Friday, July 10, 2009

Books to celebrate Calvin's birth

I wanted to put some book recommendations up in honor of today being the quincentenary of John Calvin's birth. This is a good opportunity to remember to thank and praise God for his providence in giving this Reformer, and all of the Protestant Reformers, to the church. I've divided recommendations into books by Calvin, about Calvin's life, about his theology (though these last categories can be tough to split sometimes), and then devotional books featuring Calvin's writing and thought. I have linked to Monergism books for these and check my last post for how to get free shipping on all orders of $25 or more.

Calvin's writings:
  • Commentaries and Institutes of the Christian Religion - While this translation of the Institutes is not as readable as the one below it is valuable because the original Scripture reference are left untouched (the MacNeill/Battles translation adds additional notes) and so it is easier to go back and forth from the Institutes to the Commentaries. For only $140 (and you may be able to find cheaper elsewhere) it's definitely worth looking at for devotion and study material. I have this edition of the Commentaries and they look very stylish with a good binding. This is available as an older edition in the church library.
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion - These volumes remain as important expositions of the teaching of Scripture. This is the best English translation available. This is available as an older edition in the church library.
  • Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life - This little booklet is taken out of the Institutes and focuses on how to live as a devoted Christian. It's a very practical, pastoral, and helpful little book to have.
  • On Prayer: Conversation with God - This is another good book taken from Calvin's Institutes on an aspect of the Christian life. Very encouraging.
  • John Calvin's Sermons on Ephesians - As I mentioned on Sunday, the church in Geneva made a point of having Calvin's sermons transcribed as closely as possible and so they are available to us. This is a very helpful collection. This is available in the church library.
  • John Calvin's Sermons on Galatians - This may be the best introductory point into Calvin's writing and teaching. Fantastically helpful. This is available in the church library.
  • On the Bondage and Liberation of the Will - While this is very similar to Luther's On the Bondage of the Will it is less polemic against Erasmus (as this was the context for Luther's work) and more comprehensive in presenting the Reformed doctrine. It is also very interesting to compare Calvin and Luther with Edwards on this point to see where Edwards makes some pretty signficant modifications to the faith taught by Calvin and his successors in the Reformed church like Turretin and the other scholastics.

Calvin's life:
  • The Piety of John Calvin: A Collection of His Spiritual Prose, Poems, and Hymns by Ford Lewis Battles - This is a fantastic book for getting a real glimpse of Calvin's character and spiritual devotion. Calvin is so often portrayed as a stoic intellectual and this does not fit the image of him that comes from his writings. Battles helpfully draws out the piety and love for God that Calvin had in this book. For musical folks out there the book includes six Psalms from the Psalter that Calvin wrote for Geneva with musical arrangements.
  • John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology ed. by Burk Parsons - While some of the essays in this book get more at his teaching I think that on the whole this is a good book about Calvin's character and passion for various aspects of ministry in Geneva and to the neighboring nations. One of my top recommendations on this list.
  • John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor by Robert Godfrey - This is a new book on Calvin that just recently came out. It is available on the church book table.
  • John Calvin: A Pilgrim's Life by Herman J. Selderhuis - This is a new book on Calvin that I have not been able to read yet but has gotten some great reviews.
  • John Calvin by Simonetta Carr - This is a fantastic children's book to introduce young readers to the Genevan Reformer.
  • John Calvin and his Passion for the Majesty of God by John Piper - There's not a lot in here that is different from the write-up available on the Desiring God website but you may still find it to be a helpful introductory biography to Calvin. I should note that I think that Piper's response to the Servetus issue is pretty weak but he's pretty helpful on Calvin's second stay in Geneva as a whole and interactions with the libertines.
  • John Calvin: His Life and Influence by Robert Reymond - This book is helpful in addressing many of the charicatures of Calvin out there.

Calvin's theology:
  • A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes: Essays and Analysis ed. by David Hall and Peter Lillback - This is a fantastic reference manual to have on Calvin's theology by some of the greatest Reformed theologians and pastors of our day. They help to summarize Calvin's thought, often connecting his teaching in the Institutes to his Commentaries, sermons, and other writings. This is one of the most valuable items on this list.
  • Calvin in the Public Square: Liberal Democracies, Rights, and Civil Liberties by David Hall - I just recently read this book for a paper I'm writing and found it to be very readable and engrossing. The short sections in the beginning surveying the views of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Zwingli, and Farel and how they influenced Calvin's political theology alone are worth the price of the book and you're only 45 pages in!
  • Calvin and the Atonement by Robert Peterson - This is a very helpful little book from Peterson that survey's Calvin's teaching about Christ's atonement and what that means for the salvation of sinners. This is more than just what Calvin had to say about the cross but surveys his teaching in general about the once-for-all work of Christ for our salvation.
  • Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper by Keith Mathison - This is a helpful book contrasting Calvin's teaching on the Supper with the almost Zwinglian view that even many Presbyterian and Reformed church unintentionally seem to support today.
  • The Legacy of John Calvin: His Influence on the Modern World by David Hall - In this book Hall examines ten important ways that Calvin's teaching has influenced thought in Western civilization since the Reformation.

Devotional material from Calvin:

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