A revealing new portrait of John Calvin that captures his human complexity and the sixteenth-century world in which he fought his personal and theological battles
During the glory days of the French Renaissance, young John Calvin (1509-1564) experienced a profound conversion to the faith of the Reformation. For the rest of his days he lived out the implications of that transformation—as exile, inspired reformer, and ultimately the dominant figure of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin’s vision of the Christian religion has inspired many volumes of analysis, but this engaging biography examines a remarkable life. Bruce Gordon presents Calvin as a human being, a man at once brilliant, arrogant, charismatic, unforgiving, generous, and shrewd.
The book explores with particular insight Calvin’s self-conscious view of himself as prophet and apostle for his age and his struggle to tame a sense of his own superiority, perceived by others as arrogance. Gordon looks at Calvin’s character, his maturing vision of God and humanity, his personal tragedies and failures, his extensive relationships with others, and the context within which he wrote and taught. What emerges is a man who devoted himself to the Church, inspiring and transforming the lives of others, especially those who suffered persecution for their religious beliefs.
"This biography excels in providing a scrupulous, detailed narrative from the ground up . . . [Gordon] always, across 340 pages of detailed narrative, gives us the story in its full complexity."-James Simpson, Times Literary Supplement
"In this 500th year of Calvin's birth, Gordon . . . has produced a scholarly yet accessible study that is not hagiography but an honest assessment of a man who had great talent and great faith and also great flaws. While writing from a Reformed perspective, Gordon offers a balanced view."-Augustine J. Curley, Library Journal
"Bruce Gordon's magisterial biography . . . sets the theologian in his 16th-century context and portrays Calvin as a prophet and an apostle whose genius lay in his ability to interpret the Bible and express a coherent, penetrating and lucid vision of God's abiding love."-Henry Carrigan, Publishers Weekly
"Masterful . . . [this] biography succeeds spectacularly by allowing a vivid insight into the life and world of Calvin, using generous quotations from his correspondence."-Hilmar Pabel, The Tablet
". . . a considered book, balanced and fair, and very informative, written in an accessible manner . . . what is so salutary . . . is the sanity of tone and the justice of the assessments. . . . Disliked in his day as a foreigner, and disparaged now as a fanatic, poor Calvin deserves reassessment, and Bruce Gordon's biography achieves this well."-Edward Norman, Literary Review
"Those who want to engage with the facts should read Bruce Gordon's book Calvin, which is outstanding."-David A. Robertson, Prospect
"Gordon does an excellent job of incorporating several decades of developments in the social and cultural history of early modern Europe into his discussion and analysis of Calvin's life, work and historical context. . . . Gordon's success in producing a biography that will be valued by specialists, students and general readers alike lies partly in his engaging written style."-Karen E. Spierling, English Historical Review
". . . this biography paints a vibrant portrait of Calvin the man, as well as Calvin the great thinker and reformer, and makes enthralling reading."-Good Book Guide
"Perhaps better than any previous study, Gordon's book replaces the iconic image of an impassive Calvin with the impassioned man of flesh and blood, reconstructing a fraught life lived between 'divine calling and human frailty'. In this quincentenary of the reformer's birth, scholars and general readers will be indebted to Gordon for having made Calvin comprehensible without compromising his complexity."-Brad Gregory, University of Notre Dame, author of Salvation at Stake
"A very stimulating book-extensive, detailed, in many respects brilliant."-Euan Cameron, Union Theological Seminary
"Bruce Gordon's lively new biography presents Calvin embedded in his surroundings, developing his ideas as events unfolded."-Merry Wiesner-Hanks, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
"At last, a balanced biography of Calvin: Bruce Gordon's unblinking and unblinkered book brings a searching light to bear on one of the most private of the sixteenth century's most influential public figures."-Richard Rex