Historical Term: Calvinism

Calvinism: Branch of Protestantism founded on the teaching of the French reformer Jean Chauvin (1509-64), known as Calvin from the Latin form of his name. Calvin gave the first systematic justification of Protestantism in Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536) and thus became the intellectual leader of the Reformation. Calvinism is marked by its dogma of predestination, the belief that God has unalterably destined some souls to salvation and others to eternal damnation. Its harsh, logical beliefs inspired English Puritans, French Huguenots and some of the Dutch in their fight against the domination of Catholic Spain. The sect has been established in the Reformed or Presbyterian churches of France, Holland, and Scotland; Calvinist rule was also ruthlessly enforced under Calvin himself in Geneva by the Consistorium. The Calvinist beliefs that labor is a command of God and material success a mark of his favor—contradicting the medieval ideas of the virtue of poverty and the evil of usury—may have contributed to the rise of capitalism.”

Excerpted from: Cook, Chris. Dictionary of Historical Terms. New York: Gramercy, 1998.

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