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Portrait of John Calvin

Portrait of John Calvin

 

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John Calvin (1509-1564)

John Calvin was the son of an attorney who worked as a secretary to the bishop of Noyon in France. He was well educated and continued his studies, choosing to major in law, at the universities of Paris, 0rléans and Bourges. As a Catholic he had joined student fringe groups so it was not surprising that he eventually converted to Protestantism.

In 1534, along with many other Protestants, he was arrested and put into prison for a while. On his release he went underground before escaping to Basel in Switzerland. It was here that he wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion which he finished in 1536.

Calvin was en route to Strasbourg when he met a man called Guillaume Farel in Geneva. Calvin stayed in Geneva, taking up the post of chief pastor. Together Calvin and Farel imposed a religious state on the city. Calvin literally ruled Geneva and reformed the city government to follow his religious beliefs. Many of these reforms, such as the abolition of holy days and severe punishments for immoral behaviour, were unpopular. In fact both Calvin and Farel were thrown out of the city for a while in 1538.

Calvin's absence was short-lived, however, and when he returned he continued to impose an austere government on the city. Geneva was the Presbyterian experiment which paved the way for the Reformed Protestant Church. On the surface it seemed the ideal society; it was free from sin and crime but devoid of life's pleasures. Calvin's Presbyterian model was copied by many, including John Knox in Scotland and the Puritans in England.

 

Name

John Calvin

Dates

1509-1564

Place of birth

France

Place of study

Orléans and Bourges

Occupation

Lawyer and later theology student

Lived in

Basle, Switzerland + Geneva

Important publications

"Institutes of the Christian Religion" (1536)

Teachings

Believed in predestination and salvation through complete surrender to God (as did Luther).

Believed that there could only be one type of religion in any State.

Believed that the Church should govern society in daily life under a strict code of discipline and morality.

Disagreed with the pomp and ceremony of the established Church and denounced the use of any form of ornaments.

Notes

His ideas went further than those of Luther since he saw his religion dictating to society and believed in the formation of courts working on religious principles.

He saw the Church as a community with Christ at the head and all other members of the community as equals - the Presbyterian church.

 

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