500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation

27th July 2017

To mark the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, a series of short blogs have been written.

You can read an example (about John Calvin) below, but I would encourage you to read the whole lot:  http://www.ets.ac.uk/engage/reformation-introduction/


17: Who was John Calvin?

You have probably heard of John Calvin, but who was he?  And why is he so important?  John Johnstone tells us.

Forget about Zidane, Chanel and Bonaparte.  Arguably, the most important French person in the last 1000 years was John Calvin.

Calvin was a second generation reformer, building on the doctrines of grace which Luther and others had rediscovered.  Second generation, yes, but not second rate.  He was one of the greatest systematic thinkers of all time, whose legacy includes helping Christians understand what they believe and why.

He was born in 1509, around 50 miles north east of Paris.  His father wanted Calvin to enter the priesthood.  Calvin studied an arts course in Paris in the 1520s and then law at different university, all of which equipped him for his future role.


He was converted around 1532, which he described as a “sudden conversion”.  Forced to leave France due to his beliefs, Calvin moved to Basle, where he wrote his most famous and important work, The Institutes of Christian Religion.  This work demonstrated Calvin’s giftedness as a clear, systematic and Biblical thinker.

Calvin decided that he wanted to work as a scholar in Strasburg; God had other plans for him, however. On route to Strasburg, Calvin was forced to make a detour and ended up in Geneva for the night, (1536).  He was encouraged to stay, and ended up based there for most of his life, dying in 1564.  Geneva was an independent republic, and in God’s providence, Calvin was just the man to help run the city in a Biblical way.  His influence there was enormous and his writings continue to influence millions of Christians today.