Calvin Publishes Institution of Christian - History

Calvin Publishes Institution of Christian - History

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In 1536 John Calvin published his treatise Institutes of Christian Religion. The treatise was 532 pages in length and its preamble was addressed to the King of France. The book became a roadmap of Protestant thought.

The Life and Times of John Calvin

CALVIN CAME FROM LOWLY STOCK. His paternal grandfather was a barrel-maker and boatman, his mother’s father an innkeeper. His own father, Gerard, however, had improved his lot to become a successful lawyer, with a practice which brought him into the society of the local gentry and cathedral clergy. A side benefit from these connections fell to John, in that he was to be educated privately with the sons of the aristocratic De Montmors and was also to be given one or two chaplaincies in the cathedral, which serve as university grants.

Gerard planned a career in the church for his son. The path to this career lay through the University of Paris. There he would take the arts course and then go on to the nine years of study for the theological doctorate. After that, he would trust the De Montmors’ patronage and his own talents to reach the higher levels of preferment.

The arts course was accomplished, or nearly so, by the mid-1520s. Calvin was now an excellent scholar, a good Latinist, proficient in the philosophy taught in those days, and qualified to take up the intensive study of theology.

A Change in Plans

But suddenly all the plans fell through. Gerard changed his mind and decided that John should achieve greatness in law and not in the church. John, dutiful son that he was, acquiesced, and the next five or six years saw him at the University of Orleans, attaining some distinction in a study for which he had no love. These were years which brought him into the ideals of the Renaissance and probably into the evangelical faith as well.

The effects of the new approach to the arts and scholarship were by this time apparent all over Europe. Greek was steadily making its way as a necessity and not a mere ornament in the scholar’s equipment. Printing presses were supplying cheap editions of the Greek and Latin classics. There were already half-a-dozen editions of the Greek New Testament and as many of the Hebrew Old Testament. It was a revolution in thinking and taste, almost as great as that which has occurred in our own day, with “the divine art of printing,” as Bullinger called it, corresponding to the computer and word processor.

Calvin, too, came under this influence. He learned Greek now and, a little later, Hebrew. He developed a taste for good writing, read widely in the classics, added Plato to the Aristotle he already knew, and made his close friends from like-minded young men. Moreover, he set to work, editing and commenting on a Latin treatise by Seneca. This first book was published in 1532, when he was 22 years old.

But, during the years of studying law, a more profound influence than that of the Renaissance had overtaken him. By the mid-1520s, the most momentous period in the history of the modern church, Luther’s position was clear. In many countries Luther had a strong following and his friends were making use of the easy dissemination of ideas by printing to reach a wider audience. Most importantly for Calvin, there were also “Lutherans” in Paris and in Orleans.


We do not know the time or the circumstances of Calvin’s conversion to the evangelical faith. His own account in the preface to his commentary on the Psalms is reticent and vague. He writes: God drew me from obscure and lowly beginnings and conferred on me that most honorable office of herald and minister of the Gospel . . . What happened first was that by an unexpected conversion he tamed to teachableness a mind too stubborn for its years—for I was strongly devoted to the superstitions of the Papacy that nothing less could draw me from such depths of mire. And so this mere taste of true godliness that I received set me on fire with such a desire to progress that I pursued the rest of my studies more coolly, although I did not give them up altogether. Before a year had slipped by anybody who longed for a purer doctrine kept on coming to learn from me, still a beginner and a raw recruit.

Plainly, for Calvin himself, the important thing was not when it happened or how it happened, but the change itself and the results of the change.

He became marked out as a “Lutheran,” and, when persecution arose in Paris where he had returned to teach in one of the colleges, he was forced into hiding now here, now there, in France. At last, he had to leave the country altogether. He sought refuge in Basel.

In that city, 450 years ago, he published the book with which his name was always to be associated—"Calvin’s Institutes.” The word “Institutes,” however, does not convey much to us. It would be better to translate the title as “Principles of the Christian Faith” or “Instruction in the Christian Faith.” The book was intended as an elementary manual for general readers who wanted to know something about the evangelical faith. The first part of the title expressed this aim: “The Principles of the Christian Faith, containing almost the whole sum of godliness and whatever it is necessary to know about saving doctrine.” Calvin later wrote that, when he undertook the work, “all I had in mind was to hand on some elementary teaching by which anyone who had been touched by an interest in religion might be formed to true godliness. I labored at the task especially for our own Frenchmen, for I saw that many were hungering and thirsting after Christ and yet that only a very few had any real knowledge of him."

The first three chapters take up 81 pages, in the edition of 1536. They form the heart of the book. But the situation in Western Christendom demanded that more should be said. Between the Roman Catholics and the Reformers, there were three major disagreements—on the Church, the Sacraments, and Justification. The last had already been fully explained, and the first was kept for the final chapter. Two chapters were given to discussion of the Sacraments of the Roman Church not recognized by the Reformers. These two chapters, with 106 pages, are longer because the subject was so important. In to the final chapter are packed three topics: Christian liberty, the authority of the Church, and political government.

The fact that the length of the last three chapters is double that of the first three indicates a second purpose of the book. This was to make clear to non-evangelicals, whether strong Roman Catholics or Renaissance “humanists,” where the Reformation stood doctrinally. Ridiculous ideas were current, identifying the Reformers with various ancient heresies, with extreme and anarchistic Anabaptists, and with moral permissiveness. Calvin, therefore, wrote the Institutioas a confession of the faith of evangelicals, showing their orthodoxy to the great creeds, their loyalty to established political order, and their acceptance of the moral demands of God’s law. There should have been no need after this for anyone who could understand Latin to plead ignorance of the Reformation faith.

What If?

History is full of “ifs.” If there had not been troop movements and skirmishes blocking the route to Strasbourg, if they had reached Strasbourg in a day or two, and if Calvin had settled there for life, the history of Europe, England, and America would have been vastly different. With his brother and sister and one or two friends, he directed his steps toward the free city of Strasbourg. As it was, the little company had to go round two sides of a triangle, into what we now call Switzerland, and then approach Strasbourg from the south. They got to Geneva, a safe town for them, since it had declared for the Reformation a month or two earlier. Here they put up at an inn for the night, intending to resume their journey in the morning. Before the evening was out, it had come to the ears of the church leader, William Farel, that the author of the Institutiowas in the city. Farel, poor man, was beside himself with work and worry, as he strove to organize and establish a newly formed church. Organizing was not his strong point, and he had few helpers. Now there had been given him a man who would prove an ideal assistant. Straight to the inn went Farel, not dreaming that his offer would be welcomed. Calvin, however, was obdurate. He was a scholar, a writer, not a pastor or administrator. Farel would have to find someone else. Calvin was headed for Strasbourg in the morning.

Terror-Stricken to Stay

At last Farel, baffled and frustrated, swore a great oath that God would curse all Calvin’s studies unless he stayed in Geneva. Calvin had always had a tender conscience, and now, “I felt as if God from heaven had laid his mighty hand upon me to stop me in my course . . . and I was so terror stricken that I did not continue my journey."

Through all that followed, this belief that God had called him to work here, and not somewhere else, never wavered. This belief was challenged only once, when he and Farel were banished from Geneva eighteen months later. He thought that God had mercifully released him. But, after three years of freedom, he submitted to renewed imprecations from Farel and returned to Geneva. In the long struggles which followed, his human desires were for freedom but he was a soldier placed in a field of battle by his Captain. In that battle he must stay, until his Captain ordered otherwise. New orders finally arrived in May, 1564, with his death.

His return to Geneva from Strasbourg in 1541 was a different matter from his first entering the city. Then he had been a mere passer-by. Now he was an important and influential personage, close friend of leading Reformers like Martin Bucer and Philip Melanchthon, and the author of three more books. The Institutiowas rewritten. Since 1536, Calvin had been doing some hard reading, especially in the Church fathers. He had also been doing some hard theological thinking and had the benefit of stimulating discussions with other theologians. He realized the Institutioneeded more breadth. He now put it out with the unashamed claim of presenting a comprehensive statement of “well-nigh the whole sum of our wisdom, worth calling true and solid wisdom.” This was not so much a revision as a rewriting, though with much of the earlier material incorporated into it. The six chapters swelled to seventeen. The catechism form was abandoned, in favor of a broader treatment centering loosely round the concept of wisdom, with its two parts, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves.

It was, then, this established theologian who was invited back to Geneva. He could make his own terms and was obviously in a position of great moral advantage. It is to his credit that he strove to curb his temper and his self-will (both too evident in his first period in Geneva) and to be patient with opposition.

Reorganizing the Church

His commission was to reorganize the Church in Geneva. For him, the Church in any place must faithfully mirror the principles laid down in the Holy Scripture. In the New Testament, he found four permanent orders of ministry, and around these he constructed his organization. He prepared a draft document, “Ecclesiastical Ordinances,” which was discussed in committee, somewhat modified, and passed for approval by the City Councils.

In this fourfold ministry, the whole life of the Church was covered, its worship, education, soundness and purity, and its works of love and mercy.

To the pastors was committed the ministry of the Word and Sacraments. They conducted the services, preached, administered the Sacraments, and generally cared for the spiritual welfare of the parishioners. In each of the three parish churches, two services were held on Sundays and the catechism class for children. During the week a service was held every other day—later on, every day. The Lord’s Supper was to be celebrated quarterly, not once a week as Calvin wished. The doctors, or teachers, had the responsibility for education, both for adults and for children. Lectures on the Old and New Testaments were usually held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. These were more academic than the sermons and were conducted in Latin. The audience consisted of the older schoolboys, ministers, and anyone else who wished to attend. The education of children was also to be provided but here great difficulties were encountered, owing to scarcity of suitable teachers and lack of money. The problem was gradually overcome, and the establishment of the Academy, in 1559, placed education in Geneva on a stable footing.

The third order was that of elders. In every district of the city, there were one or two elders who would keep an eye on spiritual affairs. If they saw, for example, that so-and-so was frequently the worse for drink, or that Mr. X beat up his wife, or that Mr. Y and Mrs. Z were seeing rather a lot of each other, they were to admonish them in a brotherly manner. If the response was unsatisfactory, they were to report the matter to the Consistory, who would summon the offender, remonstrate with him or her. If this failed, they would, as a last resort, pronounce excommunication, which would remain in force until he repented.

Finally, the social welfare work was the charge of the deacons. They were the hospital management board, the social security executives, and the alms-house supervisors. It was a proud boast that there were no beggars in Geneva.

A Heavy Work Load

Calvin not only organized the form of the church, he also played his full part in the day-to-day work. He preached twice every Sunday and every day of alternate weeks. In the weeks when he was not preaching, he lectured three times (he was the Old Testament professor). He took his place regularly on the Consistory, which met every Thursday. And he was either on committees or incessantly being asked for advice about matters relating to the deacons.

It should not be thought that he was in any way the ruler or dictator of Geneva. He was appointed by the City Council and paid by them. He could at any time have been dismissed by them (as he had been in 1538). He was a foreigner in Geneva, not even a naturalized citizen, until near the end of his life. His great authority was a moral authority, stemming from his belief that, because he proclaimed the message of the Bible, he was God’s ambassador, with the divine authority and power behind him. That he was involved in so much that went on in Geneva, from the City constitution down to drains and heating appliances, was simply due to his outstanding abilities and sense of duty. He made good his offer of himself in 1541 as “the servant of Geneva."

Poor Health

The burden of work and responsibilities was turned into crushing labor by his continual poor health. Overwork in his law-student days had impaired his digestion. This in turn, increased by his excitable and nervous disposition, brought on migraines. Later his lungs became affected, perhaps through too much preaching and talking, and he was incapacitated by lung hemorrhages. As if all this were not enough, he was tortured by bladder stones and the gout. And yet he drove his body beyond its limits. When he could not walk the couple of hundred yards to church, he was carried in a chair to preach. When the doctor forbade him to go out in the winter air to the lecture room, he crowded the audience into his bedroom and gave the remaining lectures on Malachi there. To those who would urge him to rest, he had the wondering question, “What! Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?"

The afflictions and pressures he endured were intensified by the opposition he faced. It was not reasoned opposition raised in the course of debate. This opposition took the form of actual physical intimidation, of men setting their dogs on him, of the firing of guns outside the church during the service, of people trying to drown his voice or put him off by loud coughing while he preached, even of anonymous threats against his life.

Disaffection grew. Calvin, for his part, stuck to his guns admirably. At first he was patient, but gradually his patience was worn away. Even in his patience, he was too unsympathetic. He may have remained always morally superior to his opponents, but he showed little understanding, little kindness, and certainly little sense of humor. On the other hand, we have to ask ourselves how much Calvin would have achieved in Geneva and in the world, if he had been an amenable sort of man. His sympathy was for the needs of the Gospel his kindness was for the Kingdom of God in the situation he saw no comedy, only tragedy.

We must remember that during all this turmoil, Calvin had not relinquished his many other responsibilities. He continued preaching and lecturing, commentaries and other books were written, many hundreds of letters were dispatched to every part of the civilized world, and he had worked away at the Institutio.

Never satisfied, Calvin made his greatest and final revision in the winter of 1558, when severe illness gave him leisure from ordinary tasks. The work was greatly increased in bulk, the 21 chapters of 1550 now became 80. These 80 were completely recast into four “books,” corresponding to the four parts of the Apostles’ Creed on God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and the Church. What happened to the Institutioin its course from the six chapters based on the catechism to the four books on the creed? Did it lose its contact with those who are “hungering and thirsting for Christ"? Did it cease to be evangelistic and become purely theoretical theology? Above all, did it drift away from the teaching of Holy Scripture? Not at all.

The 1559 edition begins with the same sentence as it did in 1539, which was nearly the same as in 1536: “Our true and genuine wisdom can be summed up as the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves.” By “God,” Calvin means the God who has revealed himself through Holy Scripture, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. By “the knowledge of God,” Calvin means the relationship of child and Father created by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Institutioremains what it always was, an evangelistic and pastoral work, a continual exposition of Holy Scripture.

Only five years remained to him after 1559. They were years of increasing sickness and weakness— years, nevertheless, of unremitting toil. He again translated the Institutiointo French. He wrote the large commentary on the Pentateuch and translated that also. He continued to preach, lecture, and perform his ordinary duties until February of 1564. After this he quickly declined and died three months later.

By Dr. T.H.L. Parker

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #12 in 1986]


Calvinism is named after John Calvin. It was first used by a Lutheran theologian in 1552. It was a common practice of the Roman Catholic Church to name what it viewed as heresy after its founder. Nevertheless, the term first came out of Lutheran circles. Calvin denounced the designation himself:

They could attach us no greater insult than this word, Calvinism. It is not hard to guess where such a deadly hatred comes from that they hold against me.

Despite its negative connotation, this designation became increasingly popular in order to distinguish Calvinists from Lutherans and from newer Protestant branches that emerged later. The vast majority of churches that trace their history back to Calvin (including Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and a row of other Calvinist churches) do not use it themselves, since the designation "Reformed" is more generally accepted and preferred, especially in the English-speaking world. Moreover, these churches claim to be—in accordance with John Calvin's own words—"renewed accordingly with the true order of gospel".

Since the Arminian controversy, the Reformed tradition—as a branch of Protestantism distinguished from Lutheranism—divided into two separate groups: Arminians and Calvinists. [9] [10] However, it is now rare to call Arminians a part of the Reformed tradition, with the majority of Arminians today being members of the Methodist Churches and General Baptist Churches. While the Reformed theological tradition addresses all of the traditional topics of Christian theology, the word Calvinism is sometimes used to refer to particular Calvinist views on soteriology and predestination, which are summarized in part by the Five Points of Calvinism. Some have also argued that Calvinism as a whole stresses the sovereignty or rule of God in all things including salvation.

First-generation Reformed theologians include Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531), Martin Bucer (1491–1551), Wolfgang Capito (1478–1541), John Oecolampadius (1482–1531), and Guillaume Farel (1489–1565). These reformers came from diverse academic backgrounds, but later distinctions within Reformed theology can already be detected in their thought, especially the priority of scripture as a source of authority. Scripture was also viewed as a unified whole, which led to a covenantal theology of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper as visible signs of the covenant of grace. Another Reformed distinctive present in these theologians was their denial of the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord's supper. Each of these theologians also understood salvation to be by grace alone, and affirmed a doctrine of particular election (the teaching that some people are chosen by God for salvation). Martin Luther and his successor Philipp Melanchthon were undoubtedly significant influences on these theologians, and to a larger extent later Reformed theologians. The doctrine of justification by faith alone, also known as sola fide, [11] was a direct inheritance from Luther. [12]

John Calvin (1509–64), Heinrich Bullinger (1504–75), Wolfgang Musculus (1497–1563), Peter Martyr Vermigli (1500–62), and Andreas Hyperius (1511–64) belong to the second generation of Reformed theologians. Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536–59) was one of the most influential theologies of the era. [13] Toward the middle of the 16th century, the Reformed began to commit their beliefs to confessions of faith, which would shape the future definition of the Reformed faith. The 1549 Consensus Tigurinus brought together those who followed Zwingli and Bullinger's memorialist theology of the Lord's supper, which taught that the supper simply serves as a reminder of Christ's death, and Calvin's view that the supper serves as a means of grace with Christ actually present, though spiritually rather than bodily. The document demonstrates the diversity as well as unity in early Reformed theology. The remainder of the 16th century saw an explosion of confessional activity. The stability and breadth of Reformed theology during this period stand in marked contrast to the bitter controversy experienced by Lutherans prior to the 1579 Formula of Concord. [14]

Due to Calvin's missionary work in France, his programme of reform eventually reached the French-speaking provinces of the Netherlands. Calvinism was adopted in the Electorate of the Palatinate under Frederick III, which led to the formulation of the Heidelberg Catechism in 1563. This and the Belgic Confession were adopted as confessional standards in the first synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1571. In 1573, William the Silent joined the Calvinist Church. Calvinism was declared the official religion of the Kingdom of Navarre by the queen regnant Jeanne d'Albret after her conversion in 1560. Leading divines, either Calvinist or those sympathetic to Calvinism, settled in England (Martin Bucer, Peter Martyr, and Jan Łaski) and Scotland (John Knox). During the English Civil War, the Calvinistic Puritans produced the Westminster Confession, which became the confessional standard for Presbyterians in the English-speaking world. Having established itself in Europe, the movement continued to spread to other parts of the world, including North America, South Africa, and Korea. [15]

Calvin did not live to see the foundation of his work grow into an international movement but his death allowed his ideas to break out of their city of origin, to succeed far beyond their borders, and to establish their own distinct character. [16]

Spread Edit

Although much of Calvin's work was in Geneva, his publications spread his ideas of a correctly Reformed church to many parts of Europe. In Switzerland, some cantons are still Reformed, and some are Catholic. Calvinism became the theological system of the majority in Scotland (see John Knox), the Netherlands (see William Ames, T. J. Frelinghuysen and Wilhelmus à Brakel), some communities in Flanders, and parts of Germany (especially these adjacent to the Netherlands) in the Palatinate, Kassel and Lippe with the likes of Olevianus and his colleague Zacharias Ursinus. In Hungary and the then-independent Transylvania, Calvinism was a significant religion. In the 16th century, the Reformation gained many supporters in Eastern Hungary and Hungarian-populated regions in Transylvania. In these parts, the Reformed nobles protected the faith. Almost all Transylvanian dukes were Reformed. Today there are about 3.5 million Hungarian Reformed people worldwide. [17] It was influential in France, Lithuania and Poland before being mostly erased due to the counter-reformational activities taken up by the monarch in each country. In Poland, a faction called the Polish Brethren broke away from Calvinism. This faction was started on January 22, 1556, when Piotr of Goniądz (Peter Gonesius), a Polish student, spoke out against the doctrine of the Trinity during the general synod of the Reformed (Calvinist) churches of Poland held in the village of Secemin. [18] Calvinism gained some popularity in Scandinavia, especially Sweden, but was rejected in favor of Lutheranism after the Synod of Uppsala in 1593. [19]

Most settlers in the American Mid-Atlantic and New England were Calvinists, including the English Puritans, the French Huguenots and Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam (New York), and the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of the Appalachian back country. Nonconforming Protestants, Puritans, Separatists, Independents, English religious groups coming out of the English Civil War, and other English dissenters not satisfied with the degree to which the Church of England had been reformed, held overwhelmingly Reformed views. They are often cited among the primary founders of the United States of America. Dutch and French Huguenot Calvinist settlers were also the first European colonizers of South Africa, beginning in the 17th century, who became known as Boers or Afrikaners.

Sierra Leone was largely colonized by Calvinist settlers from Nova Scotia, who were largely Black Loyalists, black people who had fought for the British during the American War of Independence. John Marrant had organized a congregation there under the auspices of the Huntingdon Connection. Some of the largest Calvinist communions were started by 19th- and 20th-century missionaries. Especially large are those in Indonesia, Korea and Nigeria. In South Korea there are 20,000 Presbyterian congregations with about 9–10 million church members, scattered in more than 100 Presbyterian denominations. In South Korea, Presbyterianism is the largest Christian denomination. [20]

A 2011 report of the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life estimated that members of Presbyterian or Reformed churches make up 7% of the estimated 801 million Protestants globally, or approximately 56 million people. [22] Though the broadly defined Reformed faith is much larger, as it constitutes Congregationalist (0.5%), most of the United and uniting churches (unions of different denominations) (7.2%) and most likely some of the other Protestant denominations (38.2%). All three are distinct categories from Presbyterian or Reformed (7%) in this report.

The Reformed family of churches is one of the largest Christian denominations. According to the Reformed/Presbyterian/Congregational/United churches represent 75 million believers worldwide. [23]

The World Communion of Reformed Churches, which includes some United Churches (most of these are primarily Reformed see Uniting and united churches for details), has 80 million believers. [24] WCRC is the third largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. [23]

Many conservative Reformed churches which are strongly Calvinistic formed the World Reformed Fellowship which has about 70 member denominations. Most are not part of the World Communion of Reformed Churches because of its ecumenical attire. The International Conference of Reformed Churches is another conservative association.

Church of Tuvalu is the only officially established state church in the Calvinist tradition in the world.

Revelation and scripture Edit

Reformed theologians believe that God communicates knowledge of himself to people through the Word of God. People are not able to know anything about God except through this self-revelation. Speculation about anything which God has not revealed through his Word is not warranted. The knowledge people have of God is different from that which they have of anything else because God is infinite, and finite people are incapable of comprehending an infinite being. While the knowledge revealed by God to people is never incorrect, it is also never comprehensive. [25]

According to Reformed theologians, God's self-revelation is always through his son Jesus Christ, because Christ is the only mediator between God and people. Revelation of God through Christ comes through two basic channels. The first is creation and providence, which is God's creating and continuing to work in the world. This action of God gives everyone knowledge about God, but this knowledge is only sufficient to make people culpable for their sin it does not include knowledge of the gospel. The second channel through which God reveals himself is redemption, which is the gospel of salvation from condemnation which is punishment for sin. [26]

In Reformed theology, the Word of God takes several forms. Jesus Christ himself is the Word Incarnate. The prophecies about him said to be found in the Old Testament and the ministry of the apostles who saw him and communicated his message are also the Word of God. Further, the preaching of ministers about God is the very Word of God because God is considered to be speaking through them. God also speaks through human writers in the Bible, which is composed of texts set apart by God for self-revelation. [27] Reformed theologians emphasize the Bible as a uniquely important means by which God communicates with people. People gain knowledge of God from the Bible which cannot be gained in any other way. [28]

Reformed theologians affirm that the Bible is true, but differences emerge among them over the meaning and extent of its truthfulness. [29] Conservative followers of the Princeton theologians take the view that the Bible is true and inerrant, or incapable of error or falsehood, in every place. [30] This view is very similar to that of Catholic orthodoxy as well as modern Evangelicalism. [31] Another view, influenced by the teaching of Karl Barth and neo-orthodoxy, is found in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Confession of 1967. Those who take this view believe the Bible to be the primary source of our knowledge of God, but also that some parts of the Bible may be false, not witnesses to Christ, and not normative for today's church. [30] In this view, Christ is the revelation of God, and the scriptures witness to this revelation rather than being the revelation itself. [32]

Covenant theology Edit

Reformed theologians use the concept of covenant to describe the way God enters fellowship with people in history. [33] The concept of covenant is so prominent in Reformed theology that Reformed theology as a whole is sometimes called "covenant theology". [34] However, sixteenth and seventeenth-century theologians developed a particular theological system called "covenant theology" or "federal theology" which many conservative Reformed churches continue to affirm today. [33] This framework orders God's life with people primarily in two covenants: the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. [35]

The covenant of works is made with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The terms of the covenant are that God provides a blessed life in the garden on condition that Adam and Eve obey God's law perfectly. Because Adam and Eve broke the covenant by eating the forbidden fruit, they became subject to death and were banished from the garden. This sin was passed down to all mankind because all people are said to be in Adam as a covenantal or "federal" head. Federal theologians usually infer that Adam and Eve would have gained immortality had they obeyed perfectly. [36]

A second covenant, called the covenant of grace, is said to have been made immediately following Adam and Eve's sin. In it, God graciously offers salvation from death on condition of faith in God. This covenant is administered in different ways throughout the Old and New Testaments, but retains the substance of being free of a requirement of perfect obedience. [37]

Through the influence of Karl Barth, many contemporary Reformed theologians have discarded the covenant of works, along with other concepts of federal theology. Barth saw the covenant of works as disconnected from Christ and the gospel, and rejected the idea that God works with people in this way. Instead, Barth argued that God always interacts with people under the covenant of grace, and that the covenant of grace is free of all conditions whatsoever. Barth's theology and that which follows him has been called "monocovenantal" as opposed to the "bi-covenantal" scheme of classical federal theology. [38] Conservative contemporary Reformed theologians, such as John Murray, have also rejected the idea of covenants based on law rather than grace. Michael Horton, however, has defended the covenant of works as combining principles of law and love. [39]

God Edit

For the most part, the Reformed tradition did not modify the medieval consensus on the doctrine of God. [40] God's character is described primarily using three adjectives: eternal, infinite, and unchangeable. [41] Reformed theologians such as Shirley Guthrie have proposed that rather than conceiving of God in terms of his attributes and freedom to do as he pleases, the doctrine of God is to be based on God's work in history and his freedom to live with and empower people. [42]

Traditionally, Reformed theologians have also followed the medieval tradition going back to before the early church councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon on the doctrine of the Trinity. God is affirmed to be one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son (Christ) is held to be eternally begotten by the Father and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeding from the Father and Son. [43] However, contemporary theologians have been critical of aspects of Western views here as well. Drawing on the Eastern tradition, these Reformed theologians have proposed a "social trinitarianism" where the persons of the Trinity only exist in their life together as persons-in-relationship. [43] Contemporary Reformed confessions such as the Barmen Confession and Brief Statement of Faith of the Presbyterian Church (USA) have avoided language about the attributes of God and have emphasized his work of reconciliation and empowerment of people. [44] Feminist theologian Letty Russell used the image of partnership for the persons of the Trinity. According to Russell, thinking this way encourages Christians to interact in terms of fellowship rather than reciprocity. [45] Conservative Reformed theologian Michael Horton, however, has argued that social trinitarianism is untenable because it abandons the essential unity of God in favor of a community of separate beings. [46]

Christ and atonement Edit

Reformed theologians affirm the historic Christian belief that Christ is eternally one person with a divine and a human nature. Reformed Christians have especially emphasized that Christ truly became human so that people could be saved. [47] Christ's human nature has been a point of contention between Reformed and Lutheran Christology. In accord with the belief that finite humans cannot comprehend infinite divinity, Reformed theologians hold that Christ's human body cannot be in multiple locations at the same time. Because Lutherans believe that Christ is bodily present in the Eucharist, they hold that Christ is bodily present in many locations simultaneously. For Reformed Christians, such a belief denies that Christ actually became human. [48] Some contemporary Reformed theologians have moved away from the traditional language of one person in two natures, viewing it as unintelligible to contemporary people. Instead, theologians tend to emphasize Jesus' context and particularity as a first-century Jew. [49]

John Calvin and many Reformed theologians who followed him describe Christ's work of redemption in terms of three offices: prophet, priest, and king. Christ is said to be a prophet in that he teaches perfect doctrine, a priest in that he intercedes to the Father on believers' behalf and offered himself as a sacrifice for sin, and a king in that he rules the church and fights on believers' behalf. The threefold office links the work of Christ to God's work in ancient Israel. [50] Many, but not all, Reformed theologians continue to make use of the threefold office as a framework because of its emphasis on the connection of Christ's work to Israel. They have, however, often reinterpreted the meaning of each of the offices. [51] For example, Karl Barth interpreted Christ's prophetic office in terms of political engagement on behalf of the poor. [52]

Christians believe Jesus' death and resurrection makes it possible for believers to attain forgiveness for sin and reconciliation with God through the atonement. Reformed Protestants generally subscribe to a particular view of the atonement called penal substitutionary atonement, which explains Christ's death as a sacrificial payment for sin. Christ is believed to have died in place of the believer, who is accounted righteous as a result of this sacrificial payment. [53]

Sin Edit

In Christian theology, people are created good and in the image of God but have become corrupted by sin, which causes them to be imperfect and overly self-interested. [54] Reformed Christians, following the tradition of Augustine of Hippo, believe that this corruption of human nature was brought on by Adam and Eve's first sin, a doctrine called original sin. Although earlier Christian authors taught the elements of physical death, moral weakness, and a sin propensity within original sin, Augustine was the first Christian to add the concept of inherited guilt (reatus) from Adam whereby every infant is born eternally damned and humans lack any residual ability to respond to God. [55] Reformed theologians emphasize that this sinfulness affects all of a person's nature, including their will. This view, that sin so dominates people that they are unable to avoid sin, has been called total depravity. [56] In colloquial English, the term "total depravity" can be easily misunderstood to mean that people are absent of any goodness or unable to do any good. However the Reformed teaching is actually that while people continue to bear God's image and may do things that appear outwardly good, their sinful intentions affect all of their nature and actions so that they are not pleasing to God. [57] From a Calvinist viewpoint, a person who has sinned was predestined to sin, and no matter what a person does, they will go to Heaven or Hell based on that determination. There is no repenting from sin since the most evil thing is the sinner's own actions, thoughts, and words. [58]

Some contemporary theologians in the Reformed tradition, such as those associated with the PC(USA)'s Confession of 1967, have emphasized the social character of human sinfulness. These theologians have sought to bring attention to issues of environmental, economic, and political justice as areas of human life that have been affected by sin. [59]

Salvation Edit

Reformed theologians, along with other Protestants, believe salvation from punishment for sin is to be given to all those who have faith in Christ. [60] Faith is not purely intellectual, but involves trust in God's promise to save. [61] Protestants do not hold there to be any other requirement for salvation, but that faith alone is sufficient. [60]

Justification is the part of salvation where God pardons the sin of those who believe in Christ. It is historically held by Protestants to be the most important article of Christian faith, though more recently it is sometimes given less importance out of ecumenical concerns. [62] People are not on their own able even to fully repent of their sin or prepare themselves to repent because of their sinfulness. Therefore, justification is held to arise solely from God's free and gracious act. [63]

Sanctification is the part of salvation in which God makes the believer holy, by enabling them to exercise greater love for God and for other people. [64] The good works accomplished by believers as they are sanctified are considered to be the necessary outworking of the believer's salvation, though they do not cause the believer to be saved. [61] Sanctification, like justification, is by faith, because doing good works is simply living as the son of God one has become. [65]

Predestination Edit

Reformed theologians teach that sin so affects human nature that they are unable even to exercise faith in Christ by their own will. While people are said to retain will, in that they willfully sin, they are unable not to sin because of the corruption of their nature due to original sin. Reformed Christians believe that God predestined some people to be saved and others were predestined to eternal damnation. [66] This choice by God to save some is held to be unconditional and not based on any characteristic or action on the part of the person chosen. This view is opposed to the Arminian view that God's choice of whom to save is conditional or based on his foreknowledge of who would respond positively to God. [67]

Karl Barth reinterpreted the Reformed doctrine of predestination to apply only to Christ. Individual people are only said to be elected through their being in Christ. [68] Reformed theologians who followed Barth, including Jürgen Moltmann, David Migliore, and Shirley Guthrie, have argued that the traditional Reformed concept of predestination is speculative and have proposed alternative models. These theologians claim that a properly trinitarian doctrine emphasizes God's freedom to love all people, rather than choosing some for salvation and others for damnation. God's justice towards and condemnation of sinful people is spoken of by these theologians as out of his love for them and a desire to reconcile them to himself. [69]

Five points of Calvinism Edit

Most objections to and attacks on Calvinism focus on the "five points of Calvinism", also called the doctrines of grace, and remembered by the mnemonic "TULIP". [70] The five points are popularly said to summarize the Canons of Dort [71] however, there is no historical relationship between them, and some scholars argue that their language distorts the meaning of the Canons, Calvin's theology, and the theology of 17th-century Calvinistic orthodoxy, particularly in the language of total depravity and limited atonement. [72] The five points were more recently popularized in the 1963 booklet The Five Points of Calvinism Defined, Defended, Documented by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas. The origins of the five points and the acronym are uncertain, but they appear to be outlined in the Counter Remonstrance of 1611, a less known Reformed reply to the Arminians that occurred prior to the Canons of Dort. [73] The acronym was used by Cleland Boyd McAfee as early as circa 1905. [74] An early printed appearance of the T-U-L-I-P acronym is in Loraine Boettner's 1932 book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. [75] The acronym was very cautiously if ever used by Calvinist apologists and theologians before the booklet by Steele and Thomas. [76]

The central assertion of these points is that God saves every person upon whom he has mercy, and that his efforts are not frustrated by the unrighteousness or inability of humans.

  • "Total depravity", also called "total inability", asserts that as a consequence of the fall of man into sin, every person is enslaved to sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God, but rather to serve their own interests and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to trust God for their salvation and be saved (the term "total" in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as they could be). [77] This doctrine is derived from Calvin's interpretation of Augustine's explanation about Original Sin. [78] While the phrases "totally depraved" and "utterly perverse" were used by Calvin, what was meant was the inability to save oneself from sin rather than being absent of goodness. Phrases like "total depravity" cannot be found in the Canons of Dort, and the Canons as well as later Reformed orthodox theologians arguably offer a more moderate view of the nature of fallen humanity than Calvin. [79]
  • "Unconditional election" asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people rather, his choice is unconditionally grounded in his mercy alone. God has chosen from eternity to extend mercy to those he has chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen. Those chosen receive salvation through Christ alone. Those not chosen receive the just wrath that is warranted for their sins against God. [80]
  • "Limited atonement", also called "particular redemption" or "definite atonement", asserts that Jesus's substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus's death. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is intended for some and not all. Some Calvinists have summarized this as "The atonement is sufficient for all and efficient for the elect." [81]
  • "Irresistible grace", also called "efficacious grace", asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved. The doctrine holds that this purposeful influence of God's Holy Spirit cannot be resisted, but that the Holy Spirit, "graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ." This is not to deny the fact that the Spirit's outward call (through the proclamation of the Gospel) can be, and often is, rejected by sinners rather, it is that inward call which cannot be rejected.
  • "Perseverance of the saints" (also known as "perseverance of God with the saints" and "preservation of the believing") (the word "saints" is used to refer to all who are set apart by God, and not of those who are exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven) asserts that since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with (1 John 2:19), or, if they are saved but not presently walking in the Spirit, they will be divinely chastened (Hebrews 12:5–11) and will repent (1 John 3:6–9). [82]

More recently, a broad range of theologians have sought to reformulate the TULIP terminology to reflect more accurately the Canons of Dort one recent effort has been PROOF, standing for Planned Grace, Resurrecting Grace, Outrageous Grace, Overcoming Grace, and Forever Grace. [83]

Comparison among Protestants Edit

Protestant beliefs about salvation
This table summarizes the classical views of three Protestant beliefs about salvation. [84]
Topic Calvinism Lutheranism Arminianism
Human will Total depravity: [85] Humanity possesses "free will", [86] but it is in bondage to sin, [87] until it is "transformed". [88] Original Sin: [85] Humanity possesses free will in regard to "goods and possessions", but is sinful by nature and unable to contribute to its own salvation. [89] [90] [91] Total depravity: Humanity possesses freedom from necessity, but not "freedom from sin” unless enabled by "prevenient grace". [92]
Election Unconditional election. Unconditional election. [85] [93] Conditional election in view of foreseen faith or unbelief. [94]
Justification and atonement Justification by faith alone. Various views regarding the extent of the atonement. [95] Justification for all men, [96] completed at Christ's death and effective through faith alone. [97] [98] [99] [100] Justification made possible for all through Christ's death, but only completed upon choosing faith in Jesus. [101]
Conversion Monergistic, [102] through the means of grace, irresistible. Monergistic, [103] [104] through the means of grace, resistible. [105] Synergistic, resistible due to the common grace of free will. [106] However, irresistible conversion is possible. [107]
Perseverance and apostasy Perseverance of the saints: the eternally elect in Christ will certainly persevere in faith. [108] Falling away is possible, [109] but God gives gospel assurance. [110] [111] Preservation is conditional upon continued faith in Christ with the possibility of a final apostasy. [112]

Church Edit

Reformed Christians see the Christian Church as the community with which God has made the covenant of grace, a promise of eternal life and relationship with God. This covenant extends to those under the "old covenant" whom God chose, beginning with Abraham and Sarah. [113] The church is conceived of as both invisible and visible. The invisible church is the body of all believers, known only to God. The visible church is the institutional body which contains both members of the invisible church as well as those who appear to have faith in Christ, but are not truly part of God's elect. [114]

In order to identify the visible church, Reformed theologians have spoken of certain marks of the Church. For some, the only mark is the pure preaching of the gospel of Christ. Others, including John Calvin, also include the right administration of the sacraments. Others, such as those following the Scots Confession, include a third mark of rightly administered church discipline, or exercise of censure against unrepentant sinners. These marks allowed the Reformed to identify the church based on its conformity to the Bible rather than the Magisterium or church tradition. [114]

Worship Edit

Regulative principle of worship Edit

The regulative principle of worship is a teaching shared by some Calvinists and Anabaptists on how the Bible orders public worship. The substance of the doctrine regarding worship is that God institutes in the Scriptures everything he requires for worship in the Church and that everything else is prohibited. As the regulative principle is reflected in Calvin's own thought, it is driven by his evident antipathy toward the Roman Catholic Church and its worship practices, and it associates musical instruments with icons, which he considered violations of the Ten Commandments' prohibition of graven images. [115]

On this basis, many early Calvinists also eschewed musical instruments and advocated a cappella exclusive psalmody in worship, [116] though Calvin himself allowed other scriptural songs as well as psalms, [115] and this practice typified presbyterian worship and the worship of other Reformed churches for some time. The original Lord's Day service designed by John Calvin was a highly liturgical service with the Creed, Alms, Confession and Absolution, the Lord's supper, Doxologies, prayers, Psalms being sung, the Lords prayer being sung, Benedictions. [117]

Since the 19th century, however, some of the Reformed churches have modified their understanding of the regulative principle and make use of musical instruments, believing that Calvin and his early followers went beyond the biblical requirements [115] and that such things are circumstances of worship requiring biblically rooted wisdom, rather than an explicit command. Despite the protestations of those who hold to a strict view of the regulative principle, today hymns and musical instruments are in common use, as are contemporary worship music styles with elements such as worship bands. [118]

Sacraments Edit

The Westminster Confession of Faith limits the sacraments to baptism and the Lord's Supper. Sacraments are denoted "signs and seals of the covenant of grace." [119] Westminster speaks of "a sacramental relation, or a sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other." [120] Baptism is for infant children of believers as well as believers, as it is for all the Reformed except Baptists and some Congregationalists. Baptism admits the baptized into the visible church, and in it all the benefits of Christ are offered to the baptized. [120] On the Lord's supper, Westminster takes a position between Lutheran sacramental union and Zwinglian memorialism: "the Lord's supper really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance as the elements themselves are to their outward senses." [119]

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith does not use the term sacrament, but describes baptism and the Lord's supper as ordinances, as do most Baptists Calvinist or otherwise. Baptism is only for those who "actually profess repentance towards God", and not for the children of believers. [121] Baptists also insist on immersion or dipping, in contradistinction to other Reformed Christians. [122] The Baptist Confession describes the Lord's supper as "the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance", similarly to the Westminster Confession. [123] There is significant latitude in Baptist congregations regarding the Lord's supper, and many hold the Zwinglian view.

Logical order of God's decree Edit

There are two schools of thought regarding the logical order of God's decree to ordain the fall of man: supralapsarianism (from the Latin: supra, "above", here meaning "before" + lapsus, "fall") and infralapsarianism (from the Latin: infra, "beneath", here meaning "after" + lapsus, "fall"). The former view, sometimes called "high Calvinism", argues that the Fall occurred partly to facilitate God's purpose to choose some individuals for salvation and some for damnation. Infralapsarianism, sometimes called "low Calvinism", is the position that, while the Fall was indeed planned, it was not planned with reference to who would be saved.

Supralapsarians believe that God chose which individuals to save logically prior to the decision to allow the race to fall and that the Fall serves as the means of realization of that prior decision to send some individuals to hell and others to heaven (that is, it provides the grounds of condemnation in the reprobate and the need for salvation in the elect). In contrast, infralapsarians hold that God planned the race to fall logically prior to the decision to save or damn any individuals because, it is argued, in order to be "saved", one must first need to be saved from something and therefore the decree of the Fall must precede predestination to salvation or damnation.

These two views vied with each other at the Synod of Dort, an international body representing Calvinist Christian churches from around Europe, and the judgments that came out of that council sided with infralapsarianism (Canons of Dort, First Point of Doctrine, Article 7). The Westminster Confession of Faith also teaches (in Hodge's words "clearly impl[ies]") the infralapsarian [124] view, but is sensitive to those holding to supralapsarianism. [125] The Lapsarian controversy has a few vocal proponents on each side today, but overall it does not receive much attention among modern Calvinists.

The Reformed tradition is largely represented by the Continental Reformed, Presbyterian, Evangelical Anglican, Congregationalist, and Reformed Baptist denominational families.

Continental Reformed Churches Edit

Considered to be the oldest and most orthodox bearers of the Reformed faith, the continental Reformed Churches uphold the Helvetic Confessions and Heidelberg Catechism, which were adopted in Zurich and Heidelberg, respectively. [126] In the United States, immigrants belonging to the continental Reformed Churches joined the Dutch Reformed Church there, as well as the Anglican Church. [127]

Congregational Churches Edit

The Congregational Churches are a part of the Reformed tradition founded under the influence of New England Puritanism. [128] The Savoy Declaration is the confession of faith held by the Congregationalist churches. [129] An example of a Christian denomination belonging to the Congregationalist tradition is the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.

Presbyterian Churches Edit

The Presbyterian Churches are a part of the Reformed tradition and were influenced by John Knox's teachings in the Church of Scotland. Presbyterianism upholds the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Evangelical Anglicanism Edit

Historic Anglicanism is a part of the wider Reformed tradition, as "the founding documents of the Anglican church—the Book of Homilies, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion—expresses a theology in keeping with the Reformed theology of the Swiss and South German Reformation." [130] The Most Rev. Peter Robinson, presiding bishop of the United Episcopal Church of North America, writes: [131]

Cranmer's personal journey of faith left its mark on the Church of England in the form of a Liturgy that remains to this day more closely allied to Lutheran practice, but that liturgy is couple to a doctrinal stance that is broadly, but decidedly Reformed. . The 42 Articles of 1552 and the 39 Articles of 1563, both commit the Church of England to the fundamentals of the Reformed Faith. Both sets of Articles affirm the centrality of Scripture, and take a monergist position on Justification. Both sets of Articles affirm that the Church of England accepts the doctrine of predestination and election as a 'comfort to the faithful' but warn against over much speculation concerning that doctrine. Indeed a casual reading of the Wurttemburg Confession of 1551, [132] the Second Helvetic Confession, the Scots Confession of 1560, and the XXXIX Articles of Religion reveal them to be cut from the same bolt of cloth. [131]

Reformed Baptist Churches Edit

Reformed Baptist Churches, also known as Primitive Baptist Churches, are Baptists (a Christian denominational family that teaches credobaptism rather than infant baptism) who adhere to Reformed theology as explicated in the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. [133]

Amyraldism Edit

Amyraldism (or sometimes Amyraldianism, also known as the School of Saumur, hypothetical universalism, [136] post redemptionism, [137] moderate Calvinism, [138] or four-point Calvinism) is the belief that God, prior to his decree of election, decreed Christ's atonement for all alike if they believe, but seeing that none would believe on their own, he then elected those whom he will bring to faith in Christ, thereby preserving the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election. The efficacy of the atonement remains limited to those who believe.

Named after its formulator Moses Amyraut, this doctrine is still viewed as a variety of Calvinism in that it maintains the particularity of sovereign grace in the application of the atonement. However, detractors like B. B. Warfield have termed it "an inconsistent and therefore unstable form of Calvinism." [139]

Hyper-Calvinism Edit

Hyper-Calvinism first referred to a view that appeared among the early English Particular Baptists in the 18th century. Their system denied that the call of the gospel to "repent and believe" is directed to every single person and that it is the duty of every person to trust in Christ for salvation. The term also occasionally appears in both theological and secular controversial contexts, where it usually connotes a negative opinion about some variety of theological determinism, predestination, or a version of Evangelical Christianity or Calvinism that is deemed by the critic to be unenlightened, harsh, or extreme.

The Westminster Confession of Faith says that the gospel is to be freely offered to sinners, and the Larger Catechism makes clear that the gospel is offered to the non-elect. [140] [141]

Neo-Calvinism Edit

Neo-Calvinism, a form of Dutch Calvinism, is the movement initiated by the theologian and former Dutch prime minister Abraham Kuyper. James Bratt has identified a number of different types of Dutch Calvinism: The Seceders—split into the Reformed Church "West" and the Confessionalists and the Neo-Calvinists—the Positives and the Antithetical Calvinists. The Seceders were largely infralapsarian and the Neo-Calvinists usually supralapsarian. [142]

Kuyper wanted to awaken the church from what he viewed as its pietistic slumber. He declared:

No single piece of our mental world is to be sealed off from the rest and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!' [143]

This refrain has become something of a rallying call for Neo-Calvinists.

Christian Reconstructionism Edit

Christian Reconstructionism is a fundamentalist [144] Calvinist theonomic movement that has remained rather obscure. [145] Founded by R. J. Rushdoony, the movement has had an important influence on the Christian Right in the United States. [146] [147] The movement declined in the 1990s and was declared dead in a 2008 Church History journal article. [148] However, it lives on in small denominations such as the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States and as a minority position in other denominations. Christian Reconstructionists are usually postmillennialists and followers of the presuppositional apologetics of Cornelius Van Til. They tend to support a decentralized political order resulting in laissez-faire capitalism. [149]

New Calvinism Edit

New Calvinism is a growing perspective within conservative Evangelicalism that embraces the fundamentals of 16th century Calvinism while also trying to be relevant in the present day world. [150] In March 2009, Time magazine described the New Calvinism as one of the "10 ideas changing the world". [151] Some of the major figures who have been associated with the New Calvinism are John Piper, [150] Mark Driscoll, Al Mohler, [151] Mark Dever, [152] C. J. Mahaney, and Tim Keller. [153] New Calvinists have been criticized for blending Calvinist soteriology with popular Evangelical positions on the sacraments and continuationism. [154]

Calvin expressed himself on usury in a 1545 letter to a friend, Claude de Sachin, in which he criticized the use of certain passages of scripture invoked by people opposed to the charging of interest. He reinterpreted some of these passages, and suggested that others of them had been rendered irrelevant by changed conditions. He also dismissed the argument (based upon the writings of Aristotle) that it is wrong to charge interest for money because money itself is barren. He said that the walls and the roof of a house are barren, too, but it is permissible to charge someone for allowing him to use them. In the same way, money can be made fruitful. [155]

He qualified his view, however, by saying that money should be lent to people in dire need without hope of interest, while a modest interest rate of 5% should be permitted in relation to other borrowers. [156]

In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber wrote that capitalism in Northern Europe evolved when the Protestant (particularly Calvinist) ethic influenced large numbers of people to engage in work in the secular world, developing their own enterprises and engaging in trade and the accumulation of wealth for investment. In other words, the Protestant work ethic was an important force behind the unplanned and uncoordinated emergence of modern capitalism. [157] In his book, apart from Calvinists, Weber also discusses Lutherans (especially Pietists, but also notes differences between traditional Lutherans and Calvinists), Methodists, Baptists, Quakers, and Moravians (specifically referring to the Herrnhut-based community under Count von Zinzendorf's spiritual lead).

Calvin's concepts of God and man led to ideas which were gradually put into practice after his death, in particular in the fields of politics and society. After their fight for independence from Spain (1579), the Netherlands, under Calvinist leadership, granted asylum to religious minorities, e.g. French Huguenots, English Independents (Congregationalists), and Jews from Spain and Portugal. The ancestors of the philosopher Baruch Spinoza were Portuguese Jews. Aware of the trial against Galileo, René Descartes lived in the Netherlands, out of reach of the Inquisition, from 1628 to 1649. [158] Pierre Bayle, a Reformed Frenchman, also felt safer in the Netherlands than in his home country. He was the first prominent philosopher who demanded tolerance for atheists. Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) was able to publish a rather liberal interpretation of the Bible and his ideas about natural law in the Netherlands. [159] [160] Moreover, the Calvinist Dutch authorities allowed the printing of books that could not be published elsewhere, such as Galileo's Discorsi (1638). [161]

Alongside the liberal development of the Netherlands came the rise of modern democracy in England and North America. In the Middle Ages, state and church had been closely connected. Martin Luther's doctrine of the two kingdoms separated state and church in principle. [162] His doctrine of the priesthood of all believers raised the laity to the same level as the clergy. [163] Going one step further, Calvin included elected laymen (church elders, presbyters) in his concept of church government. The Huguenots added synods whose members were also elected by the congregations. The other Reformed churches took over this system of church self-government, which was essentially a representative democracy. [164] Baptists, Quakers, and Methodists are organized in a similar way. These denominations and the Anglican Church were influenced by Calvin's theology in varying degrees. [165] [166]

In another factor in the rise of democracy in the Anglo-American world, Calvin favored a mixture of democracy and aristocracy as the best form of government (mixed government). He appreciated the advantages of democracy. [167] His political thought aimed to safeguard the rights and freedoms of ordinary men and women. In order to minimize the misuse of political power he suggested dividing it among several institutions in a system of checks and balances (separation of powers). [ citation needed ] Finally, Calvin taught that if worldly rulers rise up against God they should be put down. In this way, he and his followers stood in the vanguard of resistance to political absolutism and furthered the cause of democracy. [168] The Congregationalists who founded Plymouth Colony (1620) and Massachusetts Bay Colony (1628) were convinced that the democratic form of government was the will of God. [169] [170] Enjoying self-rule, they practiced separation of powers. [171] [172] Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, founded by Roger Williams, Thomas Hooker, and William Penn, respectively, combined democratic government with freedom of religion. These colonies became safe havens for persecuted religious minorities, including Jews. [173] [174] [175]

In England, Baptists Thomas Helwys (c. 1575 – c. 1616), and John Smyth (c. 1554 – c. 1612 ) influenced the liberal political thought of the Presbyterian poet and politician John Milton (1608–1674) and of the philosopher John Locke (1632–1704), [ citation needed ] who in turn had both a strong impact on the political development in their home country (English Civil War of 1642–1651), Glorious Revolution of 1688) as well as in North America. [176] [177] The ideological basis of the American Revolution was largely provided by the radical Whigs, who had been inspired by Milton, Locke, James Harrington (1611–1677), Algernon Sidney (1623–1683), and other thinkers. The Whigs' "perceptions of politics attracted widespread support in America because they revived the traditional concerns of a Protestantism that had always verged on Puritanism". [178] The United States Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and (American) Bill of Rights initiated a tradition of human and civil rights that continued in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the constitutions of numerous countries around the world, e. g. Latin America, Japan, India, Germany, and other European countries. It is also echoed in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [179]

In the nineteenth century, churches based on or influenced by Calvin's theology became deeply involved in social reforms, e.g. the abolition of slavery (William Wilberforce, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln, and others), women suffrage, and prison reforms. [180] [181] Members of these churches formed co-operatives to help the impoverished masses. [182] The founders of the Red Cross Movement, including Henry Dunant, were Reformed Christians. Their movement also initiated the Geneva Conventions. [183] [184] [185]

Some sources would view Calvinist influence as not always being solely positive. The Boers and Afrikaner Calvinists combined ideas from Calvinism and Kuyperian theology to justify apartheid in South Africa. [186] As late as 1974 the majority of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa was convinced that their theological stances (including the story of the Tower of Babel) could justify apartheid. [187] In 1990 the Dutch Reformed Church document Church and Society maintained that although they were changing their stance on apartheid, they believed that within apartheid and under God's sovereign guidance, ". everything was not without significance, but was of service to the Kingdom of God." [188] These views were not universal and were condemned by many Calvinists outside South Africa. Pressure from both outside and inside the Dutch Reformed Calvinist church helped reverse apartheid in South Africa. [ citation needed ]

Throughout the world, the Reformed churches operate hospitals, homes for handicapped or elderly people, and educational institutions on all levels. For example, American Congregationalists founded Harvard (1636), Yale (1701), and about a dozen other colleges. [189]

John Calvin’s "Institutes of the Christian Religion"

John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion” is considered a defining book of the Reformation and a pillar of Protestant theology. First published in Latin in 1536 and in Calvin’s native French in 1541, the “Institutes” argues for the majesty of God and for justification by faith alone. The book shaped Calvinism as a major religious and intellectual force in Europe and throughout the world. Here, Bruce Gordon provides a biography of Calvin's influential book, tracing the diverse ways it has been read and interpreted from Calvin’s time to today.

Gordon explores the origins and character of the “Institutes,” looking closely at its theological and historical roots, and explaining how it evolved through numerous editions to become a complete summary of Reformation doctrine. He shows how the development of the book reflected the evolving thought of Calvin, who instilled in the work a restlessness that reflected his understanding of the Christian life as a journey to God. Following Calvin’s death in 1564, the “Institutes” continued to be reprinted, reedited, and reworked through the centuries. Gordon describes how it has been used in radically different ways, such as in South Africa, where it was invoked both to defend and attack the horror of apartheid. He examines its relationship with the historical Calvin — a figure both revered and despised — and charts its contentious reception history, taking readers from the Puritans and Voltaire to YouTube, the novels of Marilynne Robinson, and to China and Africa, where the “Institutes” continues to find new audiences today.

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A colossal milestone of Christian thought---at an irresistible price!

Hendrickson offers a one-volume hardcover edition of one of Western Christianity's foundational works. Newly re-typeset for clarity, this volume translated by Henry Beveridge offers a more affordable edition of one of the last millennium's must-have works. This book will appeal to libraries, seminarians, pastors, and laypeople. Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin is an introduction to the Bible and a vindication of Reformation principles by one of the Reformation's finest scholars.

At the age of twenty-six, Calvin published several revisions of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, a seminal work in Christian theology that altered the course of Western history and that is still read by theological students today. It was published in Latin in 1536 and in his native French in 1541, with the definitive editions appearing in 1559 (Latin) and in 1560 (French). The book was written as an introductory textbook on the Protestant faith for those with some learning already and covered a broad range of theological topics from the doctrines of church and sacraments to justification by faith alone. It vigorously attacked the teachings of those Calvin considered unorthodox, particularly Roman Catholicism, to which Calvin says he had been "strongly devoted" before his conversion to Protestantism. The over-arching theme of the book - and Calvin's greatest theological legacy - is the idea of God's total sovereignty, particularly in salvation and election.

ISBN 13: 9780664220280

Jean Calvin

This specific ISBN edition is currently not available.

This is the definitive English-language edition of one of the monumental works of the Christian church. All previous editions--in Latin, French, German, and English--have been collated references and notes have been verified, corrected, and expanded and new bibliographies have been added.The translation preserves the rugged strength and vividness of Calvin's writing, but also conforms to modern English and renders heavy theological terms in simple language. The result is a translation that achieves a high degree of accuracy and at the same time is eminently readable.

Long recognized for the quality of its translations, introductions, explanatory notes, and indexes, the Library of Christian Classics provides scholars and students with modern English translations of some of the most significant Christian theological texts in history. Through these works--each written prior to the end of the sixteenth century--contemporary readers are able to engage the ideas that have shaped Christian theology and the church through the centuries.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

This is the new and definitive English-language edition of one of the monumental works of the Christian church.

John T. McNeill was an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. He taught at Westminster Hall Queen's University, Ontario Knox College, Toronto the University of Chicago and Union Theological Seminary, New York. McNeill authored many books, and was one of the general editors of The Library of Christian Classics.

Born on July 10, 1509, in Noyon, Picardy, France, John Calvin was a law student at the University of Orlບns when he first joined the cause of the Reformation. In 1536, he published the landmark text Institutes of the Christian Religion, an early attempt to standardize the theories of Protestantism. Calvin&aposs religious teachings emphasized the sovereignty of the scriptures and divine predestination𠅊 doctrine holding that God chooses those who will enter Heaven based His omnipotence and grace. 

Calvin lived in Geneva briefly, until anti-Protestant authorities in 1538 forced him to leave. He was invited back again in 1541, and upon his return from Germany, where he had been living, he became an important spiritual and political leader. Calvin used Protestant principles to establish a religious government and in 1555, he was given absolute supremacy as leader in Geneva.

As Martin Luther&aposs successor as the preeminent Protestant theologian, Calvin was known for an intellectual, unemotional approach to faith that provided Protestantism&aposs theological underpinnings, whereas Luther brought passion and populism to his religious cause.

While instituting many positive policies, Calvin&aposs government also punished "impiety" and dissent against his particularly spare vision of Christianity with execution. In the first five years of his rule in Geneva, 58 people were executed and 76 exiled for their religious beliefs. Calvin allowed no art other than music, and even that could not involve instruments. Under his rule, Geneva became the center of Protestantism, and sent out pastors to the rest of Europe, creating Presbyterianism in Scotland, the Puritan Movement in England and the Reformed Church in the Netherlands.

Application of Ancient Future Concepts

Ancient future faith. Ancient future time. What&rsquos it all about and how might it apply to your church?

The late Robert E. Webber popularized the ancient future worship concept through his Ancient Future book series, which includes The Divine Embrace (2006) and Ancient Future Worship (Baker Books, 2008).

&ldquoAncient future worship is the convergence, in one act of worship, of historic and contemporary streams of worship. It usually builds on the default worship stream of the particular worshiping community,&rdquo says David Peacock, head of music and worship at London School of Theology.

Define Your Default

Peacock explains that drawing on the early church to enrich your church&rsquos worship will depend on which ancient practices you already include, such as the church year or Celtic expressions.

Some people interested in ancient future worship become Episcopal, Catholic, or Orthodox. Liturgical churches look for ways to freshen traditions. Non-liturgical churches begin celebrating the Eucharist more often. Others experiment with observing Lent or multisensory worship elements.

As you read how churches and scholars are applying ancient future worship concepts, don&rsquot mistake stylistic issues for core ones. &ldquoAncient future worship goes deeper than historic practices to issues such as Trinitarian worship,&rdquo Peacock says.

Ancient future worship goes to the core of the biblical narrative. It&rsquos not a wordy head trip. If your church&rsquos worship default is to emphasize soul talk and private relationships, then you&rsquoll notice how ancient future faith is different.

The ancient future perspective affirms&mdashusing all the senses God gives&mdashthat God&rsquos divine embrace is for all people and all of creation. We sing, preach, and enact, as physical people, the story of God and our baptism into the life of Christ and his body.

Multisensory Roots Still Relevant

Early Christian art doesn&rsquot appear till 200 A.D. and isn&rsquot accompanied by text, yet &ldquojudging from the art, meals in common played an important role in the early church. Patristic evidence seems to confirm this,&rdquo says Ken Bratt, classics professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

There were agape or fellowship meals and funerary meals, held in catacombs to symbolically include the Christian dead. Many catacomb frescoes picture Eucharistic meals, embodying a reenactment of Christ&rsquos supper. &ldquoIn Protestantism, the practice of the Eucharist as being sporadic, rather than a constant element of worship, is a major shift,&rdquo Bratt says.

Early church art reveals that ancient Christians worshiped across a wide range of ethnic and social classes. &ldquoThese were atypical gatherings in the context of the ancient world,&rdquo Bratt says.

Art in catacombs, early house churches, and Byzantine basilicas show a common visual language tracing Old and New Testament salvation history. Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, the Good Shepherd, fish, and women at the empty tomb appear in paintings and mosaics. Images covered the whole interior of some basilicas.

&ldquoCalvin and other reformers reacted and threw out too much. We Protestants in the West lost something of the richness of image, word, smell, sound, taste&mdashengaging all senses in worship&mdashand went to a more dogmatic, word-focused worship style,&rdquo Bratt says.

In A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church, Calvin Stapert says that our society is marked by the same greed, lust, and selfishness as Roman culture was. Just as congregations do now, early church fathers debated how to adapt music in ways that reached non-believers but did not &ldquoshape human character in pernicious ways.&rdquo

Many ancient Christian musical choices still make sense today, Stapert says:

  • &ldquoWe&rsquod do well to heed their praise of the psalms&hellipmaking them central to our music&hellipnot just snippets&hellipbut complete psalms, indeed the whole Psalter with its full-orbed expression.&rdquo
  • We can enrich our singing with the best of ancient hymns &ldquoas models of texts that address God communally with language that is simple yet dignified, poetically excellent, and redolent with scriptural vocabulary, stories, sentiment, and imagery.&rdquo
  • &ldquoRemember that response, not stimulation, is the fundamental role of worship music&hellipThere would be a marked difference in the church&rsquos music if Christians truly recognized to whom and with whom they are singing.&rdquo
  • &ldquoThe &lsquonew song&rsquo expresses a basic truth most beautifully: God is a God of order and harmony&hellipthe Creator who made the universe not only useful and mechanically efficient but who also made it beautiful.&rdquo He sees this principle in Francis of Assisi&rsquos hymn, &ldquoAll Creatures of Our God and King,&rdquo in which singers invite the burning sun, rushing wind, fruits, and flowers to sing along.

Worship as Action

In Worship is a Verb, Robert E. Webber wrote that worship is not &ldquosomething done to us or for us, but by us." Note the us. The early church fathers preached that being baptized into Christ&rsquos body obliges worshipers to treat all as family.

In the fourth century, John Chrysostom preached often about caring for those in need. So did the Cappadocian Fathers, known for their Trinitarian doctrine, philanthropy, and justice work.

Chrysostom&rsquos liturgies include prayers such as &ldquoBe mindful, O Lord&hellipof those who travel by land or by water, of the sick, of those who suffer, of captives and of their salvation.&rdquo He had worshipers pray these words together, so they&rsquod be moved to action, according to Cheryl Brandsen, a Calvin College sociology professor who has studied early church practices to see where love and justice intersect.

&ldquoThe Cappadocian Fathers had an incredible grasp of the canon. They wove Scriptures to confront worshipers with extremes between rich and poor. People on the way to worship would pass by beggars, lepers, strangers that we&rsquod today call refugees. But because these unfortunate people weren&rsquot connected to a kin group, it wasn&rsquot on worshipers&rsquo radars to notice or help them,&rdquo she says.

Brandsen says Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa drew worshipers into generosity &ldquoby establishing the poor as family members, as kinsmen. They preached, &lsquoThe poor are made in the image of God, made of dust and clay, just as you are.&rsquo &rdquo

They challenged worshipers who had large churches, countless vehicles, golden bridles, gorgeous homes, closets full of shoes&mdashwhile others were hungry, naked, ill, and homeless. &ldquoYou could change the examples just a bit and you&rsquod have modern sermons,&rdquo she says.

Basil preached that feeding the hungry and righting injustice restores created order. He inspired wealthy believers to build magnificent churches that also fed, sheltered, and offered job training for people who were poor, homeless strangers, orphans, lepers, or elderly. Basil himself changed the dressings on lepers&rsquo wounds.

Start Where You Are

Even small steps can help churches embody oneness in life and worship. First Evangelical Free Church in Wichita, Kansas, pairs fine and folk art by church artists with Scripture readings to &ldquodraw people into the scripture narrative,&rdquo says Steve Blasdel, pastor of worship and music and Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies student.

Blasdel says the &ldquoultimate point of all ministries&rdquo is &ldquoGod in Christ reconciling the world to himself,&rdquo and a recent Good Friday service embodied that reconciliation through image, music, word, movement, and taste.

An artist painted while the congregation read responsively, sang, and listened to the choir sing from the musical &ldquoHe&rsquos Alive Forever.&rdquo Blasdel says, &ldquoThe artist started with a cloudy day, added three crosses, and merged that into a painting of Jesus&rsquo face. Her painting brought home a fresh realization of what the cross meant and means.

&ldquoWe usually serve communion to people where they are seated but that evening asked them to come forward. Some came to receive communion with tears, others with quiet joy.

&ldquoIt was stunning&mdashand unifying&mdashto see different nationalities, sizes, shapes, and colors of people coming forward as the body of Christ.&rdquo

Institutes of the Christian Religion

Published first in 1536, the Institutes of the Christian Religion is John Calvin's magnum opus. Extremely important for the Protestant Reformation, the Institutes has remained important for Protestant theology for almost five centuries. Written to "aid those who desire to be instructed in the doctrine of salvation," the Institutes, which follows the ordering of the Apostle's Creed, has four parts. The first part examines God the Father the second part, the Son the third part, the Holy Spirit and the fourth part, the Church. Through these four parts, it explores both "knowledge of God" and "knowledge of ourselves" with profound theological insight, challenging and informing all the while. Thus, for either the recent convert or the long-time believer, for the inquisitive beginner or the serious scholar, John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is a rewarding book worthy of study!

This copy of the Institutes of the Christian Religion was translated into English by Henry Beveridge (who died in 1929) and was first published in 1845.

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John Calvin, along with Martin Luther, is considered to be among the most significant forces in the Protestant Reformation. Working out of France and Switzerland, he is the author of the most famous theological book ever published, theInstitutes of Christian Religion. No theology book has ever been more loved or hated. His doctrines of the sovereignty of God in predestinating the fate of all believers, commonly referred to as Calvinism, are among the most hotly debated in the history of Christianity. Do we choose God or does He choose us? The correct answer is absolutely essential to a proper understanding of the nature of God and His relationship with all humanity. John Calvin's Institutes, first published in Latin in 1536, is the definitive reference work on the subject. Calvin also authored many other books, including volumes of commentaries on most of the books of the Bible, all of which are still in print today. He was also the primary person behind the publication of the famous protestant English Bible, the Geneva Bible, first published in 1560 in Switzerland.

Watch the video: John Calvin and the Calvinists: Handout Church History with John Gerstner


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