Updated Calvin Resource Page

John Calvin (1509-64) was one of the most significant figures in the history of the West. He was among the major Protestant Reformers in the sixteenth century. He contributed significantly to the Reformed wing of the Reformation. He was an industrious Bible commentators (50 vols). His correspondence fills volumes. He is most famous for his introductory handbook to Christian theology, the Institutes of the Christian Religion, first published in 1536 and revised continually, in Latin and French editions, until the early 1560s. He was, however, also a preacher and a pastor. Early in his ministry, when his health permitted, he preached not only twice on Sundays but several times during the week. He also taught what we would call a weekly Bible study, catechized the youth, and attended meetings with other pastors and elders. He had a controversial career in Geneva. After being compelled to stay in Geneva in 1536 by Guillaume Farel (1489-1565), he was exiled in 1538 after seeking to move control of church discipline away from the the city council and place it under the control of the pastors and elders (consistory). In 1541, however, Geneva recalled him from Strasbourg, where he happily and quietly served a French-language congregation. He spent the rest of his life and ministry in Geneva, receiving refugees from across the British Isles and Europe, preaching the law and the gospel, teaching, counseling the troubled, advising churches across Europe and the British Isles, and writing. Tragically, for many, he is only known for the Servetus affair, in which he played an important but not decisive role. In the sixteenth century it was illegal and a capital crime in Europe and the British Isles to advocate religious heresy (e.g., publicly denying the Trinity, as Servetus did and for which he was jailed before Geneva). In those cases it was the civil magistrate, in Geneva as in most other places, who prosecuted, convicted, and executed the death penalty upon heretics. The attention paid to Calvin (while ignoring all the other similar cases, in other places) over Servetus is no more than an attempt to smear his reputation, something that began in a hostile biography written during his life.


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