John Calvin: Christian Humanist and Evangelical Reformer by John de Gruchy

John Calvin: Christian Humanist and Evangelical Reformer by John de Gruchy


Just hearing the name ‘John Calvin’ often makes people uneasy, and some a little fearful! Calvin, Calvinism and Puritans are words that conjure up religion at its worst. But all of that is unfair to who Calvin really was, and what he sought to achieve in his reformation of the church in sixteenth century Geneva. John de Gruchy, in his book, launched at RUC on 18 October 2009, entitled John Calvin: Christian Humanist and Evangelical Reformer, has given us a more balanced picture.

As our congregation stands in the Reformed tradition, and therefore is historically connected to Calvin’s reforms, it is important that we should know more about our roots and how we are to transform the tradition today. As John points out, Calvin did not intend to start a new church; his aim was to reform the Catholic Church. In doing so, he was part of the broader Christian humanist movement that used biblical scholarship to recover the character of the early church and the heart of the gospel following the evangelical reformer, Martin Luther. John shows how these two sides to Calvin’s life and work related to each other. He places Calvin in his context, relates him to other reformers like Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli and Bucer, tells us his story, and then explores several key themes in his teaching. There are chapters on how Calvin understood and interpreted the Bible, how he related faith and obedience, what he meant by that dreaded word ‘predestination’, his thoughts on worship and Holy Communion, on beauty and icons (not subjects normally connected to Calvin), and his teaching on the public role of the church. In an epilogue, John reflects a little on some key figures in the Reformed tradition in South Africa, and gives us some of his thoughts on the importance of Christian humanism today.

John’s previous book dealing with Calvinism, entitled Liberating Reformed Theology, published in 1991, was recently selected by William Stacy Johnson of Princeton Theological Seminary as one of ‘Five Essential Books on John Calvin’, while John was recognized as ‘one of the outstanding Reformed theologians of our time’.