Leader of the Protestant Reformationby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
John Calvin, born Jean Chauvin or Caulvin, was an extremely influential leader of non-Lutheran Protestantism, perhaps the most prolific in his time. Born in northern France, he originally trained to become a lawyer, following in his father's footsteps and studying law in Orleans and Bourges. At the death of his father in 1531, Calvin felt free to continue his theological studies in the College de France in order to study Greek. He also studied theology at the University of Paris before he joined the Reformation's cause in 1533. At this point he questioned Catholicism and consequently converted to Protestantism. (New Standard Encyclopedia, John Calvin)
John Calvin's influence led to a branch of theological thinking called
Calvinism, obviously named after its most significant influencer. The
rigid confines of Calvinism have created many critics; however, Calvin,
as well as many others, continued to hold to such structure. Calvin's
research and knowledge of the Bible were thorough and well thought out;
his main desire was to convey the absolute power of God and the supremacy
of His Word. Calvinism is split up into 5 points, which are as follows:
1. Total Depravity. Man alone cannot cave himself due to his completely sinful nature. He has no free will and is will always be bound by sin nature.
2. Unconditional Election. God's choosing of those individuals who would receive His salvation was done by His will alone. The choice was not based on the actions, good deeds, or obedience of anyone. Basically, a sinner's decision to repent is due to God's election and not the sinner's choosing to love Christ.
3. Limited Atonement. Salvation was secured for God's elect only, guaranteeing for them the redemption from an eternity in hell. In addition to this, the elect will receive the faith necessary to accept this salvation.
4. Irresistible Grace. In the elect receive an inward push to accept the Holy Spirit's call in their lives. God does not depend on man's ability to accept this gift of salvation for himself, rather he draws sinners towards him and implants such a desire in their hearts. This grace cannot be resisted and thus all of God's elect will be saved, as it is God's Will for them.
5. Perseverance of the Saints. God's chosen people, those redeemed by the blood of Christ and given faith, will be eternally saved. This salvation cannot be lost, nor can it come as a result of the sinner.
These five points that create the framework for Calvinism are often represented with a mnemonic, using the first letter of each word you come up with "TULIP." As one can see, the key element in Calvinism is the belief of predestination, a proposition that is still hotly debated today. One of Calvinism's leading oppositional views, Armenianism, teaches Free Will, the ability for each person to choose salvation on his own; such opposing views have created quite a debate in the church bodies of many Christians. (The Five Points of Calvinism)
John Calvin fled Paris in 1533 in fear of being burned as a heretic and lived him remaining years traveling through different parts of France, Italy, and Switzerland. In 1536, Calvin traveled to Geneva and there took part in a call for a radical reformation of Geneva's opposing authorities. One group, the Libertines, wanted the clergy under the authority of magistrates, while the more radical thinkers desired that the clergy control the people, or a type of theocracy. Eventually, the Libertines won and Calvin continued on to Strasbourg; however, the Libertines lost power only 2 years later and thus Calvin attempted once more to convince them to accept a theocracy. After 14 years he managed to persuade them of his views, and Geneva became the most influential city in the entire Protestant movement.
Calvin continued to rely upon his infant baptism for salvation, and declared that being baptized as a baby was the sure way of knowing one was among the elect. He opposed those who got saved and were then baptized and he banned Anabaptists from Geneva in 1537. Calvin even had some burned at the stake for this belief.
The path that Calvin paved with his radical thinking and desire to accurately portray God's sovereignty has most certainly not been embraced by all believers. Even so, his work is admirable and his tenacity incredible; he managed to win over many critics of his time and his teachings are still in practice today.
"John Calvin". Nov 2002. History Learning Site. 15 April 2004. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/John_Calvin.htm>.
New Standard Encyclopedia. 1992. J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company.
"The Five Points of Calvinism". Furman University. 15 April