I’m so excited, dear ones, to finally be writing this book review. If you missed my review of Book 1 you can find it here. The four books of the Institutes of the Christian Religion were written by the French Reformer John Calvin, who was a theologian and a pastor in Geneva. This work was originally published in 1536, although he updated it, and translated it, in the years following. The second book, while still addressing the papacy and other heretics of his time, focusing mostly on the will of man, and the similarities and differences between the New and Old Testaments. Amazingly, at the time, this was considered introductory reading on the Protestant Faith. That I could agree with in the first book, which was not just easy to read and understand, but a complete joy to do so. This book, on the other hand, is deep and rich, and precise. While still joyful, it required much more time and study.
Why? Well for starters, as a toddler in the faith, much of what he wrote about I hadn’t considered deeply enough to comprehend the conclusions. So, during the reading of his second book I did a great deal more study and prayer than was needed in the first. I would say that this was a great joy! Anything that pushes us to pray, and study, is needed. Again, I failed to see any hot button issues in this book, nor did I read even a hint of the accusations lobbied against Calvin today. On the contrary, it seemed as if, perhaps, those who judge so harshly haven’t read the Institutes. I genuinely hope that’s not the case, as believers we need to be very careful before we accuse our brethren of anything as weighty as the accusations I’ve seen lightly banded around the internet.
The two main issues I had expected to see in these books were the often repeated accusations that Calvin taught not to evangelize, and that Calvin taught man has no will therefor blaming God for mans mistakes. The exact opposite can be found in these first two books, both of which preached the Law and the Gospel more than once, and both place the blame of sin squarely on mankind’s fallen nature. Perhaps there is confusion in regards to the difference in word usage from then to now? Or perhaps there are some claiming to be Calvinists who have also not read and understood the Institutes, which teach incorrectly? I’m not sure yet, perhaps I will understand better the more I read and study.
I do recommend this book for all theologically inclined believers, or anyone who is confused by the divide between the Calvinists and Arminians. So far, the only difference I can see is whether or not man plays any roll in salvation. There are so many who fall on a range of explanations in that area, although all born again believers will give God the glory for His grace in sending His Son to save us. I certainly do not mean to make light of such a serious issue, but am inclined to suspect the other allegations against the Institutes are either misunderstandings, or incorrect arguments being repeated. Only time will tell, beloved brethren, as I eagerly delve into the third book!
I can tell you, friends, that the differences in opinions should not stop you from reading these masterpieces of Christian theology. Calvin outlines every chapter precisely, so notes are easier, and explanations are clearer. He makes his points using Scripture, church fathers, and brethren from the past, though mostly leaning on Scripture. It’s not the type of book I would recommend for a quick read, or for those who barely have time to read the Bible. Gods Word is of upmost importance, though this book is a great accompaniment with Bible study as it digs into verses with careful exegesis. The second book, like the first one, is in the public domain. Yay, free! You can read the PDF here, the audio here, the Kindle here, or a hard copy (which I recommend for a book this deep in theology) here. As always, beloved brethren, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.