1. God Is Who He Is
2. A Passion for the Glory of God in Christ
3. Mastered by the Majesty and Word of God
4. Ministry Made by the Majesty of the Word
5. Marriage to Idelette
6. Constant Trials
7. Constancy in Expounding the Word of God
Calvin’s Barbaric World: The Case of Michael Servetus
The year 2009 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, by common consent one of the greatest, but also one of the most controversial, Christian leaders who ever lived. Yet for a man who stood at the center of the revolutionary upheavals of sixteenth century Europe and who was personally involved in trying to reform churches from Scotland to Hungary, Calvin is surprisingly little known. People write plays and make films about Martin Luther but not about John Calvin, who seems much harder to pin down. We know very little about his early life and almost nothing about his conversion, which must have happened sometime in 1533 or 1534. His wanderings over the next several years, including his extended stay with Martin Bucer in Strasbourg, are better documented, but despite the adventures his travels entailed, they have never seemed to be the stuff of high drama.
The Geneva years are the best known, but even they are widely misunderstood. Few people realize that Calvin was a foreigner in Geneva who was not granted citizenship there until 1559, and so he could never take part in the city's government. Even fewer realize that Calvin's Geneva was not a theocracy but a worldly city-state with which he was frequently at odds. Never a well man, there were times when he almost had to be dragged out of his sickbed to preach from the pulpit of the main city church, and it was something of a miracle that he lived as long as he did.
Yet today more people read Calvin's writings than those of any other Christian outside the New Testament writers. His commentaries remain standard works in and are generally regarded as the first great monument of modern biblical scholarship. 'His Institutes of the Christian Religion' are still required reading for any serious theologian. Even some of his sermons are still in print, though they are unfortunately less well known than his other writings, and many remain in nearly undecipherable manuscript in Geneva, while many more have been lost because the manuscripts were sold for scrap a couple of centuries ago.Calvin was not an original thinker in the sense that Martin Luther or Erasmus of Rotterdam were. He did not discover any new theological principle to set the church on fire, as Luther did. He did not recover any secrets of ancient wisdom as Erasmus was known for doing. His lifelong ambition was to see the conversion of France to Protestantism, but although he was able to gather French Protestants under his wing, they failed to take over France, and Calvin had to be content with England and Scotland instead - Holland did not accept his teachings until after his death. Calvin was great, not for his originality or for his achievements, but for his deep grasp of the coherence of the Christian message, which stemmed from his profound relationship with God.Calvin was a man possessed by the Holy Spirit. He knew that he had been called to meet with God in Christ and to spread God's Word to a hungry and dying world, and he never flagged in that mission. From the start, he understood that to know God is to step into another world, to be born again into a relationship with the One who made and governs all things, and who had called a people, who did not deserve it, to rule that creation at his side. He knew that this relationship had many facets to it, but he also understood its fundamental coherence, and it was this that he brought to his study and exposition of Christian theology.
Fundamental to that theology was the Word of God ...