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John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor Paperback – April 1, 2009
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"This book is a masterful treatment of John Calvin by a masterful church historian. We see Calvin the theologian, Calvin the reformer, Calvin the man. His mind and heart are laid bare by Dr. Godfrey's work. A must read."
—R. C. Sproul, President, Ligonier Ministries; Senior Minister of Preaching, St. Andrew's Chapel, Sanford, Florida
"John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor will surely rank among the best introductions to the life and thought of one of the church's greatest theologians. It offers a rich tapestry woven from both Calvin's life-story and his profound biblical theology. Here we meet the real Calvin-strikingly apostolic in his constant preaching, his lecturing, his authorship of many erudite volumes and a vast correspondence, and his deep care for the many needs of his flock-while himself in constant physical sickness. It is a remarkable story. Dr. Robert Godfrey's mature scholarship, enthusiasm for his subject, and easy style bring Calvin to life for the twenty-first-century reader. Here is a rare work indeed, making it easy to see why the great Genevan Reformer was such an inspiration to those who knew and loved him."
—Sinclair B. Ferguson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Redeemer Seminary, Dallas, Texas
"There are good books on Calvin's doctrine, his life, his piety, and his influence in the modern world. However, this book stands out as a marvelous integration of all three. More than accessible, this book is interesting even for those who know nothing about Calvin or his significant labors. It would be dishonest to deny that this book is written by an admirer of Calvin, but as a veteran church historian, Professor Godfrey places the reformer in his context and does not hide his blemishes. I owe a great deal of my own formative understanding of Calvin to Robert Godfrey and hope for a wide readership of this important book."
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California; author, Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story
"Bob Godfrey has long been known as doing the unimaginable and has once again lived up to his reputation. His work on Calvin offers not only an accessible history of the man and his work, and an assessment of his influence, but also allows Calvin to be seen through his own words and offers an opportunity for another generation to appreciate the vastness of his genius. Combining excellent scholarship with an accessible style, Dr. Godfrey has once again placed the church in his debt as he resurrects the character from the caricature in which Calvin is so often buried."
—Robert M. Norris, Pastor, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Bethesda, Maryland
"This book is arguably the best introduction to the life and ministry of John Calvin by one of the Reformed world's best interpreters of the Reformation. For anyone wondering what the fuss is over the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth, this is the place to start."
—D. G. Hart, Author of The Lost Soul of American Protestantism and Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America
About the Author
W. Robert Godfrey (PhD, Stanford University) serves as the president and professor of church history at Westminster Seminary California. Godfrey is a minister in the United Reformed Churches and the author of numerous articles and books.
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Top Customer Reviews
The new book takes you to the familiar history of Calvin's plan for one night in Geneva and it makes sure that even the newest reader would grasp the life of John Calvin. But then comes the struggles, the depression, the fights with the City Council, the exile, the writings and revisions of texts and of course the five-fold revision of the two volumes that changed the map of Christian history--the Institutes. The details are all there, but the details are not just facts, it is so beautifully interwoven with the truth of real life in 16th century Europe.
In addition, Godfrey adds some new materials to the personal life of Calvin that are rarely added by other authors. Calvin is too frequently viewed in many volumes as a scholar, writer, and theologian. But now we see the pilgrim, the pastor, the father, the exile, the shepherd (who was prevented from visiting his flock by his own elders during the great plague in order to save his life so shepherd more people.) We see Calvin in written debate with the Roman Church and the desire to transform lives with the Kingdom of God. And yet, we see a man who rarely had a day go by without depression, feelings of worthlessness...a person we can identify with even if he penned the greatest systematic theology of all time.
If I could recommend one book for this year to know the person, the pastor, and the pilgrim...this would be the volume to add to the library. In fact, buy a case and give it to the families of your church. Rarely will you ever read such a volume so tender and yet so strong.
Godfrey introduces Calvin the humble. This was not a man who sought the ministry--he wanted to be a scholar, living in peace and quiet! Yet, twice he was accosted by fellow Christians who saw in him the gift of preaching and called him to pastoral office. At his death, by his own desire, no great tomb or mausoleum was erected for him, no edifice to say, "This was a great man!"
Godfrey also shows us Calvin the tireless worker. He wrote numerous letters--and not only to statesmen (such as the preface to his famous "Institutes of the Christian Religion", addressed to the king of France), but to common parishioners in Geneva and elsewhere, letters of encouragement and exhortation. He preached, on a weekly basis, many more sermons--and original, distinct ones at that--than the average pastor today, I suspect. He was involved in the religious life of his congregation (indeed, his congregations plural, as he rotated through the churches in the city) at every level--including the catechesis, or teaching, of the children. Calvin was a busy man.
We see, in this book, Calvin the product of his age. The account of Servetus, burned at the stake for heresy, seems to be a perennial favorite for those who dislike Calvin and the doctrines he taught. Yet we see that Calvin's approval of Servetus' execution was hardly out of character for any society in that period of history--Servetus would likely have suffered the same fate in another Protestant locality, or in Catholic France. Of course, this does not excuse the act, and Calvinists today rightly ought to reject such views. The Reformation in which Calvin participated corrected many things, but had not yet reached the point of once again seeing the church as a "community-in-exile" within the larger world, vice the national or geopolitical instrument as which it existed in the medieval era and still often functioned in his day.
Inevitably, we also see Calvin the theologian, perhaps the Calvin best known today--but Godfrey clearly paints a picture of Calvin the theologian as a natural outgrowth of Calvin the pastor. This was no ivory tower academician, but a man who was concerned at his core to rightly understand and teach doctrines that practically assisted believers in their life and worship.
Ultimately, Calvin was concerned that God in Christ be glorified, that the gospel of Jesus be proclaimed. This book, in recounting the life of one of the saints, should help us to do just that, namely, to worship Jesus, as we rejoice over what He did through this man--as we should rejoice over God's work through all of His saints in Christ.