Recommended Calvin-Related Titles

This list is not intended to be exhaustive, only suggestive:thlparkercalvinbio

Bio: T. H. L. Parker, John Calvin: A Biography. This is still the standard bio. Several others have appeared since and I suppose more than one will appear in ’09 but this is where I go first.

How to Think About Calvin and the Tradition: Richard Muller, The Unaccommodated Calvin. This is a landmark, one-of-a-kind books. No serious student of Calvin should overlook it. mullerunaccommodated

wendelcalvinCalvin’s Theology: Francois Wendel, Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought . An older survey of Calvin’s theology but it holds up. Unlike other surveys (e.g. Barth’s or Niesel’s) Wendel is more interested in what Calvin thought than in his own program or agenda.

Other excellent Calvin-related titles:

steinmetzcalvinincontextDavid Steinmetz, Calvin in Context. This is a terrific book. I’m a big Steinmetz fan. He’s one of my favorite scholars and writers because he is so honest and because that sort of honesty is hard to find. He’s also a very good reader of texts and he reads them in their original context. 

selderhuiscalvinpsalmsHerman Selderhuis, Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms. This is a great book. This is a brilliant book. It’s thoughtful, careful, and exegetical. He reads Calvin as Calvin wanted to be read. There are a lot of Calvin books but this quiet entry into the field should be on everyone’s list.

de-greefcalvinW. De Greef, The Writings of John Calvin: An Introductory Guide. It is a basic step of exegesis to find out when a document was written, to whom, and under what circumstances. It is remarkable how often folk write about Calvin without answering these most rudimentary questions. With this volume your Calvin-exegetical worries are lessened. This invaluable guide tells the reader when and under what circumstances Calvin wrote virtually everything. A must.

Honorable Mention:

theological-guide-to-calvins-institutes Peter Lillback and David Hall, eds. A Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes. Usually works of this sort are done by folks in the mainline who may or may not have much sympathy with what Calvin was actually saying. There are a number of strong entries in this volume. It’s a good place to start one’s orientation to one of the Great Books of the Western theological tradition.

eireidolsCarlos Eire, War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin. Virtually every other topic in Calvin studies has been dogpiled (one study after another) except worship. This work is not completely focused on Calvin but it is a terrific bit of research and deserves more attention.

muller_christRichard Muller, Christ and the Decree. This was a seminal study of a topic that has caused considerable confusion in Calvin studies. With this 1986 volume Muller initiated a revolt against the Calvin v Calvinists status quo in Calvin studies.

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  1. I was rather pleased to see that several of the books you listed were ones that I listed (see sidebar on my blog). I feel better somehow when scholars such as yourself confirm my opinions. I didn’t put Parker’s biography on my list because I am of the opinion that Cottret’s biography has surpassed his. I do think, though, that Parker is still standard reading. I did list Parker’s study on the Doctrine of the knowledge of God. It’s short, but it is a wonderful little book. I don’t agree with all of what he says, but I still think it should be read by all who are interested in Calvin. I was a bit surprised that you didn’t put B. B. Warfield on the list. Any reason or just oversight?

  2. No reason except fatigue. Warfield’s essay on Calvin’s Trinitarian theology is brilliant. My advice is to read everything by Warfield.

    Yes, Parker was much better than Dowey in that argument.

    Wasn’t impressed with Cottret. Looked up something (don’t remember what) a while back and he got it all wrong.

  3. great list of resources, I might try and get a couple of books if I have time. I am reading and blogging through the Institutes in 2009 at:

    I had wanted to read it for ages but struggled to carve out the time, when I saw 2009 was Calvin’s 500th anniversary I knew it was now or never. The first week has been brilliant!

  4. Scott,

    Even though Calvin was only one of many sitting on the session, I was thoroughly blessed by reading “The Registers of the Consistory in the Time of Calvin – Vol 1. (only about five bucks – see link below). I think in the Reformed world we tend to be a little quick on the church discipline button. This book opens your eyes on how Calvin and the session dealt pastorally with the weakness of humanity, even post conversion.


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