Donald Macleod gives us a rather interesting new take on the no true Scotsman here. He argues that, contrary to an overwhelming number of popular assumptions, Scotland is not and has never been a “Calvinistic” culture. There are some good points to consider, of course, chiefly the fact that ideas, however powerful and popular, rarely translate in directly and predictable ways when it comes to the realm of art and culture. Additionally, our assumptions about what a Calvinistic culture ought to look like are shamed more by 19th century sociologists and psychologists than they are any sort of historical or theological study.
But at the same time, Professor Macleod’s argument feels like quite the overreach. Notice how he grants the “true” Calvinism to the more rigorous or extreme proponents and seemingly denies it to Cromwell. Melville and the Covenanters are held up as the model “Calvinists,” but this is a very questionable move. It’s also odd that the Sabbath is not mentioned, as it has loomed rather large, even if controversially so, in the history of Scottish society, politics, and even economics.
Prof. Macleod concludes his essay with a bit of resistance theory, and overall the treatment is quite moderate. Still, I wonder if the earlier pessimistic history is really harmonious with the concluding robust affirmation of “the possible.”