The renewed interest arrives at a crucial inflection point for American religion. After reviewing a landmark opinion survey last year that showed a precipitous decline in the number of people who identify themselves as Christian, Newsweek declared ominously that we may be witnessing "the end of Christian America."
In some ways, Newsweek may have understated the shift. Five hundred years after Martin Luther posted his 95 theses challenging the Roman Catholic Church, some religion watchers see not just a post-Christian America but an unraveling of the Protestant Reformation itself. Their alarm is rooted in surveys that show a watering down of Christian beliefs.
Now come the New Calvinists with their return to inviolable doctrines and talk of damnation – in essence, the Puritans, minus the breeches and powdered wigs. Is this just a moment of nostalgia or the beginning of a deeper revolt against the popular Jesus-is-our-friend approach of modern evangelicalism? Where, in other words, is Christianity going?
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When people today hear the name John Calvin, they think mainly of predestination – the controversial idea that God has foreordained everything that will happen, including who will and won't be saved, no matter what they do in life.