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Calvinism in History

Nathaniel S. McFetridge

Reviewed by: Arthur Fox

Date posted: 05/22/2005

Calvinism in History, by Nathaniel S. McFetridge. Published by Solid Ground Christian Books, 2004. Paperback, 124 pages ($11.99). Reviewed by OP pastor Arthur Fox.

Are you a Calvinist? It is more common nowadays to refer to oneself as "Reformed," but "Calvinist" has a wealth of history behind it. It represents many of the positive effects of the gospel on life and culture in American, as well as British, society over the course of history.

This is the great point of Nathaniel McFetridge in this reprint of his Calvinism in History. In this book, the author reviews history and finds that Calvinism has been a powerful political force, as opposed to Arminianism. The author maintains that Arminianism has been part of the philosophy behind despotism, the denial of civil liberties, and even the creation of a strong central government. Calvinism, on the other hand, supports democratic principles and liberty. The author points to such men as John and Samuel Adams and their Presbyterian commitments, which included a commitment to Calvinism, and states that much of what Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence was previously written by Calvinist authors before him.

McFetridge goes further and credits Calvinists with forming the concept of the home and providing the bedrock for a stable society in their promotion of honesty and virtue. Finally, the author maintains that Calvinism, being "that doctrine most conducive to salvation [because it] makes most of sin and most of grace" (p. 102), is therefore a more powerful evangelizing force than Arminianism.

Now, do not get squeamish! This author is not writing a pamphlet against Arminianism. Nor is this book a technical theological work. Rather, simply and unemotionally, he compares Calvinism with Arminianism with respect to the fruit of each system, and concludes that Calvinism comes out the winner in the contest because "the tree is known by its fruit" (p. 99). Calvinism simply has the better fruit!

All in all, McFetridge seems to demonstrate the saying that all of life is religious, by showing how Calvinism has affected much of what we have come to expect in American society. The book sounds so contemporary that the reader would be forgiven for thinking it was written by someone from the "red states." But in reality Calvinism in History was first published in 1882, is easy reading, and provides much "fruit" for thought.

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