John Calvin

John Calvin : A Sixteenth-Century Portrait

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Professor Bouwsma studies the theologian John Calvin as a way to bring into focus the cultural, psychological, and intellectual problems of the sixteenth century. He argues that Calvin represents an historical moment of transition from traditional modes of philosophical and religious thought to modern ones. Beginning with a description of the traditional culture of Calvin's time, and of the moralism which exerted such a powerful hold over medieval thought, he goes on to identify the crucial issue in this transition as the ability of a culture to manage the anxiety of existence. Medieval society, by creating simplified polarities such as Good and Evil, he argues, was conspicuously successful in performing this task. Finally Bouwsma provides a critical analysis of this medieval philosophy, and explains the significance of Calvin's concept of a "New Order" in providing an ethical system which no longer relied upon these established views of the more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 152.4 x 234.95 x 21.08mm | 521.63g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0195059514
  • 9780195059519
  • 914,621

About William J. Bouwsma

William J. Bouwsma is Sather Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the author of the highly-acclaimed Venice and the Defense of Republican Liberty: Renaissance Values in the Age of the more

Review quote

'Bouwsma's experience of the period makes him an impressive guide ... there is much here to interest and challenge ... It is an exciting and novel exploration of a person who did not always say the same thing ... Bouwsma provides the reader with a stimulating and refreshing study.' Francis M. Higman, Institut d'Histoire de le Reformation, Geneva, EHR Oct. 91 `There is much here to interest and challenge. It is an exciting and novel exploration of a person who did not always say the same thing, who was eclectic in the influences he absorbed...Bouwsma provides the reader with a stimulating and refreshing study'. Francis M. Higman, English Historical Review, Oct 1991. 'a formidably learned book ... a remarkable intellectual portrait ... By listening to Calvin's language and his patterns of argument across the broad range of his writings, he has constructed a beautifully organised, majestic and exciting study of the first rank in Calvin scholarship.' M. Greengrass, University of Sheffield, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 'the clarity of its organization and the vigour of its style offer a welcome contrast to the labyrinthine prose of so many studies that take their philosophical pretensions too seriously ... Bouwsma has mastered the rhetoric he praises.' Kenneth J.E. Graham, University of California, Berkeley. Renaissance Studies 'This book breaks new ground for students of Calvin and Calvinism ... this portrait of Calvin is not only enriching in itself but will encourage students of his teaching to a new care in its interpretation' Journal of Theological Studies 'he draws attention to themes in Calvin easily overlooked' Paul Helm, The Banner of Truth 'There is a surprising and in many ways unexpected Calvin in the pages of this absorbing biography and intellectual study ... Bouwsma's supremely readable work ... brings to Calvin a profound intellectual understanding and a vital human sympathy.' Michael Mullett, University of Lancaster, Social History Society `Bouwsma's portrait proves most valuable. Because, finally, it's the portrait of an intellectual sleepwalker of a man who thought he was doing one thing, like upholding authority, and ended up doing quite the opposite, like inspiring revolution.' San Francisco Chronicle Review ` A genuinely new insight into the man and into the sixteenth century as a whole.' John M. Todd, The New York Times Book Review `a fascinating book ... perceptive in the complex, and indeed risky, quest for the secrets of the heart of so controlled and guarded a person as Calvin. It is also fearlessly frank ... the man behind these institutions has been portrayed here with a pen both sharp and subtle.' Times Literary Supplement `There is a surprising and in many ways unexpected Calvin in the pages of this absorbing biography and intellectual study...fine study...Bousma's supremely readable work...brings to Calvin aprofound intellectual understanding and avital human sympathy social history society-autumn 1989show more

Rating details

61 ratings
3.59 out of 5 stars
5 20% (12)
4 41% (25)
3 21% (13)
2 15% (9)
1 3% (2)
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