it because I know the bias of this venue.  It is certainly not sympathetic to biblical Christianity.  However, considering even this, I was emotionally moved by the portrayal of the suffering of many black slaves prior to the Civil War.

One Abolitionist who demanded an immediate end to slavery was John Brown, who eventually was hanged at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.  Most historians agree that John Brown was a vigilante.  In common parlance, he was considered crazy and eccentric – a dangerous combination.

What disturbed me most about the PBS presentation of John Brown was the equation of John Brown with Calvinism, leaving the viewer to suspect that Calvinism was the root of his hysteria and the reason for his madness.  PBS may yet present him as a hero, and then again they may not, so the verdict is still out on their view.  For most of us, just the name of John Brown is associated with words like fanaticism and hate.

John Brown’s father Owen Brown has been identified as a Calvinist.  Maybe some of that influence affected his son, but if so, true Calvinism was not the reason for the horrific acts of his son.  In fairness PBS should be clear about this.  There is doubt as to the type of Calvinism professed by Owen Brown since he was a trustee of Oberlin College which was founded by Charles Finney, a rampant Pelagian.

Regardless of the history of these particular men, it quickly dawned on me that in modern America, Calvinism is indeed associated with fanaticism and hate.  Calvinists are a deluded sort!  Modern America is not threatened by evangelicalism.  Modern America is not threatened by fundamentalism.  However, Calvinism is a different story.  In my mind, Calvinism rightly applied, is the only real threat to the fulcrum of a godless America.  Calvinism which is first of all a theology of grace is also a theology of sovereignty.  Only God himself is sovereign, not man or the politics of man. This is a threat to the autonomy of modern man in modern America.

If persecution comes to Christians in America, I am convinced that it will begin with Calvinists.  Look out Calvinists; if persecution comes to the Church, it may very well begin with you.

Larry E. Ball is a retired Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and a CPA. He lives in Fleming Island, Florida.

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