Work of the Fellows: Biographies; Monographs

William J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait

Bouwsma, William J. (Fellow, 1983-85)

New York: Oxford University Press, 1988

Historians have credited--or blamed--Calvinism for many developments in the modern world, including capitalism, modern science, secularization, democracy, individualism, and unitarianism. These same historians, however, have largely ignored John Calvin the man. When people consider him at all, they tend to view him as little more than the joyless tyrant of Geneva who created an abstract theology as forbidding as himself. Eloquently depicting Calvin's life as a French exile, a humanist in the tradition of Erasmus, and a man unusually sensitive to the complexities and contradictions of later Renaissance culture, Bouwsma reveals a surprisingly human, plausible, ecumenical, and often sympathetic Calvin. John Calvin offers a brilliant reassessment not only of Calvin but also of the Reformation and its relationship to the movements of the Renaissance.

Subjects: History; Religion; Calvinism; Protestant Reformation; Sixteenth–Century; Calvin, John;; 1600–1699