- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Christian Focus; Reprint edition (September 20, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1857929667
- ISBN-13: 978-1857929669
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #916,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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John Calvin: His Life And Influence Paperback – November 20, 2008
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... an excellent introduction to the Reformer's life and theology. (Peace and Truth)
"...tells the story of Calvin's life and thought in a compact and compelling way that will serve to acquaint readers with the warm human character of Calvin... His description of Calvin's masterful statement at the Lausanne Disputation of 1536 is by itself worth the price of the book." (William Barker ~ Professor of Church History, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
"Reymond's book is succinct and comprehensive, appreciative and probing, historical and theological, scholarly and pastoral. Especially valuable is Reymond's treatment of the burning of Servetus...that ameliorates to some degree Calvin's involvement in the tragedy." (David Calhoun ~ Professor of Church History, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri)
"...sheds new light on a famous and familiar name. His writing style is scholarly and authoritative... intensely interesting reading." (D. James Kennedy ~ (1930-2007) Late Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
"It is astonishing how much information Professor Reymond has packed into such a small volume. No student of the Reformation should be without it. Robert Reymond has done the Christian Church a great service in his work, lifting the veil, letting us see the true man of God and the enormous force for good that he has been right down to the present time" (British Church Newspaper)
About the Author
Robert L. Reymond (1932-2013) taught for more than 25 years on the faculties of Covenant Theological Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) and Knox Theological Seminary (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida). He held degrees from Bob Jones University and did post-doctoral studies at Fuller Seminary, New York University, Union Seminary (New York), Tyndale House, Cambridge, and Rutherford House, Edinburgh.
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The biographical portion is followed by 3 appendix. The first, entitled Opposing Calvin Biographers, lists 8 Roman Catholic biographies, brief descriptions and Reymond's opinions of them, followed by 5 "liberal and neo-orthodox" biographies along with descriptions and the author's assessment. The second appendix is entitled A Major Influence Of Calvinism On Western History. That is an interesting subject covered in less than 3 full pages, so it obviously leaves something to be desired. Finally we have Recommended Calvin Biographies. Obviously this list is going to be different for all of us who study the life of John Calvin, so I agree with some of Reymond's choices, and not so much others. I'm mystified at his calling Williston Walker "quite scholarly". Perhaps because Walker taught at Yale? And his reference to Bernard Cottret's biography as a "tour de force"! Ah, to each their own. This is all followed by a brief but useful index.
My dislikes aside, Robert L. Reymond did a good job in writing a brief, informative and interesting introduction to John Calvin that I would think will make the life of this amazing man more accessible to those who might be put off by a larger work. With all those well circulated books by hacks like Dave Hunt floating around, maybe this little book can be used to set the record straight and let people know some truth about Calvin for a change. I certainly hope so.
Reymond also does what many don't do: explains the burning of the heretic, Michael Servetus. I really appreciated this last part of the book that gives the background and actual facts of what happened. Reymond does not give excuses nor does he excuse the burning, but lays out what actually happened instead of some of the garbage that is out there on the internet and also in writing of anti-Calvinistic theology. Some seem to hold on to this one mistake in Calvin's life to refute all he stood for and wrote on. If they only had all their mistakes make headlines I wonder if their views would change on the matter?
I would highly recommend this to any reader as it is a great little biographical sketch of the reformer and what he meant for all of Protestantism. Do not stay away from this book if you are an Arminian as this book shows what this Reformer did for us all in the break off of the government and church and what he did as he placed holiness back into the church's ideals. Again, this book does not focus on his theology but on his life. Must read for anyone looking for insight to this great theologians life.
In his new book, John Calvin: His Life & Influence, Robert L. Reymond gives us a very informative, short and honest presentation of the life and ministry of John Calvin. Reymond provides a timeline as well as description of the life of Calvin without the boring nature typically associated with listing names and dates.
Chapter one deals with the providential way in which God prepared Calvin for his life and ministry. Calvin enjoyed some of the best schooling under some of the best teachers of his time. Though he was trained in humanism it certainly did not hinder him coming to the faith and Reymond argues that it later aided him in his writing. In 1532 Calvin wrote his first and only humanist book at the age of twenty three which is the same year he came to faith in Jesus Christ.
Chapter two deals with Calvin and his famous Institutes. Here Reymond charts Calvin's expulsion from Geneva and the events that led him to begin his work on the Institutes which was only two years after his conversion. Reymond points out that though Calvin's Institutes is a theological work, it was written with political motives as well as he sought to defend his Protestant friends from persecution by King Francis I (p. 48). It was the persecution brought on by the Placard Incident that caused Calvin to rush his first of a number of editions of the Institutes.
Chapter three gives us a survey and context for Calvin's many published works including his commentaries, further editions of the Institutes, sermons and various writings against the Catholic church and others. Interestingly enough, though Calvin was expelled from Geneva, he was later asked to return in an effort to bring moral and spiritual reformation to the city. After a year of deliberation and prayer he returned to Geneva where he would turn the city around. During his time in Geneva Calvin reformed the city, started a school and helped to write the Geneva Bible. What is very interesting about Calvin's second time in Geneva is that we see a man who, though very scholarly, was very pastoral. Concerning Calvin's work on the Institutes Reymond rightly states,
"It is evident that where the Bible took him, there he went; where its declarations ceased, there he stopped to, but always giving benefit of the doubt to Scripture as God's inspired and therefore inerrant Word (p. 93)."
As one who has read the entirety of the McNeill translation of the Institutes I concur with Reymonds summation.
Chapter four addresses what unfortunately is the only event of Calvin's life that his critics want to remember him for - the burning of Servetus. Despite the fact that Reymond favors Calvin's theology and work he is not supportive of Calvin's involvement in the situation. There are a number of aspects to the Servetus situation that Reymond brings to light that seem to have been lost in the darkness of Calvin criticism. Citing William Cunningham, Reymond notes that the putting to death of heretics was a law and duty held by Protestants and Catholics alike during Calvin's day. Though this does not excuse the act (similar to not excusing Christians from having slaves a few centuries ago though they used Scripture to support it) it is not right to unfairly single out Calvin above the rest for his part in this. Also, it is not commonly known that though Calvin did support Servetus' death, he did not support death by burning but rather some other means like decapitation. Further, though Calvin was in favor of Servetus' death, he was only one among many who made the decision. Even if he had totally rejected the idea it was still going to happen. Reymond concludes his discussion of the Servetus incident with the following statement,
"It is simply unfair to single Calvin out as if he were the originator of the practice of burning heretics of as if he were a particularly violent supporter of the practice at a time when a vast majority of the European continent's enlightened populace would have wished it otherwise (p. 119)."
In reflecting on the Servetus incident, Reymond makes one point of application that I find very helpful for our day:
"But clearly in the sixteenth century the sense of order of both Catholics and Protestants was horrified by something else - something quite sobering and something to which few in our day heed anymore at all - namely, the thought of immortal souls being destroyed by false doctrine, of churches being rent asunder by heretical parties, and of God's vengeance being poured out upon cities and nations that tolerate and endorse immorality by means of war, pestilence, and famine (p. 124)."
Though death for heresy is not tolerated, nor should have been, we can learn this from these sixteenth century men - that the death of the soul to false doctrine is worse than the death of the body.
At the end of his life Calvin died at age 54 after battling numerous physical ailments but having accomplished so much for God, his church, the city of Geneva and having unknowingly effected the course of the future of the Protestant church worldwide.
John Calvin: His Life and Influence is a must read if you do not know much about Calvin or are looking for a good short Calvin biography. The chapter on Servetus alone is worth purchasing this great little book.