Discussing Alan Wolfe’s Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It in Books and Culture , Eric Miller describes and gives cautious approval to Wolfe’s “quasi-theological turn.” Wolfe now recognizes that “human beings, far from being free spirits standing to benefit from the loosening constraints of faith and family, really do have a dark side” (Wolfe’s words). He even commends some of the benefits of “secular Calvinism” because of its “insight into temptation” and its insistence on humility.

On the basis of such moves, Miller concludes that Wolfe isn’t “trying to wipe out religion” and that his book is not “obliteration bombing”: “No, Wolfe is not seeking to destroy religion. Rather, his policy is more like containment. ‘Calvinism tamed,’ he chants, ‘is Calvinism useful.’”

Questions abound: Tamed how ? Is Wolfe’s secular Calvinism a Calvinism stripped of all that extraneous God-Jesus-Bible stuff? Useful for what ? How exactly is this in any way different from what liberalism has always attempted? Isn’t taming Calvinism the whole point of secular theory?

Let’s change “Calvinism” to “Jesus,” and would Wolfe still advocate containment? One assumes so, and then one has to wonder whether a desire to tame Jesus doesn’t amount to a program to destroy Him. A Jesus tamed and useful is a Jesus who is no longer Lord, therefore no longer Jesus.

More on: Politics, Theology

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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