Critical Review of "A Life of John Calvin" Book Review

A critical review of "A Life of John Calvin" by Alister McGrath.
# 119843 | 1,012 words | 1 source | MLA | 2010 | US

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This book review of "A Life of John Calvin" written by Christian apologist and scientific theologian Alister McGrath suggests that McGrath's denunciation of the stereotypically negative view of Calvin is refreshing. The author of this paper critically analyzes the biography, illustrates how McGrath draws heavily on the classic works of Beza (1564) and Colladon (1565), and concludes by arguing that the book is especially valuable because McGrath's clearheaded presentation of the Swiss Reformation may help shift the public opinion about John Calvin.

From the Paper:

"McGrath begins by setting the stage for the reform of the Church in Europe. Renaissance popes, he says, were "presiding over a period of moral degeneration, financial intrigue and spectacularly unsuccessful power politics, which seriously challenged the credibility of the Church as a spiritual and moral guide." (3) He credits the rise of adult literacy, anti-clericalism, and, especially, of personal faith, for the ready acceptance by many for a new look at the old institution. Such figures as Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples, Guillaume Bri onnet, and John Colet, with their religious humanism, were "breathing the fresh air of the New Testament" (7) into the Church and the Church had not chosen to respond harshly to this development (owing, perhaps, to the dismal disarray that characterized papal authority at that time). McGrath concludes that when Luther began to promote his reform, using some of the same arguments that these others had used to make his case against the Roman Catholic Church, the result was that their views were marked as heretical with his, rather than his being marked as orthodox with theirs. In other words, where the Church had been content to largely ignore the earlier humanists, they could not do so with Luther (who challenged them openly) and, consequently, it is McGrath's opinion that Luther cast aspersion on his predecessors in the process. While this may be true, it in no way mitigates the necessity for the reform of the Church which had itself moved far afield of biblical theology. Thus, while McGrath seems to be critical of Luther's candid methodology, he surely cannot mean that Luther should have remained silent. So, if his critique is genuine, it is nevertheless moot."

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