Friday, March 23, 2007

john calvin

We see that our whole salvation
and all its parts are comprehended
in Christ. We should therefore take
care not to derive the least portion
of it from anywhere else. If we seek
salvation, we are taught by the very
name of Jesus that it is "of him". If we
seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they
will be found in his anointing. If we seek
strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity,
in his conception; if gentleness, it appears
in his birth. For by his birth he was made
like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek
redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation;
if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if

purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into
[the grave]; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness
of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance
of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection,
if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom;

if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him
to judge.
In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let
us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.
-john calvin

from calvin college's website
Born July 10, 1509 in Noyon, France, Jean Calvin was raised
in a staunch Roman Catholic family. The local bishop employed
Calvin's father as an administrator in the town's cathedral. The
father, in turn, wanted John to become a priest. Because of close
ties with the bishop and his noble family, John's playmates and
classmates in Noyon (and later in Paris) were aristocratic and
culturally influential in his early life.

At the age of 14 Calvin went to Paris to study at the College
de Marche in preparation for university study. His studies
consisted of seven subjects: grammar, rhetoric, logic,
arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.

... [w]hile in Paris he changed his name to its Latin form,
Ioannis Calvinus, which in French became Jean Calvin.
During this time, Calvin's education was paid for in part
by income from a couple of small parishes. So although the
new theological teachings of individuals like Luther and
Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples were spreading throughout Paris,
Calvin was closely tied to the Roman Church.

However, by 1527 Calvin had developed friendships with
individuals who were reform-minded. These contacts set
the stage for Calvin's eventual switch to the Reformed faith.
Also, at this time Calvin's father advised him to study law
rather than theology.

By 1528 Calvin moved to Orleans to study civil law. The
following years found Calvin studying in various places and
under various scholars, as he received a humanist education.
By 1532 Calvin finished his law studies and also published his
first book, a commentary on De Clementia by the Roman
philosopher, Seneca. The following year Calvin fled Paris because
of contacts with individuals who through lectures and writings
opposed the Roman Catholic Church. It is thought that in 1533
Calvin experienced the sudden and unexpected conversion that
he writes about in his foreword to his commentary on the Psalms.

For the next three years, Calvin lived in various places outside
of France under various names. He studied on his own, preached,
and began work on his first edition of the Institutes—an instant best

By 1536 Calvin had disengaged himself from the Roman Catholic
Church and made plans to permanently leave France and go to
Strasbourg. However, war had broken out between Francis I and
Charles V, so Calvin decided to make a one-night detour to Geneva.

But Calvin's fame in Geneva preceded him. Farel, a local reformer,
invited him to stay in Geneva and threatened him with God's anger
if he did not. Thus began a long, difficult, yet ultimately fruitful
relationship with that city.

He began as a lecturer and preacher, but by 1538 was asked to
leave because of theological conflicts. He went to Strasbourg until
1541. His stay there as a pastor to French refugees was so peaceful
and happy that when in 1541 the Council of Geneva requested that he
return to Geneva, he was emotionally torn. He wanted to stay in
Strasbourg but felt a responsibility to return to Geneva. He did so and
remained in Geneva until his death May 27, 1564.
Those years were filled with lecturing, preaching, and the writing of
commentaries, treatises, and various editions of the Institutes of the
Christian Religion.

to many, john calvin is known by name and reputation. what that reputation is, depends on the person. to be sure, calvin's name carries with it a lot of baggage.

i will insert here my disclaimer that i do not agree with everything calvin did or taught. i do not agree with his views on baptism, or the role of the church in government. calvin was a man of much controversy in his own day, as he is in ours.

so why do i list him as a great influence?

well, mostly because his ideas and teachings have been greatly influential. calvin was wrong in some areas, but where he was right he was powerfully correct.

his commentaries on almost every book of the bible are still best seller's, as he was an excellent exegete of god's word. his systematic theology, institutes of the christian religion, is still considered a standard work of theology.

the so called "five points of calvinism", subject of much controversy, are actually a misnomer. calvin had been dead some fifty years before, at the synod of dort, the "five points" were formulated as orthodox teaching of the christian church to combat the remonstrance of the followers of jacobus arminius, whose ideas were declared by the church to be heretical.

so often, much venom is spewed at calvin's name based on an ignorance of history. while calvin was by no means perfect, the church owes a great debt to the life and ministry of this man.

i recommend the following: (click on titles for links)
  1. his 22 volume commentaries on the bible are expensive, but are well worth the read when studying scripture.
    from the publisher:
    A towering figure in the Reformation and prolific scholar
    and theologian, John Calvin authored not only his famous
    Institutes of the Christian Religion, but commentaries on
    twenty-four books of the Old Testament and all of the New
    Testament except for 2 and 3 John and Revelation. These
    classic commentaries continue to be valued exegetical reference
    works for pastors and serious students of the Bible today.
  2. institutes of the christian religion (abridged version)
    from the publisher:
    John Calvin's Institutes has established itself as
    "one of the most important theological works ever written,"
    writes Tony Lane. This abridged edition of the Institutes
    provides a readable and inexpensive sampler of Calvin's
    greatest work. Lane has condensed the 1559 edition, retaining
    the heart of Calvin's teaching on all his major themes. Hilary
    Osborne has put Henry Beveridge's translation "in simpler and
    more modern English." The result is "a selection from the Institutes
    which is manageable for the average modern reader, in terms of
    length and of intelligibility." Lane reminds us that Calvin designed
    the Institutes "to be a practical book .... He re- quires of all doctrine
    that it be scriptural and that it be useful for Christian living.
    " Specific topics discussed include: (1) The knowledge of God
    the Creator (2) The knowledge of God the Redeemer, in Christ
    (3) The way of obtaining the Grace of Christ (4) Outward means
    by which God helps us

1 comment:

Steve Burlew said...

Stephen -
Thanks for your recent comment. Actually, you might be able to help us out here at Banner, if you were really serious. I definitely would like to at least make sure that guys at various seminaries know about the Banner of Truth Ministers' Conference, especially since we've established such a discount for seminary students - $100 includes basically everything except getting here; it includes registration, AND lodging, AND meals, plus we give you three new titles from Banner, plus a $30 gift certificate on 40% discounted Banner books, plus a 1-year electronic subscription to the Banner of Truth magazine, plus a Banner polo shirt. If a group of guys could carpool together and trek on over to central PA, it really will be one awesome time. Anyway, email me at and I can give you a call, if you'd like. Thanks, Stephen!
Steve (@TheBanner)