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His Life And Influence
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"...despite his stern Calvinist upbringing" - Why is it that in the modern media the word 'Calvinist' is always accompanied by 'stern', 'dour' or 'strict'? Most of the people who use the terms together have next to no knowledge of what Calvinism is - and know even less about who Calvin was. An old-style reactionary? A hard-line ayatollah, raging at the world without any thought? - or is there more to this man than uninformed contemporary critics would have us believe?
Robert Reymond brings us John Calvin the man. A reality quite different from the caricature often painted today. Here is a man of deep spirituality with a real love for his fellow man and God. A man also with tremendous intellectual abilities. Whether the moniker 'stern Calvinist' is applicable or not - his life has much to teach us.
Robert L. Reymond (1932-2013) taught for more than 25 years on the faculties of Covenant Theological Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) and Knox Theological Seminary (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida). He held degrees from Bob Jones University and did post-doctoral studies at Fuller Seminary, New York University, Union Seminary (New York), Tyndale House, Cambridge, and Rutherford House, Edinburgh.
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... an excellent introduction to the Reformer's life and theology.
"...tells the story of Calvin's life and thought in a compact and compelling way that will serve to acquaint readers with the warm human character of Calvin... His description of Calvin's masterful statement at the Lausanne Disputation of 1536 is by itself worth the price of the book."
William Barker, Professor of Church History, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
"Reymond's book is succinct and comprehensive, appreciative and probing, historical and theological, scholarly and pastoral. Especially valuable is Reymond's treatment of the burning of Servetus...that ameliorates to some degree Calvin's involvement in the tragedy."
David Calhoun, Professor of Church History, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri
"...sheds new light on a famous and familiar name. His writing style is scholarly and authoritative... intensely interesting reading."
D. James Kennedy, (1930-2007) Late Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
"It is astonishing how much information Professor Reymond has packed into such a small volume. No student of the Reformation should be without it. Robert Reymond has done the Christian Church a great service in his work, lifting the veil, letting us see the true man of God and the enormous force for good that he has been right down to the present time"
Robert L. Reymond's John Calvin: His Life and Influence is an excellent introductory work on the life, work, and writings of the often misunderstood, John Calvin. This book had been reprinted in 2008 in anticipation for the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth taking place this year. It is fitting to spend this year focusing on the life and teachings of this great servant of God, and Reymond is a helpful guide along the way.
Reymond is former Professor of Systematic Theology at Knox Theological Seminary, Fort Lauderdale, FL, and now regular pulpit supply at Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL. The four chapters of this book comprise a series of four popular lectures the author gave on four consecutive Wednesday nights in February 2002 at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Chapter 1 (or lecture 1) is God's Preparation of the Future Reformed. Here Reymond highlights the young live of the soon-to-be reformer, his studies, his conversion, and how God shaped him through all his experiences and education.
Chapter 2 (or lecture 2) is The Young Reformer and His Institutes. This chapter moves from his young life to his beginning as a reformer and especially in the writing of his Institutes, the magnum opus of the Protestant Reformation. This point goes to Calvin's expulsion from Geneva.
Chapter 3 (or lecture 3) is The Mature Reformer of Geneva and His Accomplishments. This chapter moves to Calvin's life outside of Geneva, his return to Geneva and the importance of this period especially in his writings.
Chapter 4 (or lecture) finalizes the life of Calvin and deals with his last years in Geneva, his emphasis on his influence on others all over the world, and the difficulties in his life especially the burning of Servetus.
It concludes with 3 appendices looking at opposing biographies of Calvin, his influence on Western history, and recommend biographies on Calvin.
Why another biography when there body of secondary literature on Calvin and Calvin studies is probably only rivaled by those of Jonathan Edwards? Reymond's book provides a helpful, positive, but not hagiographical look at a much misunderstood figure, his thinking, writing, influence, written for non-specialists. In this, Reymond excels!
The best chapter in my opinion is the last where he deals with the difficult issues in Calvin's life and His influence. While he does not completely defend Calvin in the burning of Servetus, Reymond does show how the situation is not unusual in the time period Calvin was ministering. Also, Reymond emphasizes the importance of studying the primary resources and writings. Too many who think they know so much about Calvin and Calvinism have never once actually read Calvin. So, he encourages people to especially read his Institutes. I cannot agree with Raymond more. To not read the original sources is to allow others to tell you what someone else believes. Just as we learn Greek and Hebrew to help understand the Scriptures and not rely on someone else's translation we must read the writings of those we seek to understand.
Whether friend or foe of Calvin one must know about him and his thought since he was such a profound figure in the life of the Church. Guides like Reymond help to wade through the mire of what is written about Calvin and help to bring added and needed clarity about him and his thinking. Especially important is helping those in the church know better about Calvin and Calvinism since there is great misunderstanding in this.
So, if you are looking for an introductory biography to Calvin I would recommend Reymond's book highly. For those with knowledge of Calvin and Calvinism you will probably still enjoy it but would probably want to turn to some more techinical works on his life and thinking. And more than anything, as Reymond says, read the Institutes! There is no substitute for reading the primary sources when understanding historical figures and historical theology.
[from Allen's blog]
Posted by Allen Mickle, Jr at 21:47 on Tuesday 04 August 2009