The Theologian

(Part 1 of 2)

John Calvin was born on the 10th of July 1509 in Noyon, France. He grew up in a pious Catholic family and was destined for the priesthood, by instruction of his father and his dedication to the church. Through the assistance of a wealthy family, with whom he had won favour, Calvin was able to attend College in Paris. There he excelled at Latin. Soon after he switched to study law, again by the wishes of his father, and attended college in Bourges. Here he learnt Greek, so as to better study the Scriptures.

He had a conversion experience around the year 1533 which radically changed his outlook on the church and the beliefs current at the time. Two quotes from his commentary of the Psalms highlight this:

“By a sudden conversion, God subdued and reduced to docility my soul, which was more hardened against such things than one would expect of my youthful years.”

“Like a flash of light, I realized in what an abyss of errors, in what chaos I was.”

By this conversion he broke ties with Rome and began to teach the reformed faith. He was thrown in jail for short periods of time due to his teaching. He became the head of the French movement of the reformation. When witnessing a fellow believer being tortured and burned at the stake, he himself was narrowly spared execution, when he tried to make his way to the scaffold to halt the madness, several of his friends had to drag him away.

Calvin was forced to flee the city after a speech he wrote calling for reform was condemned by the government and they sought his life. He then wandered from city to city for awhile, teaching under assumed names and leading small groups wherever he went.

Calvin was a humble man, much more at home with his books than leading the people, which he had a great gift and ability to do. He was also the great theologian of the Reformation, coherently setting out the thoughts of Reformed theology in The Institutes of the Christian Religion. By this time Calvin had decided he would spend his life in Basel as a scholar and leave the pastoring of the church to others.

He travelled to Geneva on personal business, only intending to stay one night. There he was confronted by a friend, William Farel, that Calvin was to stay in Geneva to help in the reformation. Calvin refused, wanting only peace and a private life. Farel eventually convinced Calvin with the words:

“You are concerned about your rest and your personal interests. . Therefore I proclaim to you in the name of Almighty God whose command you defy: Upon your work there shall rest no blessing . . . Therefore,let God damn your rest, let God damn your work!”

With these words, a terrified Calvin replied: “I obey God.” Thus began his work of Reformation in the city of Geneva.

Next we look at Calvin’s continued work in the Reformation.


For more info on Calvin check out these sites:

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