A Review of John Calvin: His Life & Influence

Robert L Reymond’s John Calvin: His Life and Influence is a keeper. There I said it. This admission does not come with some hesitation.

Why would you want this book? I think the answer lies with how desperate you are to know the story of JC (John Calvin not Jesus Christ – keep up). The value of this work is how Reymond deals with the smaller details in Calvin’s life and provides insight and a knowledge of all the resources in order to bring about a richer discussion concerning who John Calvin was and what the passion was that drove him in his life. Because of Reymond’s aptitude to gather information and integrate this information into the bigger picture the entire work has resources and lists that you will not come across in any other work on Calvin. This is the richness of this work. The footnotes are as important as the text. You cannot afford to pass up any  fine point – all of them deserving of consideration. This aspect of the book becomes more and more prominent as you work deeper and deeper into its pages.

An Example:

John Calvin’s conversion experience is itself shrouded in mystery. Still, it is possible than Calvin left a cryptic description of his conversion in a letter to Jacopo Sadoleto who was a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. His letter is a response to a letter that Cardinal Sadoleto sent to Geneva calling for their repentance.  Calvin took up the call to write a response to the Cardinal.

Calvin’s response is too long to reprint here for our purposes, but Reymond’s siting of both letters and his footnotes interacting with this time make it difficult to find cause not to agree with Reymond’s hypothesis that John Calvin had his conversion in view when responding to Cardinal Sadoleto.

But this is just the type of interaction that makes this book so compelling and profitable. General consensus acknowledges that Calvin never provides an autobiographical sketch of how he became a Protestant (and regenerated) believer. Because of this acceptance, events such as Calvin’s letter to the Cardinal are typically glazed over if not ignored. But Reymond understands our betterment for considering the possibility.

There is a weakness with Reymond’s work. It is a laborious read. Originally the book was a four-part lecture and it is easy to see how a lecture can be compelling, while the printed form is tedious.  Initially, I came across this book with the idea that it could serve as an introduction to Calvin. Its length and reviews suggested to me that this would be the case. After reading, I don’t think I could have been farther from the truth. If you want to have a library committed to the reformer than this book should be part of it. If you have never read about Calvin and are looking for a good introductory resource then I would probably encourage you to go elsewhere.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: