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John Calvin: A Pilgrim's Life Paperback – February 21, 2009
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"This new and engagingly written interpretation of Calvin by a major scholar will be very useful for jaded readers who are willing to give Calvin another chance--and rediscover the very human, very realy sixteenth-century person." (Elsie McKee, Interpretation, January 2011)
"The genius of this book lies not, admittedly, in its revelation of novel biographical facts about Calvin but in the humanity it manages to impart to a subject who, despite frequent scrutiny, has somehow remained so ethereal for several centuries." (Aaron Denlinger, Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology)
"A close and intimate look at the reformer of Geneva whose thoughts are shown to be more complex and feelings even richer than may seem on the surface. Any clear writing that reintroduces and stimulates interest in the life and thought of this great reformer is to be greatly appreciated." (Sung-Sup Kim, Koinonia)
"A fascinating book, easy to read and extremely interesting. Once having dipped into it, one finds the book hard to lay aside. This is an attractive feature and recommends it for future reading. Anyone, including high school students with an interest in their heritage, will find it worthwhile." (Herman Hanko, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, April 2010)
"Selderhuis has written a beautiful biography. One of the major contemporary interpreters of Calvin's life and thought, he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this refreshingly readable, entertaining, informative biography. Highly recommended." (D.M. Whitford, Choice, July 2009)
"Five hundred years after the birth of John Calvin, it is appropriate to have an excellent new biography on his life. Too often Calvin books relate only to his theology without any discussion of the man himself. The book explores all facets of Calvin's life." (JD, Libraries Alive, Spring 2010)
"Selderhuis has uncovered numerous facts not found in other biographies about the Reformer's life and thought." (David B. Calhoun, Presbyterion: Covenant Seminary Review)
"In the midst of the proliferation of new titles on Calvin, this new biography stands out as a gem. Selderhuis exhibits a wealth of knowledge of the sources on Calvin's life and locates Calvin squarely within the setting of the sixteenth-century Reformation." (Cornelis P. Venema, Mid-America Journal of Theology, 2009)
"Among many, many publications about Calvin in this 500th anniversary of his birth, this one stands out for its being based largely on Calvin's letters and other writings--Calvin himself having said that we learn most about people from their letters." (The Presbyterian Outlook, November 9, 2009)
"Selderhuis has done us a great service by producing a well-written biogrpahy of the Reformer of Geneva, John Calvin. I would heartily recommend Selderhuis's biography to all adult believers, and not simply to Calvinists." (Ben Westerveld, New Horizons, October 2009)
"This book adds a great deal to our knowledge of the Geneva Reformer. Selderhuis is a Calvin scholar of international stature and in this biography he makes extensive use of Calvin's correspondence to provide one of the most vivid portraits of Calvin currently available." (David McKay, The Covenanter Witness, June 2009)
"This book is written for a popular readership, and has a breezy, steam-of-consciousness style throughout. Fun, short, accessible book with a nice eye for detail." (Alec Ryrie, Church Times, July 31, 2009)
"This book will do much to dispel prejudice, and calm those who have been fed on disinformation about the man who did more than any other to establish the Protestant Reformation on the basis of scriptural truth." (Paul E. G. Cook, Evangelicals Now, September 2009)
"I would highly recommend this life of Calvin, as Selderhuis seems to have gotten into the shoes of Calvin, and you get insight into how the man thought, and why he did and said what he did. All in all, I found it a very enjoyable read, based on original sources, having the feel of a scholar who has soaked deeply into Calvin's life and work." (Green Baggins (greenbaggins.wordpress.com), July 10, 2009)
"Recommended for seminary libraries." (James A. Overbeck, Library Journal, March 1, 2009)
"One would think that with all the biographies of John Calvin through the centuries there would be nothing new to say. Think again! Veteran Calvin scholar Herman Selderhuis has followed Calvin himself in going 'back to the sources' and provides a portrait of Calvin drawn exclusively from Calvin's own writings. The result is a fresh and invigorating look at the human person behind all the caricatures, the faithful servant of Christ who saw his life as being lived in the providence of God--a God whose ways he often did not understand. Find here a fully human Calvin whose commitment to the 'pilgrim life' instructs and inspires us still today." (Donald K. McKim, editor of Readings in Calvin's Theology, The Cambridge Companion to John Calvin and Calvin and the Bible)
"This is simply one of the best biographies of Calvin I have seen. Selderhuis has managed admirably to combine keen academic insight with a clear, engaging writing style and many delicious details. For all who are curious about Calvin, Selderhuis's John Calvin: A Pilgrim's Life is the place to begin." (Frank A. James III, president, Reformed Theological Seminary)
"A delightful new biography of Calvin by one of Europe's leading Reformation scholars. Selderhuis does not simply rehash the events of Calvin's life; he weaves those events into a story of a man on a geographical, theological and spiritual pilgrimage--or more precisely, a story of a man on a pilgrimage." (Lyle D. Bierma, Jean and Kenneth Baker Professor of Systematic Theology, Calvin Theological Seminary)
"Five hundred years after the birth of John Calvin, the reformer of Geneva continues to loom large as one of the most formative figures in Christian history, and one of the most difficult to know up close and personal. Herman Selderhuis presents here a fresh new biography based on a careful reading of Calvin's letters and other sources. Calvin emerges as neither hero nor villain, but rather as a flawed and forgiven pilgrim who never lost sight of his final destination and inspired many others along the way. A wonderful introduction to a great teacher of the church!" (Timothy George, dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, and general editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture)
"This is simply one of the best biographies of Calvin I have seen. Selderhuis has managed admirably to combine keen academic insight with a clear, engaging writing style and many delicious details. For all who are curious about Calvin, Selderhuis's John Calvin: A Pilgrim's Life is the place to begin."
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Top Customer Reviews
"Life is a steeplechase," begins Selderhuis, "there are dangers everywhere, and God himself, who has put most of the obstacles in our way, watches to see whether we make it over them. Such is John Calvin's view of life." From there Selderhuis exposits the life of Calvin from ten angles:
1. Orphan (1509-1533)
2. Pilgrim (1533-1536)
3. Stranger (1536-1538)
4. Refugee (1538-1541)
5. Preacher (1541-1546)
6. Victim (1546-1549)
7. Widower (1549-1551)
8. Patient (1551-1554)
9. Sailor (1555-1559)
10. Soldier (1559-1564)
Selderhuis's biography brings the stoic looking, long-bearded figure to life in numerous ways. Calvin was emotional and susceptible to anger and grief, but made strenuous efforts to deal patiently with his critics. He labored arduously to have unity with co-leaders, yet would not compromise if he felt the truth was in question. After reading about Calvin's temperament, it is not surprising to see why his Reformed forebearers have embodied many of his personal traits. There is much to revere in Calvin's character as their is much to be repelled by. His passion for God's glory was fanatical, and his dedication to service unimpeachable. Calvin had a great heart for the poor that prophetically called upon the rich to sacrifice for their less fortunate brethren. All in all Calvin was a mover and a shaker in Christian history that defies simple categories and makes reverent adulation or supercilious attacks on his character seem silly. John Calvin was all too human, and would find such praise embarrassing, though he would not be surprised by his critics, if he were alive today.
Much of what we believe and learn in the Protestant church today owes a debt to Calvin, even if one is not a Calvinist. We have much to be thankful for in Herman Selderhuis's fantastic biography, because it successfully approaches the great Reformer as neither a friend nor an enemy. Calvin is fascinating for having the lasting worldwide effect that he has, and he is a testimony to Christ's grace working itself out in the most fallible of human beings. For that, this book greatly helps us crawl into his skin.
I found this an enjoyable and refreshing read. I don't always agree with the author's conclusions and perspectives, but they are worth reading and giving some thought. This volume reads easily and the format is good. There are times when Selderhuis doesn't explain a statement till some later chapter, which is frustrating and annoying. While I understand that he wanted to focus on Calvin as a person, to better understand the person, a little more time explaining theological issues or the history behind events would be helpful. There is an occasional gem of a quote from Calvin, but not as much as there should be. It's usually a summation of Calvin's thoughts in the words of the author. Also, he doesn't quote much scripture, and when he does it's from the dreadful NIV! But faults aside, this is intended to introduce John Calvin, the man, to the modern reader and it succeeds pretty well.
If you've never read anything on Calvin this isn't a bad start. I always recommend Theodore Beza's biography as it is short, good and was written by a man who knew Calvin well. Ronald S Wallace's Calvin, Geneva and the Reformation is well named and will give you a lot of background and detail for Selderhuis. My favorite is still J H Merle D'Aubigne's four volume work Reformation In The Time Of Calvin. Yea, it's long, but very readable, detailed, and the author is objective, fair and accurate as a general rule.
As I've said my piece, I will close with a quote from John Calvin that demonstrates the huge gap between biblical theology and that promoted on television today. "Our illnesses are surely not only to humble us by showing us our weakness, but they should also encourage us to examine ourselves so as to acknowledge our weakness and take refuge in God's mercy. They should also serve as remedies that free us from the desires of this world and burn away all that is unnecessary. Further, they are messages from death that ought to teach us to lift one foot, ready to leave when God so decides." Amen!
Then the book in spite of some showing some good research and comments (for example Calvin refrain to comment the "book of revelations" is much more a book of apology for Calvin violent religious extremism, all along.
Calvin got his friend Servet burned at the stake for the crime of blasphemy: Servet (aka Servetus) was not a trinitarian.
Calvin's long time friend and very tolerant Castillo could never pardon Calvin, and afterwards called him a murderer.
The writer of the book try to rationalize Calvin murder of Servet, by claiming than Servet wanted to be tortured and killed, assertion not found in any other book on the topic, which makes this book overly partisan, and more propaganda than serious scholar matter.
The apology of Calvin does not stop there, it is all over the book.
The struggle and long battle for reformation of the 16th century European Christian churches is a very good topic to study, alas this book is not up to the task.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In his own words, Selderhuis describes himself neither friend nor foe. "I feel nothing for Calvin either way, but I am fascinated by him as a person."Read more