Bruce Gore: The Seeds of Revolution In Calvin’s Thought

Bruce Gore is right up my alley.

There are few subjects that I enjoy more than intellectual history. As longtime readers know, I could easily turn this blog into a history blog and have done so on many occasions in the past.

In this video, Bruce Gore traces the roots of the American Revolution back to John Calvin. He explains how Calvin’s belief in the sovereignty of God and total depravity led to the belief that “all men are created equal” which was a strange idea which was unknown in the West before the Early Modern Era.

Calvin, of course, meant that “all men are created equal” in the sense that all men are created in the image of God, but also that all men have been thoroughly corrupted by sin. He believed that human beings are rotten at their core which is why is no one is born better than anyone else. Kings were corrupted by sin. Aristocrats were as rotten and corrupted by sin as anyone else. Calvinists created republics like the Dutch and Swiss republics and the short lived Commonwealth of England.

The key turning point which paved the road to liberalism came in the 17th century when the traditional, negative view of human nature that was rooted in Augustinianism – one that was shared by Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation – was challenged by the revival of the Pelagian heresy. This is the positive view of human nature which had been marginalized for over a thousand years by St. Augustine. Human beings really aren’t corrupted by Original Sin. Humans are born good. Humanity can be morally perfected. The problem is not the bondage of the will as Luther thought, but society that drags us down and holds us back from creating paradise on earth.

Christianity was holding us back. It was leading us down a blind alley and thwarting progress. We can use reason, science and common sense to create a better world. Not only has The Science and common sense shown that race is a social construct, but we have recently discovered that the “gender binary” is a myth too. Children as young as 4-years-old are “transitioning” into the opposite sex.

It is an unpopular theme to deny human progress and human improvement. We flatter ourselves that we are more enlightened as well as more moral than the ancients, yet we imitate them in all save the mechanic arts. …

Divest us of our Christian morality, and leave us to our moral philosophy, and we might dread the comparison with any era of the past. We have but one moral code, and that a selfish one; the ancients always had two, one of which was elevated, self-denying and unselfish.”

George Fitzhugh


  1. The courageous Welsh (British) monk Pelagius is not often understood. Pelagius was right, Augustine and Calvin were wrong about human nature. Through much political maneuvering, the Augustinians were able to have Pelagius condemned by the Roman Pope, while the churches in the East cleared him of the Roman charge of heresy.

    Calvin did not consider all men equal, except in the sense that none have the freedom to choose their fate. According to Calvin, and according to Augustine, some are predestined to go to Hell, others to be saved. Your fate is determined and though you may seem to make choices, there is nothing you can really do to change God’s sovereign will.

    Calvin also communicated and cooperated with the big Catholic Inquisition, while he ran his own little inquisition in Geneva, complete with book burning, torture, and burning at the stake. Some later Calvinists were revolutionaries, but I do not consider Calvin revolutionary but a reactionary against peoples’ liberation and real, vital Christianity.

    What would Calvin have done to George Fox, Quaker?

    • “the churches in the East cleared him of the Roman charge of heresy”:

      Orthodoxy (Britain was still Orthodox in the time of Pelagius) accepts a good side of human nature and the ability to choose the good, whereas strict Calvinism and Augustinian Catholicism view human nature as totally depraved and unable to choose, leaving only the possibility of “irresistable grace,” salvation preordained only for some, according to God’s choice.

      “There is That of God in man,” said George Fox, Quaker founder. In the Gospel of John it is called “the Light that lightens EVERY man (not only a select few).” Tolstoy, in his short story “What Men Live By” explains that men have more than just an evil nature, because God is also present in man. He wrote: “I remembered the first lesson that God had set me: ‘Learn what dwells in man.’ And I understood that in man dwells Love (…) I have now understood that though it seems to men that they live by care for themselves, in truth it is love alone by which they live. He who has love is in God, and God is in him….”

      • “seen as a turning point in the history of the West”:

        The English Civil War only helped to establish capitalism and led to a bourgeois constitutional monarchy in Britain that exists to this day. It did very little or nothing to help the commons, who fought and died in the New Model Army in hope they would have freedom after the war.

        The real turning point in the history of the West was the French Revolution.

  2. It’s interesting to point out that Calvin did spend only one chapter of the rather lengthy Institutes discussing civil government. That Calvin’s ideas would be politically revolutionary is something that would not have occurred to John Calvin. I think John Calvin would rather have seen a revolution in people’s hearts than in their government. Which is why he spends so much time talking theology, not politics. He refuses to say which government among monarchy, aristocracy, and republic is better. He says it’s really just up to the times and circumstances. He does mention which government he prefers personally.

    Like Augustine, Calvin’s ideas come to have consequences far beyond the ability of their author to anticipate.

    Augustine advocated the use of the civil power to dispossess Donatist bishops of North Africa from their churches. And his doctrines are later picked up during the terrible 16th century persecutions of Protestants – which were only effectual because the power of the civil magistrate was allied with that of the church.

    Can we really say Augustine should have expected the Spanish Inquisition? Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. So Calvin is no more responsible for the American Revolution than one could say Augustine is for the abuse of civil power during the Counter-Reformation. What makes these ideas powerful and relevant is the re-interpretation of them to suit the purposes of those who inhabit a later time.

  3. I would encourage everyone to actually read Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion (especially on civil government), anyone who accuses Calvin of being a “revolutionary” are totally incorrect. Calvin’s ideal form of government is aristocracy, and he opposes revolting against magistrates.

    “..that of whatever description they [rulers] may be, they derive their powers from none but him. Those, indeed, who rule for the public good, are true examples and specimens of his beneficence, while those who domineer unjustly and tyrannically are raised up by him to punish the people for their iniquity. Still, all alike possess that sacred majesty with which he has invested lawful power.” -Calvin

    “But rulers, you will say, owe mutual duties to those under them. This I have already confessed. But if from this you conclude that obedience is to be returned to none but just governors, you reason absurdly.” -Calvin

    Calvin was not a revolutionary. Later Puritans/Presbyterians developed the doctrine of the lesser magistrate to justify overthrowing ungodly rulers (which they did not get from Calvin, but from John Knox).

    The idea that Calvin believed in equality is also laughable. Calvin believed that every man born is born without the ability to have faith or be saved without the direct monergistic intervention of God. Calvin’s views are so far from equality, that he believes that God from before the foundation of the world selected some humans for everlasting damnation and others for eternal glory. Thus, in the most fundamental and eternal sense, equality doesn’t exist in Calvin’s framework.
    Calvin’s theology has nothing to do with the enlightenment idea of the tabula rasa (which is arguably Arminian). Jefferson, a famous enlightenment thinker, hated Calvin’s theology.

    Calvinists did lead various Republics.
    But they also controlled numerous monarchies: including Prussia, monarchists in France, Scotland, Transylvania, various minor German states, and England.

  4. Catholics need to understand there is no Pope or Priest in Protestantism. Every man is his own Priest and the New Testament is the source of Christian teaching. Sola Scriptura. So for that reason what Calvin said, or Wesley said, or Luther said, or any of the other greats of the Reformation said or wrote, is their personal opinion. You can buy it, or you can forget it. LOL. Catholics don’t enjoy the freedom of religion, speech and thought, that Protestants do.

  5. @georgeredleaf Your comments are very well stated.

    I find it interesting that Augustine like Boethius attempts to mix the Roman Catholic Church with paganism including Augustine’s belief in the power of demons. A very non-Christian & Catholic belief. We could say, well that’s in Augustines time, but, the Catholic belief system is still very oriented to the power of Satan as seen in the movies and on TV. LOL. Mumbo jumbo.

    Then their is Confession to a Priest, that’s found nowhere in the New Testament.

  6. More Martin Luther less Calvin. I find Calvinist theology tedious. Shlomo is trying to get the Judensau destroyed at the 3 or so churches left.

  7. I don’t believe any of you are aware if it, but the Puritans were not Calvinists. They considered Calvin to be unimportant and wrong on many things.

    The Puritan movement considered itself to be a second reformation. The first reformation they largely rejected. They weren’t reading Calvin, thry were reading a gaggle of 17th century weirdos.

    Calvin had no problem at all with monarchy. As to the leaders of the Westminister Assembly, he would have had them arrested as heretics. Which they were.

    Reading the Westminster Confession, you will see a long list of things you are required to do on the Sabbath Day. One thing you are forbidden to do is rest. Loafing on the Sabbath Day is sinful, they assure you.

    There is a connection between the Puritan side in the English Civil War and the American Revolution. But it has nothing at all to do with Jefferson:’s statement on equality, whivh he did not believe, in fact no one believes it. No Puritan believed it.

    Both the English Civil War and the American Revolution were Scottish Presbyterian uprisings, at root. The first was against the Homosexual Stuart Kings, and the American was against the Rothschild controlled Parliament, and the German Puppet King. GEORGE III. Who was actually a very nice guy.

    Both Revolutions failed. The monarchy was restored in 1660, and American Freedom was short lived, being reversed in the coup of 1787 to 1789 . Both followed the path of rule by Jewish Bankers, who used Masonic puppets as frontmen.

    One fine day in Geneva, there was a knock on Calvin’s door. When he answered it, there stood a Catholic Cardinal in full ecclesiastical robes. When they sat down to talk, the Cardinal said the Pope was offering him a Cardinal’s Cap if he would bring Geneva back to Rome.

    Calvin politely refused and then walked with the Cardinal until he was out of Geneva, so that no harm would come to him in the city. No one can imagine any Puritan being offered a Cardinal’s Cap.

    The Communists like Cromwell because his was a people’s revolution. As the Spanish Ambassador to England wrote at the time, ALL the people are with the Puritans. The entire commons, all of them.

    On the other hand, Calvin put no trust in the people. He knew what was in man, and the peasants as bad or worse than the rest. He preferred the Aristos.

  8. Ah, the issue of Calvin and Civil Government. He wrote the civil code for protestant Geneva. And even Catholics, but especially Lutherans were impressed by how well governed and orderly Calvin’s Geneva was.

    Lutheranism at that time was having problems with degeneracy and disorder in their realms. And I mean especially with evil, degenerate, slutty women. Luther wrote quite a bit about this. He saw, give the women an inch of freedom and they will turn a city into a virtual brothel.

    And yes, Calvin had one crazed heretic burned at the stake. One. One burning. It was so unpopular it was never tried again. While the Catholics had burned so many MILLIONS of protestants at the stake.

    Where Calvin failed, and failed badly, was with Usury. By 1500 Usury was legal throughout Christendom. Calvin went with the flow here. It was his great failing. I

    • “Luther wrote quite a bit about this. He saw, give the women an inch of freedom and they will turn a city into a virtual brothel.”

      Still true 500 years later. And now we do have actual, virtual brothels.

  9. The beauty of religion is that it is at root always a counter-culture

    So regardless of how it props up authority, religion always has the seeds of revolution, the questioning of human power by heavenly standards … even atheist Chinese still speak of government risking loss of the ‘mandate of heaven’

    Tho the ‘eternal hell’ terror of Islam and Christianity, so highlighted in Calvinism, is one of the most sadistic, satanic Jewish inventions of all time

    In contrast is the eternal optimism of the reincarnation religions … where:
    – everyone gets back to God in the end
    – being evil just means you will suffer a longer and much more painful road till you get some sense back in you
    – there is always and forever the option to turn back to goodness and paradise, you never lose this, in one life after another
    – there is no terror of some mistake or rule-breaking or ‘being predestined from birth’ leading to eternal torture

    Non-Christians should indeed tone down ‘christcuck’ attacks, however, and just accept that the Jesus heritage is part of white culture and identity … controversy will remain but critiques should be put thoughtfully and in helpful circumstances

    Thanks Hunter for letting folks share some alternate perspectives

5 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Bruce Gore: John Knox and the Scottish Reformation – Occidental Dissent
  2. Bruce Gore: The First American Colonies – Occidental Dissent
  3. Bruce Gore: Three Waves of Calvinists – Occidental Dissent
  4. Bruce Gore: Precursors to The Great Awakening – Occidental Dissent
  5. Bruce Gore: George Whitefield and the Beginning of the Great Awakening – Occidental Dissent

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