I had a long talk about theology with a Calvinist friend the other day. While we disagreed on some really basic points — he doesn’t accept universal salvation, I don’t accept the need for belief in God — we really had quite a bit in common. As the descendant (both literally and religiously) of the Puritans, I’m quite comfortable talking with Calvinists. They believe human beings are fallen beings who are made in the image of God; I’m quite sure that human beings are utterly fallible and basically irrational beings who are also capable of astonishing goodness. Calvinists believe that God elects some persons for salvation regardless of what those persons do with their lives; as a Universalist I’m quite sure that if there is a heaven, we all get to go there regardless of what we do with our lives because love will overcome all obstacles (Universalist compost theology refines this point by saying we all get to break down into our constituent organic components and re-enter the ecosystem after death).
I think most of all I’m comfortable with Calvinism because of Calvin’s ideas of worship. He believed in simplicity in worship in order to emphasize what it is most important. and to remove extraneous distractions. He believed that everyone in the congregation should be able to see and hear everything in the worship service. He insisted on congregational participation in worship, e.g., congregational participation in singing rather than just having worship leaders sing. None of this came up in the discussion of theology I had with my friend, but in my mind it was always in the background.
Another way of saying all this is that Unitarianism and Universalism began as reformations of the Reformed tradition that traces its roots back to John Calvin. We have gone off on our own, but there’s a clear family resemblance.