A ‘simple’ introduction to Calvinism

Question 180, from Iwan

Would you possibly be able to explain as simply as possible what Calvinism is! Somebody asked me about it and to be honest I haven’t the first clue about it so would appreciate your help.

Calvinism is a theology based on key principles developed by John Calvin (1509-64), a noted protestant preacher and church leader during the Reformation. Churches that followed his theology are often referred to as ‘Reformed’, as distinct from ‘Lutheran’ churches that follow Martin Luther’s teaching instead.

Although Calvin’s theology had a number of interesting theological ideas at the heart of it, the doctrine for which he was most famous was what is now known as ‘double predestination’. At its most basic level, this is the idea that if God has predestined some members of the human race to salvation, then God has also predestined other members of the human race to eternal punishment. (more…)


Book review: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, by Philip Pullman

This book was published in 2010 by Canongate as part of its ‘Great myths’ series. Various authors were invited to rewrite a classic ‘myth’ of their choosing. Philip Pullman chose the story of Jesus, trying to separate out what could have really happened from the Christ ‘myth’ that he assumes was created by Jesus’ followers.

For a novelist to approach this is interesting, as the discussion in Biblical studies about trying to discern the ‘historical Jesus’ behind the stories in the gospels has been going on for well over a century.  The ‘Jesus of History’ and the ‘Christ of Faith’ have sometimes been juxtaposed by theologians, as if they were almost two different people, and that is the tack that Pullman takes in his story.

In Pullman’s version of events, Jesus had a twin brother, born shortly after him. Because of various prophecies about messiah-ship, this twin is given the nickname ‘Christ’. Jesus and Christ grow up together, although don’t particularly get along. Christ chronicles Jesus’ teaching and the things he does, sometimes altering it to make it sound better. He also has the idea that Jesus needs to found an organisation to further his ‘good news’ – this ‘church’ could become a powerful institution. Eventually, Christ is tricked into handing Jesus over to the authorities, who kill him. However, a mysterious stranger reassures Christ that his brother’s name will live forever in the ‘church’ that will now be reliant on the fabricated version of events that Christ has written down. (more…)