These spring and summer volumes are releasing just in time to celebrate Calvin’s 500th birthday on July 10. Publishers Weekly provides these useful summaries.
Although famous for his theology, Calvin’s personal life remains veiled in darkness. Above all, the French-born reformer thought of himself as an instrument of God. Bruce Gordon’s magisterial biography Calvin (Yale Univ., July) sets the theologian in his 16th-century context and portrays Calvin as a prophet and an apostle whose genius lay in his ability to interpret the Bible and express a coherent, penetrating and lucid vision of God’s abiding love.
Calvin was so passionate in his calling to reform the Church and to reveal God’s majesty in the world to individuals that he spent every waking hour writing biblical commentaries, sermons and theological treatises. Plagued in later life by ill health brought on by overwork, he dictated his commentary on Joshua and his letters so that God would not find him idle, even in sickness. Drawing on that body of writings for John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor (Crossway, Apr.), Robert Godfrey, president of Westminster Seminary, portrays Calvin as a pastor and spiritual pilgrim who was always finding anew the apostolic Christianity expressed in the Bible.
Biblical scholar and critical theorist Roland Boer provocatively offers up a new view of Calvin, one who has as much in common with Karl Marx as with Karl Barth. In Political Grace: The Revolutionary Theology of John Calvin (Westminster John Knox, July), Boer challenges traditional readings of Calvin as a political conservative by arguing that Calvin let a radical political cat out of the theological bag only to try his hardest to push it back in and tie it up again.
Does Calvin have anything to say to contemporary audiences? Princeton Seminary professor William Stacy Johnson provides a Calvin for our day in his graceful little study guide, John Calvin: Reformer for the 21st Century (Westminster John Knox, June) As Johnson points out in his book, which includes discussion questions, Calvin would want believers today to remain true to the God to whom he was ever seeking to bear witness.