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John Calvin--A Biography Paperback – July 19, 2007
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About the Author
T. H. L. Parker was a widely respected authority on Calvin's life and thought. He was Reader in Theology at the University of Durham in England.
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Running through the text includes a ` "story" within the story' of how the Institutes were conceived and edited at various stages, and ultimately settled upon in a final form. Calvin's literary output is chronicled against the struggles he faced as a churchman and a reformer. Both his friends and foes are given a place in the book to enrich the drama, so to speak.
The emergence of Calvin as a man is what struck me most. Not Calvin the pastor, nor even Calvin the theologian, but Calvin the man. Certainly the Genevan reformer was a man head and shoulders above many of his contemporaries as an academic. Also vigorous in his indefatigable energy and discipline as a servant of the church was Calvin. However, it is the man of God plain and simple that shines through. His humanity is genuine in Parker's portrayal: A man with a passion, no less. The writer explodes the myths surrounding the so-called tyrant of Geneva. Parker also rightly and correctly instructs his readers about the mechanics of sixteenth century civil rule and the magistrate's role in punishing heresy.
Though many volumes on the life of Calvin abound, one would do well to be acquainted with this text. Particularly illuminating are the two appendices in which parker examines a case for redating Calvin's life, and in interpreting Calvin's "conversion" as chronicled by the reformer in his preface to his commentary to the Psalms. There is a mini commentary on the conversion narrative that is both challenging and illuminating.
My concerns about Parker are limited to one matter. He appears to read Calvin through Barthian lenses in expositing some of the Frenchman's theological convictions. I saw this clearly in Parker's treatment of Calvin's doctrine of Scripture. Yet even here, the writer evidences careful insight into various nuances of Calvin's views.
This is a highly recommended text.
This is hands down the best biography I have read in a very long time. The life, theology, and movement created by John Calvin was clearly laid out. Not only was this abundantly clear, but it was such an enjoyable read! I don't know what a previous review was referring to when it said that this book is too complicated for the lay person. I found the majority of the book to be about what Calvin was doing with his life, rather than what he was teaching, although it does explain his theology, I thought, quite clearly. I'm confident that anyone with at least an interest with the life of this great reformer will find this to be interesting as well as inspiring!
I highly recommend this to anyone and everyone interested in the life of Calvin.
Though now roughly thirty years old, it was the first biography written on Calvin's life in quite some time when it was published. Though not as current as Bernard Cottret's recent biography, it seems more in touch with the subject matter than Cottret does.
Cottret, it seems to me, seeks too much "objectivity" in rehearshing the details of Calvin's life--Parker clearly has a fondness for Calvin and the sources with which he is familiar and it shows in this biography.
Parker has an enthusiasm for the material that I find missing in Cottret's otherwise outstanding work. I would recommend everything that Parker has authored as worthy of being read, reflected upon, and used. Particularly this biography of Calvin.