The NYT article on the Calvinist and ultra-masculine Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle is not too bad. Driscoll, by rejecting the prissiness of much of evangelical America, has some success in reaching rough young men with the gospel.


The theological analysis in the article uses stereotypes. Calvinists believe in total depravity – but so do Catholics. Calvin did not think that human nature was totally corrupt – because insofar as it is created by God, it is still good. Calvin knew his theology well enough not to be a Manichean. What Calvin thought was that all human powers, including reason, had been corrupted by sin, and Catholics believe that the will was weakened and the intellect was darkened by original sin.


Calvin’s doctrine of predestination and the role of the human will is also misunderstood. In Jonathan Edward’s excellent explanation, Calvin (along with Thomists) thought that God was the cause of every human action – including sin, insofar as it was an action and had being. Evil is the deprivation of being, and does not exist, and is therefore not caused by God. This analysis is a necessary corollary of the belief that God is the maker of heaven and earth, of everything, including, in a sense, sinful actions, and therefore of salvation and damnation.


Edwards identified the dissenters from this as Arminians and behind them the Jesuits, who both believed in the freedom of indifference. Edwards does not go further back to Occam and Scotus, but I think that their nominalism and voluntarism is the original Western source of the freedom of indifference.


During the controversy De Auxiliis, the Jesuits accused the Dominicans of Calvinism, and the Dominicans accused the Jesuits of Pelegianism. The pope resolved the matter by telling them both to stop accusing each other of heresy

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