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26 - The Style of Theology

Editions of the Institutes

from Part IV - The Religious Question

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 November 2019

R. Ward Holder
Affiliation:
Saint Anselm College, New Hampshire
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Summary

The style of the various editions of the Institutes is directly related to the audience for which the book was written, for Calvin was convinced that any book had to be accommodated to the capacities of its intended audience. John Calvin originally wrote the Institutes to be a catechism for the pious evangelicals in France, who had come to faith in the Gospel but who needed to have their faith built up and strengthened. “My purpose was solely to transmit certain rudiments by which those who are touched with any zeal for religion might be shaped to true godliness.” Because the audience was ordinary believers who needed to be edified, Calvin adopted a style that was accommodated to their capacities. “The book itself witnesses that this was my intention, adapted as it is to a simple and, you might say, elementary form of teaching.”1 As many scholars have noted, the format of Luther’s Small Catechism is clearly evident in the form of the first edition of the Institutes, as it is structured along the lines of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, followed by an extended discussion of the sacraments.

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John Calvin in Context , pp. 224 - 231
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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References

Gamble, Richard. The Organizational Structure of Calvin’s Theology. New York: Garland, 1992.Google Scholar
Millet, Olivier. Calvin et la dynamique de la parole. Geneva: Slatkine, 1992.Google Scholar
Zachman, Randall. John Calvin as Teacher, Pastor, and Theologian: The Shape of His Writings and Thought. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.Google Scholar

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