Monday, July 13, 2009

Unhappy Birthday John Calvin

John Calvin's 500th birthday passed me by last week but I think it is worth a brief observation that he is probably the most famous Christian theologian I have never read. When I was at college there was a joke going the rounds. It was said that Calvinists didn't allow husband and wife to have sex standing up for fear that it may lead to dancing.

I think this joke told me everything I needed to know in order to make a concerted effort not to read him and to avoid any examination questions about him. A working knowledge of Luther, now filed under 'obsolete' in my compartmentalised brain, got me through Reformation History.

I seem to recall something about a theology of total depravity.

Maybe the late H.L. Mencken got it right when he described Puritanism as '...the terrible fear that someone, somewhere might be enjoying themselves.'

4 comments:

Cosmo said...

Your opening remark made me laugh out loud. I'm probably only just ahead of you by a few pages.

When we were in theological training a group of us wanted to start a Calvinist Club - with the tag line: 'You may already be a member. You just don't know it yet.'

dmk said...

The trouble is we've no idea whether the caricatures of Calvin are accurate if we've not read him. So I have no idea if Mencken is right or not, though it's a good line.

Wonder if there are some alternatives to Mencken. "The terrible fear that someone, somewhere, is using an unauthorised communion prayer", "the terrible fear that someone, somewhere, might be right", "the terrible fear that someone, somewhere, is singing Kendrick" etc.

St said...

Mencken had one other good one. He described conscience as 'the terible fear that someone might be watching.'

Marcella said...

Personally I prefer the Calvin who was friends with Hobbes...