John Calvin's Book Entitled the Institutes Term Paper

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¶ … John Calvin's book entitled the Institutes of the Christian Religion. This paper will explore the doctrines and opinions of the greater reformer and offer a modern view of the works.

John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is a monumental work that stands among the greatest works of Christian theology and Western literature. It ranks with works such as St. Augustine's Confessions and City of God in value, insight and significance. The Institutes have molded the church's understanding of Christian doctrine for generations and has had untold influence in the development of Western thought in both the religious and civil arenas. Calvin's Institutes represent his life work in teaching theology. They first appeared in 1536 and went through three significant revisions - each expanding and building upon the previous. This particular edition represents the final form and of which Calvin was very pleased.

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Originally written to give basic understanding of Christian doctrine, they became one of the earliest systematic theologies of the Reformed tradition. Calvin's stated desire is to give the reader the necessary background to read and accurately handle the great doctrines and promises of the Bible. Calvin sent a copy to the King Francis I to encourage him to stop persecuting the Christians who were embracing the gospel as taught by the Reformers. His basic argument was that if the king understood what these people believed he would stop killing as heretics but rather see them as faithful adherents of historical Christianity. Calvin was no lover of novelty and throughout the Institutes copiously sights from the early church fathers and the long history of the Churches understanding of doctrine. This one-volume work is broken down into four books that loosely follow the outline of the Apostle's Creed. Book 1 concerns knowledge of God. Book 2 is about Jesus Christ as redeemer. Book 3 is about the Holy Spirit's role in applying Christ's redeeming graces. Book 4 is about the church and practice.

TOPIC: Term Paper on John Calvin's Book Entitled the Institutes of Assignment

This edition, translated by Beverage is not as good as the one by Battles and edited by McNeil. While the church is indebted to Beverage for his labor of love getting many works by Calvin translated into English, his command of both French and Latin were not as strong as Battles. In fact, Beverage does not even deal with Calvin's Latin version of the Institutes. They were originally produced in both Latin and French and Battles' work demonstrates his competency in dealing with both languages. Also, Battles' mastery of Calvin's other writings is reflected in his voluminous footnotes, many of them very helpful to the reader for clarifying, further reading and cross-referencing. In addition, the indexes in the Battles' edition are invaluable not only for searching the Institutes for topics but for gleaming Calvin's understanding of the church fathers. If the cost of the Battles translation is prohibitive, then you will not go wrong with this Beverage edition. But for difference between the two editions, the Battles work with worth every extra dollar you pay.

No serious individual could ever deny the fact that John Calvin was brilliant. He wrote and knew so much and at such a young age; it is all tremendous. However, unlike the others who may read this book, one can write from a point-of-view not in agreement with Calvin's theology. Personally, my theological journey has been Christian, conservative, and orthodox. Hopefully this review proves helpful, and it will be to the extent that it is read by individuals who are indeed willing to listen to a dissenting opinion.

First, Calvin is anything but readable. He is, in fact, darn right confusing. Those who say he is not flowery or straight-forward are wrong. Before purchasing the book, go to the online version and read the first paragraph of the Epistle to the Reader and you will have enough proof that he, like the energizer bunny, goes on...and on...and on...and on. While sections are quite readable, it is nearly impossible to get his meaning on the first go around for the vast majority of his work (this and others). He can be rightly described as "grandiloquent"; "airy" also comes to mind. A good editor could have brought this book down to 600 pages.

Second, in addition to what Calvin says, it is also very difficult to understand what he means. An educated individual can struggle for a week or so to try to make sense of his words and finally discovered that the following is helpful: Do not try to connect anything Calvin says to anything you know from the Scriptures. Ignore Christianity and you will be able to understand Calvin much easier. Approach this work in the same way you would a French philosopher or a Greek mathematician. Just read what he has to say and keep it divorced from Scripture. In that way, you do not have to struggle through his definitions, his theology, his new ideas, his countless catch phrases.

Third, remember that Calvin's training was in humanism. He apparently never repented of that, and it shows throughout his works: right from Chapter One of Book One where he speaks of the necessity of obtaining knowledge of oneself. Do not argue against him or try to support his words from Scripture or understand Scripture from his words. You cannot do this because he is not coming from a Christian perspective; he is coming from a secular, humanist perspective, and until scholars provide evidence that he repudiated his earlier training, it is helpful for today's reader to understand that Calvin's basic philosophy was not a Christian one. If one recognizes this, Calvin becomes more readable as this book becomes an exploration into uncharted thoughts, rather than serious biblical study.

Fourth, do not try to find a Christian doctrine in his works. Whether or not you find it is up to you, but if you struggle with his words and try to compare what he says with Scripture, you will find difficulties and blaring inconsistencies. Looking closely, you will find he adds words to the Biblical text (see, for example, Eph 2:20 on page 69), changes words around, redefines words (but is singularly careful to give you his own definitions), and, in general, approaches God, Christ, and salvation so entirely different from what you have been taught from the pulpit and in your studies that his theology is unrecognizable. Time after time he makes statements that are directly contradictory to Scripture (for example, in his Romans commentary he states we are all asleep in our sins, rather than dead). Read his commentary on Psalm 29 and you'll laugh at his "compel them by force" approach to worship. Those who say, as Howard Vos does, for example, that Calvin is the "father of the historical-grammatical method" are misinformed. His methods do not support this, and it slaps the German Reformers in the face, since they used that method long before Calvin became famous.

The contention that Calvin might have doctrines which are so far from the Scripture is debatable. The problem for Calvin is that it has indeed been debated within the Christian community. The Formula of Concord argues that Calvin's belief that the divine nature of Christ did not die on the cross means Jesus himself would need a savior. The idea of an irresistible and permanent election, coupled with the doctrine of limited atonement, is so far from justification by faith through grace that it is nearly impossible to find agreement between Calvinism and Christianity. Finding agreement between Calvin with anything else is difficult because Calvin has a new definition for almost every word he uses. Calvin's position is precocious, and from my studies I have concluded that if Calvin's followers are indeed Christian, it is only because they do not understand what his words mean. See the first… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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