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Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 volume set) [Hardcover]

Jean Calvin , John Thomas McNeill , Ford Lewis Battles
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 May 2001 Library of Christian Classics
This is the definitive English-language edition of one of the monumental works of the Christian church. All previous editions--in Latin, French, German, and English--have been collated; references and notes have been verified, corrected, and expanded; and new bibliographies have been added.The translation preserves the rugged strength and vividness of Calvin's writing, but also conforms to modern English and renders heavy theological terms in simple language. The result is a translation that achieves a high degree of accuracy and at the same time is eminently readable.Long recognized for the quality of its translations, introductions, explanatory notes, and indexes, the Library of Christian Classics provides scholars and students with modern English translations of some of the most significant Christian theological texts in history. Through these works--each written prior to the end of the sixteenth century--contemporary readers are able to engage the ideas that have shaped Christian theology and the church through the centuries.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster/John Knox Press,U.S. (18 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664220282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664220280
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.1 x 7.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 675,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

John T. McNeill was an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. He taught at Westminster Hall; Queen's University, Ontario; Knox College, Toronto; the University of Chicago; and Union Theological Seminary, New York. McNeill authored many books, and was one of the general editors of The Library of Christian Classics.

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From those matters so far discussed, we clearly see how destitute and devoid of all good things man is, and how he lacks all aids to salvation. Read the first page
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incomparable 30 Aug 2009
This work of theological genius is a text which has influenced Western civilisation for nearly five centuries. It started as the work of a young French refugee, only in his twenties and resident in Geneva. It does not read like other systematic theologies for it is heartwarmingly devotional. It is felt faith explained and defended. The detractors of Calvin are usually lacking in personal contact with his works. Ignorant prejudice against this Marmite reformer will be reduced by acquaintance with this his magnum opus. This modern edition is far more readable than earlier translations.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The treatise 29 July 2011
The treatise
Of all I have read from past to present, there is nothing so motivating, inspiring and spiritually uplifting as this massive work. It is the best work I have ever read, except the scriptures themselves. It is difficult, as you need to be focused and alert when you are reading, but the rewards are immediate and stay with you for the long-term.
This large piece of work is the total justification of the system of faith set out in the scripture, and the arguments and discussion are real faith builders and securers. Every point and explanation is backed up with scripture references, and addressed clearly and precisely.
It may seem daunting, but you can take as long as you like and do as little as you like, and the fruit will be a deeper understanding of Who God is and his loving purposes for his people, and human beings generally. It may well take years, as we need to work and look after our families etc, but if treated it as a very long-term read, we will reap the rewards.
We will never understand God, or his word, but to follow the mind and logic of the master theologian, will surely aid in our own spiritual understanding. When you read the bible for yourself, it will seem clearer and your thought processes will be better equipped to interpret the word of God in a way that holds it all together.
You could annotate as you read; post it notes with jottings; records on paper of your thoughts as you go along; words of hymns that seem to match the readings; highlight with markers bits that seem to pop out at you.... it becomes your own work as you relate to the words of Calvin and apply them to your self.
Buy the whole piece of work, rather than the abridged versions. You will not be disappointed...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SImply the best edition of these historic volumes 2 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As an academic, I have repeatedly made use of this set and have been so impressed that I actually bought my own copy. It is a very readable, well referenced edition with the most comprehensive and useful indices I have found in any book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 23 Sep 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Easy to read!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  51 reviews
147 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic theology - Classic literature 8 Sep 2004
By Douglas VanderMeulen - Published on
John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is a monumental work that stands among the greatest works of Christian theology and Western literature. It ranks with works such as St. Augustine's Confessions and City of God in value, insight and significance. The Institutes have molded the church's understanding of Christian doctrine for generations and has had untold influence in the development of Western thought in both the religious and civil arenas.

Calvin's Institutes represent his life work in teaching theology. They first appeared in 1536 and went through three significant revisions - each expanding and building upon the previous. This particular edition represents the final form and of which Calvin was very pleased.

Originally written to give basic understanding of Christian doctrine, they became one of the earliest systematic theologies of the Reformed tradition. Calvin's stated desire is to give the reader the necessary background to read and accurately handle the great doctrines and promises of the Bible.

Calvin sent a copy to the King Francis I to encourage him to stop persecuting the Christians who were embracing the gospel as taught by the Reformers. His basic argument was that if the king understood what these people believed he would stop killing them as heretics but rather see them as faithful adherents of historical Christianity. Calvin was no lover of novelty and throughout the Institutes copiously cites from the early church fathers and the long history of the Church's understanding of doctrine.

This two-volume work is broken down into four books that loosely follow the outline of the Apostle's Creed. Book 1 concerns knowledge of God. Book 2 is about Jesus Christ as redeemer. Book 3 is about the Holy Spirit's role in applying Christ's redeeming graces. Book 4 is about the church and practice.

This particular edition, translated by Battles and edited by McNeil is more expensive than the one produce by Beverage, but it is worth every extra dollar you spend. While the church is indebted to Beverage for his labor of love in getting many works by Calvin translated into English, his command of both French and Latin were not as strong as Battles. They were originally produced in both Latin and French and Battles' work demonstrates his competency in dealing with both languages. Also, Battles' mastery of Calvin's other writings is reflected in his voluminous footnotes, many of them very helpful to the reader for clarifying, further reading and cross-referencing. In addition, the indexes in the Battles edition are invaluable not only for searching the Institutes for topics but for gleaming Calvin's understanding of the church fathers.

Agree or disagree with Calvin, these are a necessary read for anyone who desires an understanding of the development of Western thought, literature and theology. They are not only great theology; they represent excellent writing and development of an argument. They are also highly pastoral and devotional. They are not like reading a modern systematic theology. Calvin understood doctrine to be more than theory, but something to mold our understanding of God, ourselves and the world in which we live. Carefully working through the Institutes is a journey worth taking!

Soli Deo Gloria!
81 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unlike so much else you've ever read 3 May 2002
By Dave K - Published on
Why you should read this book:
1. It's not to heavy (thought it does make you think a lot). I have read a couple of puritan book of the 17th century and they are filled with great stuff but because you read them in the original English it's hard going, but this book translated from the Latin is much more readable. Although the book is v. long it is not as hard as you think it is - trust me.
2. It is nice to read a good theologian not setting out purely with the aim of defending the doctrines his own denomination has been teaching for centuries. Although is influenced by tradition he is not as obsessed by it as some Protestants today. He does suffer slightly sometimes, i.e. has some wrong ideas about minor points (e.g. the ancient church on confirmation), because he is not just re-plowing a furrow that has be furrowed a thousand times, but these slips are usually picked up in the notes. It's so refreshing.
3. He really, really cares about the truth. Yes he does sometimes call his opponents "dogs" and "swine" which is less acceptable now than it once was, but he calls them that because he is angry because he sees heretics catching Christians in their nets, are you not upset when you see that?
Earlier reviewers have called him a tyrant because he used his limited power (he wasn't even a citizen of Geneva) to try to stop people sinning as much. Sometimes he went a bit overboard but at least he cared.
4. He uses the church fathers a lot more than anyone else I've ever read. He had read so much compared to now. I have heard that he worked very hard, 4hrs sleep, into an early grave etc, and it's not hard to see what he did. He was a full time pastor and yet had read all these books. Scripture is infinitely better than the fathers, but Calvin was concerned about the Catholics and he uses Augustine etc to show the Catholics of then and now that their beloved fathers would have hated the RC church post-500ish. You won't get that much elsewhere.
5. His chapters on providence and man's sinfulness. People think this book is all about predestination to salvation, but it doesn't really have a central theme like that. But essential to your understanding of election is God's providence and our depravity and Calvin gives these the right weight and makes so much so clear. However overriding all his writing on election and everything else is that we should try to understand as much as the bible tells us but go no further. He was, it seems to me (<I can't see his heart like God can), really humble before God and his word.
The fact that this review is so badly written should prove to you that I am not an eminent scholar, just a lowly maths student, and so this book is easy enough for most to read. Don't bother with an abridged version spend the rather large amount of money and get this book - it is worth it. If you want a big book mainly for reference get Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof which though not perfect (no book by man ever will be) has more scripture references and less human writing.
However, if there was one book other than the Bible with me on a desert island it would be this one. No other human author has ever been as edifying for me. He helped me realize for the first time since I had started calling myself a Christian a few months earlier that I was saved totally by grace and am myself the most vile creature on earth when you realize God's holiness (read Hopeful's story in Pilgrim's Progress that's me). This book (would you believe it a 16th century work) truly drove me to my knees. Buy it! Sorry for rambling.
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable, understandable -- almost devotional 19 Aug 1999
By A Customer - Published on
There's so much here, it's difficult to write a review of it.
Perhaps my main recommendation of this book is that it presents such a clear, organized outline of the "basics" of the Christian faith. Regardless of one's position on the man or his theology, one cannot escape the fact that this man's faith was obviously vital to him, and he passionately describes his beliefs in these volumes.
Reading Calvin's Institutes was, for me, quite valuable in finally being able to separate John Calvin and his theology from later "Calvinism" that followed, including some of its excesses. I found John Calvin's Institutes to be a balanced, easily understood outline of biblical Christianity.
My final commendation would address the organization of the work. The fact that Calvin has provided the reader with a clear outline and direction in his writing, and addressed each point of his outline in concise, manageable units makes the reading of this immense work much more approachable; the brief readings on each topic, with the saturation of biblical references throughout, makes the reading of the Institutes almost a devotional experience.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't get any other translation 19 Mar 2003
By T. Stevenson - Published on
This is simply the finest translation of Calvin's Insitutes. What makes this translation so good is the indexes of names, topics, and biblical verses....Mcneil's edition is tried and tested in this two volume set. It is a must have for anyone wanting to read Calvin in a durable hardcover edition. The indexes are invaluable in finding subjects that Calvin addresses. This is the one--i think. While the isbn matches, the price does not. You might want to contact amazon and make sure you are getting the hardback two volume set. The isbn is 0664220207 for the first book and 0664220215 for the second. The price should be around 60 dollars or so.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars read for yourself 14 Aug 2000
By Geoffrey S. Robinson - Published on
Even if you aren't Reformed, this is a must. This was written for everyone from kings to the street sweeper. Calvin is amazingly bright. Institutes consists of four parts: God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the Church. Book four contains devastating critiques and historical analysis of the Catholic church. Calvin also uses early church fathers and Scriptures to show what the church looked like before the rise of the archbishops, esp. the bishop of Rome. His quotes of Jerome will make Catholics irate.
This book is also historically important, as it was mightily used by God. You don't have to agree with Calvinism to appreciate or find this book useful. You don't even have to like Calvin. People should focus on the work, not the man. What you will find is the author loved God and His Word and endeavored to never stray far from either.
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