The Calvinist/anti-Calvinist controversy
The theological implications of Doctor Faustus have been the subject of considerable debate throughout the last century. Among the most complicated points of contention is whether the play supports or challenges the Calvinist doctrine of absolute predestination, which dominated the lectures and writings of many English scholars in the latter half of the sixteenth century. According to Calvin, predestination meant that God, acting of his own free will, elects some people to be saved and others to be damned – thus, the individual has no control over his own ultimate fate. This doctrine was the source of great controversy because it was seen by the so-called anti-Calvinists to limit man's free will …show more content…
One of the greatest critics of Calvinism in Marlowe's day was Peter Baro, who argued that such teachings fostered despair among believers, rather than repentance among sinners. He claimed, in fact, that Calvinism created a theodical dilemma:
What shall we say then? That this question so long debated of the Philosophers, most wise men, and yet undetermined, cannot even of Divines, and men endued with heavenly wisdom, be discussed and decided? And that God hath in this case laid a crosse upon learned men, wherein they might perpetually torment themselves? I cannot so think.
Baro recognised the threat of despair which faced the Protestant church if it did not come to an agreement of how to understand the fundamentals. For him, the Calvinists were overcomplicating the issues of faith and repentance, and thereby causing great and unnecessary confusion among struggling believers. Faustus himself confesses a similar sentiment regarding predestination:
"The reward of sin is death." That's hard.
..."If we say that we have no sin,
We deceive ourselves, and there's no truth in us."
Why then belike we must sin,
And so consequently die.
Ay, we must die an everlasting death.
What doctrine call you this? Che sera, sera,
"What will be, shall be"? Divinity,
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Moreover, Calvinism was highly ascetic. Whereas, Catholicism and Lutheranism maintained that believers could essentially “work” for God’s forgiveness through faith, good works, etc., Calvinism stressed “systematic self-control necessary, in every moment” (Weber  2011: p. 127) and the “intensification of good works into a system” (Weber  2011: p. 129). These qualities suggested to Weber that Calvinism was the epitome of rationalism (Weber  2011: p. 130). In the context of religion, rationalization refers to the process of systematically organizing one’s life according to a methodical approach, with an intense orientation towards discipline, and the absence of “magic” or mystical elements (i.e., sacraments that can save the “damned”) (Kalberg 2011a: p. 422). This characteristic is what distinguishes Lutheranism from Calvinism. As opposed to Lutheranism, Weber ( 2011) argues that “Calvinism forced [a] methodical organization of life upon the believer” (p. 135). This is due to the fact that salvation could always be won back in Lutheranism through penance. In contrast, Calvinism offered no means to acquire salvation, only hints or signs which were based on “uninterrupted self-control” and the “planned regulation of one’s own life” (Weber  2011: p. 136). Lutheranism was also characterized by less asceticism due to its teaching that salvation could be acquired. Therefore, Weber ( 2011) also maintains that “Lutheranism lacks the psychological
In the beginning of the play, Dr. Faustus dismisses his previous education as unfulfilling and makes a point to reject Divinity. This abhorrence of
Then Faustus does repent, but the devil comes and is very angry with him, and he begins to frighten Faustus for repenting to God. But Faustus begs for the devil to forgive him and promises never to call upon the Lord or look unto heaven for help. "Nor will Faustus henceforth. Pardon him for this, and Fautus vows never to look to heaven"(II, ii, 101-102). This shows Faustus' weak character, and that he is more willing to attain worldly goods in the here and now, then to attain heavenly goods in the after life.
When King Henry VIII broke ties with the Roman Catholic Church in the 1530’s, he proclaimed himself head of the Church of England. This occurred only a few years after Martin Luther nailed his 91 theses on the Church of Wittenberg and another religious reformer, John Calvin, brought new ideas to the forefront. Calvin proclaimed that one was pre-destined to be eternally blessed or damned from birth. One had no control over this, and works could not put you in to heaven. The unknowing is what drove the Puritans to such great lengths. In the excerpt from Document A from John Winthrop’s A Model of Christian Society, predestination and the basic ideals of the Puritans are laid out. The Protestant Reformation was thus in full swing as the Church
Martin Luther thought he had the answer at the time, stating that it was not by the good doings of a man but his faith that determined his overall fate. This idea and the words from the bible became what the Protestants believed the sole way to get to heaven and be saved. Calvinism was much alike to the beliefs of Lutherism however they had a few differences, the differences led to Calvinism replacing in many countries Lutherism as the main form of Protestantism.
These questions rouse the idea of a divine and perfect punishment by the ultimate judge God, and implications of possible imperfections of God’s judgment. Also the way in which the question is answered poses another question, why is Aristotle, a human, and a Pre-Christian is thinker is used to explain God’s divine and perfect judgment?
Furthermore, The Protestant Reformation saw a major European movement that challenged the religious practices and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. With the rise of religion attracting many individuals, intellectuals began to challenge religious teachings and expose the corruption of the Church. Rather than offering salvation, the Church became corrupt and stingy for control, power, and money, in which German theologian Martin Luther, highlighted. Luther argued that people only achieve salvation by God through faith alone and criticized the use of indulgences, wealth, corruption, and other religious practices within the Catholic Church in his 95 Theses. For example, one of Luther’s theses says, “Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.” Luther believed papal authorities utilized the people to their own advantage in gaining wealth by fostering beliefs that indulgences relinquished sins. The immorality surrounding the Church made it unfair to people of all social groups who “devoted an enormous amount of their time and income to religious causes and foundations” – only finding themselves fooled into bribery (A History of Western Society 402). Luther’s arguments served a pivotal role in influencing others to fight for their own beliefs and redefine the meaning of religion. The common good of the people and their opinions mattered as Protestant thought grew. In the “big picture” of European
There is constant references to the beliefs and ideas of the Catholic Church such as confession, penitence and the Virgin Mary this suggests the catholic centered society in which the play existed. It concentrates on the qualities of the catholic religion that are important in the journey to heaven. Everyman is a symbol of the human condition and how it is understood by medieval Catholicism. Whereas in the sixteenth century in which Doctor Faustus was written, saw a shift of Christian ideals. No longer was there only the
Although Faustus may not think it, he guilty of each of those sins, namely jealousy and avarice. This shows an interesting contrast between his self perceptions and reality. He takes full advantage of the power the devil brings him. Faustus has fleeting regrets about his vow to the devil, yet never serious. In his thoughts of repenting, it seems to be only for his own good rather than reaffirming his belief in God. In the end once Faustus becomes conscious that his life of power will be over and he will remain a servant to the devil for eternity, he realizes his huge mistake. When his death is inevitable he curses his choice: “Accursed Faustus, wretch, what hast thou done? I do repent, and yet I do despair. Hell strives with grace for conquest in my breast. What shall I do to shun the snares of death?”
To begin with, the puritans adopted the idea of predestination from religious reformer, John Calvin. John Calvin’s idea of predestination was popular in the Old and New World. Predestination is the belief that God has already predetermined one’s fate. Predestination led puritans to seek conversion. Conversion is an intense religious experience that confirmed an individual’s place among the “elect” or people chosen by god to go to heaven.
One theme present during the reformation, was smaller churches breaking off from the larger church, and establishing their own forms of christianity. Many people were unhappy with the way the church was running and sought to reform these flaws by making their own forms of the church. People such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, were unhappy with how the church was being run created their own religions. Martin Luther created Lutheranism, which did not believe in the selling of indulgences and believed that salvation was granted by faith alone. Both of these ideas went against the Church at the time and his ideas were highly disputed. John calvin had created Calvinism, which believed in predestination, which meant that God had already decided who was saved, and who was damned. The idea of predestination also went against the church's idea that faith and good works lead to salvation.
Martin Luther and John Calvin were both leaders in the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther was a monk, or priest, in the Augustinian friars’ order and his ideals were that Catholicism were corrupting the New Testament beliefs and people were saved by faith alone not by buying their way into heaven. John Calvin studied law “but in 1533 he experienced a religious crisis, as a result of which he converted from Catholicism to Protestantism. Calvin believed that God had specifically selected him to reform the church” (McKay et al., 2015, pg. 448). “The cornerstone of Calvin’s theology was his belief in the absolute sovereignty and omnipotence of God and the total weakness of humanity” (McKay et al., 2015, pg. 448).
Although Martin Luther impacts history greatly, people must remember what role John Calvin has to offer as well. Born in France in 1509, John Calvin is raised as a Roman Catholic by his family. His family is so devoted to the Roman Catholic Church that his dad aspires for his son to become a priest (John Calvin- Calvin College 1). John Calvin later reads Luther’s works and converts to the ‘faith of the Reformation.’ He strongly believes that salvation is achieved through faith and predestination (Cowie 44). In 1537, John Calvin publishes, Institutes of the Christian Religion. In this book, John Calvin states his beliefs on Christianity. He proposes that God has been veiled by the devotion of the people to the Virgin Mary and the saints. He also insists in his book that predestination is how God determines who goes to hell and who goes to heaven. John Calvin writes, “We call predestination, God’s eternal degree, by which He determined that He willed to become of each man.
In the play Doctor Faustus, the theme of good versus evil is one of the most apparent as well as one of the most important themes throughout the play. Good and evil are represented as a battle or struggle in many ways such as constantly battling over winning various individuals souls, the concept of God versus the Devil, and the idea of religion versus science. This war between good and evil creates both internal conflicts for Faustus along with the external conflict between Faustus and various characters. The struggle between good and evil is also represented in the topic of damnation with the struggle to save Faustus’s soul from hell versus fighting to ensure Faustus’s soul is condemned to hell even with the idea of predestination.
Faustus would have been better off knowing where he stood in relation to Gods plan and not trying to outreach himself. Faustus agreed with the views and opinions of Christianity, and followed those ideas most of his life, lust consumed him though and lead him to excess. Doctor Faustus should have learned from his studies of theology of the dangers brought on by overstepping ones boundaries in an attempt for an excess of earthly desires.