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Historians have credited—or blamed—Calvinism for many developments in the modern world, including capitalism, modern science, secularization, democracy, individualism, and unitarianism. These same historians, however, have largely ignored John Calvin the man. When people consider him at all, they tend to view him as little more than the joyless tyrant of Geneva who created an abstract theology as forbidding as himself.
This volume, written by the eminent historian William J. Bouwsma, who has devoted his career to exploring the larger patterns of early modern European history, seeks to redress these common misconceptions of Calvin by placing him back in the proper historical context of his time.
Eloquently depicting Calvin's life as a French exile, a humanist in the tradition of Erasmus, and a man unusually sensitive to the complexities and contradictions of later Renaissance culture, Bouwsma reveals a surprisingly human, plausible, ecumenical, and often sympathetic Calvin. John Calvin offers a brilliant reassessment not only of Calvin but also of the Reformation and its relationship to the movements of the Renaissance.
John Calvin offers a brilliant reassessment not only of Calvin but also the Reformation and its relationship to the movements of the Renaissance.
|Introduction: The Quest for the Historical Calvin||1|
|Part I||The Man and the Times|
|1||A Sixteenth-Century Life||9|
|3||A World Out of Joint||49|
|Part II||The Labyrinth|
|Part III||The Opening|
|Part IV||The Abyss|
|Part V||A Program for the Times|
Posted April 25, 2012
I was thrilled to find a book on John Calvin and assumed a Calvinist had written it, but I was shocked by the outright hostility this author seemed to have towards Calvin. This is not an unbiased work. I couldn't believe a Calvinist would write this, so I googled the author. He is a historian but no mention is made as to his being Christian at all. Well, that might explain his hostility towards John Calvin and his lack of understanding of God's things. To me, this book is like the critical writings on "the historical Jesus" and this book should be renamed "the search for the historical John Calvin" because it seems as slanted and biased as the books claiming to search for Jesus Christ.
- In Calvin is "demonstrated our very human tendancy to invent the fathers we need"
- I am showing Calvin "with all of his characteristically 16th-century ambiguities, hesitations and contraditions - in a word, his finiteness and humanity" (Author is biased & seeking to find fault & tear down Calvin)
- “except for showing increasingly the abrasions wrought by troubles and time, Calvin made little advance over the years in those matters that troubled him the most. Unlike Saint Augstine, whose life, both outwardly and inwardly, was a genuine pilgrimage, so that to understand what he wrote one must, so to speak, catch him on the wing, Calvin was still wrestling as inconclusively with the same inner demons at the end of his life as when he first arrived in Geneva.” (Little advance? Conversion is itself a huge advance. If Bouwsma is referring to Calvin viewing himself as a "wretch of a human unworthy of God's mercy", then this is true and this applies to all us humans. This statement "little advance" seems so negative and biased to me. It's like saying "Calvin wrote some good philosophy but never really changed and God never helped him with his struggles or taught him much")
- "I call this book a portrait rather than a biography because I think Calvin developed little in what mattered most to him between his break with the Catholic church and his death 30 years later. His inner life showed few signs of progress “which he associated with godliness; he was still wrestling at the end of his life with the self-doubt, confusions, and contradictory impulses that had been with him from the beginning.” (To claim "Calvin developed little" seems slanderous to me. All Christians encounter periods of doubt because of our own sinfulness. This is not to be considered "an undeveloped life." What confusions and contradictions? God did teach Calvin many deep answers.)
- Pg 10-11, Bouwsma dismisses what is historically considered to be Calvin's spiritual conversion story as only a change in his interest in studying law to philosophy. "The most balanced discussion of this subject is Ganoczy's book Jeune Calvin. Ganoczy views Calvin's conversion not as a discrete event but as a process, perhaps never completed." (Is Bouwsma claiming Calvin may not have been saved when he restates Ganoczy's belief that Calvin's "conversion was never completed"? And how can he claim Ganoczy has "the most balanced" view of Calvin's conversion if in fact he is claiming Calvin wasn't converted?)