An Explorer's Guide to John Calvin
by Yudha Thianto
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Pub Date 12 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 11 Aug 2022
InterVarsity Press, IVP Academic
Creation is the theater of God's glory. Scripture is like a pair of glasses that clarifies our vision of God. Justification is the hinge on which religion turns.
These and other affirmations are often associated with John Calvin, the 16th-century French Protestant Reformer best known for his ministry in Geneva and his authorship of the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Over the course of his lifetime and through several editions, Calvin expanded the Institutes from a brief study to a four-volume book that covers the main doctrines of the Christian faith and continues to shape the theology of the Reformed tradition.
In this volume, Reformed theologian Yudha Thianto guides readers through a careful study of Calvin's Institutes. After setting Calvin and his writing in their historical context, he outlines the most significant aspects of Calvin's theology, guiding those who would know more about his work and, through it, the God who inspired him.
Books in the Explorer's Guide series are accessible guidebooks for those studying the great Christian texts and theologians from church history, helping readers explore the context in which these texts were written and navigate the rich yet complex terrain of Christian theology.
"This not just another book on Calvin but a personal and very readable account of the life and doctrine of the Genevan reformer. Calvin's theological relevance is made clear, classic misunderstandings are cleared up and put aside, and the picture of a man devoted to serving God and the church is painted as a mirror to the reader."
-Herman Selderhuis, professor of church history at the Theological University of Apeldoorn and president of the Reformation Research Consortium
"Anyone interested in exploring the life and thought of John Calvin will welcome this book! Thianto is a veteran scholar and teacher of Calvin who guides us step by step to understand Calvin's life and context as well as the dynamic theology that motivated readers of his magnum opus, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Thianto presents each of the four 'books' of the Institutes, providing clear discussions of their major theological insights. Primarily the Institutes provide a way of understanding God's revelation in Holy Scripture. As such, Calvin's thought has had a lasting impact on the global church. His views also nurture Christian living. Thianto's book helps us understand Calvin's theology and ways his insights can be significant for us today!"
-Donald K. McKim, author of John Calvin: A Companion to His Life and Theology and Coffee with Calvin: Daily Devotions
"The Explorer's Guide to John Calvin is an appealing introduction to one of the Reformation's most influential figures. Countering many modern misconceptions about the Genevan reformer, Yudha Thianto presents Calvin as a man of his times and also as a profound theologian who still speaks to Christians today. Thianto's lively and sympathetic portrait of Calvin's life and theology is an ideal starting point for those wanting to learn more about the origins of Calvinism."
-Amy Nelson Burnett, Varner Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 4 members
To start, I do not usually read biographies or books dedicated to one individual because they tend to be longer, and I focus more on the theology of individuals instead of events from their respective lives. But this book is intriguing because it is not a traditional biography. As the title says, it is an explorer's guide, which is a very appropriate name!
First off, I enjoyed how the book was divided into two distinct parts. The first part is about John Calvin as a person, and the second is a broad overview of his most famous work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion.
My favorite aspect of the first part of the book was the section with frequently asked questions about John Calvin. I recognized many of the questions that Thianto answered from conversations with friends about Calvin and his theology (yes, I am talking about TULIP and predestination). There were many answers to questions that taught me new things about Calvin as well.
Thianto does a great job going through the four books of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. He summarizes the essential aspects and highlights the context and logic of Calvin's writings. The book's second part, which focuses on the Institutes, is an excellent overview of Calvin's work without going too in-depth into the "nitty-gritty."
Overall, I thought Yudha Thianto's Explorer's Guide to John Calvin accomplishes its goal. It is an easy-to-read, short, focused work for anyone interested in Calvin as a man and theologian to read. I would recommend it to anyone interested in John Calvin’s life and/or theology.