John Calvin Biography

Theologian, Journalist(1509–1564)
John Calvin, Martin Luther's successor as the preeminent Protestant theologian, made a powerful impact on the fundamental doctrines of Protestantism.

Synopsis

Born in France in 1509, theologian/ecclesiastical statesman John Calvin was Martin Luther's successor as the preeminent Protestant theologian. Calvin made a powerful impact on the fundamental doctrines of Protestantism, and is widely credited as the most important figure in the second generation of the Protestant Reformation. He died in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1564.

Background

Born on July 10, 1509, in Noyon, Picardy, France, John Calvin was a law student at the University of Orléans when he first joined the cause of the Reformation. In 1536, he published the landmark text Institutes of the Christian Religion, an early attempt to standardize the theories of Protestantism. Calvin's religious teachings emphasized the sovereignty of the scriptures and divine predestination—a doctrine holding that God chooses those who will enter Heaven based His omnipotence and grace. 

Leading Figure of Reformation

Calvin lived in Geneva briefly, until anti-Protestant authorities in 1538 forced him to leave. He was invited back again in 1541, and upon his return from Germany, where he had been living, he became an important spiritual and political leader. Calvin used Protestant principles to establish a religious government; and in 1555, he was given absolute supremacy as leader in Geneva.

As Martin Luther's successor as the preeminent Protestant theologian, Calvin was known for an intellectual, unemotional approach to faith that provided Protestantism's theological underpinnings, whereas Luther brought passion and populism to his religious cause.

While instituting many positive policies, Calvin's government also punished "impiety" and dissent against his particularly spare vision of Christianity with execution. In the first five years of his rule in Geneva, 58 people were executed and 76 exiled for their religious beliefs. Calvin allowed no art other than music, and even that could not involve instruments. Under his rule, Geneva became the center of Protestantism, and sent out pastors to the rest of Europe, creating Presbyterianism in Scotland, the Puritan Movement in England and the Reformed Church in the Netherlands.

Death and Legacy

Calvin died on May 27, 1564, in Geneva, Switzerland. It is unknown where he is buried. Today, Calvin remains widely credited as the most important figure in the second generation of the Protestant Reformation.

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