Calvin F. Bruce Gordon

Publication date:
15 Apr 2011
Yale University Press
432 pages: 197 x 127mm
12 b-w illus
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A revealing new portrait of John Calvin that captures his human complexity and the sixteenth-century world in which he fought his personal and theological battles

During the glory days of the French Renaissance, young John Calvin (1509-1564) experienced a profound conversion to the faith of the Reformation. For the rest of his days he lived out the implications of that transformation—as exile, inspired reformer, and ultimately the dominant figure of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin’s vision of the Christian religion has inspired many volumes of analysis, but this engaging biography examines a remarkable life. Bruce Gordon presents Calvin as a human being, a man at once brilliant, arrogant, charismatic, unforgiving, generous, and shrewd.

The book explores with particular insight Calvin’s self-conscious view of himself as prophet and apostle for his age and his struggle to tame a sense of his own superiority, perceived by others as arrogance. Gordon looks at Calvin’s character, his maturing vision of God and humanity, his personal tragedies and failures, his extensive relationships with others, and the context within which he wrote and taught. What emerges is a man who devoted himself to the Church, inspiring and transforming the lives of others, especially those who suffered persecution for their religious beliefs.

Bruce Gordon is professor of Reformation history, Yale Divinity School. He is author and editor of a number of books, including The Swiss Reformation.

"This biography excels in providing a scrupulous, detailed narrative from the ground up... Gordon always, across 340 pages of detailed narrative, gives us the story in its full complexity." -James Simpson, Times Literary Supplement

"Those who want to engage with the facts should read Bruce Gordon's book Calvin, which is outstanding." -David A. Robertson, Prospect

"Aconsidered book, balanced and fair, and very informative, written in an accessible manner... what is so salutary is the sanity of tone and the justice of the assessments... Disliked in his day as a foreigner, and disparaged now as a fanatic, poor Calvin deserves reassessment, and Bruce Gordon's biography achieves this well." -Edward Norman, Literary Review

"Masterful... this biography succeeds spectacularly by allowing a vivid insight into the life and world of Calvin, using generous quotations from his correspondence." -Hilmar Pabel, The Tablet

"This biography paints a vibrant portrait of Calvin the man, as well as Calvin the great thinker and reformer, and makes enthralling reading."—Good Book Guide