Institutes of the Christian Religion Themes

John Calvin

Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Although Calvin wrote little about himself, insights into his thinking can be gained by observing how he responded to his critics and by noting the spiritual advice he gave to fellow believers. Autobiographical references appear in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, as Calvin often related his own condition to that of figures in the Bible. He emphasized Christians’ dependence on the Holy Spirit for the proper understanding of Scripture and their reliance on the Spirit to empower godly living. More than any reformer of his era, Calvin organized the biblical data about the Third Person of the Trinity and so became the theologian of the Holy Spirit.

Not content to produce a work of detached erudition, the reformer presented his Institutes of the Christian Religion as primarily a summary of piety or spirituality. The book affirms God’s right to rule all he has made, and it calls readers to lives of devotion through following Jesus’ example. Along with learned exegesis of Scripture in its original languages are profuse expressions of praise and gratitude to God and admonitions to love him and to obey his commandments. Calvin never regarded scholarship as an end in itself. Truth must be applied to life. He made this clear in his address to Francis I, and he closed his work with a treatise about the God-given role of civil government. Divine revelation conveys the correct knowledge of God, and it specifies the proper relationship...

(The entire section is 452 words.)