John Calvin: A Pilgrim's Life


There are many biographies of John Calvin, the theologian?some villifying him and others extolling his virtues?but few that reveal John Calvin, the man.

Professor and renowned Reformation historian Herman Selderhuis has written this book to bring Calvin near to the reader, showing him as a man who had an impressive impact on the development of the Western world, but who was first of all a believer struggling with God and with the way God ...

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There are many biographies of John Calvin, the theologian—some villifying him and others extolling his virtues—but few that reveal John Calvin, the man.

Professor and renowned Reformation historian Herman Selderhuis has written this book to bring Calvin near to the reader, showing him as a man who had an impressive impact on the development of the Western world, but who was first of all a believer struggling with God and with the way God governed both the world and his own life.

Selderhuis draws on Calvin's own publications and commentary on the biblical figures with whom he strongly identified to describe his theology in the context of his personal development. Throughout we see a person who found himself alone at many of the decisive moments of his life—a fact that echoed through Calvin's subsequent sermons and commentaries. Selderhuis's unique and compelling look at John Calvin, with all of his merits and foibles, ultimately discloses a man who could not find himself at home in the world in which he lived.

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Editorial Reviews

Timothy George
"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!"
Donald K. McKim
"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."
Frank A. James III
"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."
Lyle D. Bierma
"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."
Library Journal

In recognition of the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth in 1509, Selderhuis (Inst. for Reformation Research, Theological Univ., Apeldoorn, Netherlands) has written a standard biography of the 16th-century French-Swiss Protestant reformer. Although the author claims that his biography differs from others because he depended on correspondence as his chief source, there is little documentation to substantiate this claim. He offers a chronological account of the life of Calvin, showing that Calvin was not on the cutting edge of reform but a second-generation reformer. Selderhuis states that Calvin is most often associated with two serious errors, the doctrine of predestination and the willingness to burn heretics (those who did not agree with him) at the stake, Servetus being the most notable example. Redefining predestination as a doctrine of election doesn't soften the idea that God elects some to be saved and others to be damned. Calvin made few attempts to work with Lutheran reformers or to encourage Anabaptists to join his cause. Hence, the Protestant movement was left badly divided and, in the minds of some contemporaries, hardly better than the Roman Catholic Church: when Calvin returned to Geneva, he ruled both church and state with a tyrannical hand. Recommended for seminary libraries.
—James A. Overbeck

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780830829217
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press
  • Publication date: 1/21/2009
  • Pages: 287
  • Sales rank: 699,362
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Herman J. Selderhuis is professor for church history and church polity at the Theological University Apeldoorn (Netherlands) and director of the university's Institute for Reformation Research. He is a leading Reformation historian and author of several books, including Calvin's Theology of the Psalms.

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Table of Contents

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. Widow (1549-1551)
8. Patient (1551-1554)
9. Sailor (1555-1559)
10. Soldier (1559-1564)
Names Index

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 21, 2009

    Calvinist Apologetics

    This book was very biased from the Calvanist perspective. According to the author Calvin could do no wrong. For example, Calvin burns people at the stake (Servetus) and the author goes on a apologia on why it was okay that Calvin killed him. The horrible argument the author brings that rings with the tone of a defense for the murder committed by Calvin is that...[Servetus would have been killed by others if Calvin didn't do it]. The author makes it seem like killing by Calvin is always defensible.
    This is only one of the horrible arguments the author uses to persuade the reader of Calvin's inability to commit a wrongdoing. There are many horrendous acts committed by Calvin and his peers that the author always finds a way to apologize for. I was searching for a more objective book on Calvin and bought this piece of Calvinism apologia. Hopefully I'll find something more objective on Calvin in the future. Blessings!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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