After writing Humble Calvinism, I should have seen this coming. But, I didn’t. My bad. I frequently get asked questions about Calvin, the person, and Calvin’s various views on things.
Let’s clear some things up real quick:
I’m no historian. Nor am I a church history buff. Sure, I like it, but I don’t know a ton about it. Just because I wrote a book on the five points of Calvinism, that doesn’t mean I’m an expert on John Calvin’s life, theology, and writing.
You can be a five-point Calvinist before reading anything from John Calvin. That’s my story. How? Because the points come from the Scriptures, not Calvin or a system. While I’ve read some Calvin, I’m by no means a guru on this French Reformer. But I have some recommendations, a guide or starter kit to John Calvin.
- John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor by W. Roberty Godrey. It’s short and easy to read.
- Portrait of Calvin by T.H.L. Parker. Free download at Desiring God.
- The Calvin I Never Knew by Dr. Frank A. James and Reformed Theological Seminary (Apple Podcast)
- The Divine Majesty of the Word, John Calvin: The Man and His Preaching by John Piper.
There is so much to list here but I’m only going to list four things. It’s a beginners kit, y’all.
- A Little Book On the Christian Life. Taken from the Institutes, Calvin’s magnum opus. It’s an outstanding book on, well, the Christian life. Get it.
- The Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition). Calvin’s Institutes grew larger and larger as time went on. This 1541 edition is described as Calvin’s own essentials edition. Paired down by Calvin himself.
- Calvin’s Commentaries. Whatever book of the Bible you are in, or maybe pick your favorite book of the Bible, google Calvin’s commentary on that book and check out what he has to say. He’s brilliant. Digital or search on Amazon for the book you are interested in.
- Calvin’s Preface to the Geneva Bible of 1550: Christ The End Of The Law. Read this. Calvin’s writing here is profound, Jesus-exalting, and gospel-centered. Here we see how Calvin viewed the Bible. It’s incredible. Watch…
Without the Gospel we are useless and vain; without the Gospel we are not Christians; without the Gospel, all wealth is poverty, wisdom is folly before God, strength is weakness, all human justice is damned of God. But by the knowledge of the Gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellows with the saints, citizens of the kingdom of heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the feeble powerful, the fools wise, the sinners justified, the afflicted consoled, the doubters certain, the slaves free. The Gospel is word of life and of truth…
This is in sum what we should seek in the whole Scripture: it is to know well Jesus Christ and the infinite riches which are comprised in Him, and are, by Him, offered to us from God His Father.
See? And that’s just one gold bar in the vault.