Bruce Gordon

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A revealing new portrait of John Calvin that captures his human complexity and the sixteenth-century world in which he fought his personal and theological battles

During the glory days of the French Renaissance, young John Calvin (1509-1564) experienced a profound conversion to the faith of the Reformation. For the rest of his days he lived out the implications of that transformation—as exile, inspired reformer, and ultimately the dominant figure of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin’s vision of the Christian religion has inspired many volumes of analysis, but this engaging biography examines a remarkable life. Bruce Gordon presents Calvin as a human being, a man at once brilliant, arrogant, charismatic, unforgiving, generous, and shrewd.

The book explores with particular insight Calvin’s self-conscious view of himself as prophet and apostle for his age and his struggle to tame a sense of his own superiority, perceived by others as arrogance. Gordon looks at Calvin’s character, his maturing vision of God and humanity, his personal tragedies and failures, his extensive relationships with others, and the context within which he wrote and taught. What emerges is a man who devoted himself to the Church, inspiring and transforming the lives of others, especially those who suffered persecution for their religious beliefs.

Bruce Gordon is professor of Reformation history, Yale Divinity School. He is author and editor of a number of books, including The Swiss Reformation.

"Perhaps better than any previous study, Gordon’s book replaces the iconic image of an impassive Calvin with the impassioned man of flesh and blood, reconstructing a fraught life lived between 'divine calling and human frailty'. In this quincentenary of the reformer’s birth, scholars and general readers will be indebted to Gordon for having made Calvin comprehensible without compromising his complexity."—Brad Gregory, University of Notre Dame, author of Salvation at Stake

"A very stimulating book—extensive, detailed, in many respects brilliant."—Euan Cameron, Union Theological Seminary

"Bruce Gordon’s lively new biography presents Calvin embedded in his surroundings, developing his ideas as events unfolded."—Merry Wiesner-Hanks, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

"At last, a balanced biography of Calvin: Bruce Gordon's unblinking and unblinkered book brings a searching light to bear on one of the most private of the sixteenth century's most influential public figures."—Richard Rex

"Besides value for serious scholars, Gordon provides abundant insight into Calvin's personality . . . thanks to his reliance on the wealth of Calvin's letters about himself. . . . Humanizing Calvin and setting him in historical context, Gordon turns in a solid biography."—ALA Booklist

"A magnificent biography . . . [Bruce Gordon] liberates Calvin from the many stereotypes to which he has too long been captive and turns him into a flesh-and-blood human being."—George Stroup, Christian Century

"[A] new and exceptional biography."—John M. Buchanan, Christian Century Magazine

"It is here at last . . . a great biography of Calvin . . . the best biography of John Calvin to date."—

"In this 500th year of Calvin's birth, Gordon . . . has produced a scholarly yet accessible study that is not hagiography but an honest assessment of a man who had great talent and great faith and also great flaws. While writing from a Reformed perspective, Gordon offers a balanced view."—Augustine J. Curley, Library Journal

"Bruce Gordon's magisterial biography . . . sets the theologian in his 16th-century context and portrays Calvin as a prophet and an apostle whose genius lay in his ability to interpret the Bible and express a coherent, penetrating and lucid vision of God's abiding love."—Henry Carrigan, Publishers Weekly

"Of all the books published in this anniversary year, the one that stands head-and-shoulders above the rest is Bruce Gordon's Calvin. . . . a well written biography, rich in primary and secondary source material which actually penetrates to the man himself.  This is a high achievement. . . . informative, accessible, and realistic, it is the book to give to interested church members."—Sean Lucas, Reformation 21

"This engaging paperback should be required reading for any student of the Protestant Reformation."—Renaissance Magazine

"Bruce Gordon is an authority on the Swiss reformation, and his portrayal of Calvin in the broader context of European politics is unsurpassed. . . . [An] excellent book."—Barton Swaim, The Weekly Standard

"This biography excels in providing a scrupulous, detailed narrative from the ground up . . . [Gordon] always, across 340 pages of detailed narrative, gives us the story in its full complexity."—James Simpson, Times Literary Supplement

"The year 2009 marked the quincentenary of Calvin's birth. Among the many admirable books published to mark the occasion, Bruce Gordon's Calvin stands out. . . . Gordon's Calvin will deservedly stand as the standard introduction to Calvin's life for a very long time."—Thomas J. Davis, Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture

"Professor Gordon has surpassed our highest expectations. Gordon's Calvin will rightly become the standard biography. . . . This work deserves the widest possible audience . . . beautifully written . . . reliable and enjoyable."—David A. Booth, Ordained Servant

"Gordon's Calvin will deservedly stand as the standard introduction to Calvin's life for a very long time."—Thomas J. Davis, Journal of Church History

"Among recently published biographies of John Calvin, Bruce Gordon's Calvin is undoubtedly the most comprehensive and detailed in its telling of the story of Calvin's life as a sixteenth-century reformer and churchman. . . . No English biography of Calvin does more than Gordon's with Calvin's times and context."—Cornelis P. Venema, Mid-America Journal of Theology

"Gordon's book is now the 'must have' source for a fair and accurate account of Calvin as a human being."—Donald K. McKim, Interpretation

"[T]he acute contours of Calvin’s personality and his most controversial actions are interpreted in an evenhanded and critical manner throughout this biography, a laudable accomplishment for any historian, especially one confronting such a remarkably complicated and provocative historical figure."—Matthew J. Pereira, Religious Studies Review

"Exceptional . . . lucid . . . masterful."—Matthew J. Pereira, Religious Studies Review

ISBN: 9780300170849
Publication Date: May 31, 2011
432 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
12 b/w illus

God’s Armed Prophet

Bruce Gordon

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