Key Players in The Reformation
If Martin Luther was the heart of the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin was the mind. He is quit arguably the most important Protestant theologian of all time. Calvin was born in 1509 in Noyon in France, so he was still a child when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, however, Calvin’s influence as a theologian, pastor, statesman, reformer, and teacher are second to none.
At age fourteen, Calvin entered the University of Paris, to study theology and graduated with a master’s degree at the age of 19, and a law degree at the age of 23. It was through his studies of the works of Martin Luther that Calvin was converted, and because of his protestant views, he was forced to flee Paris in 1533. Calvin moved to Switzerland where he penned his theological masterpiece, Institutes of the Christian Religion.
In 1536, Calvin decided to move to Strasbourg, in southwest Germany, to further his studies, but was forced to detour to Geneva, where he planned to spend only one night.
While there, he was recognized as the author of “the Institutes”, and was convinced to stay and lead the newly protestant town. Calvin started out as a lecturer and then as a pastor. All went well, until Calvin instituted church discipline at the Communion table. He refused to serve some he knew were living in open sin and was forced out of the town.
Calvin left for Strasbourg and was convinced by another reformer Martin Bucer, to continue his pastoral ministry there. While in Strasbourg, Calvin wrote what has been hailed as the greatest apologetic for the Reformation, A Reply to Sadoleto. After three years, Calvin was called back to Geneva, a city that had deteriorated politically and religiously since Calvin’s departure. Calvin was a verse-by-verse expositor of the scripture, and on his first Sunday back in the pulpit in Geneva, Calvin picked up right here he left off, on the very next verse following the last one he had covered before being exiled.
Calvin faced many trials while in Geneva. Steve Lawson explains it this way, “He faced the resistance of the Libertines, people within Geneva who were antinomians, living in open sin and immorality. But most demanding by far was the ordeal caused by Michael Servetus in 1553.
This known heretic was burned at the stake by the city fathers after Calvin had been called as an expert witness. In other trials during this time, Calvin’s son, Jacques, died only two weeks after his birth in 1542, and Calvin’s wife, Idelette, died in 1549 after only nine years of marriage.”
However, the Lord brought Calvin through these tribulations and the last 9 years of his ministry were blessed with unity and growth.
Calvin is most remembered as the theologian who picked up the theological mantle of Augustine as one who focused on the Sovereignty of God in all things.
For more information on the life of John Calvin, I recommend:
The Expository Genius of John Calvin: Steven J. Lawson
Bill Itzel has been a worship leader and singer/songwriter for over 30 years and is based in Westminster, MD. His family tours and leads worship around the country. Bill and his family attend Belcroft Bible Church in Bowie, MD. This is a blog about congregational worship and the latest news in the The Itzel's ministry.