John Calvin (1509-64) was a French Protestant lawyer, reformer and theologian born in Picardy. He broke with the Catholic church around 1530.
Calvin’s growing sympathy for the Reformation movement led him to flee Paris in 1533 to Basil, Switzerland for fear of persecution from the Church. In Switzerland he began to reform the church of Geneva, at the request of the evangelist, William Farel.
His extensive commentaries on the New Testament and to some degree the Old Testament were highly influential to the development of Protestantism. As a reformer, he remains a leading figure in that diverse (some might say fractured) movement.
Calvin’s authority was practically uncontested during his final years, and he enjoyed an international reputation as a reformer distinct from Martin Luther. Initially, Luther and Calvin had mutual respect for each other. However, a doctrinal conflict had developed between Luther and Zurich reformer Huldrych Zwingli on the interpretation of the eucharist. Calvin’s opinion on the issue forced Luther to place him in Zwingli’s camp.¹
Learned, literate, and theologically imaginative, works like his Institutes exhibit the complex theological scholarship and discursive style characteristic of his era.
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