John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait

John Calvin A Sixteenth Century Portrait Historians have credited or blamed Calvinism for many developments in the modern world including capitalism modern science secularization democracy individualism and unitarianism These same hist

  • Title: John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait
  • Author: William J. Bouwsma
  • ISBN: 9780195059519
  • Page: 443
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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 than the joyless tyrant of Geneva who creatHistorians 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 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.

    One thought on “John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait”

    1. In John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait, William J. Bouwsma presents a different perspective on the life and various aspects of the thought of the French reformer. In this work, Bouwsma states that his main goal in writing this book is “to interpret Calvin as a figure of his time: as a representative French intellectual, an evangelical humanist and therefore a rhetorician, and an exile.” Thus, his treatment of Calvin differs from that of most works on the subject in that he states that [...]

    2. I may be among a small minority of laymen (from both the clergy and the academy) to read this book. In my estimation it is not written for the wide audience, although it is not as arcane by a long shot as other academic works can be. Bouwsma's biography is dense, but has enough to stay interesting for those interested in the intersection of protestant theology, medieval cultural history, and humanist thinking.However, looking back on my reading, I struggle to recall clear take-away's. Bouwsma do [...]

    3. The Theology of John Calvin is a fitting magnus opus for Charles Partee, who devoted a lifetime to studying and understanding the work of the Reformer. This book is a great addition to the literature on Calvin’s theology as well as the debates that have surrounded the 16th Century Reformer since his first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion was published in 1536. Partee’s knowledge of Calvin’s writings as well as the writings of Calvin’s proponents and opponents provides [...]

    4. This book lays out John Calvin's ideas and points out the progression of his thought and his continuous modification of it as he sought to avoid absolutes. One can understand that the man was serious and a genius. I really enjoyed reading it . . . BUT . . .Any reader should realize that this book is only a partial portrait of Calvin. It is not really a full biography. Rather, it is a biography of Calvin's brain. To the detriment of the reader and the book's authority, the author does not lay out [...]

    5. [Calvin] abominated “mixture,” one of the most pejorative terms in his vocabulary; mixture in any area of experience suggested to him disorder and unintelligibility. He had absorbed deeply not only the traditional concern for cosmic purity of a culture that had restricted mixture to the sublunary realm but also various Old Testament prohibitions. Mixture, for Calvin, connoted “adulteration” or “promiscuity,” but it also set off in him deep emotional and metaphysical reverberations. H [...]

    6. Bouwsma's Calvin is much more of a humanist than I was expecting, but he makes a good case for it. He also puts emphasis on Calvin's fears about disorder, which were common at the time, which I found strikingly similar to what I have read both about Luther and from Luther's own writings. Still, I wonder if he doesn't overdraw the connection just a bit between Calvin and humanism, and if he isn't short changing his theology a bit. Nonetheless, I bought the book because it was by a secular histori [...]

    7. The "labryinth" and the "abyss" are key words in Bouwsma's portrait of Calvin here, Bouwsma paints Calvin as a man full of the terror of God, yet also full of the love of God. A most enjoyable read on a one of the most influential minds in western civilization.

    8. This was an interesting look at Calvin in the context of his era. If you are looking for a pure biography this may not be the best, never the less it's still a good read.

    9. If you buy into psychoanalytic approaches to history, this book is for you. Otherwise, read Richard Muller's complete refutation of Bouwsma's book in The Unaccommodated Calvin.

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