Quotes about Calvin

“The longer I live the clearer does it appear that John Calvin’s system is the nearest to perfection.”

— Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“Calvin’s theology interests us in its historical context as an outstanding record of Reformation theology that historically—and at times even legally—has served as a basis of proclamation in modern Protestant churches.”

— Karl Barth

“Calvin helped the Reformation change the entire focus of the Christian life. Calvin’s teaching, preaching, and catechizing fostered growth in the relationship between believers and God.”

— Joel R. Beeke

“The Institutes is a strongly personal book. The author addresses his readers directly. . . . It is this immediate, engaging style that has no doubt contributed so much to the power and attraction of the Institutes over the years.”

— Paul Helm

“Calvin’s theological heritage has proved fertile perhaps to a greater extent than any other Protestant writer. Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, and Karl Barth, in their very different ways, bear witness to the pivotal role that Calvin’s ideas have played in shaping Protestant self-perceptions down the centuries. . . . It is impossible to understand modern Protestantism without coming to terms with Calvin’s legacy to the movement which he did so much to nourish and sustain.”

— Alister E. McGrath

“The fundamental issue for John Calvin—from the beginning of his life to the end—was the issue of the centrality and supremacy and majesty of the glory of God.”

— John Piper

“John Calvin is a man of distinguished reputation, one of the great figures of church history.”

— Wulfert de Greef

“It would hardly be too much to say that for the latter part of his lifetime and a century after his death John Calvin was the most influential man in the world, in the sense that his ideas were making more history than those of anyone else during that period. Calvin’s theology produced the Puritans in England, the Huguenots in France, the ‘Beggars’ in Holland, the Covenanters in Scotland, and the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, and was more or less directly responsible for the Scottish uprising, the revolt of the Netherlands, the French wars of religion, and the English Civil War. Also, it was Calvin’s doctrine of the state as a servant of God that established the ideal of constitutional representative government and led to the explicit acknowledgment of the rights and liberties of subjects. . . . It is doubtful whether any other theologian has ever played so significant a part in world history.”

— J. I. Packer

“[Calvin] easily takes the lead among the systematic expounders of the Reformed system of Christian doctrine. . . . Calvin’s theology is based upon a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He was the ablest exegete among the Reformers, and his commentaries rank among the very best of ancient and modern times. His theology, therefore, is biblical rather than scholastic, and has all the freshness of enthusiastic devotion to the truths of God’s Word. At the same time he was a consummate logician and dialectician. He had a rare power of clear, strong, convincing statement. He built up a body of doctrines which is called after him, and which obtained symbolical authority through some of the leading Reformed Confessions of Faith.”

“Taking into account all his failings, he [Calvin] must be reckoned as one of the greatest and best of men whom God raised up in the history of Christianity.”

— Philip Schaff

“What is it about Calvin that so inspires me? This: his disciplined style, his determination never to speculate, his utter submission to Bible words as God’s words, his submission to Christ’s Lordship, his sense of the holy, his concern to be as practical as possible; the fact that godly living was his aim and not theology for the sake of it. In a forest of theologians, Calvin stands like a Californian Redwood, towering over everyone else.”

— Derek Thomas

“A little bit of the world’s history was enacted in Geneva.”

— Ludwig Häusser

“The greatest exegete and theologian of the Reformation was undoubtedly Calvin. . . . He is one of the greatest interpreters of Scripture who ever lived. He owes that position to a combination of merits. He had a vigorous intellect, a dauntless spirit, a logical mind, a quick insight, a thorough knowledge of the human heart, quickened by rich and strange experience; above all, a manly and glowing sense of the grandeur of the Divine. The neatness, precision, and lucidity of his style, his classic training and wide knowledge, his methodical accuracy of procedure, his manly independence, his avoidance of needless and commonplace homiletics, his deep religious feeling, his careful attention to the entire scope and context of every passage, and the fact that he has commented on almost the whole of the Bible, make him tower above the great majority of those who have written on Holy Scripture.”

— Frederic William Farrar, History of Interpretation

“I believe Calvin was a great instrument of God; and that he was a wise and pious man.”

— John Wesley

“After the Holy Scriptures, I exhort the students to read the Commentaries of Calvin. . . . I tell them that he is incomparable in the interpretation of Scripture; and that his Commentaries ought to be held in greater estimation than all that is delivered to us in the writings of the ancient Christian Fathers: so that, in a certain eminent spirit of prophecy, I give the pre-eminence to him beyond most others, indeed beyond them all. I add, that, with regard to what belongs to common places, his Institutes must be read after the Catechism, as a more ample interpretation. But to all this I subjoin the remark, that they must be perused with cautious choice, like all other human compositions.”

— Jacob Arminius

“Calvin is the man who, next to St. Paul, has done most good to mankind.”

— William Cunningham

“Calvin was one of those strong and consistent men of history who people either liked or disliked, adored or abhorred.”

— Lewis W. Spitz, Lutheran Historian

“To omit Calvin from the forces of Western evolution is to read history with one eye shut.”

— Lord John Morley

“I have been a witness of him for sixteen years and I think that I am fully entitled to say that in this man there was exhibited to all an example of the life and death of the Christian, such as it will not be easy to depreciate, and it will be difficult to imitate.”

— Theodore Beza

“The strength of that heretic [Calvin] consisted in this, that money never had the slightest charm for him. If I had such servants my dominion would extend from sea to sea.”

— Pope Pius IV

Don’t miss out

Get the latest Calvin 500 news, content, and more—sign up today!