John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” edited by John T. McNeill and published by Westminster John Knox, stands as a profound theological masterpiece that continues to shape the Reformed tradition. As a Reformed pastor, I found myself engrossed in its pages, captivated by the depth of insight and clarity of thought that Calvin presents.

Calvin’s work is divided into four books, each addressing crucial aspects of Christian doctrine and practice. In Book I, Calvin skillfully explores the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self, setting the foundation for the rest of the treatise. His words resonate powerfully as he writes, “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves” (p. 37). This assertion underscores the centrality of understanding our Creator and our own nature in our pursuit of spiritual growth.

In Book II, Calvin delves into the topic of God’s providence, guiding readers through the intricate interplay between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. His discussion on predestination offers deep contemplation: “By predestination, we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man” (p. 339). While this concept may provoke theological debates, Calvin’s exposition is both thought-provoking and enlightening.

The heart of Calvin’s work lies in Book III, where he expounds on the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation and the means of grace. His exposition of the sacraments, particularly the Lord’s Supper, is profound: “We are said to eat the body of Christ, not in the manner in which we eat other things, but in a way peculiar to this heavenly mystery” (p. 978). Calvin’s careful exploration of this topic reveals his commitment to biblical fidelity and pastoral care.

Finally, Book IV addresses the Church and its relationship to the civil government. Calvin’s insights on the roles of church and state are as relevant today as they were in the 16th century. His words on the importance of government serve as a reminder: “If the Lord has willed that we be under the authority of rulers, this ought to be a very strong reason for them to have dominion over us” (p. 1263).

“Institutes of the Christian Religion” is a work of immense theological depth, resonating with believers seeking to understand the Reformed perspective on key doctrines. Calvin’s systematic presentation and McNeill’s thoughtful editing make this edition a valuable resource for pastors, scholars, and seekers of truth.

Statement of Compliance: I want to clarify that this review is based on my personal reading and reflection of “Institutes of the Christian Religion” by John Calvin, edited by John T. McNeill and published by Banner of Truth Trust. I have not received any compensation or incentives for writing this review, and my opinions are solely my own.

Book Details:

Title: Institutes of the Christian Religion

Author: John Calvin

Publisher: Westminster John Knox