Todd Akin and Calvinism

I don’t usually get into politics on this blog.  Discussing theology provides plenty of opportunity for disagreement on its own.  But I’m curious if  readers think Todd Akin’s theology has in any way contributed to the pickle that he’s currently in.

For those who are unaware, Akin is the candidate who recently implied that female rape victims have the ability to use their body to prevent themselves from becoming pregnant.  He has since apologized for making the comment.  In the wake of the controversy, many prominent Republicans (including Romney and Ryan) have urged him to withdraw from the race.  Akin has so far refused those calls.

Akin comes from a conservative Calvinist background.  He is a current member and former elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.  He holds a MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary. The PCA is a conservative Reformed denomination that broke off from the mainline Presbyterians in the 1970’s.  They hold to the Westminster Confession of faith, and do not permit women in any leadership roles.  Well known PCA theologians include R.C. Sproul, and John Frame.  Former MO senator Jim Talent is also a member of the denomination.

I can’t prove it by any means, but wonder if Akin’s ill-advised quote is rooted in Calvinist and Complimentarian theology.  In addition, his refusal to withdraw from the race seems to be consistent with a view where all actions are decreed by God.  I think Akin sees himself as anointed by God and guaranteed to win the Senate seat.


As a personal disclosure, I tend to lean conservative in my political views, but do disagree with Republicans on some issues.  I think Akin ought to step aside now to give a stronger Republican candidate a chance to run for the seat.



Filed under Calvinism

23 responses to “Todd Akin and Calvinism

  1. To be honest, I know nothing about this. I have no comment.

  2. slw

    And here I thought all the brouhaha was about is “legitimate rape” gaffe. That’s nothing compared to what you shared in your post. Akin needs to mount his horse and ride off into the sunset.

  3. bethyada

    I read about it via Dennis Prager. Some thoughts.

    He is not saying that women can prevent it as if they had some say in the matter, he is saying that the psychological stress inhibits conception 9or implantation). That is, ovulating women are more likely to conceive in consensual situations and less likely in rape. This is a common claim amongst pro-lifers. It seems feasible but I haven’t seen figures that may confirm this. Rape victims do get pregnant, the question is the frequency.

    The “legitimate” comment is for those who wish to extend the definition broadly. Unwise of Akin, but reasonable (I will expand if you wish); best for him not to have mentioned this exclusion.

    The question was a setup, offendees will get upset whatever the response.

    I think this relates to his pro-life stance, not his Complementarianism or his Calvinism.

    I see no requirement based on this for him to withdraw from the race, though I have no idea what his policies are. The request to withdraw is based on what principle? (Interested to know what I may have missed)

    His problem is not his thinking here, it is his lack of shrewdness in speaking politically.

    Disclosure: Arminian, Complementarian, Conservative (libertarian, I differ from much Republican policy), Not American.

    • Thanks for the thoughts Bethesda, nice to hear a non-Yank take. :)

      I agree the question was a setup. But any pro-lifer running for office needs to have a well thought out answer for the abortion exception questions.

      Akin was unprepared. But beyond that, his answer showed a disregard for rape victims. I think that’s where his Calvinism came in, and also where he went over the line. He came across as not caring about victims of a crime.

      Akin ought to withdraw because he has little chance of winning now. MO is a moderately conservative state, and this is an otherwise a very winnable seat. But Akin is convinced he will win no matter what. I think his C comes into play here too. Either that, or he’s just an overly cocky person (certainly possible with a politician).

  4. Scot

    Wanting to tie Akin’s stupid sentence to scripture is quite a ssssstretch!
    In fact it’s comparable to ridiculously speculate that “perhaps it’s Arminian theology, that enables Christians to want someone who believes Jesus and Satan are brothers to be president.” the way Mormons believe.

  5. Tom

    I’m member of a PCA church and have never heard anyone show disregard for rape victims or anything like that at all. It’s been a church of genuine, loving people who preach the gospel every Sunday and Wednesday at our ESL classes and are welcoming and caring for people of all sorts of socio-economic backgrounds.
    I think your barking up the wrong tree on this one, Kevin. You must have run into some pretty rotten Calvinists in your day to be thinking like you do about them, I’m sorry for that. But it has not been my experience that disregard for rape victims is a result of holding to Calvinist theology.

  6. Scot

    Perhaps Calvinist are more inclined to offer grace than others and not insist he run away and have his entire life’s work judged by this event.

  7. bethyada

    Kevin, in what way is claiming a low conception rate an insult to all rape victims? If true I think many would welcome this information. The comment may show disregard to rape victims who also get pregnant.
    But whatever answer he gives is going to be perceived as insulting. If he said (as many Christians believe) that punishing an innocent for the sins of others should not happen therefore abortion should not be allowed in cases of rape he would have insulted far more people (all pro-abortionists) rather than who he did potentially insult, rape victims who got pregnant.
    I found a figure of 5% chance of conception with rape. Not certain how to compare this. Usual ~30% conception rate per cycle (higher in some groups). Fertility ~ 5 days in ~28 ie. ~1/5. So 5% vs 6% or 5% vs 30%?

    • Hi Bethyada, This study suggests the rates for rape pregnancy are actually higher (6.4% vs 3.1%). The bottom line though is that if any rape victims become pregnant, what Akin stated is false.

      Missouri is a pro-life leaning state, as evidenced by other conservative Christian senators they’ve had recently (Ashcroft, Talent). The general populace there is willing to vote for someone who is pro life in all situations (which I agree with too). If Akin had said that he wanted to protect the unborn in all situations, he would have been fine. The abortion crowd wouldn’t like it, but they’re the minority in Missouri. But when he said rape victims can prevent pregnancies he went over the line. That is not a position that is necessary, factual, or relevant to a pro life view. In fact it hurts the pro-life movement.

      Every previous pro-life Missouri senator (including Ashcroft and Talent) has come out against Akin’s comment, as has Covenent Theological seminary. And now his staunchly pro-abortion opponent is leading by 10 points in the polls. If Akin really cares about the pro-life movement, he needs to step aside and allow someone to replace him who can win.

  8. bethyada

    Kevin, I am no supporter of this guy. I don’t know his policies. But I think we need to be accurate in our assessment of the issues.

    I am willing to concede he could have be more diplomatic in his response, but it seems you are conceding to his opponents because you agree he should not have said this, or you think others would be better candidates so him leaving the race would be helpful for the Republican cause, or some other reason? Yet I don’t think you have quoted him accurately. He said (from your link):

    “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

    You have interpreted this to mean (or suggested it imply):

    “female rape victims have the ability to use their body to prevent themselves from becoming pregnant.”


    “rape victims can prevent pregnancies”

    Akin’s comment means that he thinks (rightly or wrongly) that conception is less likely because of the body’s response. This is an unconscious response. A physiological response to stress. He states the female body, ie. not their mind; and try, ie. it may not be successful. Your 2 paraphrases suggest the will, ie. that a rape victim can choose to stop pregnancy.

    You would not accept Calvinists rephrasing an Arminian argument this way (nor should you accept Calvinists doing this which does happen as we know).

    This is the case even if Akin is still incorrect. He may well be so. The study you gave (20 pages!) has some methodological issues. The definition of rape is unclear. And they compare their rate with another study, they don’t have their own control group. They quote other studies for rape at 1–10% and at the end of their paper that the consensus in the literature is about 2% rape-pregnancies. So the rate may be similar, it may be less. If we assume it is similar then Akin can be called out for not being informed of the facts. This is reasonable.

    • scot

      Trying to link theology to one idiotic statement is way over the top.
      Instead of focusing on Akin (I don’t live in Missouri, so don’t really care) focus on the theology of Mormonism and see if you really want someone who thinks Jesus and Satan are brothers to be president.
      If you do, then oh well, to each his won.

      • Scot, I still don’t get your point here. If Romney says something stupid that ties into his theology, I probably won’t vote for him. But he hasn’t that I’m aware of. BTW, I’m not saying that I would never vote for a Calvinist (or a Mormon) because of his religion, only that I think Akin’s statement and his subsequent self defeating behavior is related to his Calvinism.

      • scot

        I don’t even know what it is you don’t understand, or what it is you think I am trying to say…….. oh well.

        Your point about Akin’s statement on biology and Calvin is preposterous and qualifies as an ipse dixit, an assertion made, but not proven. Or did Calvin write a treatise on gestation I don’t know about?

        I guess it bothers you not then, perhaps even a little, that there is hidden power in what Romney DOESN’T say opposed to what he does say? What makes you only want to review what he has stated? Perhaps it makes it easy and convenient to overlook what he believes, but doesn’t speak publicly?
        Romney believes Satan and Jesus are brothers, but if he doesn’t come right out and say that, no biggie huh? He hasn’t said it, but he believes it.

    • Bethyada, fair enough. BTW, I didn’t mean to imply that Akin holds that women have to conscious ability to prevent pregnancies during rape, I understand that he’s saying this is some sort of biological response.

    • Scot, I still don’t see your connection. I’m talking about what Akin HAS said and how it (in my view) connects to his Calvinist and Complementarian theology. You’re speculating about what Romney HASN’T said, and demanding that I as an Arminian defend Romney’s heterodox Mormon faith. I don’t get it. Maybe if you repeat that “Jesus and the Devil are brothers” a couple of more times I will become more enlightened. But it just seems like you’re just repeating weird beliefs about Mormonism, which I already agree is a heterodox. So what’s the point?

      To be frank, I’m not a big Romney fan. But I do prefer him to Obama. I see this election as a choice between two unappealing options, with Romney being preferable to Obama. You’re probably the first Calvinist I’ve run across who actually prefers Obama (if you do).

      I do suspect that Akin’s theology (both his Calvinism and his Complementarianism) contributed to his stupid statement, and to his refusal to step down now. You’re free to hold otherwise. Like I said to Tom earlier, I don’t impute Akin’s view to all other Calvinists. Rather, there are a certain subset of Calvinists with a vulgarized understanding of their theology that opens them to views that depersonalize others. Harold Camping (the guy who thought the world would end last year) and Fred Phelps (the “God hates gays” guy) are other Calvinists who fall into this extreme category.

      • scot

        No I am not insisting you defend Mormonism because of Arminius, I don’t understand why you think that.
        I did say to link Akins comment to Calvinism is ridiculous.

        Change of subject: you said you would support Romney. You also said you could not support someone who makes statements of a wild theology. I said speaking isn’t enough that you have to also consider what IS NOT said. Romney believes Satan and Jesus are brothers, but he won’t say it publicly. His belief meets your criteria for NOT voting for someone and therefore you should disavow support for Romney, or change your criteria.

        It’s still an absurdity to claim Akin’s sentence can be linked to the truth of Calvinism.

      • Actually, I do frequently support candidates whose religious views differ from my own. I have little trouble voting for a Calvinist, if he (or she) is the best person for the job.

        Having said that, I still do think certain types of Calvinism can lead to the sorts of ridiculous claims that Akin made. Depersonalization is a big issue in Calvinism (Wesley pointed this out also). Fred Phelps is another example of this. It’s a lot easier to hate and blame people who one thinks God also hates and blames. Of course you disagree, so we’re at an impasse.

        “Romney believes Satan and Jesus are brothers”

        You don’t say…

      • scot

        I believe because the Bible tells me so. You are aware that of Jesus Paul John that Jesus talked more about hell than anyone else in the New Testament. There’s a reason for that.

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