Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I am reading a brand new biography of John Calvin titled John Calvin: A Pilgrim's Life. It's by Herman J. Selderhuis, professor of church history and polity at the Theological University Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. If you don't know much about Calvin (or even if you do), I'd highly recommend this one. It's very readable and doesn't get too bogged down in details.

Even though I've read a fair amount by and about this hero of the Reformation, I'm finding out all sorts of interesting things about Calvin as a person and as a pastor. He experienced a lot of grief personally. His mother died when he was but three years old. He didn't get married until he was 31, to a widow named Idelette. John and Idelette lost their first child, Jacques, just 22 days after he was born. In the next five years Calvin would lose two more children at birth. Idelette herself was almost continually sick, and died after she and John had been married nine years.

Calvin's sermons were all about an hour long (think about that next time I run past 30 minutes!). In Geneva he pushed for celebrating communion every week - something I've had recent discussions about with various people. He loved music and the arts, and wanted to see the congregation do more singing in worship. Selderhuis writes, "When Calvin came to Geneva, no music could be heard in the churches at all, and he was the one who actually reintroduced it in the form of singing."

Calvin was almost constantly criticized and unfairly blamed for problems in Geneva where he tried to bring reform to the city and the church. Yet he hung on and didn't waver, believing that God had called him. That's inspiring to me. While his standards for people were high, and while his measures may have been over the top at times, I admire how he brought accountability into the church.

I could say much more, but I hope you will take time to get acquainted with this man to whom we owe a lot.

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