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John Calvin's American Legacy$
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Thomas Davis

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195390971

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195390971.001.0001

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“Jonathan Edwards, Calvin, Baxter & Co.”: Mark Twain and the Comedy of Calvinism

“Jonathan Edwards, Calvin, Baxter & Co.”: Mark Twain and the Comedy of Calvinism

(p.239) 10 “Jonathan Edwards, Calvin, Baxter & Co.”: Mark Twain and the Comedy of Calvinism
John Calvin's American Legacy

Joe B. Fulton

Oxford University Press

Mark Twain grappled seriously with theologians from the Calvinist tradition. While many of his comments seem dismissive (and funny), it is clear that Calvinism charged his writing with what one might call an insistent humorousness of purpose. Reflecting on free will, election, and predestination, Twain read especially Jonathan Edwards; not just as one of whom to make fun but as one with whom he had much in common. Edwards provided more than just a whipping boy for Twain’s philosophical comedy—they shared a theological vocabulary, metaphysical assumptions, and a view of God as sovereign. Their disagreements were substantial, but Mark Twain and the Calvinists were partners in the same enterprise. Thus, one can argue that Twain’s growth as a writer came, not, as some have argued, only insofar as he could distance himself from his Calvinist upbringing and influences, but rather as he fully engaged and wrestled with that tradition.

Keywords:   Mark Twain, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Calvinism, comic writing, free will, election, predestination, Richard Baxter

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