How Did John Calvin Impact the Protestant Reformation?

How Did John Calvin Impact the Protestant Reformation?

John Calvin and His Impact on the Reformation

The Protestant Reformation, a monumental religious movement that unfolded during the 16th century, sparked radical changes to the then-prevailing Christian customs and beliefs. It marked the beginning of an intellectual and theological upheaval that called for the separation of the Church from the religious and political institution it had become under the Roman Catholic Church’s influence.

Who was John Calvin, Protestant Reformer and Pastor 1509-1564 Painting by Calvin Bryant
John Calvin, Pastor, and Protestant Reformer. Painting by Calvin Bryant

Within this storm of religious awakening, a significant figure emerged, impacting and shaping the Reformation from its very core: John Calvin. Known for his theological genius and unwavering dedication to religious reforms, he has etched his achievements in history as key drivers of the Reformation. How did John Calvin impact the Reformation, then? If you are one of those seeking answers, read along as we delve into Calvin’s key role in shaping its progression and his immense impact on the Reformation movement.

John Calvin: Early Life and Cultural Upbringing

John Calvin, born Jehan Cauvin on July 10, 1509, in Noyon, Picardy, in northern France, was a leading figure in the development of the system of Christian theology, later called Calvinism. His background is rooted in an influential family; his father is a lawyer, and his mother is a devout Roman Catholic. Calvin’s early years marked a strong religious and cultural upbringing, where his family groomed him for a career in the clergy from a young age. He received his ecclesiastical benefice at just 12 years old. He attended the prominent schools of Montaigu and Collège de la Marche in Paris, where he studied theology and acquired the education necessary for a successful career in the Roman Catholic Church.

Conversion to Protestantism

As Calvin continued his studies, he became exposed to the ideas of Renaissance humanism, which laid the foundation of Reformation thought. This exposure, coupled with an increasing disenchantment with the Church, eventually led to his conversion to Jesus Christ and away from the Catholic Church. It is believed that around 1533, Calvin experienced the sudden reality of saving faith through Jesus Christ, after witnessing the persecution of the growing Protestant movement in France by the Roman Catholic authorities. Feeling a divine call, he decided to break away from the oppressive practices of the Roman Catholic Church and devote his life to the reformation of the Christian faith.

This conversion marked a turning point in Calvin’s life, as he shifted his focus to advocating for the pure and true gospel of Jesus Christ, the Protestant cause, and elaborating on the doctrines of his newfound faith. His most notable work, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” is a comprehensive guide to the tenets of Reformed theology and solidifies his reputation as an influential theologian of his time. Calvin’s early life and conversion laid the groundwork for his immense contributions to the formation and development of Protestant theology, which served as a cornerstone for the Protestant Reformation movement.

How Did John Calvin Impact the Reformation: His Contributions

Teachings and beliefs

John Calvin’s impact on the Reformation was both profound and lasting, with his religious teachings and beliefs shaping the course of events and ultimately leading to the establishment of Protestantism as a major world religion. Born in France in 1509, Calvin initially trained for a career in law before experiencing a religious conversion that set him on the path to becoming one of the preeminent leaders of the Reformation movement. Through his theological writings, particularly his seminal work, “The Institutes of the Christian Religion,” Calvin laid the groundwork for a distinct form of Protestantism that, over time, earned the name Calvinism.

Central to Calvin’s religious teachings and beliefs was the doctrine of predestination, which held that God had predetermined the fate of every human soul and that only a select few—the “elect”—were destined for salvation. This emphasis on the utter sovereignty of God and the inability of humans to work toward their own salvation through good deeds or religious observance set Calvinism apart from other strands of theology, which retained some semblance of the Catholic notion of merit-based salvation.  Calvin also espoused the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, the authority of the Scriptures, the Priesthood of the believer, and the complete separation of church and state. He emphasized the church as an independent and self-governing institution not subject to secular authorities’ control.

His role in the establishment of Protestantism

As a key figure in the Reformation, Calvin’s role in establishing Protestantism cannot be overstated. Not only did Calvin’s doctrines influence France, where he established a significant Calvinist following, but they also influenced other European countries, such as Switzerland and the Netherlands. Reformers in these countries embraced his ideas and laid the foundation for establishing national Protestant churches. Moreover, the spread of Calvinism to the British Isles had significant consequences for the development of English and Scottish Protestantism and the eventual splintering of Protestant denominations in the United States.

Calvin’s opposition to the Catholic Church was central to his theology. It fueled his desire to create a new, purified form of Christianity. The hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church, with its emphasis on human authority and the political power of the papacy, was anathema to Calvin, who saw such worldly pursuits as corrupting the true mission of the church. In its place, he advocated for a more egalitarian and decentralized religious community governed by a council of ministers focused on preaching the Word of God rather than accumulating power and wealth.  In this way, John Calvin’s contributions to the Reformation not only helped to shape the foundations of Protestantism but also forever transformed the religious and political landscape of Europe and beyond.

How Did John Calvin Impact the Reformation: His Influence

The spread of Calvinism across Europe

John Calvin significantly shaped the Reformation, a pivotal movement that profoundly impacted the religious landscape of sixteenth-century Europe. The question of how John Calvin impacted the Reformation is answered through his lasting legacy of Protestantism, as he both deepened and expanded the theological foundation of the movement, subsequently giving rise to the spread of Calvinism. Calvin’s doctrines, characterized by their emphasis on the sovereignty of God, the depravity of human nature, and the predestination of the elect, resonated with a sizable portion of the European population, who found solace and resolved their spiritual anxieties in his teachings.

John Calvin’s impact on the Reformation contributed to the rapid spreading of Calvinism across the continent, particularly in regions such as Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and Scotland. This solidified the movement’s influence on the social and political fabric of many European nations. Calvin established the Academy of Geneva in 1559, serving as a key catalyst for this expansion. The Academy functioned as a training ground for ministers who became well-versed in Calvinist theology and disseminated its principles across the continent.

Impact on Religion and Society

Another critical element of Calvin’s legacy was the establishment of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches, which further consolidated the position of the Reformation in Europe. Calvin’s ecclesiastical governance was grounded in a democratic structure that prioritized the rule of lay elders and advocated for the separation of church and state. This radical departure from the hierarchical structure of the Roman Catholic Church resonated with both the political elites and the common folk, thereby facilitating the widespread embrace of Calvinist churches.

Lastly, it is essential to examine the impact of Calvinism on religion and society as a whole. Undoubtedly, Calvin’s teachings played a vital role in shaping the culture of nations that adopted his theological doctrines. The emphasis on diligence, frugality, self-discipline, the centrality of education, and the acquisition of knowledge all contributed to a societal transformation that manifested in various facets, ranging from economic to political and social changes.  John Calvin’s impact on the Reformation was undeniably far-reaching and multifaceted, effectively changing the course of European history and laying the foundation for modern Protestantism.

John Calvin’s Legacy and Historical Significance

The question, How did John Calvin impact the Reformation, is multifaceted. It has profound implications for both the historical evolution of Christianity and the broader trajectory of Western culture. As a primary architect of Protestant thought, and one of the most prominent defenders of the Reformation, Calvin’s legacy endures in numerous ways today. From his indelible thumbprint on the religious doctrines and practices of various Protestant denominations to the far-reaching influence of Calvinism on modern-day politics, culture, and society, it is clear that Calvin’s contributions to the Reformation have left an indelible mark on the world. Indeed, it is difficult to overstate the importance of Calvin’s thought in unfolding this seminal movement within the history of Christianity.

When examining the lasting impact of Calvin on religion and the Reformation, we must recognize the distinctive theological concepts he brought to the table. Among these, Calvin particularly broke ground with his emphasis on the importance of Scripture and predestination—the idea that God has eternally chosen who will be saved and who will be damned.

These core tenets, known as Calvinism, offered a strong counterbalance to the teachings of the Catholic Church at the time. They inspired many to break with the papal establishment and embark on new paths of religious devotion and expression.

Influence and Relevance in the World Today

The influence of Calvinism on modern-day politics, culture, and society is similarly profound. Calvin’s doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers—the belief that each individual has a direct line of communication with God and is therefore capable of interpreting Scripture for themselves—helped to pave the way for the rise of democracies and the decline of autocratic rulers. Many today still look to Calvin’s insistence on the importance of Scripture and his defense of religious freedom as foundational principles for a just and equitable society.

Even in today’s increasingly secular world, the continued relevance of Calvin’s teachings is difficult to deny. From the ever-evolving landscape of global Christianity to the ongoing debates and discussions surrounding the role of religion in public life, Calvin’s thought remains a touchstone for countless individuals and communities. As we seek to understand better how John Calvin impacted the Reformation and the legacy he left behind, we can see that he extended his contributions to the tapestry of human history far beyond the confines of religious doctrine. He shaped the very fabric of modern civilization in myriad ways.


As a leader of the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin forged new paths with his theological and political ideas, laying a solid foundation on which modern-day society was built. Throughout the text, we have delved into Calvin’s life and work, observing how his teachings on predestination, the sovereignty of God, and the priesthood of all believers shaped the fabric of the Protestant Church, influencing its central doctrines and ideals.

Upon reflecting on John Calvin’s impact, it is evident that his influence continues to resonate in today’s world, informing not only theological perspectives but also shaping political and philosophical debates on the roles of government, civil rights, and the importance of individual interpretation in religious practice. As one of the pivotal figures of the Reformation era, Calvin’s legacy has left an indelible impression on contemporary religious thought and societal formation, proving that historical events and their primary actors possess layers of meaning that extend well beyond their immediate contexts.

For those who wish to delve deeper, numerous resources detail Calvin’s life and contributions to the Reformation, as well as the wider implications for society. Several biographies and historical accounts provide in-depth information, while theological texts focus on his doctrinal contributions. Comparisons to other major reformers, such as Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli, also offer valuable insights into these religious leaders’ complex interrelations and lasting impact on the world.


As we reflect on the significance of John Calvin, let us heed the words of the Savior, Jesus Christ, who proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). In our pursuit of knowledge and understanding, let us never lose sight of the ultimate source of wisdom and guidance. Let Calvin’s legacy inspire us to seek truth, embrace change, and follow the path illuminated by the light of Christ.

Take up the torch of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and let it illuminate your path. Embrace the call, driven by the words of Jesus: “Seek, and you will find” (Matthew 7:7). In learning more about John Calvin may we all draw closer to the God of the Bible he served.

Which Statement Best Defines the Teachings of John Calvin?

Which Statement Best Defines the Teachings of John Calvin?

Which Statement Best Defines the Teachings of John Calvin? | Exploring the Teachings of John Calvin

John Calvin, a prominent figure of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, left an indelible mark on Christian theology. His teachings, known as Calvinism, have shaped the understanding of countless believers throughout history. Central to Calvin’s theology are concepts like predestination, human depravity, and the authority of Scripture.

Which Statement Best Defines the Teachings of John Calvin?
John Calvin, seen here is featured on Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland

In this article, we will explore the question, “Which statement best defines the teachings of John Calvin?” as we explore the core principles that defined his theological framework.

Overview of John Calvin’s Teachings

Before we examine the defining statements of John Calvin’s teachings, it is vital to grasp the significance of his theology. These elements will ultimately inform our answer to the question, “Which statement best defines the teachings of John Calvin?” Calvin’s influence was far-reaching, with Calvinism becoming a distinct theological tradition of Protestant doctrine. His writings, particularly “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” served as a comprehensive guide to his teachings.

Let us now explore the three statements that many feel represent the essence of Calvin’s theological insights.

Statement 1: Predestination as the Ultimate Expression of God’s Sovereignty

This statement serves as a defining pillar supporting the framework of Calvin’s beliefs. In a nutshell, Calvin proclaimed that predestination or unconditional election is the ultimate expression of God’s sovereignty.

Calvin firmly believed in the absolute sovereignty of God. Further, he emphasized that God exercises complete control over every facet of human existence, including the crucial matter of salvation. According to Calvin’s teachings, even before the foundation of the world, God made deliberate choices. He elected specific individuals for eternal life while justly leaving others to their eternal damnation. Moreover, this doctrine of predestination powerfully underscores Calvin’s unwavering emphasis on God’s supremacy and omnipotence.

The foundation of Calvin’s understanding of predestination lies firmly in Scripture. It draws heavily from passages like Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:3-6.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. – Rom 8:29

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. – Eph 1:3-6

These biblical verses provide the framework for Calvin’s theological convictions. For Calvin, predestination is a profound testimony to God’s immeasurable grace and sovereignty. It highlights that our salvation is not a result of our own efforts (works) or merits but is solely a product of God’s unfathomable mercy and sovereign will.

We are entirely reliant on God’s mercy for salvation

Furthermore, Calvin’s predestination teachings shed light on humanity’s inherent helplessness and sinfulness. They emphasize that we rely entirely on God’s mercy for salvation, devoid of any ability to earn or attain it by ourselves. Thus, predestination serves as a humbling reminder of our complete dependence on God and our desperate need for His redemptive intervention.

While the concept of predestination may give rise to questions, it undeniably holds a crucial place in Calvin’s theological framework. It epitomizes his unwavering commitment to the belief in God’s absolute sovereignty. Calvin’s teachings on predestination affirm that God’s choices and actions are beyond our comprehension. Thus, it serves as a powerful testament to His immeasurable grace and unparalleled authority.

Which statement best defines the teachings of John Calvin in this context? “Predestination as the Ultimate Expression of God’s Sovereignty” encapsulates the essence of Calvin’s belief system. Likewise, his teachings are rooted in Scripture (sola scriptura), and highlight God’s supreme control, the profoundness of His grace, and our complete reliance on His mercy for salvation.

Statement 2: Human Depravity and the Necessity of God’s Grace

Calvin’s teachings emphasize the inherent depravity of humanity and the indispensable role of God’s grace in the process of salvation.

According to Calvin, as a consequence of the Fall, all human beings are born in a state of total depravity. This means that we are fundamentally corrupted and incapable of achieving righteousness by our own efforts. Further, Calvin rejects the notion that humans possess any inherent goodness or ability to merit salvation through good works. In his view, our fallen human nature renders us utterly reliant on God’s grace for redemption.

In Calvin’s theology, the necessity of God’s grace becomes paramount. Hence, He stresses that divine grace is entirely unmerited and freely bestowed upon those whom God has chosen. This emphasis serves as a powerful reminder of humanity’s desperate need for God’s intervention. Calvin sought to underscore the radical nature of God’s redemptive work. Moreover, he highlights the absolute dependence of human beings on His grace for salvation.

The transformative power of God’s redemptive plan

By emphasizing the total depravity of humanity and the indispensability of God’s grace, Calvin intended to magnify the glory and grandeur of God’s redemptive plan. Thus, in recognizing the depths of our fallenness, we can better appreciate the sheer magnitude of God’s mercy and grace. Furthermore, through the lens of human depravity, his teaching highlights the transformative power of God’s redemptive work. He elevates the significance of God’s irresistible grace and underscores the central role it plays in the salvation of believers.

Which statement best defines the teachings of John Calvin in this context? “Human Depravity and the Necessity of God’s Grace.” emphasizes the inherent depravity of humanity and our inability to achieve righteousness on our own. Instead, he emphasizes the absolute necessity of God’s unmerited grace for salvation. By recognizing our fallen state and our dependence on God’s grace, we can therefore grasp the profoundness of His redemptive work and magnify the glory of His grace.

Statement 3: The Authority of Scripture and Doctrinal Clarity

Calvin’s unwavering commitment to the authority of Scripture and his pursuit of doctrinal clarity stand as defining aspects of his teachings. He rejected the idea that the authority of the Catholic Church (or any person or religious institution) was higher than the authority of the Bible. God’s truth is supreme. We all must bow before its teachings because one day we will give an account of our lives and be judged by it.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God2 may be complete, equipped for every good work. – II Timothy 3:16

For Calvin, the Bible was not just a religious text, but the infallible Word of God. He firmly believed that it held ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice. As such, he placed great importance on the diligent study of Scripture, urging believers to comprehensively explore its teachings. Indeed, a deep understanding of the Bible was crucial for developing a solid foundation of faith and discerning God’s will.

In his monumental work, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” Calvin taught a systematic theology to bring clarity and coherence to Christian doctrine. He meticulously articulated critical theological concepts and provided detailed explanations of various aspects of the Christian faith. Calvin intended to guide believers in their pursuit of theological knowledge and to facilitate a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

Understanding the authority of God’s Word

By emphasizing the authority of Scripture and pursuing doctrinal clarity, Calvin sought to establish a solid theological framework for believers. His teachings were grounded in the belief that a thorough understanding of God’s Word would enable Christians to navigate the complexities of faith with clarity and confidence. Calvin’s commitment to scriptural authority and his efforts to provide doctrinal clarity contributed significantly to developing and disseminating Reformed Churches’ theology.

Which statement best defines the teachings of John Calvin in this context? Calvin’s unwavering commitment to the authority of the Bible as the infallible Word of God and his pursuit of doctrinal clarity through systematic theology were pivotal aspects of his teachings. By emphasizing the study of Scripture and providing a comprehensive framework of Christian doctrine, Calvin aimed to equip believers with the necessary knowledge and understanding to live out their confession of faith in accordance with God’s Word.


Which statement best defines the teachings of John Calvin, then? Summarizing such a complex and nuanced theology in a single statement is not easy. In exploring the teachings of John Calvin, we encounter profound theological insights. Through the defining statements of predestination, human depravity, and the authority of Scripture, Calvin emphasized God’s sovereignty, the necessity of divine grace, and the pursuit of doctrinal clarity.

These teachings challenge us to contemplate the mysterious intersection of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, the depths of our fallen nature, and the importance of anchoring our Christian faith in the authority of Scripture. They invite us to wrestle with profound questions about divine nature, justification by faith, free will, and the complexities of our relationship with God.

Key Takeaways

As we reflect on Calvin’s teachings, we are reminded that theology is not merely an intellectual exercise but a means to deepen our understanding of God through the absolute, inerrant truth of the Bible. It encourages us to seek Jesus and see him revealed through the Old and New Testaments.

In the words of John Calvin himself, “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” This encapsulates the essence of Calvin’s teachings and serves as a reminder of the transformative power we experience through the repentance of our sins and faith in Christ alone.

So, let us continue to engage with the word of God, not only to gain intellectual knowledge but to allow them to shape our hearts, challenge our assumptions, and deepen our relationship with God. By grace through faith in Jesus, we are saved. It is nothing we can earn, but it is the gift of God.

Take the time to explore the theological teachings of John Calvin and the truth of the Bible on which it stands. Engage in thoughtful discussions. Seek to understand the Scriptures, ask questions like “Who is Jesus to me? Is he my Savior? What if I met God face to face right now, would I be ready?” Consider the implications of these teachings in your own life and faith journey. Let his legacy inspire you to dig deeper, broaden your theological horizons, and grow in your faith in Jesus Christ.

Who Was John Calvin?

Who Was John Calvin?

Reformation Wall, Geneva Switzerland. The figures depict the four great preachers: Guillaume Farel, Jean Calvin, Théodore de Bèze and John Knox, all four wearing the ‘robe of Geneva’ and holding the little people’s bible.
Reformation Wall, Geneva Switzerland. The figures depict the four great preachers: Guillaume Farel, John Calvin, Théodore de Bèze, and John Knox, all four wearing the ‘robe of Geneva’ and holding the little people’s bible.

Like a lighthouse on a high and rugged hill, John Calvin’s theology was the guiding light across the turbulent waves of persecution that would follow for the next two hundred years.

Who was John Calvin, Protestant Reformer and Pastor 1509-1564 Painting by Calvin Bryant
John Calvin, Pastor and Protestant Reformer. Painting by Calvin Bryant

There is no name that shines more brightly in the constellation of Evangelical Reformers than  French theologian and pastor  John Calvin (1509- 1564).  The 16th century, which was the incubator of the Protestant Reformation is still sending light waves throughout Christendom. Like a lighthouse on a high and rugged hill, his theology was the guiding light across the turbulent waves of persecution that would follow for the next two hundred years.  Here is history that must never be forgotten otherwise the gospel will end up shipwrecked on the sandbar of good works from whence we were rescued.

If you could mint a coin symbolizing the Reformation you would have to engrave the mild-mannered   John Calvin on one side and the bombastic  Martin Luther on the other. Luther, the sound of whose hammer we can still reverberate throughout modern-day Christianity was the plowman. He chopped down the dead trees, tore up the idle ground, and hauled away the roots and rocks and noxious weeds. It took such an iron man and his steel plow to clear the landscape.  The gentler John Calvin was not a man of the plow and the ax but a man of pen and paper, an academic, theologian, and lawyer who wrote upon men’s hearts and minds the news of salvation by grace alone and not by works.   He proved that the pen is mightier than the sword. Like Luther a generation before him, his conscience was held captive by Sola Scriptura, Scripture Alone.

While religious persecution continued raging through Europe after his death (1618-1648) Calvin’s single pen like a single flame lit a thousand other torches. His commentaries, numerous letters, and sermons started fires of revival burning in Geneva, London, Paris, and Edinburgh. These Reformed Doctrines crossed the Atlantic burning in the hearts of powerful Reformed leaders such as  William Brewster &  William Bradford. These  1620 Pilgrims boarded a small ship called the  Mayflower.  With 102 other brave hearts, they braved the dark and turbulent waters of the three-thousand-mile journey to bring the first light of the gospel to the dark shores of the New World.

Before the Pilgrims set a foot on this foreign shore to build a fort at Plymouth, they drafted up the Mayflower Compact. It was a democratic compact. On the world stage, it seemed such an insignificant event.  But God forced their ship to land in Plymouth, Cape Cod instead of Virginia which would have put them under the thumb of the king of England.  The God who controls the wind and the waves moves in mysterious ways. Here strangers in a strange land had their first taste of Independence from the government.  In a dark crowded room, in the hull of an insignificant ship, forty-one men voluntarily signed the Mayflower Compact and democratically voted in their first leader John Carver. This compact became the rocking cradle of self-governance.

John Calvin's influence on the founding fathers, democracy, the American Revolution and the United States
The beautiful American mayflower symbolizes the Calvinists well. It is a hardy wildflower that grows in clusters and spreads naturally throughout northern and southern Eastern America.  In like manner, Reformed theology spread naturally from Maine to Georgia making America a beautiful place to live freely both religiously and politically.

This is most important because it was the first legal, democratic document to establish self-government in the New World.  Here started the first heartbeat of democracy in an uncertain World.  This voluntarily signed compact remained active from 1620 to  1691 when Plymouth Colony became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. For seventy years they breathed the intoxicating free air of democratic rule.

No power on earth could now take it from their political DNA.  A new nation one-hundred and sixty-six years later would write out its own Declaration of Independence. And it would begin with the same sound of the sound of freedom, “We the people, “ and not with  “We the government,” and certainly not with, “I the king.”  Boston, a   Puritan city on a hill would become a lighthouse to the world.

Ten years after the Pilgrims landed in America,  in the 1630’s, many more followed.  Reformed Puritans from Britain, and Huguenots from France. Presbyterians from Scotland.  Separatists, Independents, and nonconformists of every stripe from the Netherlands, Germany Poland, and Bohemia followed in their wake.  The Calvinistic influence was here to stay

Reformed leaders like John  Harvard birthed Harvard university in 1636, only sixteen years after they walked ashore into this uncivilized land.  Yale, Princeton, Brown, and a ton of others followed and in their wake. The Reformed Puritan clergy was highly educated. They brought the first printing press to America and in 1640 printed the first book which was on the Psalms. The average Puritan young person in 17th century  America could read and write. Illiteracy was rare amongst these Bible-reading people.

Politicians like William Bradford, and John Winthrop would set the political stage for righteous leadership.  Pastors like John Owen and  In-crease Mather would inspire the people to be a light to the world that could never be put out.  Evangelists like Johnathan Edwards and George Whitefield during the 1730s and 1740s would set that desire afire. They would begin the first  First Great Awakening that shaped the Constitution and America’s destiny.

Though  I read Calvin’s  Institutes of Christian Religion many years ago I clearly remember how amazed I was at his beautiful prose,   his deep devotion, his fear of God, and most of all, the gospel of grace.  It was a life changer. It was as beautiful as the bride hearing the voice of the bridegroom.  This is why I was not surprised when reading through  Will Durant’s “Story of Civilization” for him to make the profound statement  that Calvin’s “Institutes”  was “one of the ten books that shook the world.”

The beautiful American mayflower symbolizes the Calvinists well. It is a hardy wildflower that grows in clusters and spreads naturally throughout northern and southern Eastern America.  In like manner, Reformed theology spread naturally from Maine to Georgia making America a beautiful place to live freely both religiously and politically.

God give us more John Calvin’s.

Dr. Robert P. Bryant
Soli Deo Gloria, “To God Alone Be the Glory.” 

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Reformed Theology is the simple yet life-transforming truth of biblical Christianity

Reformed Theology is the simple yet life-transforming truth of biblical Christianity

Serving the Lord Jesus is truly an amazing journey, full of happiness, challenges, and adventure. It is a life that teaches us to focus on things of eternal value and to worship the almighty God of the Bible. But the craziness of today’s culture relentlessly promotes a self-centered life that is obsessed with temporal things. It causes people to listen with their eyes and think with their feelings. They exchange the worship of the almighty God for the worship of created things they can see and touch. Pleasure, pride, and self-gratification drive them forward to search for new ways to experience more and more of it.

Look at the current gender identity movement. Clearly, it is a perverse doctrine of Satan. And yet, in a few short years, millions of people, companies, and yes, even churches, now bow before it. The result can be seen in news headlines everywhere: broken people, hyper-sexuality aimed at children, shattered families, a rising epidemic of teenage suicide, and drug addiction. Make no mistake, sin is a brutal killer.

In contrast, Reformed Theology is the vibrant, inspiring, life-giving teaching of the Bible. It is a God-centered theology that places the worship of God as the primary pursuit of human existence. It places our focus first on the doctrine of God, his character, and his nature.

By focusing on God, we discover more about ourselves as men and women created in his image. We are not random, gender-fluid animals. We are human beings–men and women created in the image of God–who are dead in sin and need to be redeemed. The Scriptures teach us that through faith in Jesus alone we can be redeemed from spiritual death (Eph 2:8); we can be born again to live a life that God prepared for us since the beginning of time. This spiritual life can’t be earned by how good you are, purchased with money, or given by anyone but Jesus, our Redeemer.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Eph 2:8-9

How can you expect to dwell with God forever if you so neglect and forsake him here?– Jonathan Edwards

Reformed Theology stands on the foundation of Scripture as God’s inspired Word and divine roadmap for life, salvation, and eternal truth. It considers the teachings of the Bible as the highest authority, higher than the authority of any person, church, or government. This grinds painfully against today’s secular and corrupt religious world, yet it is absolutely true.

At the core of Reformed Theology is the gospel (the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection). At the heart of the gospel, is Jesus Christ. Tracing its roots in the teachings of the early church and the apostles, Reformed Theology teaches that the Christian life is one of saving grace, faith, and God’s sovereign power over all things: a life that glorifies God in everything, every day. How we talk, pray, worship, conduct ourselves, and treat others should all reflect the true teachings of the Bible. We are called to live as lights in a dark world. To live as servants of God and not as servants of self … just like Jesus.

If you’re someone who desires to be transformed from the crazy of this world (like I was), I challenge you to read on. Study the heart-changing doctrines of Reformed Theology and experience the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Let the pure, simple truth of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection set you free.

Calvin Bryant
Post tenebras lux (after darkness, light)

John Calvin’s Life & Legacy
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John Calvin’s Life & Legacy

Igniting The Fires of Revival

Who Is John-Calvin and What Is Calvinism?
John Calvin, Protestant Reformer and Pastor 1509-1564 | Painting by Calvin Bryant.

It is hardly disputed that John Calvin is one of the most influential–if not the most influential– of the Protestant Reformers. His life and teaching ignited the flames of revival across Europe and early America. His lasting effect on today’s world goes beyond Reformed theology and touches most spheres of life including governance, early American history, the rise of democracy, and social norms. Even if you do not know it now, your life has been affected by John Calvin. Throughout this 4-part series, we hope to demonstrate Calvin’s great significance both at the time he was alive and now by walking you through milestones, ideas, and events that marked Calvin’s life.

In part one, we will present a brief overview of Calvin’s personal history. In part two, we will seek to explore his various writings and demonstrate the need for more people to pick up and read his works. In parts three and four we will focus on Calvin’s lasting impacts. More particularly, in part three we will examine his immediate impact in Geneva, Switzerland in the 1500s, and in part four will discuss the legacy Calvin has handed down all the way to the present time in the United States. We hope that through this short series on Calvin, you will be inspired to learn more about and from this giant in the faith.

From the Church to the Law

The origin story of our hero begins on July 10, 1509. Although famous for his time in Switzerland, Calvin was born in Paris, France to his mother, Jeanne le Franc, and his father, Gerard Cauvin (French spelling of Calvin). His mother died early in Calvin’s childhood leaving behind him and four siblings.

Calvin’s father was ambitious and hoped to elevate his family’s standing. At the time, France was still heavily Roman Catholic, so Calvin’s father heavily encouraged him to join the official priesthood of the church. Joining the priesthood would ensure a free education and future job security. Calvin, obeying his father, became a servant of the Roman Catholic Church and studied diligently in hopes of upgrading from his humble beginnings. However, as time went on Gerard felt that his son would be better off financially as a lawyer. Calvin then, at the age of 12, went to study law at the University of Paris.

It was there that Calvin pursued subjects such as political philosophy, literature, art, theology, and more. His dad particularly had visions of his son becoming a famous humanities scholar. Toward that end, Calvin dedicated himself to the study of Roman law and philosophy at the Universities of Paris, Orleans, and Bourges. He launched his academic career with the publication of his first complete book in 1532 at the age of 23, a commentary on the Roman leader Seneca.

John Calvin 1509-1564 | Geneva, Switzerland

Back to the Church

During the 1520s and 30s (while Calvin was studying humanities), Martin Luther’s movement for the reformation of the Roman Catholic Church was ricocheting all over Europe. In Roman Catholic France, Luther’s ideas were not readily accepted. Indeed, at Calvin’s own college, there was a mission statement to refute Luther’s beliefs. Calvin seemed unaffected by the Reformed ideas encroaching on Europe. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and continued onward to peruse a doctorate in philosophy.

Although scholars dispute who exactly exposed Calvin to the ideas of the Protestant Reformation, many suggest that it was his friend Nicolas Cop, the official pastor of Calvin’s University. Once Calvin interacted with Protestant and Reformed teachings, his life completely changed. He writes about this in the preface to his commentaries on the Psalms, saying:

“Thus it came to pass, that I was withdrawn from the study of philosophy, and was put to the study of law, to this pursuit, I endeavored faithfully to apply myself, in obedience to the will of my father; but God, by the secret guidance of His providence, at length gave a different direction to my course. And first, since I was too obstinately devoted to the superstitions of Popery to be easily extricated from so profound an abyss of mire, God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought to a teachable frame my mind, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life. Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true piety, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein, that although did not altogether leave off other studies, I yet pursued them with less ardor,” (Calvin, Commentaries on the Psalms, 1557).

He continued his studies but became passionate about the importance of the Scriptures and the furthering of the Reformed Church.

Public Life

While Calvin was still at university, his friend Nicolas Cop preached a sermon extremely friendly to Protestant teachings. It is rumored that Calvin himself wrote this sermon. Regardless of the authorship, the sermon caused an uproar and forced Cop to flee to Basel, Switzerland. Calvin implicated in Cop’s teachings was also set on the run toward Switzerland.

During his travels, Calvin made many connections with other Reformers (mostly other exiles), including William Farel. William Farel was another Frenchmen who fought hard for the Protestant faith and founded many churches across Switzerland. Farel is responsible for a large number of events throughout the Reformation period, but he is most often known as the man that persuaded Calvin to go to Geneva, Switzerland in 1536.

It was there that Calvin became a public teacher and preacher of the Reformation. Although, both Calvin and Farel were kicked out of Geneva briefly in 1538 for attempting to get rid of all Roman Catholic images of God. They both returned in 1541 and were able to establish a Protestant outpost in Geneva through the preaching and teaching of the Scriptures and through the passionate proclamation of the love of Jesus Christ.

Calvin then helped form a new government in Geneva based on the Word of God, overthrowing any remaining Roman Catholic influences. Here he established an academy for the education of future generations, preached at the local church, started charities for the poor, set up the prototype of church government for future presbyterian denominations, and was a member of the ruling council in Geneva known as the Consistory. 

In Geneva, Calvin spent the remainder of his life writing, teaching, preaching, taking in refugees, and training missionaries. It was in Geneva that Calvin began writing his most famous work, The Institutes of Christian Religion. He began writing it at the age of 26 and continued to add and revise it all of his life. Although the Institutes were distributed and read during Calvin’s life, the final version of it was published after his death.

Private Life

Not much is known about Calvin’s home life. He was a particular man and had high standards for any future wife. He was approached multiple times by candidates suggested by friends but remained unmarried until Martin Bucer (a German Reformer) recommended Idelette Stordeur. 

Idelette was a widow with two children. Calvin was a frequent guest in her home both while her husband Jean Stodeur was alive and after his death. During those visits, Calvin was able to witness her godly character and admired her graciousness. On August 17, 1540, they were married. Together they lived an active life. The Genevan Consistory granted them a small mountain-top home and a modest annual salary. Idelette is said to have created a warm home and helped Calvin take in many refugees and host multiple future famous theologians.

Idelette and Calvin never had children as they all died at birth or shortly after. This was devastating to both Calvin and Idelette. However, they were committed to prayer and reading the Scriptures to help them deal with their immense grief. In 1549, after nine years of faithfulness to her husband and the Lord, Idelette died. Calvin was faithful to his promise to treat her two children as his own. After the death of his wife, Calvin continued to teach, write, preach, and train future generations of preachers until his own death on May 27, 1564, at the age of 54.

Far-Reaching Influence

Calvin’s missionaries from Geneva went all over the globe in the 1550s including as far as Brazil. In 1555, the Roman Catholic Queen in England and Scotland, Mary Tudor (aka Bloody Mary), exiled all the Protestants. This sent many theologians Calvin’s way, including Scotland’s most famous Reformer John Knox. Calvin housed these exiles, trained them, and sent them throughout Europe carrying the gospel wherever they went. Calvin continued to train many famous theologians including Pierre Viret, Theodore Beza, and Francis Turretin and has influenced millions more.


John Calvin was first and foremost a man of faith dedicated to the pure worship of the one, true, and living God. His whole life was marked by vigorous study and a drive for the precise communication of the truth. After his exposure to the Protestant faith, he funneled his skills and passion into helping reform the church. Calvin’s life is a reminder for us that God can use anyone at any time to proclaim His name. Calvin’s legacy is a call for us to hold fast to the truth of God.

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John Calvin’s Written Work
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John Calvin’s Written Work

Calvin’s Writings Impacted The World

John Calvin's writings. Who is John Calvin and what is Calvinism?
John Calvin, Protestant Reformer and Pastor 1509-1564 | Painting by Calvin Bryant

In our first post in this series, we introduced John Calvin as one of the greatest heroes of the Reformation. We sketched his personal and professional life and told of his passion for God and his labor for the Church. In this next part, we will explore Calvin’s written work.

You may be thinking, “Why would you dedicate a whole post specifically to Calvin’s writings?” The answer is simple. Through his writings, we gain a much better insight into who Calvin was, his effect on the world, and his heart for Christ and fellow Christians. His writing has stood the test of time and contains many truths and gems to be unveiled. As we briefly walk through Calvin’s work, we may also learn something along the way. 


It has been said that Calvin lived the life of forty men. He was so productive, that historians still haven’t been able to form a comprehensive list of all of the books, letters, tracts, and commentaries he wrote—never mind all of the countless other works authored by those he directly influenced.

Before surveying his works, however, it will be helpful to note that Calvin was not a lone man on an island. He believed that knowledge and truth were best learned within the community of faith. He was influenced and sharpened by the best minds around him. We know from his letters that he had direct contact with other Reformers of his day. He was also affected by the generation of Reformers that came before him including John Wycliffe, Desiderius Erasmus, and even Martin Luther himself. 

More importantly, Calvin made sure to root his work in the history of the Church. He wanted to demonstrate that Reformed Theology was not just a new invention but rather a recovery of the true and original faith. Toward that end, Calvin made sure to incorporate the works of Christians from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries (these Christians are commonly referred to as the Church Fathers). He was particularly influenced by St. Augustine of Hippo (born in 354 AD). As the Roman Catholic Church of the day claimed that they were the true, original Church, Calvin stood against them with his extensive knowledge and use of Church history in his writings, proving that the Reformation recovered the Biblical faith.

The Institutes

Calvin’s most seminal work is easily the Institutes of Christian Religion. As we’ve said before, he began this work at the age of 26 and worked on it for his whole life. The work was first published in Latin in 1536 and was later published multiple times during Calvin’s lifetime in French. The book soon became a blueprint for the Protestant faith and the basis for governments and church denominations throughout the centuries. The Institutes have since been published in English and translated into many other languages and are lauded for being the most important work from the Reformation period.

In the original French version, Calvin wrote a preface to the French King, Francis I, explaining his intention for writing the book. Essentially, he says he wrote the book to convince the king and others in Europe to accept Reformed theology as the historic and scripturally accurate faith. However, as Calvin kept working on the Institutes, he realized a deeper reason for writing. He wanted a book that explained the Christian faith to people brand new to theology. In the new preface, he noted,

“Although Holy Scripture contains a perfect doctrine, to which one can add nothing, since in it our Lord has meant to display the infinite treasures of his wisdom, yet a person who has not much practice in it has good reason for some guidance and direction, to know what he ought to look for in it, in order not to wander hither and thither, but to hold to a sure path, that he may always be pressing toward the end to which the Holy Spirit calls him,” (Calvin, Institutes, French Edition 1560).

Calvin structured the book in four parts to mirror the parts of the Apostle’s Creed and the book of Romans. He began with the doctrines of God’s majesty and man’s sinfulness. Then, he moved to the doctrine of Christ’s coming to the world for the salvation of sinners. He then discusses the importance of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. And finally, he closed the Institutes with a defense of the institutional Church. Calvin was adamant that the Institutes be used as a reference source and guide for the overall sweep of Scripture not as an endpoint in itself. He taught that summaries of theology are important but that they should lead us to deeper Scriptural reading.

Commentaries & Sermons

Calvin tirelessly urged people to get into the text. Toward that end, Calvin spilled much ink explaining and illuminating the meanings of Scripture. He is often referred to as the best Reformed exegete (aka interpreter) of the Bible. He wrote many individual commentaries on most of the books in the Bible, including a verse-by-verse explanation of all 150 Psalms. Over 400 years after their publication, these commentaries remain in print and are of great value to Bible students around the world. His written explanations of Scripture are so vast that publishers cannot contain them even in a 46-volume set!

Calvin’s sermons are also in print and are too many to number. His work is timeless in that it speaks to the challenges of every new generation and has inspired countless Christians with its theological depth. When one is confused about a passage in the Bible, it is always useful to check if Calvin wrote about it (and he usually has), as he can clarify the meanings of a verse like no one else.

Tracts and Letters

In addition to his work on the Scriptures, Calvin wrote over 1,300 letters and even more tracts. He wrote to many types of people including kings, queens, governors, paupers, widows, imprisoned Christians, and more. His letters cover a broad range of topics ranging from the significant issues of the Church of the day, like the importance of the Lord’s Supper to the life of the Church, to more personal concerns, such as the comforting of a grieving congregant.

A great theme throughout his letters is an utmost concern for the glory of God. In his public letters, he is constantly defending the faith. In 1543, he wrote the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, to explain the true meaning of the Protestant faith. In this letter, he explained that the Reformation was about reclaiming the faithful worship of God, more important than the salvation of man was the honoring of God according to His own revelation.

Likewise, in his personal letters, Calvin displayed deep concern for his brothers and sisters in the faith to hold fast to Christ. He writes a particularly poignant note to five Christians imprisoned and waiting for their execution:

“Even so, my brothers, be confident that you shall be strengthened, according to your need, by the Spirit of our Lord Jesus, so that you shall not faint under the load of temptations, however heavy it be, any more than he did who won so glorious a victory, that in the midst of our miseries it is an unfailing pledge of our triumph,” (Calvin, Letter To the Five Prisoners of Lyons).

Heart of a Pastor

More than anything, Calvin had a bleeding heart for his fellow believers. In his writings, he sought to teach ordinary people the Scriptures and encourage them to keep their faith amidst life’s difficulties. He taught on a variety of issues still relevant for us today. Consider this sermon on Job where Calvin discusses the desire to leave this life during difficult situations:

“… let us keep us within the compass of desiring to live and die at Gods pleasure, so as we may not be given to our own will, but so as we may make as a sacrifice of it in that behalf, that our living may not be to ourselves but to God, so as we may say, Lord, I know mine own frailty. Nevertheless it is thy will to hold me in this world, and here I am, and good reason it is that I should tarry here: But whosoever it shall please thee to call me hence, I make no great accompt of my life, it is always at thy commandment, to dispose of it at thine own pleasure,” (Calvin, 13thSermon on Job 3).

What an encouragement to hold steadfast to God’s will, knowing that He orders the course of life and death.


Calvin was so influential on Reformed theology that without his works it is impossible to imagine the Reformed faith passed down to us today. More than that his writings touch on all aspects of the Christian life and life in general that they are profitable for anyone.

If there is anything you should take away from this brief exploration of Calvin’s written work, it should be to read more Calvin. You would be doing yourself disservice if you didn’t. You can begin by reading his commentaries on the Psalms or his sermons on Ephesians. Or try reading the Institutes and see how Calvin would explain the faith to a beginner.

Read more about John Calvin’s doctrines of Reformed Theology
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