…there is a fundamental sense in which a Protestant theology of grace poses a problem for poets. This is especially so in Calvin’s development of sola gratia, where the insistence on the total depravity of fallen humanity prevents human action from earning God’s gifts of salvation and sanctification. Human agency is thoroughly impotent in this regard, and apart from the direct intervention of God himself, all human actions are vitiated by sin. As Calvin’s Institutes articulate this notion, “only damnable things come forth from man’s corrupted nature.” [2.3.289] Thus all human actions seem either to be sinful, because they are the product of a totally depraved human nature, or not really human at all, since any “good” action can only be the direct result of God’s agency. This theology places the religious poet on the horns of a similar dilemma. On the one hand, it is surely the calling of the Christian poet to write Christian poetry; on the other, if faithful poetry is just a mark of an already complete saving act of God, what can the poet add to that act by writing? Does it not even risk blasphemy to try and write “in excess” of the command of God?
Shaun Ross, ‘Sacrifices of Thanksgiving: The Eucharist in “The Temple”’, George Herbert Journal 40, no. 1 (Fall /Spring 2017 2016): p. 4.