Celebrating the Life of John Calvin
On May 27, 1564, John Calvin died. Originally training to be a lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church in 1530 and became a key figure in the Protestant Reformation. After fleeing from France he spent the majority of his life in Geneva, Switzerland leading the church and the city in key theological reforms. He was a man firmly planted in the Augustinian tradition, teaching on the doctrine of original sin, predestination, and the divine sovereignty of God in salvation. He is best known for a system of Soteriology that is named after him, Calvinism, which was crafted by his followers in response to the teachings of Jacobus Arminius. He was also a most able systematic theologian. The first draft of his Institutes was completed in 1536 and was meant to be a short summary of his theology. By 1559 (and four drafts later), it was considered his magnum opus, consisting of four books with eighty chapters each. He was a deep thinker that strove to help explain for the Church the excellencies of the God they served. After straining his voice while preaching, a coughing fit burst a blood vessel in his lung. Calvin would not recover. He finalized his will on April 24, and on May 27, at the age of 54 Calvin went to be with the Lord. So many people came to his grave that the reformers feared they would be accused of inciting a new type of saint worship. Thus, they had his body moved to an unmarked location.
Today, one cannot study theology without engaging with Calvin. I was first introduced to him as a 21-year-old youth pastor. Although I resonated with his high view of Scripture, the Augustinian influence in his teaching frustrated me to no end. I am greatly indebted to Calvin (and men like him) who have forced me to wrestle with Scripture, and who have kept me up at night with their nagging questions. Dead men, especially those who took the Word of God as seriously as Calvin, make for effective mentors.