Thursday, February 24, 2011

“Calvin’s Legacy in Philosophy” by William Davis (Ch. 6)

This review, written by Bill DeJong, is one of our series of reviews of chapters of David W. Hall & Marvin Padgett, Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview (P&R, 2010). We welcome your engagement and responses.

One of the rich ironies of history is that the theology of John Calvin, the sixteenth-century Genevan reformer, has attained a level of recognition, if not prominence, within the guild of contemporary North-American Christian philosophers. What is so staggering about this phenomenon is that in his writings Calvin often spoke critically of the enterprise of philosophy and never, throughout the entirety of his life, developed anything that approaches a philosophical system. In this chapter William C. Davis, professor of philosophy at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, shows us with acumen and clarity the surprising legacy that Calvin has in the realm of philosophy, especially in the areas of epistemology and metaphysics.

In his assertions about human knowledge of God and human self-knowledge, Calvin “opens a new chapter in Western epistemology” (117). The first hallmark of this new chapter is the place Scripture should occupy in the acquisition of knowledge. That the Word of God is the authority by which all knowledge claims are to be judged is attested, Calvin alleged, by the Word of God itself. Though philosophers sometimes balk at the circularity of the argument, Davis rightly regards it as “philosophically tight” (119). No other authority could authorize the Word of God but God himself. Calvin’s view of Scripture as self-authenticating has been acknowledged and embraced not only by Cornelius Van Til and John Frame in their constructions of a presuppositional apologetic, but also by Alvin Plantinga is his philosophizing about the warrant for belief.

The second hallmark is the inevitability of human belief in God or what Calvin called the sensus divinitatus. Though some theologians and philosophers insist that knowledge of God’s existence is attainable only through demonstration and proof (e.g., Charles Hodge, R.C. Sproul), others with more indebtedness to Calvin allege that demonstrative proof is unnecessary to justify belief in God. Among the latter, Alvin Plantinga is especially prominent for his position that the sensus divinitatus is analogous to the otherwise reliable faculties of sight and hearing. Also in line with Calvin, Plantinga posits that faith is a God-given module by which certain truths beyond the knowledge of God’s existence can be apprehended and believed.

The third hallmark is the noetic effects of the fall whereby human powers are now not only inept, but distorted and liable to lead us astray. In line with Calvin, Abraham Kuyper and Herman Dooyeweerd argued that sin’s influence on our noetic equipment is most disruptive in religious affairs and therefore especially in academic disciplines such as economics and ethics where religious dispositions are at the forefront, and less so in, for example, math and physics, which tend not to be as influenced by religious convictions.

In the area of metaphysics, John Calvin’s theology is far less appreciated, especially in view of the widening embrace of open theism. Few tolerate Calvin’s compatibilist position of affirming both meticulous providence and morally responsible human behaviour. Davis thoughtfully interacts with the most commonly raised problems with Calvin’s compatibilism — namely, how humans can be responsible for acts decreed by God and why meticulous providence is not fatalism. These problems are addressed wisely and biblically by Davis who encourages, as Calvin did, a humble embrace of the teachings of God’s Word, especially in areas where human comprehension is transcended.

The only shortcoming in this chapter is Davis’s neglect to direct readers to debates regarding some of the issues he raises. Whether Plantinga has correctly understood Calvin on the sensus divinitatus, for example, is disputed by, inter alia, James K.A. Smith in Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009). The extent to which Calvin was a compatibilist (an anachronistic term) is debated in Willem J. van Asselt, ed., Reformed Thought on Freedom: The Concept of Free Choice in Early Modern Reformed Theology (Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought) (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010).

This demurral notwithstanding, Davis’s chapter on Calvin’s legacy in philosophy is erudite and judicious and a wonderful sample of Christian scholarship. Those in the Reformed tradition will be reaffirmed in their views about the central place of Scripture in the enterprise of philosophy, about the role of faith in apprehending truth, and about the devastating influences of the fall on human reasoning. What is especially exciting is that each of these affirmations, some more than others, is more palatable to postmoderns than they ever were to moderns. Lastly, Davis provides Reformed believers some philosophical and biblical ammunition to defend classic theism in view of the surging popularity of open theism.

With an M.Div. from Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Bill DeJong is pastor of Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church in Hamilton, ON and a Ph.D. student in Christian theology at McMaster Divinity College.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

“Calvinism and Literature” by Leland Ryken (Ch. 5)

This review, written by Ben Faber, is one of our series of reviews of chapters of David W. Hall & Marvin Padgett, Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview (P&R, 2010). We welcome your engagement and responses.

“Calvinism and Literature” is written by Leland Ryken, Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English at Wheaton College. Ryken is justly appreciated for his work on John Milton and on the Bible as literature, and for his involvement with the English Standard Version. Ryken’s contribution to the ESV led to the publication of his The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation (Crossway, 2002), which argues that “only an essentially literal translation of the Bible can achieve sufficiently high standards of literary criteria and fidelity to the original text” (10). Aesthetic criteria and faithfulness to Scripture are at the heart of Ryken’s earlier book, The Liberated Imagination: Thinking Christianly about the Arts (Shaw, 1989), which first presents the Reformed doctrinal framework that is summarized in this chapter.

Ryken begins by noting that the absence of a “Calvinistic school” of literary theory is not attributable to the lack of suggestive material in Calvin’s theology. The resources in Calvin’s theology need to be converted, not only into a world view, but into workable concepts for literary theory and critical practice. Ryken then proceeds to construct a Reformed approach to literature from Calvin’s theology: the knowledge of God and of ourselves is the basis of Calvin’s view of culture, from which Ryken extrapolates an aesthetic theory that is applicable to literature.

The doctrines that Ryken identifies as crucial to a Calvinist approach to literature are the cultural mandate; the nature of vocation; the image of God; the common experience of God’s grace; the beauty of God and his creation; the symbolic representation of truth; and the divine standard of evaluation. These doctrines are relevant to literature only by inference and deduction. For instance, God commands humans to be culturally active; the making and receiving of literature is cultural activity; therefore, participation in literature is a cultural imperative. The doctrine of vocation is another example of such logic: God dignifies human work as “calling”; creative writing is work; therefore, the vocation of literature is approved by God. Ryken cites Calvin’s commentary on Exodus 31, regarding Bezalel’s work on the temple, as biblical evidence of art as vocation. This is typical of Ryken’s method throughout the chapter: he describes Calvin’s doctrines in terms of principles for cultural engagement and then relates these to literature. In so doing, Ryken is in line with other Calvinistic writers on culture, such as Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer, Calvin Seerveld, Henry Van Til, and Andy Crouch, as well as Henry Zylstra and Clarence Walhout on literature.

If the reader is looking for a concise apology for art in Calvin’s theology, this chapter hits the nail on the head. However, if one is looking for insight from Calvin on issues in literary theory more specifically, or for a biblical response to contemporary practices, then this is not the place. First, Ryken can only gesture toward Calvin’s doctrines of the incarnation and the sacraments in dealing with the “incarnational” or “sacramental” dimension of literary representation; more needs to be worked out from Calvin (and Augustine) to be fully descriptive of a Reformed approach to literature. Second, Ryken is writing a justification of literature for the Christian community, rather than a polemic against secular theories of interpretation. This chapter, then, should be read as laying the foundation for a more comprehensive exploration of Calvin’s theology as it relates to language and literature, framed in the context of contemporary literature, theory and criticism. That is a project far more ambitious and specialized than a short chapter in a volume commemorating Calvin’s contribution to the arts and learning can achieve.

Ben Faber holds a D.Phil. in English literature from Oxford University. He is assistant professor of English at Redeemer University College, and is a member of Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ontario.

Friday, February 18, 2011

“Calvin’s Contributions to Economic Theory and Policy” by Timothy Terrell (Ch. 4)

This review, written by John Boersema, is one of our series of reviews of chapters of David W. Hall & Marvin Padgett, Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview (P&R, 2010). We welcome your engagement and responses.

The author of this chapter, Timothy D. Terrell, is associate professor of economics at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

In introducing this chapter, Terrell argues that it would be difficult to envision the development of Western market-oriented civilization without Calvin and his followers. Recognizing that while Calvin “certainly retained some errors of his time, his work improved economic theory and policy and led to enduring moral defenses of liberty.” Terrell, obviously a free-market enthusiast, argues that Calvin’s work enhanced the case for economic freedom in three main ways, namely by (1) his defense of the occupations of merchants and industrialists (as part of his general view of occupation as “calling”), (2) his stance on interest and usury, and (3) his recognition of limits on the civil magistrates.

Terrell begins the exposition of his first point by drawing on the Weber thesis that “Protestantism led to capitalism by elevating ascetic stewardship to a virtue for all Christians in their callings, not just monks.” Calvin’s idea of a calling in all lines of work led Protestants to be more focused on the practical aspects of this world than was the case in other religions. While recognizing exceptions, he mentions the relative economic success of nations with Calvinistic backgrounds (e.g. Britain and its colonies) as opposed to that of Catholic Spain and Portugal (and their Central and South American colonies). Terrell rightly deals with some critics of Weber; he cautiously concludes that “Calvinism may have encouraged the accumulation of capital” (an essential element for modern economics) since it praises diligent, purposeful labour while de-emphasizing consumption. Accumulation of capital, Terrell argues, generated a group of capital owners who had an interest in protecting property rights over against thieves and the state, thus emphasizing individual rights (which Calvin explicitly supported) instead of a coercive state. Terrell further cites with approbation authors who attribute economic growth to the Protestant/Calvinist form of worship with fewer resources devoted to churches and less productive work lost through church-sanctioned holidays. In fact, the removal of the all-encompassing authority of the Roman Catholic Church created room for more experimentation and initiative.

Terrell explains that although Calvin did criticize the activities of businessmen, he, unlike others of his time, e.g., Luther, did accept merchant activity as a vocation. He affirmed the exchange of money and goods; money was an institution God had provided for the good of humanity. Calvin’s Geneva showed a remarkable increase in the numbers of merchants. While Calvin believed that wealth must be used to benefit the poor, this was to remain a voluntary act. Nevertheless, Calvin saw ample scope for governments to intervene in the economy by regulation – even of prices. In fact, Terrell notes there is much in Calvin’s work to provide ammunition for the Christian Left and interventionism. Terrell, however, attributes this to Calvin’s continuing immersion in the milieu of sixteenth-century Christian social thought — “the substantial burden of remaining error in Calvin.”

While Terrell recognizes that Calvin was not the first to attack the medieval church’s usury prohibitions, he supports the view of others that Calvin’s criticism of this “unbiblical and socially destructive” ban contributed to a “lasting advance in economic thought.” Calvin, according to Terrell, appealed to people’s conscience, asserting that the government could not restrict the terms of a lending agreement. He further contradicted the argument of the time that money as such was “sterile” but that use of money would allow the borrower the ability to buy and sell at a profit. Calvin recognized that the interest prohibition in Mosaic law was not applicable today except that interest should not be charged to the poor. Terrell does point out some lingering inconsistencies in Calvin’s view, e.g. his objection to professional money lenders.

In his final point, Terrell argues that Calvin’s belief in a limited role of the civil magistrate “may have been one his most important and lasting contributions.” Calvin (though somewhat inconsistently) recognized some of the dangers inherent in unlimited government power, which Terrell sees as “providing the groundwork for Western society’s institutional bulwark against central planning.”

Overall, Terrell has made an important contribution by showing that Calvin’s work has much wider implications than his theology alone, particularly since these contributions are not frequently recognized by students of economics. His chapter should encourage others to study the area further. In one sense, the chapter is limited. Rather than “contributions to economic theory and policy,” the focus appears to be on the implication of the work of Calvin, his followers and his critics to the development of the free market. Terrell’s own free market position is quite evident in this treatment. Given the nature of the book, it is not surprising that a large section is based primarily on secondary sources; it would have been more helpful to see more references to Calvin’s own work, but Calvin’s language makes that difficult. In any case, the chapter provides important food for thought.

John Boersema, a professor emeritus at Redeemer University College, holds a Ph.D. in Business and Applied Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of the Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church. He is the author of Political-Economic Activity to the Honour of God (Premier, 1999).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“The Arts and the Reformed Tradition” by William Edgar (Ch. 3)

This review, written by Harold Sikkema, is one of our series of reviews of chapters of David W. Hall & Marvin Padgett, Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview (P&R, 2010). We welcome your engagement and responses.

As do so many who discuss Calvin and the arts, William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, begins tentatively. “The Arts and the Reformed Tradition” is uniquely titled among the chapters in Calvin and Culture in that it lacks Calvin’s name, almost as if to distance him from the arts. Edgar reminds us of Calvin’s qualification of painting as “a tedium of idleness,” and speaks of Calvin’s reputation in the arts as one requiring “rehabilitation efforts.” As an artist, I am admittedly sceptical about these efforts, but as a Christian, I appreciate their redemptive spirit as well as Edgar’s work (his Honours B.A. in Music from Harvard serves him well here) in highlighting the Reformer’s more nuanced aesthetic moments.

We find in Edgar’s writing an effort to balance modern and postmodern historiographies. He appreciates the worldview framework used by Kuyper, Rookmaker, Schaeffer, and others: that culture emanates from worldview. He also suggests correctives to this framework in that “the search for an ethos…that characterizes a given era can lead to oversimplifications.” Two approaches in hand, Edgar proceeds practically, looking at Calvin’s views on both religious and secular arts, and at the concrete aesthetic implications of a Calvinist worldview.

Calvin’s violence against “superstitions of Popery” is spun neatly into context, such that iconoclastic precedents and Swiss politics — but especially a robust theological basis — serve, for Edgar, to defend his iconoclasm. It was never pure vandalism, he says, but intended as reform, publicly measuring local preparedness for Word-based worship. The “robust theology” is partly Augustinian, in that images supposedly “remove fear and add error,” but Calvin connects image-prohibition also to God’s glory, and to Christ, whose fulfillment of Old Testament figures instituted “simpler” worship, with only two representations: Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Calvin’s musical minimalism was also Word-based, with instruments belonging to the “spiritually immature” Old Testament, and the Psalms alone, as “prayers given by God himself,” maintaining the gravity and majesty of singing in worship.

Calvin’s opposition to images, Edgar rightly maintains, was not all-encompassing: he listed “the useful arts” among God’s gifts, seeking the “pure and legitimate use” of painting and sculpture. Together with Christopher Richard Joby, Edgar sees in Calvin’s restrictions a counterbalancing call for imagination, as in the metricized Psalmody. Illustrated Bibles, anti-Catholic cartoons, Protestant engravings, stained glass, and decorated communion cups all demonstrate for him “a deep respect for poetry and visual interpretation” among Calvinists. He also notes that Calvin’s theology resulted in more relational worship spaces: God meets us through his Word, as is symbolized by the centrality of the pulpit.

Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son
In terms of Calvinist influences on the broader arts, Edgar compares several perspectives. Christian Tumpel sees Dutch painting as a fundamentally Protestant contribution, because of its “biblical histories rendered…in a psychological or applicatory way.” Hans Rookmaker highlights Rembrandt’s unique successes here. Dutch landscape art also connects to a Calvinist creation theology: for Maarten de Klijn as it flows from an understanding of nature as God’s “second book,” and for Boudewijn Bakker as a “song of praise to God the Creator.” For the sake of balance, Edgar reminds us that Reindert L. Falkenburg sees Dutch landscape art not as a product of Calvinism so much as of Enlightenment secularism.

Edgar finishes with a call to ongoing work: to further compare Protestant and Catholic sensibilities, and to study “cultural appropriations.” He joyfully notes that Calvinists are increasingly asking how to engage with the visual arts (rather than “whether” to engage them), and leaves artists with the challenge to articulate our misery but also our hope in the Lord.

Makoto Fujimura’s Charis Seat
from his Countenance collection.
I’m deeply grateful for the ground Edgar covers with such balance in this chapter. I found most enlightening what he gathered from Kuyper: that the Reformation, in spite of its iconoclasm, actually set art free to find its own way. I did find myself wondering why he so emphasised the Netherlands. Japan has at least as much to offer today in Makoto Fujimura, an artist (and elder in the PCA) who articulates precisely that sort of misery and hope for which Edgar asks. He does so through the visual languages of abstract expressionism, and Japanese Nihonga painting, two disciplines which do not neatly fit into Calvin’s scheme of images as either “historical” or “pictorial,” but through which he nevertheless seeks, in line with Calvin, to glorify God. His collaboration with Crossway to produce a set of Illuminated Gospels, while standing fully in the tradition of Protestant creativity, also brings to the table the lessons that art history would have us learn, through common grace.

Edgar’s final encouragement connects for me with what Andy Crouch reminds us of in Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (IVP Books, 2008): that it’s not enough to critique, to copy, or to consume culture; the Christian calling, “be fruitful and multiply,” has always included responsibility for cultural creativity. And although this aesthetic imperative has indeed found expression in Calvin, it must continue to flourish in new ways among those called to be his successors.

Harold Sikkema holds a B.A. in Art and Multimedia from McMaster University, and practises visual art in Hamilton, Ontario, where he attends Providence Canadian Reformed Church.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

“Law, Authority, and Liberty in Early Calvinism” by John Witte Jr. (Ch. 2)

This review, written by Ian Moes, is one of our series of reviews of chapters of David W. Hall & Marvin Padgett, Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview (P&R, 2010). We welcome your engagement and responses.

In this chapter, John Witte Jr., Director of the Center for the Study of the Law and Religion and Professor of Law at Emory University Law School, illustrates how Calvin influenced the legal arena both during his life and after. He focuses on Calvin’s main legal teachings and the unique models of law and liberty, authority and discipline, and church and state that Calvinists later developed from Calvin’s writings.

Witte highlights that central to Calvin’s teaching is a basic separation between church and state, but not a division between religion and politics. The church, Calvin argues, is responsible for governing itself without state interference. The state is responsible for making and enforcing laws that encompass the biblical principles of love for God and neighbour, but not for embracing biblical laws per se.

Witte explains how this worked practically for Calvin, who described three uses for the “moral law,” i.e., the moral commandments engraved on the conscience and summarized in the Decalogue:
  1. Theological – to condemn all persons in their consciences and compel them to seek God’s liberating grace;
  2. Civil – to restrain the sinfulness of nonbelievers; and
  3. Educational – to teach believers the means and measures of sanctification.

From these three uses, Calvin argued that it was the church’s responsibility to teach the “spiritual norms” that are distinctly Christian, and the state’s responsibility to enforce the “civil norms” that are common to all persons.

In this regard, Calvin argued that the church was its own distinct legal entity and held “doctrinal power” to determine its own confessions, “legislative power” to ensure orderly administration, and “jurisdictional power” to enforce its own laws and church discipline. Only if the church’s spiritual jurisdiction failed should the state be called upon to enforce civil and criminal sanctions. In doing so, Witte notes that Calvin struck a unique balance between “law and liberty, structure and spirit, order and innovation, dogma and adiaphora.”

In reading Witte’s overview of Calvin’s contributions to the legal arena, one can see how Calvin’s teachings are still evident today in both internal church relations and church-state relations. For example, Canadian courts are notably reluctant to interfere with internal church matters. This is something Calvin would applaud as it recognizes the church’s “jurisdictional power.” Additionally, Canadian courts have historically refrained from passing judgment on the validity of doctrinal beliefs, but have instead focused on whether a particular belief is sincerely held in determining whether it merits protection. Again, this is something Calvin would applaud as it recognizes the church’s “doctrinal power.”

The challenge arises, however, that we are living in an increasingly pluralistic society. There is an increasing sentiment, both judicially and socially, that the freedom to hold religious beliefs is broader than the right to practice them publicly. The courts are increasingly called upon to “balance” religious rights with other rights and to adjudicate on whether there are legal limits on religious freedoms that are “justified in a free and democratic society.” In this way, religious beliefs are increasingly marginalized to be practiced within the four walls of the church building.

In this context, do Calvin’s teachings provide any guidance? I think they do. While Witte notes that Calvin assumed each local community would have a single faith wherein both the church and the state would cooperate in the governance of a godly polity, Calvin’s primary emphasis was that the state should not apply biblical laws per se, but the (biblical) principles of love, justice and equity. We should be encouraged to continue Calvin’s urging on the state to reflect these principles in its law making and adjudication.

Ian Moes earned his LL.B. from the University of Alberta Law School and is a lawyer in Vancouver, BC, where he practices in civil, constitutional, and church law matters. He is a member of Langley Canadian Reformed Church and a director of the Geneva Society for Reformational Worldview Studies.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

“1929 and All That, or What Does Calvinism Say to Historians Searching for Meaning?” by Darryl Hart (Ch. 1)

This review, written by George Alkema, is one of our series of reviews of chapters of David W. Hall & Marvin Padgett, Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview (P&R, 2010). We welcome your engagement and responses.

That Calvin was drawn to Clio, the muse of history, was betrayed by a matched pair of intellectual Freudian slips tucked away in his commentaries: History, he taught, is “the teacher of life” and even the “mistress of life.” Editors Hall and Padgett note these descriptions in the book’s introduction, but Darryl G. Hart, visiting professor of church history at Westminster Seminary in California and historical contributor to the volume Calvin and Culture, will have none of it. Calvinist historians, he contends, are not equipped by their faith to understand the final meaning of historical developments. He in fact implies that their Christian viewpoint may be an impediment to understanding the significance of historical events. Reformed scholars, says Hart, need “epistemological humility,” by which he means a distinct reticence in interpreting history. (Hart’s reference to 1929 highlights two influential events of that year, the stock market crash and the reorganization of Princeton seminary, which would lead to the establishment of Westminster Seminary.)

Professor Hart rests his thesis on Calvin’s concept of divine providence, by which a good God rules sovereignly over all that occurs in history and in the lives of his children. Nevertheless, in spite of our belief in divine direction and control, events appear to us mortals, says Calvin, as “fortuitous.” That “chance” quality of events is enormously significant. As Calvin points out, Moses wrote that the secret things belong to God (Deuteronomy 29:29) and not to us. We do know that all things will work to the consummation of the divine plan, but we can’t penetrate the manner of its working out. For his use of the doctrine of providence and its implications, Calvin was dependent on Augustine, who was well-respected for his philosophy of history as set out in The City of God. Not a bad ally to have, especially when intellectual frustration is implied.

Christian scholars, then, Hart teaches, don’t possess a key to understanding the significance of specific events, and can’t know how these contribute to the advancement of God’s kingdom. They are at times tempted, however, to be over-confident, because Scripture reveals the aim of history, the middle of history, and history’s end. Hart provides examples of recent and contemporary Christian (and Calvinist) historians who have practiced their craft in a manner that for him crosses the line into stating too much and making claims that are really unsustainable. Ronald Wells, for instance, wrote some nasty prose about the humanism of the Enlightenment and its implications for the subsequent history of the west. [See Ronald Wells, History Through the Eyes of Faith (Harper, 1989) and Ronald Wells, ed., History and the Christian Historian (Eerdmans, 1998).] He in fact declared that the Enlightenment led mankind down a blind alley of “moral and spiritual blackness.” Hart terms this sort of pronouncement “moral judgment,” and as such inadmissible. Indulging in it, he believes, can derail the historian’s purpose and blind her to the “variety, complexity, and mystery of the past” (p. 4). It violates the interpretive humility and the intellectual modesty that, in his view, Calvin’s doctrine of providence imposes on the historian.

Thus Hart has put Calvin into the traces of a decidedly minimalist cart. Calvinist historians must accept the limits of their competence and refrain from kicking against the goads. One may well question, however, whether this is really the emphasis we need. After all, are we known for extravagant claims and wild-eyed enthusiasms? Hardly, I would say. What is needed, rather, is a spirit of encouragement, so that as Christian historians we work with robust analysis and discernment, and with a keen understanding of the significance that historical ideas, events, and movements naturally contain. Our task is to establish connections between our faith and historical events. Let’s take as an example (more or less arbitrarily chosen) the Battle of the Boyne of 1690. This battle saw the defeat of James II and of absolutism in England: The victorious William III was willing to sign the Bill of Rights which de facto initiated limited monarchy and provided for the growth of parliamentary institutions. Are we not obligated to notice God’s providential guidance in such events?

The calling of Christian historians requires them also to defend the faith from the vicious and often faddish calumnies of secular historians bent on defaming Christianity with false representations of past events. For this and for their interpretative tasks they have the necessary tools, for Scripture affords us wisdom in the estimation of humankind and its deeds. History, “the mistress of life,” is a great teacher when her story is told with the discernment that biblical insight can provide. A pity that Daryl G. Hart does not see this.

George Alkema is head of the History Department of Guido de Brès Christian High School in Hamilton, ON. He holds an M.A. in Ancient and European History from McMaster University (1975).

Reviews of Calvin and Culture

Back in September, we posted a book notice about Calvin and Culture, a new volume that is relevant to nearly every Reformed academic. We found a number of people willing to write brief reviews of many of the chapters, and today we begin rolling these reviews out, leaving some time after each one as an opportunity for discussion. Some of our contributors submitted their summaries and critiques some time ago, and others have provided their evaluations with very short notice upon our invitation, and we heartily thank all of our reviewers.

We plan to post the reviews following the sequence of the chapters. As will become clear in the brief summaries and reflections offered by our contributors, few historical figures have matched Calvin’s impact in terms of breadth and longevity. We expect you will agree that the legacy of Calvin in the academic disciplines is strong and worthy of our continued examination, participation, and advancement.

As you can see from the chapters listed at our book notice, several fields of academic study were not included, such as sociology, psychology, linguistics/language, theology. Certainly much has already been written on Calvin’s theology, but if you have any ideas on Calvin’s impact in these other areas, your contribution would be very welcome!

We hope you, our readers, will value and interact with each of these reviews. Part of the calling of the Reformed academic is to be aware of issues in other disciplines instead of being only narrowly focussed on his or her own particular area of teaching and research, and cross-fertilization of ideas is rewardingly fruitful and helps avoid reductionism.