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Calvin and Calvinism

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October 31 is Reformation Day: a day of commemoration in which we attend church for a fourfold positive purpose:

Appreciation: to reflect on what God has done through the Reformation. Confirmation: to be solidified in the basic doctrines of grace espoused in the Reformation era.

Direction: to receive “Reformation” guidance for the issues of the present day.

Supplication: “Lord, revive us in Reformation truth to our very core.”


Questions on religious books may be addressed to 55 Robin Hood Way, Wayne, N) 07470.

The Flavor of Reformed Faith

But just what is the Reformation? For us, it’s much more than Luther’s Ninety-five Theses posted on church doors, October 31, 1517. Much more than Luther himself who has rightly been called, “the father of the Reformation.” Much more than Protestants reacting against Roman Catholic abuses.

For us, the Reformation represents the restoration of the doctrines of grace: biblically, doctrinally, practically, experientially. It’s an entire spirit, flavor, and thrust embedded in the Reformed faith which by grace compels the whole man to surrender to God in every sphere of life.


The Reformed faith is too broad to be comprehended in one breath. Its flavor is best caught when it is presented from several perspectives.


Its historical perspective is Protestantism’s answer to Roman Catholicism

— an answer we may aptly sum as “the fivefold solus” (solus is a Latin word meaning, “alone”). First, Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) as the source

of Christian revelation, authority, and rule of faith and practice — not Rome’s Scripture and tradition concept. Second, justification by faith alone (sola fide) as a gift of God — not Rome’s faith and works brand of Semi-Pela-gianism. Third, grace alone (sola gratia)

— not Rome’s system of grace and superogatory merits. Fourth, Christ alone (solus Christus) — not Rome’s Christ and the intercession of Mary and the saints. Fifth, glory to Cod alone (soli Deo gloria) — not Rome’s glory

to God and the papal apostolic succession. This dichotomy — “alone” versus “and” — is the issue involved between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism viewed historically.

Protestantism rapidly evolved into a threefold prong: Lutheranism, Calvinism (synonomous with “Reformed”), and Anabaptism. From a polemical perspective, our Reformed or Calvinistic tradition may be aptly portrayed in the well-known acronym, T-U-L-l-P:

Total depravity

Unconditional election

Limited atonement

Irresistible grace

Perseverance of the saints

“Tulip” is the outgrowth of the Canons of Dordt (1618-1619) in which Armin-ianism was roundly condemned, and the doctrines of sovereign grace set forth in bold relief.

From a practical perspective, additional emphases ought to be underscored as essential to the flavor of Reformed thought. Among others, those that are comprehensive of all life include: divine sovereignty and lordship; divine covenant; and a Biblical world-and-life view.

Books on Calvin and Calvinism

These historical, polemical, and practical perspectives of Reformed theology are best fleshed out in the works of the renowned John Calvin (1509-1564), rightly called, the “solid-ifier” and “organizer” of Reformed Protestantism; his successor, Theodore Beza (1519-1605); and the subsequent movement spearheaded at Geneva now known as Calvinism. This movement would have its greatest impact in the Netherlands, the British Isles, and North America.

Reading in the area of “Calvin and Calvinism” is indispensable for a real grasp of our Reformed faith. Happily, many excellent books have been written to aid us in this area in recent years. In fact, Calvinism has flourished in the past decade in North America, South Africa, and parts of Europe beyond all human expectation.

Recommended titles appear on the adjacent page.

The Reformation represents the restoration of the doctrines of grace: biblically, doctrinally, practically, experientially.

*Battles, Ford Lewis. Analysis of the Institutes of the Christian Religion of John Calvin. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980.

Valuable aid in assisting the reader to reap the most out of Calvin’s Institutes by offering a detailed outline of the main thrust of each section.

*Boettner, Loraine. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1932.

Excellent summary of Calvinism. Spells out its general principles, surveys the “Five Points of Calvinism,” answers objections against predestination, and provides thumb-nail sketch of the history of Calvinism. [Other helpful volumes entitled “Five Points of Calvinism” are written by Steele and Thomas, Palmer, Beck, Hanko, et. al, Seaton, etc. Coppes proposes “ten points” of Calvinism.]

*Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries. Various translators; 22 vols. Reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979.

Invaluable. Calvin’s Spirit-gifted skill as an exegete of Scripture has been long heralded.

*Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Volumes 20-21 of the Library of Christian Classics. Edited by John T. McNeill. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960.

Essential primary source reading for anyone intent upon understanding the Reformed faith. The all-time classic in Protestant theology. This McNeill/Battle edition is far and away the best available in English; includes invaluable indices.

Calvin, John. Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters. 7 vols. Reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983.

Valuable for those wishing to dip into the practical side of Calvin.


For assistance in obtaining new books at discount prices, try Bible Truth Books, P.O. Box 2373, Kalamazoo, Ml 49003 and/or Puritan Reformed Discount Book Service, 1319 Newport Gap Pike, Plaza 41, Wilmington, Delaware 19804.



*Cunningham, William. The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation. London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1967.


Greatly rewards the careful reader. Thoroughly sound, Cunningham’s work is a classic in Reformed theology.

Dowey, Edward A. The Knowledge of God in Calvin’s Theology. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952. [OP|

Helpful at many junctures, but not always orthodox. Recommended only for discerning readers.

Duffield, G.E., ed. John Calvin. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966.

Competent essays (chapters 1 -2 excepted). Packer’s “Calvin the Theologian” is particularly helpful.

Helm, Paul. Calvin and the Calvinists. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982.

Helpful answer to those (especially Kendall) attempting to drive a wedge between Calvin and the Calvinists.

*Klooster, Fred H. Calvin’s Doctrine of Predestination. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977.

Invaluable, easy reading for scholar and layman alike. The book to read if interested in the doctrine of predestination.

Kuyper, Abraham. Calvinism. Reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981. Renowned Stone lectures for 1898. Presents Calvinism as a life-system, which is fleshed out specifically in ramifications for religion, politics, science, art, and the future.

McNeill, John T. The History and Character of Calvinism. New York: Oxford, 1954. More accurate on the spread of Calvinism than on Calvin’s theology. Superseded by the anthology of Reid listed below.

*Meeter, H. Henry. The Basic Ideas of Calvinism. 5th ed. Grand Rapids: Guardian Press, 1975.

Reliable introduction to basic principles of Calvinism for youth and adults.

Murray, John. Calvin on Scripture and Divine Sovereignty. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1960. [OP|

Reliable treatment, newly made available in the Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 4, pp. 158-204 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust).

Niesel, Wilhelm. The Theology of Calvin. Reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980. Notwithstanding Niesel’s tendency to read Calvin anachronistically through Barthian spectacles, makes valuable contributions for the advanced reader.

*Reid, W. Stanford, ed. John Calvin: His Influence in the Western World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.

The book to purchase on the history of the spread of Calvinism. Countries covered by capable contributors in a very readable, yet scholarly, manner, include Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, England, Scotland, America, Canada, Australia, and South Africa. Highly recommended (chapter 9 excepted).

*Van Halsema, Thea B. This was John Calvin. Reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981. The best book to purchase for grasping the life of Calvin in a very readable and attractive style. Excellent for youth.

Wallace, Ronald S. Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life, and Calvin’s Doctrine of Word and Sacrament. Reprint ed., Tyler, TX: Geneva Divinity School Press, 1982. Companion volumes of substance that are basically true to Calvin’s thought.

*Warfield, Benjamin B. Calvin and Augustine. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1956. [OP]

Scholarly, insightful, and thoroughly sound.

Wendel, Francois. Calvin: The Origins and Development of His Religious Thought.

New York: Harper and Row, 1963. [OP] A highly respected work which offers unique contributions in summarizing Calvin’s life and theology.

*Particularly suitable for church libraries.

IOPI-Presently out of print, but frequently available through used book stores, such as Baker’s,

2768 East Paris, S.E., Grand Rapids, Ml 49506;

Kregel’s, 525 Eastern S.E., Grand Rapids, Ml 49504.

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van dinsdag 1 oktober 1985

The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's

Calvin and Calvinism

Bekijk de hele uitgave van dinsdag 1 oktober 1985

The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's

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