Too much emphasis on Calvin?

Discussion in 'Church History' started by arapahoepark, Oct 3, 2019.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    If I ever get the chance to teach world history or western civ(if it still exists), I have been thinking of how I would approach the Reformation. Many textbooks and courses cover Luther and Calvin and sometimes Zwingli, and of course Henry VIII. However, is there a proper emphasis especially here in the English speaking world? Calvin systematized a lot, surely, yet he wasn't the only or first predestinarian.
    How much of an influence did he have compared to other 'Calvinists'?
  2. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritanboard Colporteur

    I wish I had time to reply more at length. This is something I have often pondered. Many great theologians do tend to get overlooked in the pages of history for individuals such as Knox and Calvin. I get it, but other towering figures had a far-reaching influence. There are two individuals that I have specifically in mind, William Perkins and Gisbertus Voetius. They both had an incalculable influence in their day. As I am currently writing a biography on Voetius, I pray that his obscurity fades. He was a powerhouse in defending Reformed theology. I will try to embellish upon these two tomorrow.
    I look forward to hearing what others have to say about this. Also, do not get me wrong. I am very much indebted to Calvin.

    Note: I hastily read your post. You specifically said the Reformation. The two I mentioned were later. If you are talking specifically about the Reformation, Heinrich Bullinger and Peter Martyr Vermigli were prominent Reformation theologians most worthy of our attention today. God used William Farel to convince Calvin of staying in Geneva. The impact of that was incredible.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2019
    • Informative Informative x 2
    • List
  3. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    In seminary, I took an upper-level class on the life and theology of Jonathan Edwards from Dr. Doug Sweeney. Of course, as background, we had to talk briefly about the English Puritans. Unless I am mistaken in my memory, I remember Dr. Sweeney saying that Calvin likely didn’t have as much influence as we might think in Reformation England, at least as much as, say, the Dutch did. Calvin was a major Reformation influence, no doubt, but I seem to remember discussing how men like Bullinger (not Dutch) actually wrote way more and had a much wider readership than Calvin did at first.

    The issue is that Calvin eventually won the day in terms of popularity. Nobody really reads Bullinger anymore.
  4. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I have heard it said many times that without John Calvin, you could not understand Western Civilization and its origin. Here's a typical quote that I quickly found.

    The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in which he argues how Calvin's ideas led directly to the development of capitalism. Similarly, political historians have recognised his contributions to the development of representative democracy in general and the American system of government in particular, with Calvin's doctrine of sin and pessimistic view of man, for instance, justifying a strong system of checks and balances and his ideas on Christian liberty contributing generally to the religious freedom and openness of these societies."​
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    One of the greatest of all Reformed minds, Samuel Rutherford, didn't quote Calvin all that much. Calvin wasn't a scholastic powerhouse, and you needed those distinctions to fight back against Bellarmine, so the Reformed scholastics didn't always feel the need to go to Calvin.
  6. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    The important influence of Heinrich Bullinger is increasingly being recognized - here, here, and here.
  7. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    The reasons Calvin is so important are: 1. that his Institutes was the first ST in the Reformed world that spoke to Everyman; 2. his school trained most of the important next gen Reformers, including those that brought Presbyterianism to the British Isles; 3. his commentaries opened up the Scriptures in a way that no other commentator of the time did; and 4. his way of codifying the Presbyterian form of government was deeply influential; 5. his writings on government gave clarity to the magisterial Reformation like few others; 6. he knew and corresponded with pretty much all of the other Reformers of the time.
    • Like Like x 4
    • Informative Informative x 2
    • List
  8. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    There are influences today that, should Christ tarry, will be regarded as of immense importance at some future moment. Which same influences in our time are presently viewed as simply background; or which not speaking so directly or loudly on the current "burning issue," are not rated as highly as those now in the spotlight. There is no way to know what material will rise to the surface over time.

    There were more than a few cities and territories of Reformation in the 1500s. Calvin was a notable figure in a constellation of notable men of his time. But then he and his generation died. What mattered were the ripples each created, and few people regard such things when the splashes are going on and there is lots of other activity.

    Calvin's work had staying power, his influence outlasting his own life and that of many of his contemporaries, at least when measured by perennial acknowledgement of his utility. Everyone's life influences some circle of persons, for good or ill; and that effect remains in the human pool forever, long after any measurable notice has dissipated. "No man is an island..." A few, however, for this reason or that have fresh propagations of their labors periodically reminded to the world, with deliberate attribution.

    Other figures have been forgotten and resurrected. Turretin, Witsius, for example. Will they continue to be read after this century? Will they be replaced again? Calvin and Luther are destined to be remembered (already we can say) within certain circles at least, alongside Augustin and Jerome. Both pairs serve as particularly useful exemplars of a much larger body of voices in a critical era.

    Always, there is debate over how much a man "deserves" to be chosen by after-generations of literati to fill such a role. But the fact remains, he does; and we are left to look at his remains and try to answer the question, "Why?," to our own satisfaction.
  9. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Perhaps Lane was getting at this with his first point, but the impact of style should not be forgotten. People with staying power over centuries generally have something to say, but also a particular skill in saying it well.
    • Like Like x 3
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • List
  10. Sgt Grit

    Sgt Grit Puritan Board Freshman

    There was a time in my life that not only did I think I was lost, but hopelessly lost (Hebrews 6), and it was Calvins commentary on Hebrews that gave me hope. The opinion that I had always heard was that he was harsh, but I found that he had a true pastors heart.

    So... To me Calvin will always be one of the greatest yet underrated men of history.
    • Rejoicing Rejoicing x 1
    • List
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page