Institutes of the Christian Religion

by John Calvin

Hardcover, 2008



Call number



Hendrickson Publishers (2008), Edition: Revised, 1104 pages


A colossal milestone of Christian thought-at an irresistible price! Here in a convenient one-volume edition is John Calvin's magnum opus. Written as an introduction to the Christian life, the Institutes remains the best articulation of Reformation principles and is a marvelous introduction to biblical Christianity. Newly retypeset for clarity, this volume translated by Henry Beveridge offers a more affordable edition of one of the last millennium's must-have works. This book will appeal to libraries, seminarians, pastors, and laypeople. Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin is an introduction to the Bible and a vindication of Reformation principles by one of the Reformation's finest scholars. At the age of twenty-six, Calvin published several revisions of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, a seminal work in Christian theology that altered the course of Western history and that is still read by theological students today. It was published in Latin in 1536 and in his native French in 1541, with the definitive editions appearing in 1559 (Latin) and in 1560 (French). The book was written as an introductory textbook on the Protestant faith for those with some learning already and covered a broad range of theological topics from the doctrines of church and sacraments to justification by faith alone. It vigorously attacked the teachings of those Calvin considered unorthodox, particularly Roman Catholicism, to which Calvin says he had been "strongly devoted" before his conversion to Protestantism. The overarching theme of the book-and Calvin's greatest theological legacy-is the idea of God's total sovereignty, particularly in salvation and election. John Calvin (1509-1564), a French theologian and reformer, was persecuted as a Protestant. As a result, he traveled from place to place. In 1534 at Angouleme he began the work of systematizing Protestant thought in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, one of the most influential theological works of all time.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member brianghedges
Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is a masterfully written systematic summary and defense of the basic tenets of Christianity. It is exegetical in substance, Christ-centered in focus, worshipful in tone, and polemical in style.

Exegetical in substance - Calvin has been called the "father
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of modern exegesis" and rightly so. He pioneered the literal-historical-grammatical method of exegesis. This is especially true of his excellent commentaries, but also reflected in the Institutes. The final court of appeal for Calvin is Scripture. His arguments are laced with quotations from the Bible and one senses that Calvin was very hesitant to go further than Scripture in his surmizings.

Christ-centered in focus - This has really struck me in my reading Calvin (I'm now in volume 2 of this edition). Calvin's Christology was robust and it pervades virtually every page of the Institutes. This is especially true in Book III, which is especially rich.

Worshipful in tone - Despite what some people may think, Calvin is not a dry theologian. Some Calvinists could benefit from soaking in their fore-father - perhaps picking up some of his reverence and humility. Seriously, this book lifts my gaze to God. That's good enough reason to recommend it.

Polemical in style - Along with everything above, Calvin was a polemicist, no doubt about it. This book is saucy! Calvin didn't hesitate to call his adversaries by name AND call them names. That may seem harsh to modern readers and leave a sour taste in some mouths. But even Jesus could call the Pharisees vipers and Calvin doesn't stray too far from his master in this regard. We should also remember the turbulent times in which Calvin wrote. He says in his preface that one of the reasons he wrote the Institutes was to make clear what young French pastors who were being martyred were dying for. Remember that his friends were being killed for their convictions before getting too critical of Calvin's language.

This edition is probably the best available with helpful notes and an excellent team of scholars under J. T. McNeil behind the text. Calvin's quotations are documented and the text is keyed with symbols showing the development of the Institutes from its initial version in 1536 through its five reprints (the final in 1559).

An excellent read for anyone interested in Reformed theology, historical theology, systematic theology or . . . just theology!
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LibraryThing member curtis
Classic of Christian literature. If you're not a Calvinist, reading this might help you understand the position of your theological opponents- ultimately it might convince you not to switch sides, but to at least respect those on the opposite side of the debate. If you are a Calvinist, study it, as
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you'll learn quite a bit about how to articulate many of your positions. Christian in general, too, can benefit from Calvin's magnificent exegetical technique as well as his insight into the Scriptures.
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LibraryThing member theologian
The best systematic theology ever written.
LibraryThing member BradKautz
This is Calvin's benchmark text of Reformed theology. Calvin is one of the magisterial giants on which the Reformation of the Christian church stands, and this work makes the reasons for his stature abundantly clear. Trained as a lawyer before becoming a pastor and theologian Calvin is logical,
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thorough and relentless in pressing his viewpoints on every aspect of faith addressed in this volume. And it should be added that Calvin is relentlessly biblical. There is no point in his theology that is not thoroughly grounded in scripture. He writes as one who is also well-acquainted with the church fathers as well as the theologians of his day, drawing deeply from that well of knowledge in both building up his position and refuting the positions that he believes are held in error. I read the Battles translation and the style of Calvin's writing comes across as very readable and accessible not just to pastors, theologians and educated lay persons, but to anyone who wants to understand Christian doctrine that is firmly Biblical, which, in a nutshell, is what Reformed theology is all about. I highly commend this enduring work. It is truly a timeless gift to the church.
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LibraryThing member richardsugg
Much has been said and hated about John Calvin, but I fear too little of Calvin has been read. "Institutes" is about much more than election, but rather presents an entire worldview through with we can understand God, ourselves, and the world God has created. He does this primarily through
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Scripture but also is well-equipped to argue through natural revelation and human authors.

Despite the many weighty topics Calvin addresses, he writes with a deeply devotional style. He is witty and clever, and to his opponents, acerbic. Calvin reserves little patience for those who blaspheme God through human traditionalism or faulty reasoning.

The only difficulty one would encounter when reading Calvin is his references to his contemporary events, but this should not deter any reader.
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LibraryThing member moses917
With all this resurgence of study in John Calvin the man with the 500th birthday of the pastor-theologian I decided to read an abridged version of the Institutes. This book which is a good introduction to Calvin’s theology is an abridgement of Calvin’s much larger “Institutes.” Tony Lane
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has paraphrased sections of Battles’ translation into crisper, more modern English so as to make Calvin’s writing accessible to the contemporary reader. The guiding principle of Lane’s abridgement is that Calvin’s positive theological statements and arguments are, more or less, left in tact, while the polemics against the Catholic Church that Calvin indulged in are removed. Lane follows the standard referencing system for the “Institutes” used in the Battles’ translation. This is extremely useful, because when Lane indicates that he has abridged Calvin in a certain chapter or section, one can then go to the Battles’ version to see what he has left out! Lane gives the reader enough of the “Institutes” so that one can grasp the flow of Calvin’s arguments and penetrate to the center of his theology. After reading this, I got the impression that I hadn’t read a disjointed series of abstracts but a COHERENT argument. It’s Lane’s ability to maintain the structure of Calvin’s overall argument that makes this abridgement especially good.

Calvin’s work highlights the main doctrines and key Biblical concepts that encompass the principles necessary for Christian vitality. In this condensed version of his Institutes, the brilliant reformer effectively expounds on all the important aspects of Bible doctrine. Calvin was not one to shy away from the controversial elements of Biblical Christianity. Throughout the Institutes, God’s sovereignty is a focal point of Calvin’s commentaries. The glory of God, His mercy and grace towards helpless sinners and the substitutionary work of Christ the Savior are some of the important truths documented by this immensely gifted theologian!

John Calvin was a significant theologian and scholar. I recommend his work for anyone who is looking for a deep study of reformed theology. Anyone who cast Calvin off for his work is missing out on the writings of an astute theologian that they could greatly benefit from. Calvin himself writes later in the Institutes, “Doctrine is not a matter of talk but of life. It is not grasped by the intellect alone, like other branches of learning. It is received only when it fills the soul and finds a home in the inmost recesses of the heart” Above all, the Institutes is a book about the Christian life. Now I venture to read the 2 Vol. original work by Battles.
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LibraryThing member nesum
Calvin has this wonderful skill of making the most meaty theologies easy to understand and digest. The Institutes are legendary amongst Christians, to almost the level of Augustine's Confessions or the 95 Theses. And it is deserving of such an honor. Even in this abridged version, we can see the
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wonder and glory of God coming through as Calvin seeks to explain what he has seen in the Bible.

It is not inspired, of course. There are many places where I would part company with Calvin. That doesn't mean that we cannot learn from his insights and wisdom, especially because he is so rooted in the Scripture as he writes about them. I would recommend this book to any Christian who is serious about following his Lord.
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LibraryThing member TullyFamily
A MUST for every reformed library
LibraryThing member StephenBarkley
Finishing Calvin's Institutes felt like eating Bran Flakes. You know it's supposed to be good for you, but when given the option to have Lucky Charms, you'll choose the Leprechaun every time.

When I started reading the Institutes I was fresh out of Seminary. I didn't have the opportunity to take a
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course on Calvin, so I thought that this would round out my education. Another reason I tackled Calvin was my (former) love for systematic theology. I thought that there was nothing more sublime than a cohesive logical understanding of scripture.

The more I pastored and studied scripture for myself, the more I became disillusioned with systematic theology. No matter whose system you chose, the emphasizing of some passages over others always felt arbitrary.

Take the Calvinist/Arminianist debate with respect to Philippians 2:12-13. It's all a matter of which side you emphasize: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Calvinism) "for it is God who works in you" (Arminianism) (ESV).

Systematic theology is like a bit-mapped picture. If you have a sufficiently detailed resolution (or nuanced systematic method), you can reproduce a pretty accurate picture of the original. But why not just enjoy the original? Scripture is the story of God's relationship with his people. There is a reason love letters don't look like bullet lists in a PowerPoint presentation. Narrative trumps systems. Every time.

The logic of Calvin's systematic theology is highly nuanced and quite brilliant. I learned a tremendous amount from his encyclopedic knowledge of scripture. (This 1,700 page edition of the Institutes is rather small compared to his Commentary on the entire Bible!) When he speaks about the role of faith in the believer's life and the nature of prayer, his work is inspiring. The problem comes when he follows the logic of his system to the end and is left with with double predestination, for example. (If scripture says that God predestined believers for glory, then logically, He must have predestined souls for hell, right?)

Here is where systems fail and narrative comes to our rescue. The Bible is more of a library than a book. Each author has his own understanding of scripture, as inspired by the Spirit of God. True, the books and stories fit together in amazing ways, but that doesn't take away from their own character. Read Ecclesiastes beside Song of Songs and you'll see what I mean.

I started the Institutes as a systematist. While I still appreciate and respect this discipline, I am now wholeheartedly a Biblical theologian. For example, I would much rather work at bringing out what John meant in his Gospel than spend my time trying to reconcile the date of the crucifixion with Mark's account.

Let scripture speak in all of its sundry glory.
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Original language


Original publication date

1536 (Latin)
1541 (French)
1559 (Latin ∙ definitive edition)
1560 (French ∙ definitive edition)

Physical description

1104 p.; 9.3 inches


1598561685 / 9781598561685


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