Saturday, January 25, 2014

“Calvin opened the door to the domination of the mind by money”

“THE strength of Calvin’s action, therefore, and his creative power, lay in the strictly logical, orderly, and defined arrangement of his new body. It grew through its local churches and their enthusiastic adherents much as Communism today grows, by cells, and though it was democratic in appeal through its system of election, yet it was excessively authoritative in practice through its superadded doctrine that the officers on which that army depended—that is, the ministers of the Church, the elected presbyters—once elected and ordained, could no longer be questioned. Calvin stands thus at the origin of a whole group of interconnected modern ideas which have had the greatest effect upon the developments of politics and philosophy in the centuries following. 

Thus the parliamentary institution, which is no increasingly distasteful to the European mind, derives ultimately from Calvin, for it is based on the idea of electing a deputy and then giving the deputy absolute power over the electors. Again, the Monist conception, the idea that all things are one and that spiritual and material forces have the same root—the philosophy underlying modern materialist science—derives from Calvin’s doctrine of there being only one will in the universe. Indirectly (as we shall see later) a consequence of even greater importance followed from Calvin’s definitions and the powerful organization he inspired. For it is to these that ultimately the growth of Capitalism can be traced, against which today the whole world is in revolt. 

The effects of Calvin herein is indirect, but nonetheless strong. In denying the efficacy of good deeds and of the human will, of abnegations, in leaving on one side as useless all the doctrine and tradition of Holy Poverty. Calvin opened the door to the domination of the mind by money. St. Thomas had said it centuries before—that if men abandoned the idea of God as the supreme good they would tend to replace Him by the idea, implicit, not directly stated, but of high practical effect, that material wealth is the supreme good. Calvin never said in so many words, and indeed, never thought that men should principally pursue the accumulation of wealth, but he broke down the barriers which Catholicism had erected against that perilous force, and, following on his action, Christendom began to turn to the idea of wealth as at least the only certain good, and therefore the main thing to be aimed at.

Calvin himself would have said with learning, sincerity, and zeal that the glory of God was the only object worthy of human activity, but as he divorced such activity from the power of saving the individual soul, what could there remain save the pursuit of riches?”

~Hilaire Belloc: The Crisis of Civilization.

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