John Calvin (1509-1564)

Between January and May here at The Shepherd’s Scrapbook we will be focusing our attention on French reformer John Calvin (with other posts and topics scattered along the way).

Calvin was a lawyer-turned-Reformer whose written works provide readers a 51-volume depository of Reformed theology and exegesis of Scripture. His commentaries, systematic theology (The Institutes), letters and sermons continue in print nearly 500 years after his birth.

We are focusing on Calvin, but not because he was perfect. He had character faults. Calvin was irritable, distant and a bit cold (not unlike myself at times). Nor was Calvin infallible. At some secondary points in his teachings I must disagree. John Owen said of the patristic writers we should take the gold and leave the dung. There is much gold in Calvin, but not all of it. Would Calvin want to be considered an infallibly guide anyways?

Why do Calvin’s massive works live on? Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Calvin is a tree whose ‘leaf also shall not wither’; whatever he has written lives on, and is never out of date, because he expounded the word without bias or partiality.” Calvin wrote — not as a man defending an extra-biblical framework — but as an honest man seeking to discover the biblical framework.

Calvin is an incredible example for us today. He buffeted his body and made it his slave for the sake of the gospel. Calvin strove to be a great preacher, a great theologian and a diligent pastor to his flock. He is an example for all pastors. His testimony exhorts me to preach boldly, think clearly and minister personally. When I reflect on Calvin (or Spurgeon for that matter) I am reminded just how fruitful one life can be for the gospel. Bearing the fruit of Calvin requires the self-denial of Calvin.

So whether were looking at his radical self-discipline, sober critical thinking, careful exegesis of Scripture, command of the Greek and Hebrew languages, clear and simple expositions from the pulpit or his brilliant theological framework, Calvin remains a giant of church history.

The life and teaching of John Calvin (and the many books in print about him and by him) we believe are worthy of extended study.


Click here to access previous posts in the Humble Calvinism index.


2 thoughts on “John Calvin (1509-1564)

  1. Hello,

    I’ve never written to a blog, although I have just started one myself ( The web site referenced above is my business site, not a “Christian” site, but at least you can find out something about me there!

    I just came across your web site and am overwhelmed by it all. Who knew there were Christians out there studying The Institutes! We are a very small group that has recently started a study of The Westminster Confession, using G.I. Williamson’s guide. We often feel alone and so I’m very glad to discover your site.

    I see the image cards – these are names that are familiar to me: Warfield, Boettner, and others. I can hardly believe your site!!

    Someone suggested making a blank book of Grudem. Is this Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology? I’ve heard Pastor David Legge ( refer to this book. I know nothing else about it. Do you recommend it? Is it reliable?

    Thank you so much for your site. It’s an oasis to the thirsty.


  2. For me Calvin was spiritually intense, almost to the point of a mystic. Like all intense souls, he sought what was elemental between God and man. What was the one connection between God and man, from which all other things comes? For him it was that we have not chosen Him, God has chosen us. This realization came over him, he contemplated it all his life. All of his theology he saw in this particular point of light, and he never turned away.

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