One of the basic tenets of Calvinism is the idea of predestination and an elect. Calvin wrote in Book III of Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal death for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or to death.
Calvin and his followers believed that God was omniscient of all events in the past and future and therefore already knew the actions a man would take and whether he would be admitted into Heaven or condemned to Hell before that man had even been born. Those to be allowed entrance into Heaven upon their death were named the “elect”. It then seems odd that some of the most devoted and hard-working individuals of the 16th century held a firm belief in the Calvinist ideas of predestination and an elect. Why devote your life to hard work and prayer when your fate has already been determined by God?

In his The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, the German political philosopher and sociologist Max Weber explained the protestant tendency towards hard work, thrift, and self-discipline as an escape from the anxiety caused by not knowing one’s fate. Also, as these practices generally lead to financial success in a capitalist economy and Calvinism viewed worldly success as a blessing from God, Calvinists would engage in these activities to prove to themselves their membership in the elect. Thus through the uncertainty inherent in the Calvinist notion of predestination, its most ardent believers were driven to hard work and frugality in order to calm their fears and reassure their hopes.

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