Book Review – John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life

John Calvin: A Pilgrim's LifeJohn Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life by Herman J. Selderhuis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was absolutely phenomenal. Selderhuis presents Calvin from an unbiased and straightforward position. This allows for the reader to get to know Calvin as a person in every aspect of his life. His strengths, convictions, and weaknesses are brought in to light. There are many opinions of Calvin, both positive and negative. Selderhuis does well to examine the common criticism toward Calvin’s personality, his role in the affairs of Geneva’s political life, and his tight grip approach to topics such as church discipline and the sacraments.

His intent in this book is not to merely denounce any and all criticism of the man that Calvin was, but to honestly expound on the cultural and political events that influenced Calvin to take the action that he did. In this his actions are not always justified, but some of the more common assaults against him are rebuked by examining the facts. We are presented with a man who, in contrast to popular assumption, was a highly emotional, frail, and sympathetic pastor. A French refugee who, in spite of his (at times) unbearably stubborn attitude, was so easily persuaded to abandon his deepest longings by the whiff of God’s potential wrath against him. (Farel) A man who was deeply driven by a desire to glorify God and to devote his life to what he believed was faithful service toward the One who had spared him from so much pain.

It is widely known that Calvin did suffer from a lot of pain, both physical and psychological. He would have given absolutely anything, short of abandoning his faith, to simply get away and spend his time (which he never had enough of) reading and studying God alone. But Calvin knew he wasn’t called to that life, he was called to devote every waking second of his days to God’s church. Here his passion for the instruction of God’s Word is put on display as well as his heart which ultimately clung to that Word by grace through faith alone.

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