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Institutes of the Christian Religion (Two Volumes in One) Paperback – 2001
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Since there are already a number of reviews talking about the general significance of Calvin's Institutes and the general contents, I thought I'd make a few points in case you're hesitant to buy this phenomenal book:
1. This is a magnificent work of systematic theology and Calvin's famed exegetical skills are on full display. This book will give you both a big picture view with all the shining details that are brought out in Scripture. The work also builds on itself and lays the foundation in the beginning, so as you get past the first half of Book 1, you'll find yourself being able to follow his logic in the later parts of this work.
2. Yes, the language can be a bit wooden -- but it gets easier as you read and you'll come to appreciate the richness of the language.
3. The translator's footnotes are helpful and worth reading, especially the footnotes on differences between the Latin and French versions. Calvin was aware that those reading his French version may not have had as much of rigorous theological training as a Latin reader, and so he'll add or reformulate statements and comparisons to be more understandable to a lay person.
Being able to read this work is being able to sit at the feet and learn from one of the most spiritually gifted teachers in Christianity. It has already been an immense help in my faith by correcting incorrect thinking and will be a book I read and re-read for decades to come.
I checked 4 stars for the content. This Kindle version was not very serviceable. Amazon has apparently recognized this and is stopping further sales until it is fixed by the publisher.
Calvin isn't cold; he's actually passionately devout.
He isn't forbidding; he's far easier to read than you might think. Anyone with average intelligence can make their way through this book (and it will be worth it to do so).
He isn't nasty; he was a very holy man and his love for God and the church comes through on every page of this book.
I love Luther and used to think that he was the greatest theologian. I enjoy his explosive personality, wit, and sarcasm. Reading him is like reading a brilliant friend who can always be counted on to say something memorable, insightful, and profound. But I now think that Calvin was greater than Luther. While Calvin lacked Luther's very vigorous personality, Calvin's cool head and even temperament produced an intellectual tour de force with this book. Nothing written in the last three hundred years can come close to this book. Really, if you only read this one book of theology, you would need no other. It says it all.