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Table of Contents
John Calvin, also known as Jean Cauvin, was a French theologian, pastor, reformer, and ecclesiastical statesman and is considered to be the proponent of the system of Christian theology called Calvinism.
See the fact file below for more information on John Calvin, or you can download our 28-page John Calvin worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Originally named Jehan Cauvin, he was born on 10 July 1509, in a province of the Kingdom of France.
- His mother’s name was Jeanne le Franc, a daughter of an innkeeper from Cambrai.
- His father’s name was Gérard Cauvin, a cathedral notary and registrar to the ecclesiastical court.
- At age 12, he worked as a clerk with the help of the bishop. He showed his dedication to the Church by practicing the tonsure and cutting his hair.
- As part of his service to the Catholic Church, he became a chaplain at the Cathedral of Noyon.
FAMILY AND MARRIAGE
- John Calvin didn’t have much time to think about marriage because he was devoted to scripture and the Church – until he realized that he needed someone to take care of him. At first, it was not easy meeting and finding someone suitable.
- But, in his congregation of refugees, he met a young widow, Idelette de Bure Stordeur, and her family, who had left Strasbourg as Anabaptists.
- Idelette van Buren came from Flanders, the Flemish-speaking northern region of Belgium.
- She was married to her first husband, John Stordeur, a cabinet maker from Liège, Belgium. They had two children, namely Charles and Judith.
- In the spring of 1540, her husband, Jean Stordeur, died after contracting the plague, leaving Idelette a young widow with two children.
- The spate of mishaps led Calvin to nearly abandon the idea of marriage after his friend and Idelette’s husband, John Stordeur, passed away.
- Martin Bucer, a pastor-friend of Calvin, asked him to consider Idelette as his wife as she had a suitable background and was a woman of good character.
- Calvin had one son with Idelette and possibly a few daughters, all of whom passed away before adulthood.
REFORM WORK (1536-1538)
- In the Principality of Neuchâtel, the Republic of Geneva, and Switzerland’s Canton of Bern and Canton of Vaud, William Farel established the Calvinist Church. He was also a French missionary, Protestant reformer, and church founder.
- He is also remembered for convincing John Calvin to stay in Geneva in 1536 and return in 1541 after their exile in 1538.
- Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, also known as Institutio Christianae Religionis, were initially published in March 1536.
- It served as both an exposition of the reformers’ doctrinal position and an apologia, or defense, of Calvin’s religion.
- He also wanted it to act as manual for anyone who was curious about the Christian faith. His theology was initially expressed in the book.
- Throughout his lifetime, Calvin made updates and released additional copies of the work.
- Calvin was recruited to the Reformation in Geneva by Frenchman William Farel, where he regularly preached sermons throughout the week.
- Farel and Calvin presented their Articles on the Organization of the Church and its Worship to the city council of Geneva on January 16, 1537.
- Calvin and Farel’s reputation with the council deteriorated as the year progressed. The city’s governing council refused to implement their ideas, and both men were expelled.
- Farel and Calvin then traveled to Bern and Zurich to argue their case. The Geneva council, however, refused to readmit the two men who sought refuge in Basel.
- Farel was then invited to lead the church in Neuchâtel. Martin Bucer and Wolfgang Capito, two of Strasbourg’s leading reformers, asked Calvin to lead a church of French refugees.
- Calvin initially refused because Farel was not invited but relented after Bucer appealed to him. Calvin had taken up his new position in Strasbourg by 1538 and granted city citizenship.
MINISTER IN STRASBOURG (1538-1541)
- Calvin ministered to 400-500 members of his congregation. Every day, he preached or lectured, with two sermons on Sunday. Communion was held once a month, and congregational psalm singing was encouraged.
- He also contributed to the Institutes’ second edition. Calvin was dissatisfied with the book’s original structure as a catechism or primer for new Christians.
- Geneva reconsidered its decision to expel Calvin.
- By 1541, Strasbourg had decided to let Calvin go to Geneva for six months. Calvin returned with an official escort and a wagon for his family on 13 September 1541.
REFORM IN GENEVA (1541-1549)
- On 20 November 1541, the council of Geneva passed the Ecclesiastical Ordinances, which supported Calvin’s reform proposals.
- Calvin preached over 2,000 sermons during his ministry in Geneva.
- Immoral writings and books about Catholicism, as well as criticism of Calvin or other church officials, were prohibited.
- For first offenses, they were fined, repeat offenders were exiled, and serious crimes were punishable by death.
- To maintain morals and order, fifty-eight people were executed, and seventy-six were banished between 1541 and Calvin’s death.
- Lutherans who opposed the movement coined the term Calvinism in the early 1550s.
- Calvinists and Lutherans disagree on the real spiritual presence of Christ at the Lord’s Supper, worship theories, the purpose and meaning of baptism, and the use of God’s law for believers, among other things.
- Calvinism, also known as Reformed Protestantism, is a major Protestant denomination that adheres to the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice established by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians.
FIVE POINTS OF CALVINISM (TULIP)
- Calvin appears to imply that all people are capable of turning toward God in repentance to secure salvation, but he only believed that those called by God to repentance were elected by Him to be saved.
- Total depravity (radical corruption) holds that everyone is enslaved to sin as a result of the fall of man into sin. People are not wired to love God but rather to serve their interests and reject God’s rule.
- Unconditional election (sovereign election) asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself, based on his mercy. Those who are chosen are saved solely through Christ, and those who are not will face the just wrath of God for their sins against Him.
- Limited atonement (particular redemption), the purpose and outcome of Jesus’ substitutionary atonement were definite and specific. This implies that Jesus’ death atoned for only the elect’s sins. Calvinists, on the other hand, do not believe that the atonement is limited in its value or power but instead that it is limited in the sense that it is intended for some and not all.
- Irresistible grace (efficacious grace), holds that God’s saving grace is effectively applied to those whom he has determined to save, overcoming their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel and bringing them to a saving faith.
- Perseverance of the saints (preservation of the saints), asserts that because God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end.
- His works, which had already been translated into other countries’ vernaculars, spread and became more popular.
- Calvinism spread from Geneva to the Netherlands, France, England, Italy, and Scotland, where John Knox championed and advanced it.
- Even before the Geneva Bible was translated into English in 1576, Calvinism and the Geneva Bible encouraged religious dissent among Puritans and Separatists in England.
- Calvin died on May 27, 1564, at 54, from an illness.
- His death allowed his ideas to break out of their hometown.
- One of his final wishes was to be buried in an unmarked grave to prevent any of his followers from making his tomb a place of pilgrimage, which Calvin believed to be idolatry.
- Following Calvin’s death, leadership passed to the French theologian and scholar Theodore Beza, who upheld Calvinism’s claim that the Geneva Bible was the most accurate translation, among other things.
- Between 1621 through c. 1700, in the so-called New World, Calvinism was the standard by which ‘true Christianity’ was measured, and even sects that rejected Calvinist doctrine were influenced by his vision, just as they are today in their acceptance or rejection of Calvinist tenets.
John Calvin Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about John Calvin across 28 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching kids about John Calvin, who was a French theologian and known founder of Calvinism.
Complete List of Included Worksheets
Below is a list of all the worksheets included in this document.
- John Calvin Facts
- Biography Making
- Calvin Word Search
- I Just Wanted To Say…
- Scripture of Facts
- Calvinism is…
- Accurate or Inaccurate?
- 21st-Century Protestant
- Museum Day
- Did You Know?
Frequently Asked Questions
Who was John Calvin?
John Calvin was a French religious thinker who was one of the key leaders of the Reformation. The goal of the Reformation was to change or reform the Roman Catholic Church, but it ended up leading to the creation of a new branch of Christianity called Protestantism. Today, Protestantism is one of the three main branches of Christianity.
What did John Calvin study?
Calvin studied different subjects at Marche College in Paris when he was 14 years old. These subjects included grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. A little while later, Calvin transferred to Montaigu College.
What did John Calvin fight for?
John Calvin was a sixteenth-century theologian who is known for his work on the Christian Religion. In this book, Calvin argues that some people are destined for salvation while others are not. This idea would come to shape other reformation churches, as well as earn him the title “Father of Reformed Theology.”
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