Reading Calvin

I would hardly describe myself as a prolific reader, but I do like to read a good book. A number of years ago, I was struck by C. S. Lewis’ advice to not neglect old books. He wrote, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”

John Calvin

So, I’ve decided to follow Lewis’ advice, at least so far as is concerned with one major theological work. I’ve read Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology as well as other modern systematic theologies, so in 2021, I have decided to turn to something a bit older–approximately 500 years older. This year, along with nine other church members, I’m reading John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I’ve read large chunks of this important work before, but I’ve never sat down to read it cover to cover.

Of course, if you’re familiar with Calvin’s Institutes, you know this isn’t the type of book you sit down and read in one setting, but nor is it a book that will overwhelm you. Reading a few pages for 15-20 minutes per day will easily check this book off the list in less than a year’s time.

The first edition of Calvin’s Institutes was published in 1536 when Calvin was only 26 years old. I’m more than twice that age now, and I promise you that writing a book like the Institutes wasn’t on my radar when I was that young (for that matter, nor is it on my radar now)! Calvin continued to add to the Institutes through of series of updated editions until it took its final form in 1559, five years before his death.

Calvin wrote in one of his commentaries, “Today all sorts of subjects are eagerly pursued; but the knowledge of God is neglected. . . . Yet to know God is man’s chief end, and justifies his existence. Even if a hundred lives were ours, this one aim would be sufficient for them all.”

So, in 2021, I want to know God more, and inasmuch as Calvin was faithfully meditating on the scriptures as he wrote, I hope the Institutes will help me in that endeavor. I intend to write a brief blog each week to progress my reading. This blog is for me as much as it is for you, dear reader. Let’s grow in our knowledge of God together!