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Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 Vols (Library of Christian Classics)

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This is the definitive English-language edition of one of the monumental works of the Christian church. All previous editions--in Latin, French, German, and English--have been collated; references and notes have been verified, corrected, and expanded; and new bibliographies have been added. The translation preserves the rugged strength and vividness of Calvin's writing, bu This is the definitive English-language edition of one of the monumental works of the Christian church. All previous editions--in Latin, French, German, and English--have been collated; references and notes have been verified, corrected, and expanded; and new bibliographies have been added. The translation preserves the rugged strength and vividness of Calvin's writing, but also conforms to modern English and renders heavy theological terms in simple language. The result is a translation that achieves a high degree of accuracy and at the same time is eminently readable.Long recognized for the quality of its translations, introductions, explanatory notes, and indexes, the Library of Christian Classics provides scholars and students with modern English translations of some of the most significant Christian theological texts in history. Through these works--each written prior to the end of the sixteenth century--contemporary readers are able to engage the ideas that have shaped Christian theology and the church through the centuries.


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This is the definitive English-language edition of one of the monumental works of the Christian church. All previous editions--in Latin, French, German, and English--have been collated; references and notes have been verified, corrected, and expanded; and new bibliographies have been added. The translation preserves the rugged strength and vividness of Calvin's writing, bu This is the definitive English-language edition of one of the monumental works of the Christian church. All previous editions--in Latin, French, German, and English--have been collated; references and notes have been verified, corrected, and expanded; and new bibliographies have been added. The translation preserves the rugged strength and vividness of Calvin's writing, but also conforms to modern English and renders heavy theological terms in simple language. The result is a translation that achieves a high degree of accuracy and at the same time is eminently readable.Long recognized for the quality of its translations, introductions, explanatory notes, and indexes, the Library of Christian Classics provides scholars and students with modern English translations of some of the most significant Christian theological texts in history. Through these works--each written prior to the end of the sixteenth century--contemporary readers are able to engage the ideas that have shaped Christian theology and the church through the centuries.

30 review for Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 Vols (Library of Christian Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Years ago I took a course in Reformation Theology for which this book was a required text. It was a good course, taught by a knowledgeable professor, who did not force us to read the entire book. After the course was over I determined to read the entire book, but abandoned it in frustration when I got to about p. 250. Last year, I had to use it for work and decided that, since that was the case, I was going to conquer it finally. The book is a long treatise on systematic theology, meant to provid Years ago I took a course in Reformation Theology for which this book was a required text. It was a good course, taught by a knowledgeable professor, who did not force us to read the entire book. After the course was over I determined to read the entire book, but abandoned it in frustration when I got to about p. 250. Last year, I had to use it for work and decided that, since that was the case, I was going to conquer it finally. The book is a long treatise on systematic theology, meant to provide basic but thorough instruction in the Protestant faith. It has an obviously trinitarian structure, devoting three large sections to the work of the three Persons of the Christian Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, with a fourth section on the Christian Church. Along the way it discusses many things found in traditional Christian catechisms, such as the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, faith, prayer, and the importance of the Word (i.e. the Bible) and the sacraments. The style of Calvin takes getting used to. Before he became a theologian, he was a lawyer, and it shows both in his style and in his manner of argumentation. He can write in long convoluted sentences that rival those of Proust himself. But when he is arguing a point about which he feels strongly, he can be not only lively but vitriolic. This can be startling, and even offensive by today's standards of political correctness, especially when he lets his theological opponents have it with both barrels. But his argumentation, and the facts and research with which he backs it up, are staggering. One need only scan the footnotes and the indices to realize how much he quotes the Church Fathers, especially St. Augustine. In this he is obviously part of the Renaissance movement which aimed to go back to the sources of Christianity. But he is also good at taking a point and looking at it from all sides. For example, when he discusses the Ten Commandments, he talks not only about how to obey a particular commandment, but how to avoid its opposite. And later when he discusses the sacraments, he defines very carefully what they are; this will influence his later discussion of whether it is proper to call various practices sacraments or not. He looks at what the Bible says, but also what was practiced in the early church, and what is done in his own time. Moreover, most often, he knows his opponents' opinions thoroughly, and seems to relish lining up the arguments and shooting them down one by one. One thing that surprised me was his treatment of predestination, which is supposed, still today, to be something with which Calvinists are eternally obsessed. Even as he was writing about it, Calvin realized that this issue was a "hot potato," and he treats it carefully but not fearfully. The point he emphasizes is this: the fact that God chose beforehand those who would be saved (election) is meant to reassure us of salvation, not to make us full of doubt. Another thing that surprised me was that Calvin's vehemence was not directed solely at Catholics in general and the unfortunate non-trinitarian Michael Servetus in particular. There were others as well. The targets of his rhetoric are not always mentioned by name, but they include Lutherans, Zwinglians and Anabaptists. This is the aspect of Calvin's work that makes me squirm the most, because I believe that if Christians hold differing opinions, the best way to handle it is respectful discussion. But Calvin was from a time when fervour burned bright and tempers and tongues waxed hot. When one takes this into consideration, he is quite cool-headed--most of the time!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Just finished Volume 1. The first time I read this I was still an Arminian, and I appreciated it then. Now I am simply amazed. What a treasure this is.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Many wicked lies get mixed up with the tiny particles of truth in the writings of these philosophers. I am here writing a review of John Calvin’s most famous book, but I can’t say I’ve actually read it. I have read an abridged version, one that preserves about 15% of the original. This is still a fair amount, considering that the unabridged version runs to well over 1,000 pages; but there is so much I missed that I feel a bit self-conscious writing a review. John Calvin is arguably the most Many wicked lies get mixed up with the tiny particles of truth in the writings of these philosophers. I am here writing a review of John Calvin’s most famous book, but I can’t say I’ve actually read it. I have read an abridged version, one that preserves about 15% of the original. This is still a fair amount, considering that the unabridged version runs to well over 1,000 pages; but there is so much I missed that I feel a bit self-conscious writing a review. John Calvin is arguably the most important Protestant theologian in history. Karl Barth once called Hegel the ‘Protestant Aquinas’, but the title seems more apt for Calvin, whose Institutes put into systematic form the new theology and dogma of the budding faith. Calvin begins with knowledge of God, then moves on to knowledge of Christ, the Christian life, justification by faith, prayer, election and predestination, the church and the sacraments, and much more along the way. Calvin was a lawyer by training, and it shows in his style. Unlike Aquinas, who made careful arguments and addressed objections using logic, Calvin's primary mode of argument is to quote and interpret scripture, in much the same way as a lawyer might argue from legal precedent. You can also see his legal background in Calvin’s combative tone; he attacks and defends with all the cunning of a professional debater, and will use any rhetorical device available to win his case. The two biggest theological influence on Calvin, it seems, were St. Paul and St. Augustine, both of whom were rather preoccupied with evil and sin. The gentleness of the Gospels seems totally absent from Calvin’s worldview. Perhaps this is due as much to his personality as his influences. Calvin struck me as rather saturnine and bitter, a man disappointed with the world. His mode of argument and cutting tone—treating all his interpretations of the Bible as self-evident and obvious, and his enemies as wicked deceivers—also made him, for me, a rather authoritarian guide through theology. And his zeal was manifested in deed as well as word. It was Calvin, after all, who oversaw the auto-da-fé of Michael Servetus, a Unitarian who believed in adult baptism. Besides being a powerful thinker, Calvin was a powerful stylist. This book, in the French translation, remains one of the most influential works of French prose. He can swell into ecstasies as he describes the goodness of God, the mercy of Christ, and the bliss that awaits the elect in the next life. At other times, he can rain down fire and brimstone on sinners and reprobates, accusing humanity of universal sin and condemning human nature itself. One of his most characteristic moods is a powerful disgust with sin, which he sees as an inescapable part of earthly life, a pervasive filth that clings to everything. This quote gives a taste of his style: Even babies bring their condemnation with them from their mother’s womb; they suffer for their own imperfection and no one else’s. Although they have not yet produced the fruits of sin, they have the seed within. Their whole nature is like a seedbed of sin and so must be hateful and repugnant to God. The most controversial part of this book is, unsurprisingly, the section on predestination. Even before the creation of the world, God knew who would be saved and who would be damned. Our salvation is not ultimately due to any choices we make; we are entirely helpless, completely dependent on God’s grace. By ourselves, we earn and deserve nothing. Human nature can take no credit for goodness. The reason why some are saved and others damned is entirely mysterious. You can never know for sure if you are among God’s elect, but there are certain signs that give hope. One thing I do admire about Calvin’s argument for predestination is that he achieves a brutal kind of consistency. God is all-powerful, and thus responsible for everything that happens; he is all-knowing, and so was aware of what would happen when he created the world; and he is infinitely good, so all goodness resides in him and not in us. The only problem with this doctrine is that, when combined with the doctrine of heaven and hell, it makes God seem monstrously unjust. A God who creates a world in which the majority of its inhabitants will be inescapably condemned to everlasting torment is even worse than a man who breeds puppies just to throw them in the fire. Calvin makes much of the "inscrutability of God’s judgment"; but this is as much to say that you should believe Calvin's doctrines even though what he’s saying doesn’t make sense. Calvin perhaps can’t be faulted too much for reaching this bleak conclusion. Theologians have been trying for a long time to square the attributes of God—omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenificence—with the qualities we observe in the world and the doctrine of heaven and hell. Everlasting punishment can only appear fair if the sinner brought it upon himself with his own free action (and even then, it seems like a stretch to call everlasting torment "fair"). But how can free will exist in a universe created by an all-powerful and all-knowing God? For if God knew exactly what was going to happen when the universe was created, and is ultimately responsible for everything that happens (since he created the universe with full knowledge of the consequences), then that would make God responsible for the existence of sinners, and thus we get this same absurdity of people being punished for things they were destined to do. For my part, I find this question of predestination and punishment extremely interesting, since I think we will have to face similar paradoxes as we learn to explain human behavior. As our belief in free will is eroded through increasing knowledge of psychology and sociology, how will it affect our justice system? In any case, I’m glad I read the abridged version, since I can’t imagine pushing myself through more than 1,000 pages of this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Husseyhousehold

    I read Book One of the Four volumes in this edition, and learned that all the caricatures of Calvin and Calvinism are as far off the mark as equating a Christian with a Muslim terrorist of 9/11. What most people call "hypercalvinism" is more often than not simply "Calvinism," or "biblical." The doctrine of election, far from being called "Calvinism," ought to be reclaimed as simply "truth." What is properly hypercalvinism, however, (i.e.: prayer and evangelism are unnecessary due to God being sov I read Book One of the Four volumes in this edition, and learned that all the caricatures of Calvin and Calvinism are as far off the mark as equating a Christian with a Muslim terrorist of 9/11. What most people call "hypercalvinism" is more often than not simply "Calvinism," or "biblical." The doctrine of election, far from being called "Calvinism," ought to be reclaimed as simply "truth." What is properly hypercalvinism, however, (i.e.: prayer and evangelism are unnecessary due to God being sovereign) has NOTHING to do with what Calvin taught or believed. The beauty of this book is that every truth is exegeted (taken out of) the Scripture. Most people speaking against the doctrine of election usually rest on a few verses that don't speak to the issue of election at all. C.S. Lewis, in his "Mere Chritianity," for instance, rests his argument for the presence of evil on the Arminian view of man's "free will," a fiction of imagination that neither Lewis nor other believers of free will support from Scripture. Calvin shows that the sovereignty of God is merciful, not monstrous. Providence is treated as majestic, not cosmic puppetry or pernicious error. The presence of evil is explained in a humble view of what the Bible says on the subject, and the answer surprised me (though mostly because the Bible verses used were unfamiliar to me). All in all, Calvin was a genius and is careful to explain the fact that we don't have the "freedom" to simply believe what is comfortable, but our beliefs must come from the Scripture. He is careful to show what the Church Fathers believed on subjects, and is not afraid to show the reader that even these respected teachers contradict Scripture to their shame. In other words: "Let God be true, and every man a liar." If you want your faith to be stretched, Calvin's first book is a roadmap through the Bible on the fundamentals of a robust and biblical worldview. Calvin, though a man, has written on the difficult teachings of the Scriptures by beginning exactly there: at the Scriptures

  5. 5 out of 5

    justin

    if i ever finish this, i will immediately begin it again

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brent McCulley

    Last January I begin an adventure that I had no idea how arduous it would be. As I begun to dive into Calvin's magisterial Institutes of the Christian Religion, I set out before me an endeavour that would slowly but surely change the way that I think on manifold facets. Although I would love to expound an innumerable levels on Calvin's thought, and what I have learned from this past year, I would rather, for brevity's sake, share very briefly three principles that Calvin has taught me which have Last January I begin an adventure that I had no idea how arduous it would be. As I begun to dive into Calvin's magisterial Institutes of the Christian Religion, I set out before me an endeavour that would slowly but surely change the way that I think on manifold facets. Although I would love to expound an innumerable levels on Calvin's thought, and what I have learned from this past year, I would rather, for brevity's sake, share very briefly three principles that Calvin has taught me which have slowly molded me and given me a very firm foundation to stand upon. Calvin has most assuredly given me a solid theologically footing and cornerstone that I may continue to construct and built upwards and sidewards, knowing that no matter if my many future pursuits be successful of failed, I will always have a sound, firm foundation to which I can rest safely and securely on, theologically speaking. In light of this fact, I believe that Calvin has taught me three very important principles which are thus: Calvin has taught me the importance of Christianity being-- 1. Systematic The great systematizer of the faith, Calvin's Institutes literally radically changed Western history as we know it. What is remarkable is what is so often ignored historically, but theologically speaking, Calvin accomplished what no man had every successfully done hitherto, and that is construct a coherent, cogent, and holistic framework of the Christian faith, written to inform, educate, instruct, teach, and guide not only pastors, but ideally laymen of the faith. Of the innumerable heresies and opponents that Calvin refutes throughout his magnum opus, his primary weapon was solely and unequivocally the Word of God, the sole arbiter of our Faith. Only secondarily does Calvin defer to the Church Fathers, Augustine being the foremost referenced of which Calvin said "we quote more frequently, as [Augustine] being the best and most faithful witness of all antiquity (Institutes 4.14.26), and tertiarily pagan philosophers, Seneca and Plato being among them. The idea is simple, how can one refute someone else's absurdly heretical claims if one does not have a systematic grasp on the entire Word of God? How can we deflect the proof-texting of misled garblers of true religion if we cannot systematize, harmonize, and cogently construct a holistic robust Christianity that will withstand the fiery cavils for misguided people? Now, more than ever, theology must be systematic, oppositions to the contrary notwithstanding. Calvin has enabled me to understand the importance of the aforesaid on a personal level. 2. Catholic Calvin taught me the importance of the Church, which is not only visible and particular, but that it is also simultaneously invisible and universal. It is visible in that it is confined to the external preaching of the Word and the sacraments duly administered by presbyters to a congregation, but it is also invisible and catholic or universal, in that that all those in Christ are a part of one body, with Christ as the κεφαλή (1 Cor 11:3, Col 1:18, Eph 5:23). This includes not only those that are living, but those who have died in Christ heretofore, as we are all united in a real way to Christ, as His body, as he leads the true Church. This doesn't mean that the Church is going to be visibly pure, at least in the external. For as Augustine refuted the Donatists and Calvin the Anabaptists, as long as sin remains, and hypocrites can make a false confession of faith, so too will the visible and particular church remain a mix of both those who are truly regenerated and a part of Christ's body, and those who are merely feigning true religion, as the parable so aptly demonstrates (Matthew 13:24-30). Calvin has taught me to longsuffer with the Church, to give myself up for Her and suffer with her, and that true Christian unity isn't obtained by watering or knocking down doctrines deemed superfluous or antiquated in order to "unify" various denominations or factions, but rather by simply upholding Christ and Him crucified. By the two-fold preaching of the Gospel and administration of the sacraments, there can be no doubt, regardless of denomination, that Christ is truly present and that there is some semblance of a Church: "Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, and wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubts that the church of God has some existence" (Institutes, 4.1.9). 3. Confessional While the Reformation was the beginning of an explosion of Christian protestant thought for the better, the reformers would be utterly horrified, aghast, and appalled if they saw the current state of non-denominational evangelical Christianity in America today. While the nature of the Reformation was to protest, and the soil of America gave fertile ground in light of religious toleration for new factions, sects, denominations, and religions to forthwith spring up, the Reformers in no wise set out to overthrow systems, but rather simply to be faithful to the word of God. The inherent problem that I have seen personally in many non-denominational churches, notwithstanding the lack of ecclesiastical governance and church discipline, is that they are not confessional. This is something that arose as a corollary of the Reformation and the influence of Calvin's Institutes, but the confessions that were constructed to the benefit of millions of Christians then and now stand as solid posts wherewith we can stand firmly in-between knowing we will not accidentally stray from the path. Confessions such as the Westminster which arose after the English Civil War in the Puritan Commonwealth, or the Belgic and Helvetic confessions along with the Heidelberg Catechism. These documents are not timeless, and neither are they creeds whereby one has to assent to in order to become a Christian, but rather, they are confessions by which we affirm because we are Christians. As such, doctrines are perspicuously defined, and no such room is left for ambiguity, a problem that so wholly permeates through innumerable non-denominational Churches who leave their 'statements of faith' so excruciatingly and unacceptably equivocal which ultimately leads to dissensions, factions, and trifling altercations. By way of a side note, my wife and I have been attending an EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church, http://www.epc.org/) the past nine months, and we have been extremely blessed, seeing the fruit of putting ourselves under their leadership alerady. In fine, Calvin's Institutes is not simply going back up on my bookshelf for future reference, but rather, an ideology and theologically deep well wherefrom I will continually draw from daily as I strive to built, construct, and create anew theologically, knowing that I will always have a firm foundation to stand upon, one that has stood the test of time: one that is tried and true. -b

  7. 5 out of 5

    Miguel

    All Calvinism is a total and atrocious rebellion against God and his word. There is no worse sect than Calvinists. Calvin defended the heresy of the baptism of children. In addition, he never relates his conversion in any of his books and, on the contrary, he tells that he was only baptized as a child. Other heresies include rejecting the book of Revelation and James, and finally, advocating divorce.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John

    John Calvin is likely one of the most vilified, misunderstood, and unread men still discussed today. His influence is remarkable, and his most famous work, Institutes, is his crowning achievement. This is an ambitious and towering work that attempts to set forth a systematic understanding of Scripture and a defense of Reformed doctrine against the apostate Catholic church. What Calvin has given us, as Abraham Kuyper says, "Calvinism means the completed evolution of Protestantism, resulting in a b John Calvin is likely one of the most vilified, misunderstood, and unread men still discussed today. His influence is remarkable, and his most famous work, Institutes, is his crowning achievement. This is an ambitious and towering work that attempts to set forth a systematic understanding of Scripture and a defense of Reformed doctrine against the apostate Catholic church. What Calvin has given us, as Abraham Kuyper says, "Calvinism means the completed evolution of Protestantism, resulting in a both higher and richer stage of human development." Calvin builds his theological primarily upon the work of Augustine, but acknowledges a number of other church fathers. The famous "TULIP" acronym hardly scratches the surface of Calvin's theology. Calvin, is in fact, the father of modern theology. The work itself is long, but is broken into small segments that make the work very accessible, and allow it to be read slowly and methodically. I read this over the course of ten months taking small chunks at a time. It is a good way to read it. I recommend highlighting portions and returning to them later to make a more lasting impression of the work. This is an important book for all Christians to read and one time or another. Highly recommended.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Peter Bringe

    I have now read this book three times: Battles’ translation in 2009, Beveridge’s translation in 2011-2013, and White’s translation of the earlier 1541 edition in 2020-2021. It is a classic work of Christianity, and one that I enjoy reading. It not only teaches systematic theology, but also practical theology, biblical theology, historical theology, and exhortations to the Christian life. And the humble spirit in which Calvin approaches his study is refreshing. "When we see that the whole sum of I have now read this book three times: Battles’ translation in 2009, Beveridge’s translation in 2011-2013, and White’s translation of the earlier 1541 edition in 2020-2021. It is a classic work of Christianity, and one that I enjoy reading. It not only teaches systematic theology, but also practical theology, biblical theology, historical theology, and exhortations to the Christian life. And the humble spirit in which Calvin approaches his study is refreshing. "When we see that the whole sum of our salvation, and every single part of it, is comprehended in Christ, we must beware of deriving even the minutest portion of it from any other quarter." (2.16.19)

  10. 4 out of 5

    [Name Redacted]

    Well, he's certainly...pedantic? I find that Calvin somehow manages to approach a religion grounded in love, mercy, compassion, purity and fidelity as though it were a cold, joyless intellectual exercise. He lacks the zeal of Luther, the passion of Augustine, the skill of Aquinas, and even the intellectualism of Evagrius... Were he alive today I somehow think he would be busy working for the IRS or writing the fine print in legal documents. It amazes me that my ancestors were so passionate about Well, he's certainly...pedantic? I find that Calvin somehow manages to approach a religion grounded in love, mercy, compassion, purity and fidelity as though it were a cold, joyless intellectual exercise. He lacks the zeal of Luther, the passion of Augustine, the skill of Aquinas, and even the intellectualism of Evagrius... Were he alive today I somehow think he would be busy working for the IRS or writing the fine print in legal documents. It amazes me that my ancestors were so passionate about his theology. UPDATE: Book 4 is, by far, the best of the volumes. His arguments about the Roman Catholic Church's claim to authority (pointing out that their claims of unbroken succession are insufficient to prove themselves the "true" church since the Greek churches could claim the same, yet the Romans considered the Greeks heretics and schismatics) and his arguments about the ways in which pride and hatred towards authority (since justly-used authority is usually exercised to correct and to prevent us from indulging our whims) are the true motivations behind the rejection of communal Christianity in favor of strictly individual worship and meditation (cf. today's "don't-believe-in-organized-religion" assertions) -- these are legitimately compelling. UPDATE 2: What the...? Abruptly, and without any proof, he begins claiming that the Pope and all cardinals secretly don't believe in God, Jesus, the after-life or the Bible AT ALL! And that they secretly conspired to punish anyone who believes otherwise! Suddenly the origin of European conspiracy theories is laid bare before me... UPDATE 3: He keeps alternating between excellent points and bizarre, labored interpretations of the Bible motivated (rather obviously) by a desperate desire to justify his own a priori conclusions. One of the silliest is his conclusion that the dietary prohibitions given to Gentiles in Acts were actually part of a commandment to be more charitable. UPDATE 4: His arguments in favor of paedobaptism are remarkably weak. Their weakness is only exceeded by his vehemence in asserting them.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    I actually finished this a long time ago. Finished it several times, actually. If people read Calvin, they will soon learn that all their stereotypes of him are wrong. He said nothing on predestination that Aquinas didn't say, for example. Most adherents outside the tradition, if honest, must confess that they have not read calvin all the way through. Even if one rejects Calvin's theology, one must still come to grips with his breakthroughs in epistemology. A head-in-the-sand approach is no longe I actually finished this a long time ago. Finished it several times, actually. If people read Calvin, they will soon learn that all their stereotypes of him are wrong. He said nothing on predestination that Aquinas didn't say, for example. Most adherents outside the tradition, if honest, must confess that they have not read calvin all the way through. Even if one rejects Calvin's theology, one must still come to grips with his breakthroughs in epistemology. A head-in-the-sand approach is no longer possible (nor admissible) A thorough book review is impossible, and in any case exceeds my abilities. There are a few points that are interesting, though: Duplex Cognito Dei God reveals himself to humans—not as he is—but in a form accessible to humans (archetype ---> ectype; Muller 229ff). God is known generally as creator but only in Christ as Father and Redeemer (Muller 2003: p. 135) The duplex cognito accounts for the move from Book 1 to Book 2 (Muller 2001: p. 137). It reflects the Pauline ordo as a movement from the description of sinful humanity before God to humanity in contact with the Redeemer. Muller suggests that this orders the transition to Books III and IV (138). Book II, chapters 10-11. Calvin notes the same promises are in the Old Testament as in the New (428). Similarities between the two covenants (covenants being used as “testaments”): the goal of OT Jew was not carnal prosperity, but adoption and immortality. Secondly, the covenant by which they were bound was supported by God's grace, not their merits. Thirdly, Christ was present by way of shadow and anticipation (432). Differences: there was stress on earthly blessings, but these were to lead to heavenly concerns (449). Secondly, truth was conveyed by images and ceremonies; the NT reveals the very substance. Thirdly, the OT is literal, NT is spiritual. Fourthly, bondage of the OT, freedom of the NT. Fifthly, the OT has reference to one nation; the NT to all nations (veil torn down in Christ; Gentiles called). Book IV: Christ Rules by His Sceptre, which is His Word. His take on the sacraments is probably most notable in this section. Contrary to what people think, Calvin was not a revolutionary with regard to Church government and episcopal order, but since the bishops weren't feeding the flock and opposing the gospel, too bad for them. Muller, Richard. After Calvin. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. -----------. The Unaccommodated Calvin: Studies in the Foundation of a Theological Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. ----------. Post-Reformation and Reformed Dogmatics vol. 1.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christian Barrett

    I have dedicated six months to this book. I will not regret those months, for truly I have been edified by the words of Calvin.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Daphyne

    Life-changing. This was my second read through but I spent the entire year reading it this time. Every Christian should read this if for not other reason than to be forced to work through their theology. Calvin is so pastoral and encouraged me spiritually the whole year. Four stars out of five just because Calvin gets repetitive at times.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brian Pate

    I agree with what Kevin Bauder said about Calvin's Institutes: "This kind of reading is not primarily about agreement or disagreement. It’s about watching a first-rate theological mind at work." Written nearly 500 years ago, the Institutes remains one of the most significant Christian works of all time. Incredibly, Calvin wrote the first edition when he was 27 . . . without a word processor! My favorite chapters were on knowing God (ch. 1), justification by faith (ch. 6), predestination (ch. 8), I agree with what Kevin Bauder said about Calvin's Institutes: "This kind of reading is not primarily about agreement or disagreement. It’s about watching a first-rate theological mind at work." Written nearly 500 years ago, the Institutes remains one of the most significant Christian works of all time. Incredibly, Calvin wrote the first edition when he was 27 . . . without a word processor! My favorite chapters were on knowing God (ch. 1), justification by faith (ch. 6), predestination (ch. 8), prayer (ch. 9), and Christian liberty (ch. 14). Reading the Institutes was a community project. It was a joy to read and discuss this book with Nate Bate and John Pate. I read the 2014 White translation, and it was excellent! His headings and footnotes were very helpful.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Peter Jones

    There is no author living or dead that I turn to with as much profit as Calvin. This is Calvin at his best. Clear, pastoral, mean at times, balanced where you don't expect him to be, covering a vast array of Christian theology, rooted in the church fathers, relevant even today, organized, on and on. It is in my top five theology books of all time. If you haven't read it you should. There is no author living or dead that I turn to with as much profit as Calvin. This is Calvin at his best. Clear, pastoral, mean at times, balanced where you don't expect him to be, covering a vast array of Christian theology, rooted in the church fathers, relevant even today, organized, on and on. It is in my top five theology books of all time. If you haven't read it you should.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    I finished Volume 2 of the other edition in October of 1985. And Volume 1 of the other edition in October of 1984.Finished Volume 1 Battles some time in mid-2009, and Volume 2 on December 26, 2009. What a magnificent architectural achievement.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alex Sachak

    One of the better books ever written!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Genni

    Calvin wrote this tome to educate a king uneducated on the tenets of Christianity in the hopes that it would end persecution. I’m assuming Francis did not read it, but obviously many others have and have been influenced by Calvin’s theology. The Institutes was carefully planned and executed, which is wonderful when you are looking to systematize something as complex as an entire religion. It was truly an accomplishment in this sense, I think. Within the work, Calvin’s determination to accept God Calvin wrote this tome to educate a king uneducated on the tenets of Christianity in the hopes that it would end persecution. I’m assuming Francis did not read it, but obviously many others have and have been influenced by Calvin’s theology. The Institutes was carefully planned and executed, which is wonderful when you are looking to systematize something as complex as an entire religion. It was truly an accomplishment in this sense, I think. Within the work, Calvin’s determination to accept God on His own terms rather than personal desires was admirable. This attitude and humility towards God is very much needed today. However, I do think Calvin erred in his interpretation of Scripture. Most notably and unsurprisingly, I disagreed with his ideas on the elect. I won’t pretend to give a defense of free will here when so many other, more qualified persons have done so (i.e. Alvin Plantinga), but I did think it was interesting that the idea of predestination did not seem to consistently run through the work. For example, he can be found exhorting believers to be careful lest they “fall away”. He also SAID that predestination does not lead to evil in God, but did not show it. In any case, his theological tundra left this reader cold. As for his writing style, it was extremely straightforward. Again, this is great for systematic theology, but in my opinion it lacked an arresting style. It was harsh at points, which in fairness, was to be expected considering the large institution he was fighting, but tempered by grace could have been much more engaging. By point of contrast, though I also disagree with Augustine (whom he loves to quote) on the point of the elect, he managed to write in a most striking way. This was the tipping point for me from the 3.5 stars I would give this should there be half-star ratings. I will use this as reference in the future, but will not be rereading it for pleasure.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    Let's be upfront about this: I came into this reading disliking Calvin. I dislike almost everything about him. I dislike his rigidity. I dislike his scriptura sola thing. I dislike the way he twists his theology to satisfy two claims i) God can't change ii) People are worthless even though God changes throughout the bible and people wouldn't be worth saving if we were worthless. I dislike the way he ignores the obvious conclusion from his theology, which was nicely smirked at in James Hogg's 'Priv Let's be upfront about this: I came into this reading disliking Calvin. I dislike almost everything about him. I dislike his rigidity. I dislike his scriptura sola thing. I dislike the way he twists his theology to satisfy two claims i) God can't change ii) People are worthless even though God changes throughout the bible and people wouldn't be worth saving if we were worthless. I dislike the way he ignores the obvious conclusion from his theology, which was nicely smirked at in James Hogg's 'Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.' But I read this because Marilynne Robinson's crusade to make Calvin respectful made me ashamed and I decided I should go to the horse's mouth and, worse case scenario, I would understand Robinson's novels better. Marilynne won't be happy to know that my general attitude toward Calvin hasn't changed. She might be glad to know that I won't be as dismissive as I was before reading this book, if only because I now feel like he was a basically good guy who got carried away by a really bad idea, and a really smart guy who tried to square his goodness with his bad idea, but failed. It could be much worse. So I have no idea whether this book is a representative selection of his complete Institutes or not, but it is a surprisingly easy read. The editor deserves a lot of praise, and he gets one of those three stars I just gave out. Calvin gets two for being smart and basically good. As a special bonus, my running complaints in the margins of this book gave me a much better idea of what I value and what I do not value in the Christian theological tradition. Calvin turns out to be a good whetstone for your brain.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    Eye opening. Reading Calvin helped me to see why my understanding of the Bible had so many extra parts laying around after I had assembled it. I hope he can do the same for others. I would recommend starting with the section on the differences/similarities of the old and new testaments in vol. 1

  21. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Magisterial. What is there to be said which hasn't already been said? Magisterial. What is there to be said which hasn't already been said?

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tori Samar

    John Calvin’s Institutes has been on my reading bucket list for years. After committing to read the entire work in 2021, I finally finished today. I do not claim to have understood everything I read, nor do Calvin and I agree on everything. Nevertheless, it was an immense privilege to see a great theological mind at work and read a book that has been so important to Protestantism. As someone in a Protestant denomination who also reads a lot of books by Reformed writers, many of his arguments wer John Calvin’s Institutes has been on my reading bucket list for years. After committing to read the entire work in 2021, I finally finished today. I do not claim to have understood everything I read, nor do Calvin and I agree on everything. Nevertheless, it was an immense privilege to see a great theological mind at work and read a book that has been so important to Protestantism. As someone in a Protestant denomination who also reads a lot of books by Reformed writers, many of his arguments were not as earth-shattering to me as they would have been to readers in his day, but that is no discredit to Calvin. On the contrary, it shows just how influential his work has been. A challenging, slow read but worth it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Josh Jackson

    Well, that was a marathon! A few simple reflections on John’s masterpiece from a simple reader: - He loves the OT. - He loves the Church. - He hates false teaching. - Stuff on trinity, revelation and the bible was gold. - His ecclesiology is firmly built on his christology. The atonement isn’t some abstract theory, but affects all all of life. - Got some cracking quotes on the incarnation. - He’s a seriously smart man. But still just a man. Admits his own lack of understanding, and at times gives t Well, that was a marathon! A few simple reflections on John’s masterpiece from a simple reader: - He loves the OT. - He loves the Church. - He hates false teaching. - Stuff on trinity, revelation and the bible was gold. - His ecclesiology is firmly built on his christology. The atonement isn’t some abstract theory, but affects all all of life. - Got some cracking quotes on the incarnation. - He’s a seriously smart man. But still just a man. Admits his own lack of understanding, and at times gives too much credence to early church fathers. - He’s much more readable than expected. And much sassier.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Owen Lewis

    Enjoyed reading and learning from a godly man in times past. It also was beneficial reading and discussing this as a group. While I do not agree with Calvin regarding some interpretations/conclusions he makes towards Scripture (e.g infant baptism, end times), on the whole I agree with most of what he's written. His last chapter, "The Christian Life", was a wonderful finish to the book. The doctrine of the preceding chapters culminates into an exhortation to godly living. Calvin's heart for the L Enjoyed reading and learning from a godly man in times past. It also was beneficial reading and discussing this as a group. While I do not agree with Calvin regarding some interpretations/conclusions he makes towards Scripture (e.g infant baptism, end times), on the whole I agree with most of what he's written. His last chapter, "The Christian Life", was a wonderful finish to the book. The doctrine of the preceding chapters culminates into an exhortation to godly living. Calvin's heart for the Lord really shone through here for me! 4/5 stars because you can read much clearer, and less verbose works on biblical doctrine nowadays.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Once I became a Christian, this book was immensely helpful in teaching me to think carefully and thoroughly about the Christian faith, instead of being satisfied with a few platitudes, some assumed familial traditions, and a load of cultural baggage. This book is the foundation of what is referred to as the Reformed branch of the church. It convinced me that Scripture reveals a view of the church that is well described by so-called Reformed doctrine. After encountering this book, I can say that b Once I became a Christian, this book was immensely helpful in teaching me to think carefully and thoroughly about the Christian faith, instead of being satisfied with a few platitudes, some assumed familial traditions, and a load of cultural baggage. This book is the foundation of what is referred to as the Reformed branch of the church. It convinced me that Scripture reveals a view of the church that is well described by so-called Reformed doctrine. After encountering this book, I can say that by most definitions of the word, I am a Calvinist. Written during the Reformation, the Institutes accents many of the issues in which Calvin disagreed with medieval Catholicism. One must keep in mind, though, that Calvin's overall theology encompasses the core fundamentals of Christianity that are common across Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches. Many of the sections of this book reflect these common themes, so while polemical in nature, it serves as a good overview to Christian doctrine.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael-jessica

    I am actually reading the Henry Beveridge translation. Again, a book to be worked into your daily devotion time....3 pages a day will complete it in a year.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    This is a beautiful edition of this historic work. The binding, paper, font, layout—stellar all around. The translator, Robert White, included subheadings within the chapters which are quite helpful in pacing the text. As this is the 1541 version, and Calvin revised and expanded the work until its final form in 1560, there is a comparative table at the end that maps the sections between the two editions. Calvin's main doctrines are well-known (and I should mention that I resolutely agree with and This is a beautiful edition of this historic work. The binding, paper, font, layout—stellar all around. The translator, Robert White, included subheadings within the chapters which are quite helpful in pacing the text. As this is the 1541 version, and Calvin revised and expanded the work until its final form in 1560, there is a comparative table at the end that maps the sections between the two editions. Calvin's main doctrines are well-known (and I should mention that I resolutely agree with and adhere to these) but it was his more obscure takes that I found more interesting to discover. Things like the Tree of Life as a sign of the Covenant, regeneration in children, obeying corrupt civil authorities, and the role of chastisement in sanctification. Some moments were illuminating, others challenging. I agreed with some of these more minor points, disagreed with others, and am still thinking about yet more still. All in all, that makes for a mighty good read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dorotea

    Cursory read across the four books - read a selection of chapters for my final systematic theology exam. While the English version is clearer in some passages, in some cases interpretation goes further than the original text, which is instead my preferred choice.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Calvin did not shy away from a fight. In the early years of the Reformation, he contributed with this defiant tome. Chapters with titles such as Of the Power of Making Laws. The Cruelty of the Pope and His Adherents, in This Respect, in Tyrannically Oppressing and Destroying Souls clearly show to what Calvin is reacting. At a time when the Church’s power, though waning, was still monumentally influential, it is no small feat for a man to defy centuries of established authority. However, the work Calvin did not shy away from a fight. In the early years of the Reformation, he contributed with this defiant tome. Chapters with titles such as Of the Power of Making Laws. The Cruelty of the Pope and His Adherents, in This Respect, in Tyrannically Oppressing and Destroying Souls clearly show to what Calvin is reacting. At a time when the Church’s power, though waning, was still monumentally influential, it is no small feat for a man to defy centuries of established authority. However, the work itself is a dry and intellectually barren read. Nearly 1,000 pages, The Institutes mines the Bible for almost all authority. There a few passing, superficial, references to other classical thinkers, but other than Augustine and Chrysostom, there is little reliance placed on them. Even Augustine is taken at face value without acknowledging the Platonic thought that so influenced him. Instead, Calvin copiously cites from Biblical references as he dismantles the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church and lays the foundation for his own doctrine. Calvin’s goal is to understand the word of God as expressed through the Bible. Faith requires “not merely the knowledge that God is, but also, no chiefly, a perception of his will towards us.” Bk. III, Ch. 2 pg. 359. He alternating attacks the symbolism and literal interpretations the Church. Is he effective? Of course. It’s not hard to attack positions based on Biblical authority because it’s all inconsistent. Likewise, Calvin’s doctrine is just as vulnerable though he chooses not to engage in the same analysis of his own conclusions. Unsurprisingly, logical absurdities are dealt by Calvin with the stand-by defense that though we can know God's will, we cannot understand God’s will. Calvin even goes a step further to reprimand those that question these absurdities for their all too human arrogance. Of course, he’s only referring to those who question his interpretation, not the Church’s. The first book of The Institutes contains an excellent example of how Calvin deals with those who dispute his premises:I am aware of what is muttered in corners by certain miscreants, when they would display their acuteness in assailing divine truth. They ask, how do we know that Moses and the prophets wrote the books which now bear their names? No, they even dare to question whether there ever was a Moses. Were any one to question whether there ever was a Plato, or an Aristotle, or a Cicero, would not the rod or whip be deemed the fit chastisement of such folly?” Bk. I, Ch. 8, pg. 40. If you find such arguments persuasive, you’ll enjoy this book. Calvin’s interpretation most notably speaks on the lack of free will. God has his elect and there‘s nothing we can do to change who he has chosen, but we don’t know who is actually chosen, so we should all continue to follow God’s decrees. It doesn't change anything, but it's what God wants. To his credit, Calvin is thorough. He cites his positions to biblical passages with the zeal one expects from a zealot. Unlike classical religious writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, it’s depressing that Calvin lacks intellectual curiosity beyond scripture. He is clearly well-educated and makes compelling attacks against Church authority. However, a fantastic tradition of Western thought is dispensed with in his all consuming quest to decipher the will of God from a book pieced together centuries earlier.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    Every year, my husband and I embark on a joint yearly reading project that explores, in-depth, some work, theme, or figure of historical significance to the Christian faith. In 2016, we started in the obvious place—the Bible—using the ingenious 52-week plan that divides the Bible up by genre, a wonderful alternative to going chronologically. Being bogged down by Leviticus...a thing of the past! I wholeheartedly recommend this plan. The entire Calvin's Institutes was to be for 2017, but it took th Every year, my husband and I embark on a joint yearly reading project that explores, in-depth, some work, theme, or figure of historical significance to the Christian faith. In 2016, we started in the obvious place—the Bible—using the ingenious 52-week plan that divides the Bible up by genre, a wonderful alternative to going chronologically. Being bogged down by Leviticus...a thing of the past! I wholeheartedly recommend this plan. The entire Calvin's Institutes was to be for 2017, but it took three years instead of one to finish it (Book 4 is hard). I won't try to write a review that does justice to a reading experience that took three years to complete. Instead, I will allow a great quote from Marilynne Robinson on remembering her first experience with Calvin's Institutes to help frame my own review: "I was astonished to realize how utterly different Calvin is from anything I had ever heard or read about him. It was really moving to discover such a vast and lucid and gracious spirit." The words, vast, lucid, and gracious are well-chosen when discussing the Institutes. Vast, because virtually every idea relevant to Christian thought and life is given careful attention here: creation, Christology, grace, prayer, Roman Catholicism (to a sometimes tedious degree!), the sacraments, the human condition, the Christian intellect, government, you name it. Lucid, because, in addition to being a work of major historical significance, it is also a considerable literary achievement. It's more readable than I thought it would be, and rich with artfully-constructed prose. And gracious because Calvin is much gentler and kinder than his reputation often suggests. That being said, he has a real penchant for controlled crustiness too, but even that was refreshing. My favorite Calvin insult: "syllable-snatchers" (leveled at those trouble-makers who argued that Christ's body is literally found in the bread of the Lord's Supper). The first three books are in my husband's office, but I will close with a favorite passage from Book 4, which, I think, captures the vastness, lucidity, and graciousness which Robinson identified: "This is the wonderful exchange which, out of [Christ's] measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our morality, he has conferred his immorality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself, he has clothed us with his righteousness" (4.17.2). P.S., In case anyone is curious, 2020 will be spent touring the life and work of C.S. Lewis, in chronological order.

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