Calvinist vs Anti-Calvinist in Dr.Faustus

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The Calvinist/anti-Calvinist controversy

The theological implications of Doctor Faustus have been the subject of considerable debate throughout the last century. Among the most complicated points of contention is whether the play supports or challenges the Calvinist doctrine of absolute predestination, which dominated the lectures and writings of many English scholars in the latter half of the sixteenth century. According to Calvin, predestination meant that God, acting of his own free will, elects some people to be saved and others to be damned – thus, the individual has no control over his own ultimate fate. This doctrine was the source of great controversy because it was seen by the so-called anti-Calvinists to limit man's free will in regard to faith and salvation, and to present a dilemma in terms of theodicy.

At the time Doctor Faustus was performed, this doctrine was on the rise in England, and under the direction of Puritan theologians at Cambridge and Oxford had come to be considered the orthodox position of the Church of England.[20] Nevertheless, it remained the source of vigorous and, at times, heated debate between Calvinist scholars, such as William Whitaker and William Perkins, and anti-Calvinists, such as William Barrett and Peter Baro.[21] The dispute between these Cambridge intellectuals had quite nearly reached its zenith by the time Marlowe was a student there in the 1580s, and likely would have influenced him deeply, as it did many of his fellow students.[22]

Concerning the fate of Faustus, the Calvinist concludes that his damnation was inevitable. His rejection of God and subsequent inability to repent are taken as evidence that he never really belonged to the elect, but rather had been predestined from the very beginning for reprobation.[23] In his Chiefe Points of Christian Religion, Theodore Beza, the successor to John Calvin,…...

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