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John Calvin was born in Picardy, France in 150 and died at Geneva in 1564. He was educated and was trained for the Roman Catholic Church but claimed to have a “sudden conversion” and was convinced that he was called to restore the church to its original purity. Calvin began to support Protestant teachings and preach in public. He experienced struggle, conflict, imprisonment and exile, so he was forced to flee France and after travelling, ended up in Geneva. There he was exiled for three years because of his strict teachings, but in 155, he was supported enthusiastically. Calvin remained in Geneva and preached until his dying day.

Calvin believed that the Roman Catholic Church was corrupt. He urged the church to recover its original vitality and purity. This was brought about by his “sudden conversion”.

Calvin’s reforms revolved around the sovereignty of God, the nature of election and predestination, the sins of pride and disobedience, the authority of Scripture, and the nature of the Christian life. He also denied the doctrine that Christ is really present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, as did Luther and Zwingli (two other well known reformers).

According to Calvin, the Bible identified the nature of theology. His statements on doctrine all were based on Scripture. Calvin chose to focus on the Word of God, rather than on the divine matters that seemed to be more the interest of Catholics.

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One of Calvin’s reforms is the doctrine of “predestination”. Predestination is where God chooses who shall be saved and who shall not. God gives His grace only to those He chooses, and without this grace, no one can have faith in God and be saved. Therefore, whether an individual goes to heaven or hell depends on God’s will, and not just on the sort of life the person lives on earth.

Calvin had a strong belief that each man must be guided by his own conscience in his search for God and in his worship, and that no priest or church should stand between a man and his God. He did though, consider the law an essential guide and incentive to the Christian life.

Calvin stressed the issue of prayer. He viewed prayer as a supreme exercise and expression of Christian faith and as the key to living well. He believed that prayer provided the nourishment for faith.

Calvin also had a different view on the sacraments. In the Roman Catholic Church there are seven sacraments. These are baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, ordination and matrimony. Of these, baptism and Eucharist are the only ones seen as sacraments to Calvin and he believed that they should be celebrated as mysteries in which Christ is spiritually present.

Calvin was severe on any form of immortality, particularly sexual transgressions and blasphemy. He tried to enforce strict rules of behaviour and had strict teachings.

Indulgences were a big issue during the Reformation. Calvin was against indulgences and thought that good works were consequences of union with Christ in faith, not the means of salvation.

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