An Explorer's Guide to John Calvin, By Yudha Thianto
An Explorer's Guide to John Calvin
  • Length: 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: July 12, 2022
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0126
  • ISBN: 9781514001264

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Creation is the theater of God's glory. Scripture is like a pair of glasses that clarifies our vision of God. Justification is the hinge on which religion turns.

These and other affirmations are often associated with John Calvin, the 16th-century French Protestant Reformer best known for his ministry in Geneva and his authorship of the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Over the course of his lifetime and through several editions, Calvin expanded the Institutes from a brief study to a four-volume book that covers the main doctrines of the Christian faith and continues to shape the theology of the Reformed tradition.

In this volume, Reformed theologian Yudha Thianto guides readers through a careful study of Calvin's Institutes. After setting Calvin and his writing in their historical context, he outlines the most significant aspects of Calvin's theology, guiding those who would know more about his work and, through it, the God who inspired him.

Books in the Explorer's Guide series are accessible guidebooks for those studying the great Christian texts and theologians from church history, helping readers explore the context in which these texts were written and navigate the rich yet complex terrain of Christian theology.

"This is not just another book on Calvin but a personal and very readable account of the life and doctrine of the Genevan Reformer. Calvin's theological relevance is made clear, classic misunderstandings are cleared up and put aside, and the picture of a man devoted to serving God and the church is painted as a mirror to the reader."

Herman Selderhuis, professor of church history at the Theological University of Apeldoorn and president of the Reformation Research Consortium

"Anyone interested in exploring the life and thought of John Calvin will welcome this book! Thianto is a veteran scholar and teacher of Calvin who guides us step by step to understand Calvin's life and context as well as the dynamic theology that motivated readers of his magnum opus, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Thianto presents each of the four 'books' of the Institutes, providing clear discussions of their major theological insights. Primarily the Institutes provide a way of understanding God's revelation in Holy Scripture. As such, Calvin's thought has had a lasting impact on the global church. His views also nurture Christian living. Thianto's book helps us understand Calvin's theology and ways his insights can be significant for us today!"

Donald K. McKim, author of John Calvin: A Companion to His Life and Theology and Coffee with Calvin: Daily Devotions

"The Explorer's Guide to John Calvin is an appealing introduction to one of the Reformation's most influential figures. Countering many modern misconceptions about the Genevan Reformer, Yudha Thianto presents Calvin as a man of his times and also as a profound theologian who still speaks to Christians today. Thianto's lively and sympathetic portrait of Calvin's life and theology is an ideal starting point for those wanting to learn more about the origins of Calvinism."

Amy Nelson Burnett, Varner Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

"In a culmination of years of teaching and scholarship, with genuine warmth and affection, Yudha Thianto introduces us to John Calvin, his friend. Even for those familiar with Calvin, this is a fresh, faithful, and accessible guide. Thianto effortlessly dispels myths, depolarizes caricatures, and deepens Calvin the person, pastor, and Reformer. For the uninitiated, this book is an outstanding introduction to Calvin and his best-known work, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559), and includes a whole chapter dedicated to frequently asked questions that range from theological concepts to Calvin and his controversies. You will not be disappointed."

Jessica Joustra, assistant professor of religion and theology at Redeemer University

"Introductions to Calvin are a dime a dozen. What distinguishes this volume is its attention to historical context, its detailed coverage of major themes found in the Institutes, and its readability. It is a fine work by a fine scholar and will reward careful and reflective reading!"

Jon Balserak, senior lecturer in early modern religion at the University of Bristol

"In this engaging book, Reformation scholar Yudha Thianto provides a perceptive and sympathetic introduction to the life and theology of the Genevan Reformer John Calvin. Here readers will discover important clues explaining Calvin's formidable influence in the sixteenth century—and why his legacy continues to be important in our own day."

Scott M. Manetsch, professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and associate general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture

"Yudha Thianto provides us with a warm introduction to his friend across the centuries, John Calvin. He contextualizes him, unfolds his life story, and then walks us carefully through his Institutes. You'll find this slim volume packed with the essential facts to know about Calvin and his famed magnum opus. A delightfully readable introduction to the sixteenth-century French refugee, pastor, and theologian."

Gwenfair Walters Adams, professor of church history and chair of the Division of Christian Thought at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

"In 1539, John Calvin penned a short note to readers of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, explaining his circumstances for preparing another version of the work that more than any other defined him in the world's eyes, and commenting on what he believed was its value. Calvin recognized the necessity of having a guide for approaching the Scriptures—that an unprepared reader might easily stumble. Now, Yudha Thianto has provided a similar guide to Calvin's Institutes. Written in a familiar style, as if explaining the thought of a close friend, Thianto confidently leads his readers through meeting John Calvin as an early modern thinker and a pastor, then illuminates the path through the Institutes itself."

R. Ward Holder, professor of theology and director of the honors program at Saint Anselm College

"Calvin's theology is best understood in the context of his life, and this helpful guide introduces us to both. Calvin comes across as a faithful pastor and careful expositor of Holy Scripture, a teacher of the church who we can honor in no better way than to listen to him. Highly recommended!"

Timothy George, distinguished professor at Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture

"Decades ago, I was advised to read an IVP paperback, Jean Cadier's The Man God Mastered. Cadier, a French Calvin scholar, provided a nontechnical doorway into Calvin's life, career, and writings. This approachable book launched me on a lifelong quest to understand this Reformer and the transmission of his thought down to our time. I have no doubt that Thianto's Explorer's Guide will open doors, similarly, for a new generation of readers."

Kenneth J. Stewart, emeritus professor of theological studies at Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, Georgia

Read an Excerpt



Part One: Calvin the Man
1. Why John Calvin?
2. Who Was John Calvin?
3. Frequently Asked Questions About Calvin
4. Calvin as a Pastor

Part Two: A Guide to The Institutes of the Christian Religion
5. Editions of The Institutes of the Christian Religion
6. Book One of the Institutes
7. Book Two of the Institutes
8. Book Three of the Institutes
9. Book Four of the Institutes

General Index
Scripture Index


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Yudha Thianto

Yudha Thianto (PhD, Calvin Theological Seminary) is professor of history of Christianity and Reformed theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. He previously taught as professor of theology at Trinity Christian College. He is the author of The Way to Heaven: Catechisms and Sermons in the Establishment of Dutch Reformed Church in the East Indies in the Seventeenth Century.