Paul's Passing Thoughts

Calvinism “Leans” Left – guest writer, John Immel

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on June 17, 2019

The following question was posted in a Facebook group that I follow:

This is a great question. Here is my answer. Calvinism isn’t a leftward LEAN. It IS at the core Leftist ideology.

Here is what I mean. In modern parlance being politically LEFT means being statist/collectivist or totalitarian/tribalist or Man is morally subordinate to the state for the benefit of the body politic.

Being politically right means governing in accord with the American constitution- that Man is a free moral agent who can pursue his life, liberty and happiness; and the government’s singular function is to protect the individual. The American constitution sets up a secular state independent of any religious orthodoxy- men are free to believe what they want without a political theological litmus test.

Statist/Collectivism has been the dominant philosophical framework in recorded history. Without going into a lengthy discussion of the evolution of western political thought (e.g. the Pythagorean Soul/Body dichotomy. You can read the extended discussions here),  the culmination of Statist doctrine is Plato’s Republic. He set up a clear delineation between the fleshly, morally depraved masses and the soul-enlightened Philosopher Kings, men who were not subject to the depravity of fleshly existence and (somehow) uniquely qualified to rule over all men. Plato pontificated that the Philosopher Kings would be benevolent dictators, but the reality is Plato’s kings have always been despots.

Fast forwarding a few hundred years, and Augustine grafts three centuries of disorganized, vague intellectual Christian traditions into Plato’s despotic framework. It proved a powerful combination- this statist framework dominates the whole of the Dark and Middle Ages with only a couple deviations where Aristotle was rediscovered and rational independence was the leading political principle.

Enter the Enlightenment and the Reformation. Saint Thomas Aquinas rediscovers Aristotle (circa 1250) and does an exceptional job revisioning Christianity in Aristotelian terms which lead to the very rational independence and political freedom mentioned above. And this freedom is what Martin Luther found so unacceptable.

Let’s back up a tick. The modern legend is that Luther sought to champion intellectual freedom against an entrenched, immoral Papacy that was advancing an erroneous doctrinal definition of grace. The Reformation battle cry becomes the “5 Solas.” And the leading “Sola” is “Scripture Alone” which people are led to believe means individuals are empowered to read the bible for themselves, and this self directed bible reading is the foundation of correct Bible interpretation. Alakazam! Poof! No more Popes telling us what to think.

This is total fiction.

Luther was fully antagonistic of independent reason and political freedom. He NEVER believed the “laity” and the right of interpretation. Unfortunately Protestant history is a revisionist history that has erroneously taught that the Reformation was an individualist/independent thinking movement. The truth is Luther’s “reforming” effort was to unseat Aristotle’s influence on what he saw as a wayward Catholic “free thinking” leadership and a demand to return it to the “orthodoxy” of Augustine.

Forget reading Luther’s 95 theses. That is merely window dressing to his real dispute. I highly recommend reading the Heidelberg Disputation, particularly the later parts that typically don’t get published. If memory serves, points 16 through 25 are all about Plato vs Aristotle; the superiority of Plato and the evil of Aristotle.

You have to work to find it because revisionist historians don’t like the details available for public consumption, but the pro Plato/anti Aristotle is at the core of Luther’s “reformation.”

And so it goes to Calvin and his Institutes of Christian Religion. Do a fast review of how many times he references and applauds Plato and condemns all free thinking Aristotealian ideas. Make no mistake, Calvin’s ICR was a formal effort to close all of Augustine’s theological loopholes that implied independence and freedom and set up the justification for a totalitarian Christian state. Even a casual review of Protestant history illustrates that the totalitarian theory and the mystic depot practice lined up . . .

Until the Enlightenment and post-constitutional America. There are many steps to synthesize here, but for brevity, Thomas Jefferson successfully distills John Lock’s Enlightenment political theory into the greatest political achievement in human history- a document that totally liberated man from the crushing power of Government in general and theocratic tyranny in particular.

The effort to separate church and state was specifically designed to prevent the Massachusetts Theocracy (aka Puritan theocracy aka Calvinist theocracy) from ever rising anywhere in the colonies.
And by doing this, the American constitution severed the cords that had forever bound Calvinism with government force.

But the theocratic/Statist aspirations are at the root of Protestant Orthodoxy. And this is why, generations later you see contemporary Calvinist true believers advocating unapologetic statist public policy. This is why the “LEAN” left. But as I said it isn’t a lean. They are men who take Calvins synthesis seriously and seek to enact the political vision that subordinates all men to church authority. And the only way they can ever achieve that is to set up a totalitarian state that compels compliance; modern “leftist” ideology. Socialism, Communism, and Fascism are merely the secularized version of the same philosophical premise- individuals must be subordinate to the collective. It is the flip side of the same coin. They advocate the same political outcomes because they share the same premise.

Make no mistake, the current leftist political trend in the Calvinist movements is not an aberration or the error of a few stray thinkers. On the contrary it is the effort to be consistent with Calvin’s synthesis.

~ John Immel

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