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Public Domain
Image source: Public Domain
  • Faith: Christianity
  • Profession: 
  • Lived:  July 10, 1509 - May 27, 1564 (Reformation)
  • Nationality: French
  • Known for: Founder of Calvinism
  • Fun Fact: 
  • Fun Fact: 
  • Fun Fact: 

John Calvin was born in Noyon, France. He was in the second generation of Reformers (when Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Calvin was 8). By 1525 he received his M.A. in Paris and was prepared to study theology. His father, perhaps nervous about the dangers of swirling theological debates, withdrew him and enrolled him in law school in Orléans. Calvin obediently complied, but when his father died he returned to Paris to study theology in 1531.

Calvin does not leave a record of a dramatic conversion experience like Luther's "Tower Experience ," but by the mid-1530s had decided for the reformers, and so was forced to go into hiding, eventually leaving France. He spent one year in Basel, where in 1536 he published the first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Faith. It was a small book used to teach people the elements of Christian faith. It was immediately very popular. Calvin continually revised the book throughout his life, and by the fourth edition in 1660 it had grown to four large volumes.

Calvin passed through Geneva on his way to Basel, where he intended to spend a quiet life of study and writing. The leader of the Geneva reformers, William Farel, heard that the author of the Institutes was in town and went to his inn to persuade him to stay and help the reform efforts in Geneva. Calvin declined, arguing that he wanted a life of quiet scholarship, not public leadership. Farel argued that if Calvin pursued his own ends rather than God's he would surely go to hell. Calvin stayed.

Calvin and Farel were expelled from Geneva in 1538 (apparently many citizens who favored reform in theory did not find the practical seriousness with which Calvin meant to reform Geneva to their liking). Calvin lived in Strasbourg from 1538 to 1541 (he claimed these were the happiest years of his life). The city leaders in Geneva asked Calvin to return in 1541. He did, reluctantly, and remained in Geneva until his death in 1564. Calvin had his remains scattered so that his grave could not become a site of devotion, which he would have considered idolatrous. (Source: Patheos Religion Library).

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