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Calvin for Armchair Theologians (Armchair Theologians)

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  84 ratings  ·  18 reviews
In this concise introduction to Calvin's life and thought, Christopher Elwood offers an insightful and accessible overview of Calvin's key teachings within his historical context. The trials and travails Calvin encountered as he ministered and taught in Geneva are discussed, with special attention given to theological controversies associated with the Trinity and predestin ...more
Paperback, 198 pages
Published April 1st 2002 by Westminster John Knox Press (first published 2002)
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Lee Harmon
by Christopher Elwood

This is another book in the Armchair Theologians series provided to me by Logos Bible Software for review. I found this one just a little more dry than other books in the series–more of a “just the facts, ma’am” presentation–but it did warm up nearer the end. For someone looking for a quick intro to Calvin, his life and very basic theology, this is a handy little book.

In some ways, Calvin gets a bum rap. Followers through the years have taken his tangential findings on elect
Mar 14, 2013 Jimmy added it
This is the fourth book I read in the "Armchair Theologians" series, and one of the better ones I would say though my favorite was on Martin Luther. This work does a good job in explaining John Calvin's biography--how he started out as a humanist and lawyer and eventually a pastor and theologian. Calvin's story of how he got to Geneva is a testimony of God's providence--for Calvin was originally taking a detour to another place and happened to visit the city only to be persuaded (well threatened ...more
Matt Anderson
This short biography is both scholarly and accessible. Among other things, this book chronicles the life journey of John Calvin, the way that God’s hand guided Calvin to certain places, and how he went about designing his Institutes. John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is one of his greatest contribution to Christian thinking, so a good portion of this book focuses on his ideas. There seems to be a presupposition from the author that the reader will have some knowledge of Calvin’s ...more
I am often reluctant to start books with larger print and cartoons like this one. Even the title hints that the contents may just be a souped-up Wikipedia article. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this small volume. What is presented here is a synopsis of Calvin's life, his Institutes and broader theology, a brief discussion about popular views of Calvin, plus a final note on Calvinistic theology since Calvin. While being highly readable and written in plain (non-academic) language, it rem ...more
Kristen Stieffel
I wanted to study Calvin because I belong to a "Calvinist" denomination and wanted to know why so many people disapprove of Calvinists.

I was largely confused about this because we don't use that term to describe ourselves. The term we use is "Reformed," which encompasses far more than just Calvin's teachings.

Having read the book, I still don't understand the disapproval, because of course everything laid out here lines up nicely with what I already believe. At least I don't have to change churc
Justin Tapp
This book could also be titled "John Calvin in Four Hours." It is a brief biography, a summary of his religious views, and a look at his lasting impact on Western thought.

Apparently little of Calvin's personal correspondence remains for historians to pore through today. He didn't keep a journal or write an autobiography. But he wrote Institutes of the Christian Religion (about 1/3 of this book is devoted to explaining Calvin's views from ICR), wrote some speeches, and engaged in some debates.

I'll start this by saying I'm not Reformed and haven't really read much of Calvin, and I found this book a good introduction to the man, his ministry and his theology.

It starts with his early experiences that led him to Geneva and his Reformed theology (after contemplating a career in the Roman Catholic Church in France). It also deals with some of the controversies surrounding his life and theology, and finishes with somewhat dubious speculation about his heirs and successors down to the 20th
Hank Pharis
This sounded like a good series and I have wanted to read one of them. However this was disappointing. Learned almost nothing about Calvin that I didn't already know and felt like several aspects were not accurate.
I just read this book before attending the Ligonier Ministries conference this year which was partially on the life of Calvin since it is the 500th anniversary of his life. This was my first time reading anything specifically on the person of Calvin and was a great introduction to his life, theology, and the far reaching influence his teaching has had in all kinds of areas. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to know more about Calvin but is intimidated by the usual giant books on him. Th ...more
Kenny Parnell
Good overview of Calvin's life and contributions to the church and culture at large.
A basic book in many ways but both readable and intelligent. The book provides biographical information about John Calvin along with important insights into his worldview and theology. The book tries to correct simplistic distortions of Calvin's thought, explaining, for instance, why Calvin felt as he did about religious imagery and "idolatry" and clarifying that Calvin himself actually did not place his beliefs in predestination and total depravity at the forefront of his theology. (His later f ...more
Brandon Byler
Good overview of Calvin. As usual, the focus was on his theology, which is where it belongs. Enjoyed the book and would encourage anyone who is unfamiliar with Calvin to give it a shot.
A good basic guide to Calvin's thought, including a good overview of the Institutes. Found all of this book useful, although his speculations on Calvin's heirs would have been better spent discussing more about Puritans and Presbyterians rather than more dubious connections to liberal and liberationist theologies in the 19th and 20th centuries. Thankfully that was only a few pages in the text.
Jul 06, 2009 Jim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
Pretty good overview of the life and thought of John Calvin.

However, I'm not sure how accessible this book would be to someone without some exposure to basics of Christian theology.

Also I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't more biographical information and a better analysis about how Calvin's life and experience informed his theology.
Adam Shields
Short review: Good basic overview of Calvin's thinking. Not much biography, really just this theology. This is a good book for someone that does not know much about Calvin. More along the line of "Calvin for Dummies". A bit of humor in a good way.

Full review at
Joshua Booher
I love the books in this series I have ready. They are very approachable. This one was no different. It clearly laid out Calvin's basic beliefs in a fun and understandable manner. I can't wait to get to read others from this series. This is an excellent resource for anyone in the EfM program.
Sam Shipley
A fine introduction to the reformed theology of John Calvin. Explains his complex positions on topics of predestination, liberation theology and the purpose of the church in an easy to read and understand format. An enjoyable and quick read.
Pastor Jamie Strickler
Great book outlining the thought and theology of this great Christian mind. Today's Christian though seeks to return to the ideas of the great Reformers.
Kez marked it as to-read
Jun 14, 2015
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Christopher Elwood is a historian of Christianity, with particular expertise in the early modern period and broad interest in other periods, who thinks of himself as a historical theologian.

“I think it is important that members of our churches become aware of the connections between what they believe and the social and political commitments they hold. This concern influences my efforts to encoura
More about Christopher Elwood...

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