Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Islamic Calvinism" Appears In Turkey and "Calvin" Responds

BBC has an interesting article describing a burst of entrapeneurial success in central Turkey.
A new form of Turkish Islam is emerging here, one which is pro-business and pro-free market, and it's being called Islamic Calvinism.

One of the first to use this description was the former mayor of Kayseri, Sukru Karatepe.

A softly-spoken man who taught sociology before entering politics, Karatape noticed striking similarities between the changes in Kayseri and the famous thesis of the German economist Max Weber, who argued that the strong work ethic of the Protestant movement gave birth to modern capitalism.

"I had read Weber, who'd written about how Calvinists work hard, save money and then reinvest it into business," he says.

"To me, it seemed very similar to what was happening in Kayseri.

"People in Kayseri also don't spend money unnecessarily. They work hard, they pride themselves on saving money. Then they invest it and make more money.

"In fact, in Kayseri, working hard is a form of worship. For them, religion is all about the here and now, not the next life. Making money is a sign of God's approval, and this is also similar to what Weber said about the Calvinists."
On the one hand I am pleased to see my Presbyterian/Calvinist heritage getting such good press withing Turkey these days.

On the other hand I wish that Muslim countries would be more tolerant of the Christians whose work-ethic they are now emulating!

The article does comment that some Muslims are not particularly happy with the phrase "Islamic Calivinism."
The label of Islamic Calvinism, however, has caused a furore in the Turkish press.

Critics say it's a Western conspiracy to Christianise Islam, but others have passionately argued in its favour, holding it up as a model for how Islam and modernity can co-exist.
This, of course, is not surprising. After all, would Christians readily accept a description of something they are doing as (for example) "Christian Iqtisadunaism?" Probably not.

As for the high-profile publicity surrounding the "Islamic Calivinism" in Turkey, I suspect that it has much to do with government "PR" in support of their desire to join the European Economic Union.

The BBC article supports this view with its closing paragraphs:
One of its most prominent defenders has been Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul, himself a native of Kayseri and the son of an entrepreneur.

He sees no contradiction in the term and argues that Turkey can provide a lasting template for a new kind of modern Islam . . .

"This is what modernism means to me, and this is why this new Turkey will ultimately be an asset to the European Union."
I wonder what Calvin hismelf would think of this?

Actually, during Calvin's life, the Muslim Turks had conquered Hungary and had entered Poland, Roumania and even had sent ships to attack Nice, in southern France. There was a genuine threat to what remained of the Holy Roman Empire and "Christendom." It should not surprise us then, that Calvin was concerned over the political situation as well as the spiritual corruption of the religion of Muhammed. As Calvin put it, "As Mahomet says that his Al-Coran is the sovereign wisdom, so says the Pope of his own decrees. For they be the two horns of Antichrist..."

"Calvin," says Australia's Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee in a paper entitled 'Calvin On Islam,' "was not discouraged to see Islam more and more challenging th4e claims of Christ, and ultimately drawing closer to the the Standarad-bearer of Antichrist's abominable kingomd. For Calvin knew . . . that Christ's Kingdom would nonetheless increase and unltimately triumph over Islam . . .

On the other hand, based on the Old Testament command for Israel to be kind to Egyptians (because some had been hospitable to them), Calvin "argues further, that although the unbaptized Moslem is not (yet) our brother--just as the uncircumcised Egyptian was back then not (yet) the brother of the Israelite--we may never-theless not abhor the Moslem . . . That, then is how Christians should treat Moslems . . . to reciprocate (their) hospitatlity--and, indeed, even to show them precisely spiritual hospitality."

This is, of course, for the purpose of leading those who are God's elect out of the Muslim faith and into faith in the saving Lordship of Jesus Christ and the true worship of the triune God.

Calvin personally did not spend much time worrying about economics . . . at least not of the monetary kind. He was more concerned about the economics of God and of the spiritual nature of humanity.

"Let the Moslem call himself what he chooses," Calvin might say. "Such titles are of no consequence to God or to eternity unless that choice should entail calling himself a baptized disciple of Jesus Christ. That, of course, would matter a great deal!"