Few theologians have had more influence on Western Christian thought and culture than John Calvin, one of the fathers of the Reformed branch of Protestant Christianity. Born to a Roman Catholic family of means, Calvin was schooled in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, philosophy, and law in Paris, Orleans and Bourges. Around 1533 he had what he later described as "conversion," and by 1534 religion had become foremost in his writing and work.
He sympathized with the Protestant sentiments sweeping Europe since Martin Luther's appearance on the scene. In Basel in 1536 Calvin published Institutes of the Christian Religion, a six-chapter catechism that grew to 80 chapters by its final edition in 1559.
It is widely regarded as the clearest, most systematic treatise of the Reformation. Calvin's is the most famous presentation of the much debated doctrine of predestination: that God decided, before creating the world, who will and will not be saved. After years as a minister, writer and leader in Geneva and then Strasburg, Calvin returned to Geneva and resumed efforts to make the city a model Christian community, in part through tight restrictions on individual and social behaviour and by the scrutiny (and punishment) of citizens by church and civil authorities.
Thus Calvin's name is often connected with grim moral austerity and denial of pleasure, though this is probably an unfair oversimplification of his theology. Calvin's influence lives on in the doctrines and worship of many modern-day Reformed and Protestant denominations.
Calvin married Idelette de Bure in 1540; she died in 1549. Their only child, Jacques (1542), died as an infant... In 1559 Calvin founded what is now the University of Geneva... A prolific writer, Calvin differed from Luther on key theological points, including the nature of the Lord's Supper. The two were a generation apart and never met... Some scholars attribute capitalism to Calvinism's influence. Among the first was Max Weber in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904)... Calvin is often criticized for approving of the 1553 trial, conviction and death by burning of Michael Servetus for heresy...
Calvin's rambunctious namesake in the "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip bears no similarity to the religious reformer. However, others hinted at a similarity: "I wouldn't want Calvin in my house, but on paper, he helps me sort through my life and understand it."
John Calvin born Jehan Cauvin: 10 July 1509 – 27 May 1564) was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism, aspects of which include the doctrine of predestination and the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation of the human soul from death and eternal damnation. In these areas Calvin was influenced by the Augustinian tradition.
Various Congregational, Reformed and Presbyterian churches, which look to Calvin as the chief expositor of their beliefs, have spread throughout the world. Calvin was a tireless polemic and apologetic writer who generated much controversy. He also exchanged cordial and supportive letters with many reformers, including Philipp Melanchthon and Heinrich Bullinger. In addition to his seminal work Institutes of the Christian Religion, he wrote commentaries on most books of the Bible, as well as theological treatises and confessional documents.
Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530. After religious tensions provoked a violent uprising against Protestantism in France, Calvin fled to Basel, Switzerland, where he published the first edition of the Institutes in 1536. In that year, Calvin was recruited by William Farel to help reform the church in Geneva, where he regularly preached sermons throughout the week.
The city council resisted the implementation of Calvin and Farel's ideas, and both men were expelled. At the invitation of Martin Bucer, Calvin proceeded to Strasbourg, where he became the minister of a church of French refugees. He continued to support the reform movement in Geneva, and was eventually invited back to lead its church.
Following his return, Calvin introduced new forms of church government and liturgy, despite opposition from several powerful families in the city who tried to curb his authority. During this period, Michael Servetus, a Spaniard regarded by both Catholics and Protestants as having heretical views, arrived in Geneva. He was denounced by Calvin and burned at the stake for heresy by the city council. Following an influx of supportive refugees and new elections to the city council, Calvin's opponents were forced out. Calvin spent his final years promoting the Reformation both in Geneva and throughout Europe.
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