John Calvin

This essay has a total of 2498 words and 11 pages.

John Calvin



Many people in history have made a very big impact on their culture, times, and/or
religion. One that stands out is John Calvin. He had a really huge influence during his
time—the early-to-middle sixteenth century. Calvin devoted almost his whole life to
promoting Protestantism, and he made a big difference that is still seen today in
Christianity.

Calvin was born in France in July of 1509 and belonged in a set of five brothers. He was
baptized to the parish of Sainte-Godeberte, where his parents were parishioners (Walker
26). Calvin, as a boy, was very liberally educated since his parents were as well. When
he was eleven, his father arranged for John to be in charge of a chaplaincy attached to
the altar in the cathedral in Noyons, the city of his birth. In his twelfth year, Calvin
was aided by a succession of small ecclesiastical benefices without duties attached.
These were the only things that Calvin did in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church,
and it was very short, because John’s father sent him to the University of Paris at the
age of fourteen (29-30).

His father’s intention to send him to Paris was for John to specialize in the study of
Theology, because he was remarkably religious, and was also a strict censor of everything
vicious in his companions. But his father also wanted John to study law, because his
father viewed law as “the surest way to wealth and honors” (44). Also, his father had
gotten involved in a dispute with the cathedral chapter where he was employed. But,
otherwise, Calvin followed his father’s “wishes” and studied law at the division of the
University of Orleans. Looking to new possibilities, he also learned the Greek language.
When his father died in 1531, there was no pressure to make a choice. He received a
master of arts in Theology in Paris and completed the doctorate in Law, but after his
father’s death, John came back to Paris and devoted himself enthusiastically to the
language and literature courses of the newly appointed royal lecturers.

In his second stay in Paris, he published his first book, “Commentary on Seneca’s Treatise
on Clemency,” in April of 1532. While studying here, he came across the writings of
Martin Luther. Calvin began getting involved in the movement, and in 1533, he had his
“salvation experience.” He wrote about it later and stated, “God subdued and brought my
heart to surrender. It was more hardened against such matters than was to be expected in
such a young man.” Calvin knew that to fulfill his place with God, he would have to turn
away from the Roman Catholic Church. He exactly did that.

His first attempt to move from the Roman Catholic Church was November 2, 1533, when he
gave a speech attacking the church demanding reform. He figured that if he spoke to the
people and educated them on Protestantism, then they would be ready to make changes in the
Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, it did not turn out the way he thought it would be.
Instead of resulting in reform, the results were anti-Protestant protests all over Paris,
forcing him to flee for safety. Two years later, while roaming over Europe and landing in
Basle, Switzerland, Calvin published the first edition of Institutes of the Christian
Religion. This eventually helped set John as a leader in the French Protestant
Reformation (128).

After this, he went to Geneva and worked with the reform of the Genevan Church (182).
John went through many ups and downs during his stay in Geneva, and he fought through many
personal and political conflicts. For example, a certain conflict was when he refused to
distribute the elements for communion on Easter Sunday in 1538 while preaching at
Saint-Pierre. For this action, he was ordered to depart from Geneva (213).

Set out from Geneva, Calvin moved to Strasbourg at the urging of Martin Bucer (217).
Here, he published a revised and longer version of the Institutes and a commentary on the
book of Romans. The new version proved how intellectual mature he was, and thus showed
that he attained full status as a theologian. During this time, he married Idelette de
Bure, and the couple had one child that died in infancy (228-230). Calvin was constantly
urged to return to Geneva to try to revive the reform there. After much uncertainty, he
left Strasbourg by himself in September of 1541 (262).

Upon his return to Geneva, he was invited back to help turn the city around spiritually.
He evolved into a very influential resident and was considered the chief religious leader
and the foremost interpreter of the “Word of God.” He never held a public office in
Geneva, but he ruled with strictness, and sin was punished. He played a strong part in
the decision-making that occurred in Geneva (278). He had laws passed to promote
Christian behavior. Struggling with his reform attempts, on the side, his wife died in
1549. Calvin continued doing commentaries on the Bible and published discussions on 1 and
2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, James,
Jude, Acts, and many others between 1546-1553 (324).

The end of the Perrinist reign in Geneva in 1555 removed the remaining opposition to
Calvin’s leadership in the city (355). Calvin attempted to make lives better for Genevan
residents, but his sole purpose and interest was on the spiritual side of things. Calvin
continued his commentaries on the Bible from 1555-1556, and in 1559, he completed the
perfected edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin’s health declined
throughout the early 1560’s, and he gave his last sermon on February 6, 1564. John Calvin
died on May 27, 1564, and was buried in a common cemetery, in an unmarked grave, as he
requested (434).

Many events helped Calvin achieve the great status that he deserved, but without the
really remarkable ones that he achieved, little understanding would occur about the great
man. His noted achievements in his theological values, also known as Calvinism, show that
he brought new insight to the church. By looking at Five Points introduced by Larry
Nixon, we can see Calvin’s final conclusions through intense Bible study.

The first point of Calvinism is Total Heredity Depravity. This teaches that all children
are born into the world bearing the guilt of the sin of Adam. If an infant were to die, it
would be condemned to hell. This doctrine is the source of the unscriptural practice of
infant baptism. This is also the belief that “evil pervades every faculty of his soul and
every sphere in life. He is unable to do a single thing that is good.” Scripture fully
supports this belief. Genesis 6:5 says that “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on
the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only
evil all the time.” This explains how our desires became evil, and how wickedness
penetrates our deepest breaks. In our heart is evil, and this was what Calvin wanted to
show.

The second point of Calvinism is Unconditional Election, which teaches that people have
nothing to say as to whether or not they are among the “elect.” This is the teaching of
predestination, where only certain people are “saved” and others are “lost.” It is not
biased by what one does; only being chosen is they way to be saved. This is seen in
Philippians 2:13, which says, “…for it is God who works in you to will and act according
to his good purpose.” Therefore, Calvin believed that God chooses us, and we don’t choose
Him.

The third point of Calvinism is Limited Atonement, which teaches that there is a fixed,
limited number of people who will be saved, and that nobody else will be accepted by God
when this number is complete. This is one of Calvin’s most controversial doctrines in
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