John Calvin as a ‘misunderstood humanist’?

In 2004, Marilynne Robinson “returned to fiction” — for the first time in nearly two decades — “with the novel Gilead, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Her third novel, Home, came out this fall,” according to this introduction to an interview with the author in The Paris Review.

…When a question gave her pause during our interview, she’d often shrug and say, “Calvin again,” and then look away as if the sixteenth-century Frenchman were standing in the room waiting to give her advice.

Robinson is a Christian whose faith is not easily reduced to generalities. Calvin’s thought has had a strong influence on her, and she depicts him in her essays as a misunderstood humanist, likening his “secularizing tendencies” to the “celebrations of the human one finds in Emerson and Whitman.”

One response to “John Calvin as a ‘misunderstood humanist’?

  1. This article helped shine some more light on what that might mean. Although it would probably be better to go back and read “The Death of Adam.” Ad Fontes! Just a sample below: She describes ”The Death of Adam” as ”contrarian in method and spirit.” She isn’t kidding. One would have to search far and wide to find another contemporary novelist writing articulate essays defending the theology of John Calvin or the moral and social lives of the Puritans. We all know that Puritans were dour, sex-hating, joy-abominating folk — except that, as Robinson shows, this widely embraced caricature is a calumny. ”The way we speak and think of the Puritans,” she writes, ”seems to me a serviceable model for important aspects of the phenomenon we call Puritanism. Very simply, it is a great example of our collective eagerness to disparage without knowledge or information about the thing disparaged, when the reward is the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved.” I have a blog thingy too