John Calvin

Authored by: Michael Sudduth

Early Modern Philosophy of Religion

Print publication date:  July  2013
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9781844652228
eBook ISBN: 9781315729619
Adobe ISBN: 9781317546450


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The French Genevan reformer John Calvin (1509–64) holds an important place in the development of the theology of the Protestant Reformation. Building on insights articulated by other reformers such as Philipp Melanchthon, Martin Bucer and Huldrych Zwingli, Calvin is perhaps best known for his careful and penetrating biblical exegesis and the production of a compendium of Christian theology that strongly influenced the emergence of Reformed orthodoxy in the latter part of the sixteenth century. Calvin’s teachings on divine providence and predestination, the doctrine of sin and the Christian’s union with Christ were among his influential contributions to Reformed theology. But Calvin is also known for his doctrine of the natural knowledge of God, roughly, the idea that human beings have some knowledge of God from the light of nature and independent of scriptural revelation. The relationship between this doctrine and traditional natural theology (i.e. arguments for the existence and nature of God) has been a point of controversy among Calvin commentators and philosophical theologians in the Protestant tradition. In this entry I outline this controversy and show why Calvin should be regarded as having made an important, positive contribution to natural theology.

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