John Calvin

John Calvin biography
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John Calvin biography

Jehan Cauvin, Castilianized as Juan Calvino (July 10, 1509 – May 27, 1564). Theologian and Protestant reformer. He was born in the town of Noyon, France. He was educated in a Catholic environment. From childhood, he expressed his great talent for study and, above all, for religious studies. For this reason, his incipient learning took place in line with the ecclesiastical career. He studied theology, humanities, and law, these last two by order of his father who sent him the University of Paris. His father did not agree with Calvin liking theology. In spite of this, Calvin studied theology at the College de la Marche, a distinguished center where other important contemporaries such as Erasmus of Rotterdam studied. Then, he got a doctorate in Law from the University of Orleans. His stay in the university cloisters was key because they cultivated his humanist and reformed ideas.

Being just over twenty years old Calvin abandoned Catholicism and began to manifest as a Protestant, after investigating the conceptions and postulates of Martin Luther, focused in a nutshell on the denial of the authority of the Church of Rome, the fundamental importance of the Bible and the attainment of salvation through faith and not works. At that time Calvin attended a speech, delivered by the rector Nicolás Cop, in favor of the Lutheran thesis. This moment marked a decisive moment in his total conversion and second caused a scandal that forced the rector to leave Paris and take refuge in Basel, Switzerland.

John, disturbed by the situation, decided to contact Cop and made the decision to go to Basel to meet him, there with the knowledge shared by Cop, Calvino began to write his work: The Institution of the Christian Religion published in Latin in 1536. This work, which would soon reach a great diffusion, contains four books, in it expounded the treaties on the reformed faith and expressed his own vision of Protestantism.

John Calvin had a meeting with the Geneva-born reformer Guillaume Farel, who convinced him to settle in Geneva, where there was a growing Protestant community and could serve as a spiritual guide. But a tense theological situation was also experienced, aggravated by the political situation. He lived two years in Geneva, where he laid the foundations of the reformed doctrine. Through their influence and preaching, a large number of clerics abandoned Catholicism and converted to Protestantism. However, he had problems with the authorities because of the excessive moral rigor he had imposed on their people.

“Without knowledge of oneself, there is no knowledge of God.” John Calvin

In 1541 the Genevans again asked for his presence and, this time, Calvin, in addition to preaching and influencing customs, assuming a real political power. Although he formally maintained traditional institutions, he established a strict control over the public life of the population, based on the assimilation of a religious community and civil community. In this way, established a Consistory of elders and pastors to monitor and repress behaviors and adapt them strictly to the Protestant religion, for example, adultery, fornication, gambling, drinking, dancing, and songs were forbidden and persecuted. The absence of religious services was inexcusable, and he was intolerant of those he considered heretics. On the other hand, the temples were characterized by being extremely austere, there were no altars, saints, candles, and organs.

Just when the reformed identity was rising in Zurich, the religious wars unleashed Zwingli’s murder, and they again imposed Catholicism. The death of Ulrich Zwingli in 1531, made Calvin the main leader of European Protestantism, capable of facing the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Calvinism soon surpassed in influence Lutheranism, more deeply rooted in the north of Germany and the Scandinavian countries, Calvinism had greater influence in Switzerland and Holland, and gave rise to the creation of other religious groups such as the French Huguenots, the Scottish Presbyterians or English Puritans and other important Calvinist communities emerged in countries such as Hungary, Poland, and Germany.

Calvin was persistently opposed to the fusion of the Reformed churches of Calvinist with those of Lutheran, taking as a motive the theological differences. Among these was the doctrine of predestination: Calvin opined that God had decided in advance who will be saved and who will not, regardless of their behavior in life; man is saved if he has been chosen for that destiny by God, and good works will not have relevant changes in that respect, but a behavior also foreseen by the Creator.

Although he was the youngest of the first generation of reformers, the influence of Calvin was very marked in Protestant and evangelical groups. At the time of his conversion, the reform was already more than a decade old and the reform movement was already underway with Zwingli and Bullinger in Zurich, as well as other Swiss cities.

“No one is excluded from asking God, the door of Salvation is open to all men. Phrases of Salvation.” John Calvin

In the twilight of his life, he managed to become an international dominant voice of reformed theology. It is necessary to clarify that he was not the founder of the reform, much less the only leader of the reform. Even so, his influence was not accidental, as we could say today. It was the result of his enormous capacities to explain, defend, and publish the postulates, treatises, and compendiums of the new Protestant religion. Sick and exhausted by his accelerated life as a preacher, teacher, writer, and letter writer, John Calvin died on May 27, 1564, and was buried in the Plainpalais cemetery.

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