f The Wittenberg Door: G. K. Chesterton’s Anti-Calvinism

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

G. K. Chesterton’s Anti-Calvinism


Only one great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination. Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine; poetry partly kept him in health. . . . He was damned by John Calvin; he was almost saved by John Gilpin.

G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is a wonderful book. His insight, clarity of thought, and turn-of-phrase make him a writer with few peers. One thing I’ve always wondered about, though, was his virulent anti-Calvinism. And it wasn’t just that he hated Calvinism; many do. But what was troubling was that his description of Calvinism bore little resemblance to the real McCoy.

Pastor John Piper also shares my affinity for Chesterton and his book Orthodoxy. In a post at the Desiring God blog he explains why Chesterton’s view of Calvinism doesn’t bother him. Here’s an excerpt:

Here’s the reason Chesterton’s bowshots at Calvinism do not bring me down. The Calvinism I love is far closer to the “Elfland” he loves than the rationalism he hates.

He would no doubt be baffled by my experience. For me the biggest, strongest, most beautiful, and most fruitful tree that grows in the soil of “Elfland” is Calvinism. Here is a tree big enough, and strong enough, and high enough to let all the paradoxical branches of the Bible live — and wave with joy in the sunshine of God’s sovereignty.

In the shade of this tree, I was set free from the procrustean forces of unbiblical, free-will presuppositionalism — the unyielding, alien assumption that without the human right of ultimate self-determination human beings cannot be accountable for their choices. When I walked away from this narrow, rationalistic, sparse tree, into the shade of the massive tree of Calvinism, it was a happy day. Suddenly I saw that this is what all the poetry had been about. This is the tree where all the branches of all the truths that men have tried to separate thrive.

You can read the entire post here.

--The Catechizer

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