Early reformers dwelt on correcting mistakes in the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrines. This was a dangerous undertaking because it led to persecutions sometimes. The Roman Catholic Church had already split before John Calvin defected from it. He was, therefore, a second generation reformer. There is a controversy surrounding John Calvin’s birth.
According to Skoczylas (2001), Calvin was born in 1506. However other sources such as the Christian Classic Ethereal Library (CCEL) (n.d.) claim that he was born on 10th July 1509 in Noyon, France. In his early years, Calvin was educated by the Roman Catholic Church (CCEL, n.d.). However, in 1533, Calvin disengaged from the Roman Catholic Church after establishing contacts with people opposed to its teaching (Roxborogh, 2001).
Reformers before him gave little thought to spreading the word of God beyond the Christians strongholds. Calvin’s calling, therefore, embarked on correcting this mistake. His training on legal issues and his organization skills enabled him command a large and loyal following (Skoczylas, 2001). For that reason, Calvin’s teachings and writings form the foundation of many theological studies. This essay is, hence, a summary of the life of John Calvin and his impact on Christianity.
Calvin spent his early life in a family of staunch Catholics. His father, actually, wanted him to join priesthood (CCEL, n.d.). CCEL (n.d.) adds that, as a fourteen year old, Calvin went to school at the college de Marche in Paris. This college was meant to prepare him for university studies.
Before the end of 1523, he was forced to transfer his studies to College Montaigu (CCEL, n.d.). During his stay here, Calving started using the name Ioannis Calvinus. Ioannis Calvinus was the Latin form of the name John Calvin (CCEL, n.d.). As a student, most of his personal effects were paid for by the Roman Catholic Church. For instance, his education was catered for in part by a few small parishes (CCEL, n.d.).
He later relocated to Orleans to join a law school. Calvin completed his studies on civic law in 1532(CCEL, n.d.). In 1553, he disengaged from the Roman Catholic Church and began studying on his own before embarking on a number of Christian writings (Roxborogh, 2001). Finally, Calvin continued with his writing, preaching and lecturing until he met his death on 27th May 1564 (CCEL, n.d.).
Haykin (2001) states that earlier reformers gave little thought to missions. It is obvious that they had no concern for oversees missions. These reformers were, therefore, not keen on capturing the minds of non-Christians. John Calvin defected from the Roman Catholic Church and started doing what most of the earlier reformers had not done. Through his writings, he advocated on advancing Christ’s kingdom to non-Christians (Haykin, 2001).
Although he toured other towns to spread the gospel, Calvin spent most of his life in Geneva (CCEL, n.d.).The bible says that the word of God should be preached in all towns, starting from Jerusalem. Calvin, perhaps, thought that Jerusalem had experienced enough and it was now time to establish missions elsewhere. According to Calvin, the advancement of the church depended on God’s mercy (Haykin, 2001).
It is from this mercy that God created man as the noblest creature on earth. Therefore, man is endowed with intelligence and free will (Skoczylas, 2001). These kinds of teachings by Calving were meant to liberalize the Roman Catholics and free the minds of Protestants. For that reason, Calving was also credited with the establishment of a more democratic world.
Alongside Lutherans and Anglicans teachings, Calvin’s ideas and examples were regarded highly by the Protestants (Roxborogh, 2001). It is, therefore, difficult for a protestant church to understand itself without reference to Calvin’s work. However, not all people welcomed his teachings. According to Wellman (n.d), Calvin is the most loathed theologian of the last 2000 years. His haters include many in the church and secular spheres.
Calvin’s conversion from Roman Catholicism was sudden. In 1533, he developed friendship with Pierre Robert and Melchior Wolmar who were Protestant Reformers (Wellman, n.d). His new friends used lectures and writings to criticize the Roman Catholic Church. These teachings radicalized Calvin from a staunch Catholic to a vocal Protestant. Calvin was later accused of unorthodox behavior after helping Wolmar draft a speech that advanced protestant views. This forced him to leave Paris in 1533 to avoid persecution (Roxborogh, 2001).
It can be concluded that early reformers gave little thought to missions beyond Christian strongholds. Calvin’s greatest impact on Christianity was, therefore, the establishments of missions in areas occupied by non-Christians. Calving endeavored to spread the word of God to the last part of the world. Additionally, he can also be credited with liberalizing the Christian mind.
To date, Calvin’s teachings act as the base for the reformed and Presbyterian theological practices (Roxborogh, 2001). Many believe that Calvin taught most of the significant things about God (Roxborogh, 2001). Finally, it is practically impossible for a Protestant church to understand itself without reference to John Calvin’s work.
Christian Classic Ethereal Library. Biography of John Calvin: John Calvin-French reformer and theologian. Web.
Haykin, M. A. G. (2001). Reformation and revival: John calving missionary influence in France. A Quarterly Journal for Church Leadership10 (4), 1-7. Web.
Roxborogh, J. (2001). John Calvin (1509-1564). Web.
Skoczylas, A. (2001). Mr. Simson’s knotty case: divinity, politics, and due process in early eighteenth-century Scotland. McGill-Queen’s Press. Web.
Wellman, S. Essential facts about John Calvin, as well as a very extensive reading list! Web.