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John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, Doxology Hardcover – 2008
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Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion
All of these are valid and are a legacy to admire. But there is more to John Calvin that those descriptions. In John Calvin A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology the contributors give us a much bigger picture of the man and his ministry.
I probably learned most from the first part of the book that deals with John Calvin the man. Here we read of his youth, his education, his family and friends, his conversion and his call and his growth in grace. The book also gives us a look into Calvin’s ministry as a Pastor, counsellor, community leader, mentor and friend,
This book lets us see the man. His life as a child, a father and a husband. He was very much like all of us with the same challenges and aspirations. We also get a look at Pastor John Calvin. This was the eye opener for me. John Calvin was not just an educator, theologian and apologist, all of which are part of the pastorate. Calvin was man who had a heart for Jesus Christ. It seems everything he set out to do was to either know more of Jesus or make Jesus known.
It was enlightening to see Calvin in this way. It laid the groundwork for much of the latter part of the book dealing with Calvin the theologian. I do admit there were some aspects of his life that were repeated but I guess with multiple contributors you will get that.
Calvin had a love for his family, friends, congregation and community. Calvin did not seem to set himself out to be a famous author, build a platform or pastor a mega church. Calvin’s heart was to minister to the heart and soul of people. Whether in his sermons, his politics, his personal correspondence and dealings with his opponents, Calvin wanted more of Christ to be evident and not himself.
This is not a book to make Calvin look like a saint. There is no glossing over the sins and struggles of Calvin. And to his credit even Calvin saw his sins and sought to repent of them as often as necessary.
The latter half of the book laid out some basic beliefs and teachings of John Calvin. Contrary to what some would have us believe Calvin was not all about TULIPS’s and just 5 points. Calvin’s theology was much broader than that. The truth I saw was that Calvin’s theology was not just an academic exercise but the tool that shaped his life and ministry. What we learn from this book is that for Calvin theology and doctrine were completely biblical, purposeful and practical.
Anything Calvin taught had to have its basis on Scripture. He was not out to present something new, but to proclaim something eternal and true. His teaching had to point to the Trinitarian God. There was no effort to promote himself, his ministry or his ideals. It was all to point to the redeeming work of our God. And finally, it had to be life shaping. Calvin wanted first for his heart to be shaped by the Spirit and the Word and then to be able to help his family, friends, congregation and anyone else he encountered meet the risen Christ and be shaped by His word.
This book is aptly titled and I would encourage anyone wanting to know more about the real John Calvin to take a look.
This quote from Calvin is found in chapter 18; it speaks volumes...
No one has rightly denied himself unless he has wholly resigned himself to the Lord and is willing to leave every detail to His good pleasure. If we put ourselves in such a frame of mind, then, whatever may happen to us, we shall never feel miserable or accuse God falsely because of our lot. I -JOHN CALVIN
Joseph Hill, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Geneva College