Calvinism’s Self-Esteem

Reading a book on Willpower, the ability to control one’s self. Willpower’s history is traced first, showing its emphasis in Victorian culture, which was a result of Enlightenment thinking.

Victorian morality was based not on religion, but on human superiority, the ability to conquer/control. Willpower was its main virtue. This continued until Nazi Germany used willpower as a propaganda tool. 1934’s propaganda film, Triumph of the Will was used to get Germans to obey their dictator.

It worked great and became the downfall of celebrating willpower! Self-help books of the 50’s and 60’s stressed positive thinking and how to win friends by smiling. This led to the 70’s and into modern psychology’s self-esteem movement.

So, here we are, a people who feel great about ourselves and yet have no self-control resulting in horrible morals, horrendous spending habits, colossal debt and mental illness.

Modern psychologists have even argued that “the legal system must be revamped to eliminate outdated notions of free will and responsibility.”

Bringing me to my point–perhaps the recent surge in Calvinism is nothing more than the self-esteem movement corrupting theology to its own ends? I by no means am casting all Calvinists as immoral, un-self-controlled people.

But anytime a theology or belief becomes dominant, odds are it is held by most for insincere reasons. Self-esteem and Calvinism could go together.

1) Everything I do gives God glory, even sin, since every molecule of creation is doing God’s will.
2) God chose me for no purpose but His own, therefore I must be pretty special in His eyes, certainly more special than the majority who are not elect.
3) Calvinists write long books. Long books on the bookshelf make you look more smarterer than others.
4) I went to John Piper’s church once.
5) God can’t condemn what He has ordained, therefore everything I do is God’s will and awesome.
6) God made me do it, it wasn’t me! I’m just a hapless victim of God’s will.

Granted, any theology can be warped to promote self-esteem, Calvinists would have no monopoly. But the lack of free will and thus responsibility play into self-esteem thinking well. Self-esteem promotes no free will, someone else made me mess up, everyone is a victim of an overriding impulse.

Is there a true connection? Since God ordained it all, it doesn’t really matter, I’m awesome and esteemed for having pointed it out and am also fulfilling God’s ordained will for this post! I’m God’s chosen vessel for writing snarky anti-Calvinist posts on self-esteem. That’s pretty awesome. Rock on.

The Church, Republicans and Gay Marriage

“It’s been one of the swiftest shifts in ideology and strategy for Republicans,  as they’ve come nearly full circle on same-sex politics.

“What was once a  front-and-center issue for rank-and-file Republicans — the subject of many hotly  worded House and Senate floor speeches — is virtually a dead issue, as  Republicans in Congress don’t care to have gay marriage litigated in the  Capitol.

“Even more than that, Republican leadership has evolved, too. It has quietly  worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions.”

Yet the Church continues to look to Washington to solve these issues.

Willpower, Cats and Finding God

From the book Willpower, which you should read:

“One mess at a time is all you can handle. Two messes at a time, you’re screwed. You may want to find God, but if you’re running low on cat food, you better make a plan for dealing with it. Otherwise the cat food is going to take a whole lot more attention and keep you from finding God.”

Wow, is that simplistically true. I have oft said that the reason people don’t deal with their spiritual health is because they don’t get a regular bill for it. I can list many who skip church for work, a precious few who skip work for church.

One of the simplest trappings of Satan is to use cat food to keep us from God. Which, again, supports my bias that no one should have cats.

Reformed Theology and Heaven

One thing that bothers me about the Reformed/Calvinist downplaying of eschatology is that it has a tendency then to downplay heaven. I do not mean that Calvinists don’t believe in heaven, or that heaven isn’t a desire of theirs, again it’s a matter of emphasis practically speaking.

“Hell” shows up in the index to Calvin’s Institutes, “heaven” does not. Calvin has one chapter on eternal life “Meditating on the Future Life.” It’s five pages long and the first section has the subtitle “The design of God in afflicting his people.” The Institutes is over 1,400 pages. He does mention heaven in it, but not enough for the index I guess.

William Shedd’s (main theologian of the American Presbyterian church and a Calvinist) Dogmatic Theology, over 900 pages long, has two pages on heaven and 87 pages on eternal punishment!

John Blunt’s Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology doesn’t even have “heaven” as a subject in it.

When eschatology is a minor part of your theology, heaven diminishes. Not only is this logical, it seems to play out in reality.

I won’t mind being proven wrong that Reformed/Calvinist theologians emphasize heaven, I hope they do, I just don’t see it. Again, not saying Calvinists don’t have a desire for heaven, I’m just making observations.

What’s the best Calvinist/Reformed book on heaven? I’d like to read it.

Pepsi Denies You are Drinking Aborted Babies

Seriously.

“PepsiCo does not conduct or fund research, including research performed by third parties, that utilizes any human tissue or cell lines derived from embryos or fetuses. We clearly communicate this in our Responsible Research Statement on our website,” Mr. Dahncke’s statement said. “Any research funded by PepsiCo and conducted by Senomyx for PepsiCo must abide by this responsible research statement.”

Pepsi has been under boycott from pro-life groups since last year. “pro-life advocate Debi Vinnedge called the PepsiCo denial ‘pure deception.'”

This reminds me of the Ryan Braun drama. Who to believe? Perhaps 1 Corinthians 10 applies here, “whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.”

Reformed Theology and Eschatology

Many Calvinists hold to a belief in an earthly Kingdom, a Millennium, whereas John Calvin himself denied such a thing and stuck with the Catholic line of reasoning on eschatology.

Today Calvinism means “predestination” and that’s about it. Applying the “Calvinist” label broadly will eliminate many claimants of Calvinism.

Reformed or Calvinist eschatology is pretty weak, this is even admitted by Calvinist teachers and authors, including the grat one himself, Charles Hodge, who at the end of his Systematic Theology, basically says he doesn’t know much about eschatology so he’ll just review historical views of it (first paragraph of this link).

That’s fine, he can write on what he knows. It is interesting that the one subject he does not feel qualified to write on is eschatology, though.

Reformed eschatology is pretty much non-existent, which is why there isn’t much on it. The primary reason for this is that Reformed eschatology views most, if not all, prophetic passages as allegorical or figurative, which means they don’t mean what they say.

Passages that don’t mean what they say are by nature quite difficult to deal with! If they don’t mean what they say, what do you say about them, other than, “this doesn’t mean what it says”?

Reformed Theology has pretty much the same eschatology as the Catholic Church. Catholicism was threatened by a Jewish Kingdom, which was a partial cause of such things as the Crusades.

Catholicism and its Vatican desired to be the Kingdom of God on earth, therefore they had no need for another one. All passages speaking of a Jewish Davidic Kingdom are allegory. Reformed Theology keeps this idea alive today.

Reformed Theology’s eschatology, as far as I can grasp it, says: Christ comes back and it’s good and stuff.

That’s pretty much it. That being the case, I guess there would be no need for books about it, but it sure seems like a let down. Are there any good Reformed books on eschatology? I’d like to read it. Let me know.