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Reformation John Calvin


Reformation John Calvin Born at Noyon in Picardy, France, 10 July, 1509, and died at Geneva, 27 May, 1564. The family name was Cauvin latinized according to the ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Reformation John Calvin

Reformation John Calvin
  • Born at Noyon in Picardy, France, 10 July, 1509,
  • and died at Geneva, 27 May, 1564.
  • The family name was Cauvin latinized according to
    the custom of the age as Calvinus.
  • His mother, Jeanne Le Franc,
  • born in the Diocese of Cambrai,
  • is mentioned as "beautiful and devout"
  • She took her little son to various shrines and
    brought him up a good Catholic.

On the father's side, his ancestors were
seafaring men.
  • His grandfather settled at Pont l'Evêque near
    Paris, and had three sons, two became locksmiths
  • the third Gerard, Johns father became procurator
    at Noyon
  • Having six children, the family lived in the
    Place au Blé (Cornmarket).
  • Noyon, a bishop's see, had long been a fief of
    the powerful old family of Hangest, who treated
    it as their personal property.
  • John de Hangest became the bishop in 1525
  • This prelate had Protestant kinsfolk
  • He is charged with having fostered heresy which
    in those years was beginning to raise its head
    among the French.
  • Clerical dissensions allowed the new doctrines a
    promising field and the Calvins were more or
    less infected by them before 1530.

Gerard's four sons were made clerics and held
benefices at a tender age.
  • John was given one when a boy of twelve
  • He became Curé of
  • Saint-Martin de Marteville in the Vermandois in
    1527, and of Pont l'Eveque in 1529.
  • Three of the boys attended the local Collège des
    Capettes where John proved himself an apt
  • His family was intimate with greater folk,
  • the de Montmors, a branch of the line of Hangest,
  • which led to his accompanying their children to
    Paris in 1523
  • His mother was probably dead by this time and his
    father had married again.

Gerard died in 1531, under excommunication from
the chapter for not sending in his accounts.
  • The old man's illness,
  • not his lack of honesty, was the cause.
  • His son Charles,
  • nettled by the censure,
  • drew towards the Protestant doctrines.
  • He was accused in 1534 of denying the Catholic
    dogma of the Eucharist, and died out of the
    Church in 1536
  • His body was publicly gibbeted as that of a

John was going through his own trials at the
University of Paris
  • The dean or syndic Noel Bédier, had stood up
    against Erasmus and favored
  • Le Fevre dEtaples,
  • celebrated for his translation of the Bible into
  • Calvin, a "martinet", or oppidan, in the Collèege
    de la Marche,
  • made Le Fevre's acquaintance and studied his
    Latin commentary on St. Paul, dated 1512
  • This has been considered the first Protestant
    book emanating from a French pen.

Another influence swaying Calvin towards the
Protestant was that of Corderius
  • Calvin dedicated his annotation of
  • I Thessalonians, to his tutor commenting,
  • "if there be any good thing in what I have
    published, I owe it to you".
  • Corderius had an excellent Latin style, his life
    was austere, and his "Colloquies" earned him
    enduring fame.
  • But he fell under suspicion of heresy, and by
    Calvin's aid took refuge in Geneva, where he died
    September 1564.
  • A third herald of the "New Learning" was George
    Cop, physician to Francis I, in whose house
    Calvin found a welcome and listened to the
    religious discussions which Cop favored.

By 1527, when no more than eighteen, Calvin's
education was complete in its main lines.
  • He had learned to be a humanist and a reformer.
  • The "sudden conversion" to a spiritual life in
    1529, of which he speaks, must not be taken quite
  • He had never been an ardent Catholic
  • but the stories told at one time of his
    ill-regulated conduct have no foundation
  • By a very natural process he went over to the
    side on which his family were taking their stand.
  • In 1528 he inscribed himself at Orléans as a law
    student, made friends with Francis Daniel, and
    then went for a year to Bourges, where he began
    preaching in private.

John Calvin did not belong to the first
generation of Reformers.
  • When Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the
    door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg, he was a
    child of eight years old.
  • When he entered upon his work as Reformer, the
    first battle of the Reformation had been fought
  • Zwingli was already some five years dead.
  • Luther, although only fifty-two, was already an
    old man, broken in health and depressed in
  • Melanchthon was already showing ominous signs of
    wavering on the first principles of the
  • Bucer, at the height of his powers, was laboring
    fruitfully at Strasburg, striving against
    overwhelming odds to unite the forces of the
    Reformation into one common movement for the

By birth, education, and temper Calvin and
Luther, were strongly contrasted.
  • Calvin sprang from the French middle-class, his
    father, an attorney who practiced civil and canon
  • Calvin never was ordained in the Catholic Church
    his training was chiefly in law and the
    humanities he took no vows.
  • Calvin spoke to the learned at all times, even
    when preaching before multitudes. His manner is
    classical he reasons on system he has little
    humor he uses the weapons of a deadly logic and
    persuades by a teacher's authority.
  • We sum up Calvin as a scholastic. He gives
    articulate expression to Luthers principles. The
    Institutes have remained the standard of
    orthodox protestant belief in all the churches
    known as reformed
  • Luther was a Saxon peasant, his father a miner

  • Luther entered the Order of Augustinian Hermits,
    took a monk's vows, was made a priest and
    incurred much odium by marrying a nun.
  • Luthers eloquence made him popular by its force,
    humor, rudeness, and vulgar style. Using words as
    a cudgel and often resorting to a demagogues
    calling of names.
  • We may term the doctor of Wittenberg a mystic. He
    stormily threw his principles upon the world in
    his vehement pamphleteering.

The spirit of Zwinglianism reached its fullest
development in the theology, political theories,
and ecclesiastic thought of John Calvin
Perhaps even more so than Martin Luther, Calvin
created the patterns and thought that would
dominate Western culture throughout the modern
period. American culture, in particular, is
thoroughly Calvinist in some form or another
Each Calvinist church was governed by elected
elders, people choosing their leaders, is
democracy. John Calvin made a huge contribution
to what we know as the United States. At the
heart of the way Americans think and act, you'll
find this fierce and imposing reformer.
Calvin got his chance to build a reformed church
when the citizens of Geneva revolted against
their rulers in the late 1520's
  • Geneva had been under the rule of the House of
    Savoy, but the Genevans successfully overthrew
    the Savoys and the local bishop-prince of Geneva
    in the late 1520's.
  • The Genevans unlike the citizens of Zurich, Bern,
    Basel, and other cities that became Protestant in
    the 1520's, were not German-speakers but
    primarily French-speakers.
  • As such, they did not have close cultural ties
    with the reformed churches in Germany and
  • The Protestant canton of Bern was determined to
    see Protestantism spread throughout Switzerland.
  • In 1533, Bern sent Protestant reformers to
    convert Geneva into a Protestant city after
    considerable conflict, Geneva officially became
    Protestant in 1535.

Calvin, by now a successful lawyer, was invited
to Geneva to build the new Reformed church.
Calvin's efforts radically changed the face of
Protestantism He directly addressed issues that
early Reformers didn't know how or didn't want to
answer. His French disciples called their sect
"the religion" such it has proved to be outside
the Roman world. He wrote French as well as
Luther wrote German, and like him has been
reckoned a pioneer in the modern development of
his native tongue.
His most important work involved the organization
of church governance and the social organization
of the church and the city.
  • He was the first major political thinker to model
    social organization entirely on biblical
  • At first his reforms did not go over well.
  • He addressed the issue of church governance by
    creating leaders within the new church
  • He himself developed a catechism designed to
    impose doctrine on all the members of the church.
  • He and Guillaume Farel (1489-1565) imposed a
    strict moral code on the citizens of Geneva This
    moral code was derived from a literal reading of
    Christian scriptures.
  • The people of Geneva believed that they had
    thrown away one church only to see it replaced by
    an identical twin

They saw Calvin's reforms as imposing a new form
of papacy on the people, only with different
names and different people.
So the Genevans tossed him out. In early 1538,
Calvin and the Protestant reformers were exiled
from Geneva. Calvin, for his part, moved to
Strasbourg where he began writing commentaries on
the Bible and finished his massive account of
Protestant doctrine, The Institutes of the
Christian Church.
Calvin's commentaries are almost endless, But
within these commentaries
He developed in his strict reading of the Old and
New Testaments all the central principles of
Calvinism. The purpose of commentary in Western
literary tradition was to explain both the
literary technique and the difficult passages in
literary and historical works. Calvin wrote
commentaries to explain scriptural writings, but
in reality he used the commentaries to argue for
his own theology as he believed was present in
scriptural writings. His commentaries are less
an explanation of the Bible than a piece by piece
construction of his theological, social, and
political philosophy
In 1540 a new crop of city officials in Geneva
invited Calvin back to the city.
As soon as he arrived he set about
revolutionizing Genevan society. His most
important innovation was the incorporation of the
church into city government He immediately
helped to restructure municipal government so
that clergy would be involved in municipal
decisions, particularly in disciplining the
populace. He imposed a hierarchy on the Genevan
church and began a series of statute reforms to
impose a strict and uncompromising moral code on
the city.
By the mid-1550's, Geneva was thoroughly
Calvinist in thought and structure.
  • It became the most important Protestant center of
    Europe in the sixteenth century
  • Protestants driven out of their native countries
    of France, England, Scotland, and the Netherlands
    all came to Geneva to take refuge.
  • By the middle of the sixteenth century, between
    one-third and one-half of the city was made up of
    these foreign Protestants.
  • In Geneva, these foreign reformers adopted the
    more radical Calvinist doctrines
  • most arrived as moderate Reformers but left as
    thorough-going Calvinists.
  • It is probably for this reason that Calvin's
    brand of reform eventually became the dominant
    branch of Protestantism from the seventeenth
    century onwards.

Since Calvin literally transformed the
philosophical, political, religious, and social
landscape of Europe, what was the substance of
his radical reform?
  • The core of Calvinism is the Zwinglian insistence
    on the literal reading of Christian scriptures.
  • Anything not contained explicitly and literally
    in scripture was to be rejected
  • Anything contained explicitly and literally in
    scripture was to be followed unwaveringly.
  • It is the latter point that Calvin developed
    beyond Zwingli's model
  • not only should all religious belief be founded
    on the literal reading of Scriptures,
  • but church organization, political organization,
    and society itself should be founded on this
    literal reading.

Following the history of the earliest church
recounted in The Acts of the Apostles
  • Calvin divided church organization into four
  • Pastors These were five men who exercised
    authority over religious matters in Geneva
  • Teachers This was a larger group whose job it
    was to teach doctrine to the population.
  • Elders The Elders were twelve men (after the
    twelve Apostles) who were chosen by the municipal
    council their job was to oversee everything that
    everybody did in the city.
  • Deacons Modeled after the Seven in Acts 6-8, the
    deacons were appointed to care for the sick, the
    elderly, the widowed and the poor.

The most important theological position that
Calvin took was his formulation of the doctrine
of predestination.
The early church had struggled with this issue.
Since God knew the future, did that mean that
salvation was predestined? That is, do human
beings have any choice in the matter, or did God
make the salvation decision for each of us at the
beginning of time? The early church, and the
moderate Protestant churches, had decided that
God had not predestined salvation for
individuals. Salvation was in part the product
of human choice.
Calvin built his reformed church on the concept
that salvation was not a choice
Salvation was rather pre-decided by God from the
beginning of time. This meant that individuals
were "elected" for salvation by God this
"elect" would form the population of the
Calvinist church. This view of human salvation
is called either the "doctrine of the elect" or
"the doctrine of living saints"
In Catholic theology, a "saint" is a human being
that the church is certain has gained salvation
  • In Calvinist theology, a "saint" or "living
    saint" is a living, breathing human being
  • who is guaranteed to gain salvation no matter
    what he or she does here on earth
  • The elect obviously don't engage in flagrant sin
  • Not all good people were among the elect,
  • People with bad behavior were certainly not among
    the elect.
  • It was incumbent on churches filled with living
    saints to only admit other living saints

This organizational principle was called
voluntary associations.
Voluntary associations are predicated on the idea
that a community or association chooses its own
members Those members, of their own free will,
choose to be a member of that community or
association. In time, the concept of voluntary
associations would become the basis of civil
society and later political society in Europe.
Calvin emphasized a "puritanical" approach to
life no drinking, swearing, card playing,
gambling, etc.
He thought materialism and wealth were good. To
Calvin, material wealth on earth meant salvation.
Calvin stressed work work is good for you,
work builds character, and work equals success.
So, the middle class was the easiest to convert
to Calvinism because Calvin justified their
lifestyles. He ended monasteries and celibacy
practices for ministers. He simplified worship
prayers, singing of psalms, scripture readings,
and a sermon.
Calvinism spread throughout Switzerland.
They even wanted to make Geneva the new Holy
Land. Calvinism had a different name in
different parts of the world - there was no
central church. In England, Puritans wanted to
"purify" the church of its remaining Catholic
elements. Scotland had Presbyterians, Dutch had
the Dutch Reform, France had Huguenots, And
Germany had the Reform Church.
By 1560 Geneva sent out pastors to the French
congregations and was looked upon as the
Protestant Rome.
Through Knox, "the Scottish champion of the Swiss
Reformation", who had been preacher to the exiles
in that city, his native land accepted the
discipline of the Presbytery and the doctrine of
predestination as expounded in Calvin's
"Institutes". The Puritans in England were also
descendants of the French theologian. His
dislike of theatres, dancing and the amenities of
society was fully shared by them. The town on
Lake Leman was described as without crime and
destitute of amusements. Calvin declaimed
against the "Libertines", but there is no
evidence that any such people had a footing
inside its walls
The cold, hard, but upright disposition
characteristic of the Reformed Churches, is due
entirely to their founder.
Its essence is a concentrated pride, a love of
disputation, a scorn of opponents. The only art
that it tolerates is music, and that not
instrumental. It will have no Christian feasts
in its calendar, and it is austere to the verge
of Manichean hatred of the body. When dogma
fails the Calvinist, he becomes, as in the
instance of Carlyle, almost a pure Stoic. At
Geneva, as for a time in Scotland," says J. A.
Froude, "moral sins were treated as crimes to be
punished by the magistrate."
The Bible was a code of law, administered by the
Down to his dying day Calvin preached and taught.
By no means an aged man, he was worn out in
these frequent controversies. On 25 April, 1564,
he made his will, leaving 225 French crowns, of
which he bequeathed ten to his college, ten to
the poor, and the remainder to his nephews and
nieces. His last letter was addressed to Farel.
He was buried without pomp, in a spot which is
not now ascertainable.