- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Crossway; 1 edition (April 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1433501325
Many thanks to Crossway for the opportunity to review John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor by W. Robert Godfrey.
John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor is written by a church historian and Calvin scholar. It flows well. It’s not dry and dull. And it’s supported by a number of primary sources. The book is divided into two sections, as its title suggest, Calvin the Pilgrim and Pastor. Calvin the Pilgrim is somewhat shorter than Calvin the Pastor. Calvin the Pastor focuses more on the theology and pastoral care of John Calvin, especially as seen in his voluminous correspondence.
Godfrey begins with “The Importance of Calvin,” pointing out that once a person learns about Calvin, that person either admires or loathes Calvin. There’s no neutrality–yet the impact of Calvin on Western thought and civilization cannot be denied. For someone who has read a number of books on Calvin’s life and thought, though a short work (208 pages), it proved both insightful and informative, especially in its first section, “Calvin as Pilgrim.” In the second section, Godfrely really does get to the heart of God’s theology and what drives Calvin. It’s here also that the reader finds that Calvin is hardly the innovator of some of the doctrinal positions which have vexed so many of his critics. I will be remiss if I didn’t mention that excerpts from Calvin’s voluminous correspondence to various individuals and churches is something of a treat. It is here that we get to see the pastor care and personal touch of Calvin. Regarding the execution of Michael Servetus by burning at the stake, Godfrey writes, “Through the centuries since this execution Calvin has been frequently portrayed as severe, judgmental, intolerant, and violent. He has been represented as a great persecutor. In fact, Calvin’s attitude toward punishing heretics was quite typical in the sixteenth century. However barbaric such views may seem today, the vast majority of Europeans would have agreed with Calvin in his day.” It must be noted that Calvin never sought fame and money. In fact, commenting on the death and burial of Moses, Calvin writes, “It is good that famous men should be buried in unmarked graves.” On Saturday, May 27, 1564, Calvin died peacefully and quietly at age fifty-four, all worn-out. The next day, Sunday, he was buried in an unmarked grave at a secret location somewhere in Geneva.
As a great admirer of John Calvin, as pastor and theologian, I welcome this work by W. Robert Godfrey and cannot commend it too highly. It’s worth the read.