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If you thought you knew John Calvin–who turned 500 last week–you probably don’t know enough. For example, that he was French, born Jean Cauvin. And if he was in fact scandalized by dancing, he was also a lot more complex than that. I explored the new look Calvin in an essay at PoliticsDaily, “Patron Saint of the Recession.”
So can anything rescue Calvin from his reputation? Some big names are giving it a good shot. Marilynne Robinson, whose 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Home,” is one of the most convincing portraits ever of a Congregational pastor, spends a good deal of time in her essay collection, “The Death of Adam,” trying to rehabilitate Calvin, and doing an admirable job. And a spate of new books timed for the anniversary includes works that highlight Calvin’s pastoral side, and one, from Princeton Seminary professor William Stacy Johnson, that calls Calvin a “Reformer for the 21st Century.” Biblical scholar Roland Boer weighs in with perhaps the most provocative thesis, arguing in “Political Grace: The Revolutionary Theology of John Calvin,” that Calvin was at heart a political radical, not a conservative.
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