Now there are many discussions in Calvin about the doctrine of the Christian life. I only want to make a few statements about it. “When they explain vivification of that joy which the mind experiences after its perturbations and fears are allayed, I cannot coincide with them (I. e. , with Luther) since it should rather signify an ardent desire and endeavor to live a holy and pious life, as though it were said that a man dies to himself that he may begin to live to God.” For Luther the new life is a joyful reunion with God; for Calvin it is the attempt to fulfill the law of God in terms of a Christian life. And the summary of the Christian life is self-denial and not love. It is departing from ourselves. “0h, how great a proficiency has that man made who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken the sovereignty and government of himself from his own reason, to surrender it to God.” Luther’s fragmentary up and down, ecstasy and despair, is not what describes the Christian life in Calvin. The Christian life is a line upwards. exercised in methodical stages. And this gives to the whole type a quite different form.
There are two other elements in it: the world is a place of exile. The body is a valueless prison of the soul. — Here you hear words more of Plato than the Old or New Testament. But this was in him. Nevertheless he denied any hatred of life. And his asceticism was not the Roman asceticism, to deny life itself, to deny the body in special activities of an ascetic character. But it was what Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch have called inner-worldly asceticism, an asceticism which has two characteristics: cleanliness, in terms of sobriety. chastity, temperance – – subordinated to the concept “clean.” — This has tremendous consequences in the whole life of the nations which were Calvinistic: an extreme external cleanliness, an identification of the erotic element with the unclean – against the principles of the Reformation, but in consequence of this Calvinistic ethics.
And the other was that our activities in this world are activities of producing tools and, through tools, profit. It was what one has called the “spirit of capitalism.” Now this word has been so much misunderstood that I would like to say a few words about it. There are some primitive people who think that a tremendous scholar like Max Weber and Troeltsch have said that Calvinism has produced capitalism. And then, of course, these people are much cleverer than Max Weber – probably the greatest scholar in the whole 19th century in the realm of the humanities and sociology – and they tell him that there was capitalism before Calvin lived, especially in the Lombardian plane in north Italy, in the south and north German cities, in London, etc. So we have capitalism before Calvin, and Weber is wrong and I, the clever boy, am right! — This is probably wrong. Weber said that there is something in the spirit of Calvinistic ethics and some related sectarian ethics which is useful for serving the purposes of investment in the capitalistic economy. In pre-capitalistic economy the rich man showed his riches in glorious living: he built castles or mansions, or patrician houses – -and we still enjoy building houses today. But that is not the way in which Calvinism tried to show the people how to use their wealth. It should be partly used for endowments; as it is in this country, in which practically all culture is rooted (I. e. , through endowment) and partly for new investments. And this indeed is one of the best ways of supporting the capitalistic form of economy, namely to make the profits into investments, I. e., means for new production, etc., instead of wasting them, as the Calvinists would say, in glorious living.