John Calvin and the Caliphate

10 Aug

When it comes to political Islam, received wisdom contains much which is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate. The term itself has spawned a cottage industry, with the twitterati locked in perpetual cyber-spats, and the talking heads battling over who is blowing up what and why. The challenge of “orientalism” always lives large, especially in popular Western analogies, (Islam needs a Reformation, Islam needs a Pope), and the polar to-and-fro has made the whole conversation a mess.

As analogies to Western history go, however, John Owen has just written one of the more convincing, certainly provoking, entries in the catalogue. A little précis of his new book, Confronting Political Islam: Six Lessons from the West’s Past is up at Foreign Affairs (“From Calvin to the Caliphate”), and it won’t disappoint to spoil polite dinner conversation with religion and politics.

International relations professor Robert J. Joustra (quoted above) has a fascinating and thought-provoking review of a new book by John Owen on secularity, the Islamic world, and the Western world. Read the op-ed/review here at Capital Commentary: John Calvin and the Caliphate | Capital Commentary.


2 Responses to “John Calvin and the Caliphate”

  1. jhubers August 10, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    Thoughtful article, Doug (I just posted it on the website I run for the Christian-Muslim study center at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago ( But I do have some disappointment in that he didn’t actually say much about Calvin and his attitudes towards the Islamic state of his own day (which was less than praiseworthy to say the least). Some good stuff here about not assuming the inevitable triumph of secularism, but not much about Calvin.

    • Douglas Firth Anderson August 10, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

      Yes. I gather that the title is a variation on the title of the Foreign Affairs precis of the Owen book. Perhaps Owen discusses Calvin more …

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