An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Calvin, John

(1509-1564). Reformer and theologian. He was the leading figure in the sixteenth-century movement of reform in Switzerland. Calvin was born in Noyon, in Picardy, France. He was sent to Paris at about age fourteen to study in the university. He was apparently headed for an ecclesiastical career and the study of theology. Calvin received a Master of Arts degree in 1528. In that year his father ordered him to study law. Calvin studied civil law at Orléans and Bourges. After his father's death, Calvin returned to Paris for work in classical studies and Hebrew. By 1533 he was converted to Protestantism. He fled to Basle, Switzerland, from France in 1535. Calvin published the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536. The last edition of the Institutes was published in 1559. His teaching emphasized the sovereignty of God, scripture as the supreme rule of faith and life, the total depravity of humanity after the Fall, the predestination of the elect to salvation and the reprobate to damnation, and the importance of the church as an ordered and disciplined community. The ministers or officers of the Reformed Church included pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons. Calvin's reform is especially associated with the city of Geneva, Switzerland. In July, 1536, Guillaume Farel (1489-1565) convinced Calvin to stay in Geneva to organize the Reformation. Calvin and Farel were expelled from Geneva in 1538, but the city council invited Calvin to return in 1541. Calvin worked to establish a theocracy in Geneva. He lived in Geneva and dominated the religious life of the city until his death. Calvinism influenced the French Huguenots, the Scottish Church reforms of John Knox (c. 1513-1572), the Puritans in England, and the reformed churches in the Netherlands. Calvinism came to dominate the Protestant movement of reform. Calvin's influence is also seen in the American Reformed, Congregational, and Presbyterian churches.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.