I get absolutely giddy over a used bookstore with books stacked floor to ceiling in every nook and cranny complete with an overflow of boxes of books in the narrow aisles. Its musty atmosphere beacons my bookish treasure hunting. New bookstores generally only stock the sorts of books that are new, popular classics, or best sellers. While I value keeping up to date with the latest good reads, I want to dig through the old books and find the books I would not know to search for on Amazon or would not see on a shelf at my local Barnes & Noble.
This past Thanksgiving, I treasure hunted in two used bookstores while I was out of town. I found this thin book entitled Calvinism in History: A Political, Moral, and Evangelizing Force by Nathaniel S. McFetridge. Little did I know how impactful this little book would be. Upon embarking on this read, I learned that the author, McFetridge, was an Irish born Pennsylvanian Presbyterian Pastor writing in 1882. His words carried the weight and force of true history and theology. Some of the history I had a vague knowledge of, but some of it I found to be previously unknown to me and exciting.
Beyond 5-Point Calvinism
He wrote of Calvinism not as an ecclesial five-point doctrine, but as a historical nation building force from which we all benefit. The outworking of Calvinism did not stay cloistered into religious space but had a large civil impact on the liberties of men and the downfall of tyrants. McFetridge writes that “while Calvinism can live and do its divine work under any form of government, its natural affinities are not with a monarchy, but with a republic. This is the reason that it has made so splendid a record in the history of human freedom. Where it flourishes despotism cannot abide.”
In fact, quoting from another little book I read this year on Calvin, The Legacy of John Calvin by David Hall, “Many ideas that began with Calvin’s reformation in Geneva and later became part of the fabric of America were cultivated and crossbred in the seventeenth-century. Customs now taken for granted, like freedom of speech, assembly, and dissent, were extended as Calvin’s Dutch, British, and Scottish disciples refined these ideas” (Hall p. 27).Continue reading