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Dates Lived: 1509-1564

Most important work:

  • Institutes of the Christian Religion (1560)

Biggest Contributions:

  • Emphasized the penal substitutionary view of the atonement
  • Overarching commitment to the Augustinian notion of the sovereignty of God in salvation
  • Taught that Scripture must interpret Scripture
  • Used the concept of the Covenant as the organizing principle for Christian theology

Favorite Quotes

Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.

God cannot be comprehended by us, except as far as he accomodates himself to our standard.

It was Christ’s task to swallow up death. Who but Life could do this? It was his task to conquer sin. Who but very Righteousness could do this? It was his task to rout the powers of the world and air. Who but a power higher than the world and air could do this? Therefore, our most merciful God, when he willed that we be redeemed, made himself our Redeemer in the person of his only begotten Son.

Every one of us is, even from his mother’s womb, a master craftsman of idols.

It is better that I should leave untouched what I cannot explain.

Keep hold of both of these points: our prayers are anticipated by God in his freedom, yet, what we ask we gain by prayer.

When the gospel is preached in the name of God, it is as if God himself spoke in person.

God tolerates even our stammering, and pardons our ignorance whenever something inadvertently escapes us – as, indeed, without this mercy there would be no freedom to pray.

True religion and worship of God arise out of faith, so that no one duly serves God save him who has been educated in his school.

The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul.

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5 thoughts on “Top 5 Christian Theologians: John Calvin”

  1. Alex says:


    I know everybody loves him and you can’t really leave him off any short-list. But I disciplined myself to read through the entire Institutes a couple of years ago and got absolutely nothing out of it. As a historical influence he should perhaps be honored, and I think that is your criteria for this list. But, to me at least, he is not useful/helpful today. In that vein, I’d like to see a list of the most useful/helpful theologians for the 21st century. They don’t have to be “from” today, just “for” today.


  2. Daniel says:

    Yes, so Calvin was a great thinker. he also had Michael Servetus killed (burned alive although Calvin would have preferred he be beheaded) because Servetus did not believe the same way as Calvin. How can someone like that be one of the top 5 Christian theologians? Calvin misses the whole section on love in the Bible egh?

  3. barefootmeg says:

    i haven’t read the institutes even a little bit, so i probably have no clue what i’m talking about, but it seems to me that a lot of the ways protestants think today are founded in paradigms that calvin initiated or paradigms that were initiated in others as they came into contact with calvin.

  4. Hi Daniel,

    I think your view of the Calvin and Servetus saga is lacking a bit. For a bit about this go to

  5. Ayuba says:

    From Calvin we can learn that christian love must be tamper with other ethical values. We cannot love at all cost.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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