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180px-John_Calvin_-_Young WikipediaToday, June 10, 2009, marks the quincentenary of John Calvin’s birth. 

Calvinism’s inflence has spread to much of the world over the past 450 years.  Many people who do not profess the Calvinist faith are likely to have been brought up with Calvinist behaviours.

John Calvin’s beliefs directly or indirectly influenced:

  • Anglicanism: It has been said that half of Anglicans are really Calvinists. ‘Low Church’ services are muted (e.g. Morning Prayer) and personal behaviours regarding sex and drink are low-key.
  • Methodists: John Wesley’s beliefs were virtually indistinguishable from Calvin’s.  Modern-day Methodism has changed considerably from its origins.
  • Presbyterians: John Knox was a student of Calvin’s and brought his ideas home to Scotland’s Protestants.
  • Baptists: Many Baptists adhere to Calvinism’s Five Solas and, like the famous 19th century English preacher Charles Spurgeon, consider themselves Calvinists. 
  • Congregational (United Reformed) Church: This denomination — home to the Puritans — is very much Calvinist.    

In the 17th century, the Huguenots fled France taking their knowledge and skill of craftsmanship, particularly with regard to textiles, to England (East End of London), Prussia, the American Colonies and South Africa.  We owe some of our luxury watch brands, such as Breguet, to the Huguenots. 

Their emigration, along with that of the Scots-Irish, to the United States and Canada brought with it sobriety and industriousness.  They used their time wisely and lived according to Scripture.  Think of the Presbyterian signers of the Declaration of Independence and scions of industry in the United States.

The Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.  Many Americans over the age of 40 will recall having read Puritan pastors Jonathan Edwards’s and Cotton Mather’s sermons in high school English class.      

Until the late 20th century, much of American and Canadian society was based on Calvinist values: schooling, respect, honesty, integrity, hard work and the fear of God.  These values helped unify a diverse population in a large land mass.  (It might not have been a perfect society, but that wasn’t the fault of the values.  Think how much worse it could have been without them.)

No matter what church we go to or what faith we profess, Calvinism has had some part to play in many of our lives. 

Best wishes to Calvinists worldwide for the next 500 years.  May you remain as steadfast in your faith and practice as you are today. 

For more on Calvinism and the five Solas, click here.

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