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Calvinism: A History Hardcover – 28 May 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (28 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300148798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300148794
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.6 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 403,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Calvinism covers its imposingly diverse subject with scholarly precision and the kind of charity and balance one hopes for in any historian. [...] In Calvinism, Mr. Hart skilfully combines political and institutional history, on the one hand, and theological developments and the 'history of ideas,' on the other."-Barton Swaim, Wall Street Journal -- Barton Swaim Wall Street Journal "The great merit of this book is that it pulls so many threads together in a coherent tapestry. The writing is clear and efficient."-James Bratt, Christian Century -- James Bratt Christian Century

About the Author

D. G. Hart is visiting professor of history, Hillsdale College, and former director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, Wheaton College. He is author of more than a dozen previous books, including most recently From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin. He lives in Hillsdale, MI.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By stevebishop on 30 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover
It was Bishop John Aylmer in his 1559 book An Harborowe for Faithfull and Trewe Subjects who identified the English roots of the Reformation he wrote: "Wycliffe begat Hus, who begat Luther". Sadly, this Englishness of the Reformation is neglected in Hart.

Hart looks at how Calvinism has become a global faith (xii). He identifies three phases:

1. Calvinism took root in settings where church reform was tethered to efforts to establish political autonomy.
2. Calvinists adopted new models for extending their beliefs; and
3. Adjusted to the rise of secular political orders prompted by the 18th century.

Calvinism was most dominant in Switzerland, the German-speaking Palatinate, the Dutch Republic and Scotland. So, inevitably these geographical areas then have the most words. However, only a few pages are devoted to the English scene (primarily pp 35-41, 83-90). At least McNeill in his History and Character of Calvinism had a chapter on England and Ireland. David Creamans's Reception of Calvinism in England - surprisingly absent from Hart's bibliography - would fill in some of the gaps. Sadly, though, we still wait for the definitive history of Calvinism in England.

Hart's take on the English Puritans is interesting and worth further investigation. Their emphasis on personal holiness and pursuit of a "vein of introspective piety" replaced the "zeal for a thoroughly reformed church" (p 84). He claims that it was then responsible for the "unintended consequence" of a "high-church sacramental Anglican reaction" (p 85). This may well explain why Jim Packer wasn't asked to write a Foreword! Here perhaps in Puritainism are the roots of a privatisation of the gospel.

Despite the title this book is more a history of Presbyterianism than Calvinism.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Great book on the history of the reformation 17 Sept. 2013
By ERNEST MILLER - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Darryl does a great job interweaving the impact of political developments during the Reformation with the spiritual and ecclesiastical developments especially showing how the combination of persecution in some realms coupled with support and sponsorship in other realms greatly aided the growth and spread of the Reformed Christian denominations. A must read for those interested in understanding how Calvinism and the Reformation were born and grew to greatly influence our modern world. Toward the end of the book Darryl allows the current academy bias against European colonialism to dominate his comments, but overall the book is full of insightful commentary about Calvinism and the many forms it grew to include over the centuries.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
church history 5 Oct. 2013
By Robert D. Keiser - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A good written history how thinking people acted on their knowledge of Christianity when they were able to read the bible in English, how they tried to reform the cities in which they lived, Jesus in the first century taught his followers not to involve themselves in politics and government for good reason. the catholic church created havoc on the world because of their taking over the roman empire, when the reformed church followed the same pattern similar results, Luther also. I did enjoy the historicity of the subject. thanks for your work.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Great Overview of Calvinism 30 Sept. 2014
By The Fuller Review - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Hart-Calvinism-A-History-1017x1476To write a history on what D.G. Hart notes as an, accidental movement, would need to include the study of a broad swath of theologians from an array of countries. Hart has done a great service to the church by providing a synthesis of Reformed history and thought into a manageable number of pages for the common reader with Calvinism: A History. Hart goes beyond merely recounting a history of religion but relies on the context of political and religious circumstances which helped to open up doors for the spread of the Reformed faith across the globe.

Hart begins by introducing the reader to the theological epicenters of the Reformed faith, namely Geneva, Basel, and Zurich. He highlights moments in history which have moved lay people and clergy away from a Roman Catholic worldview into that of specifically Reformed thought As the shape of the Lutheran and Reformed church began to emerge, Huldrych Zwingli contrasted a true religion as over against the false doctrine of Rome by saying, "Faithfulness demands, first, that we learn from God in what way we can please Him, in what manner serve Him. Next, it demands that we should add nothing to what we have learned from Him, and take away nothing..The things...on which faith hinges should be brought out without delay, but the things that militate against it need to be demolished with skill, least they do harm in their downfall and bury the little that has already been built (24).

From the epicenter we see the shock waves reach westward as the Reformation came to places like France and England. In these places, Hart notes, that the spread of Calvinism under the monarchy infrastructure which these countries produced was heavily dampened by Calvinism's impact on the magistrate. He also points out an intense time of persecution of these Reformed folk under the rule of these monarchs who were largely under the influence of Rome or, at a later time, under the hand of the Church of England.

Hart moves us in the direction of Northern Europe by tracing the spread of this accidental movement through the Palatinate and into Scotland. He makes the shift into theses areas by observing the confessions and creeds which flowed from the localized Reformed Church. He takes into account the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Scottish Book of Common Order. While taking these documents into account over against the local religion, Hart also brings the men who helped shape these countries into focus. He takes figures like John Knox and others and contributes their success in ministry largely to the, "spadework of Zwingli or Calvin" (71).

As Hart begins to trace the missionaries who were pushed to leave the continent, he begins by showing us how the Dutch used the call of God on their lives to plant churches across the globe. One way he charts the spread is to focus on a colony of the Dutch in North America named New Netherland. Among it's low morality was it's low focus on evangelizing a new world for Christ. As the East India Trading Company began to venture out into the new world for commercial gain, one pastor noted how difficult it was in ministering to those on the frontier. "There are may hearers, but not much saving fruit...The people are rather reckless..[and] the taverns and villainous houses have many visitors...The Company says that the congregation must pay the preacher. But they prefer to gamble away, or lose in best, a ton of beer at twenty-three or twenty-four guilder, or some other liquor. I will say nothing against the better class; but of these there are too few to make up the salary (101).

After documenting well the rise and fall and rise again, Hart does an excellent job of bringing the reader up to speed on the current situation Calvinist's find themselves in. Part of a confessional movement, the Calvinist today has a rich heritage which is often misunderstood at least and accidental at best. Drawing this volume to a close, Hart recounts the history of Calvinism as "remarkable and diverse" (304).

Included at the end of this book is a very helpful timeline of Calvinism beginning in 1525 and bringing us up to speed all the way to 2010. While not comprehensive in it's history of each and every stream of Calvinism, Hart does a great job of documenting where this movement began and how far it's come since the great sausage debacle in Zurich. I appreciated this overview of my heritage as a Calvinist and am glad that I come from such a diverse group of people who often made the same mistakes I make today.

Hart, D. (2013). Calvinism: A History (p. 352). New Haven: Yale University Press.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great, well-writen easy read on the history of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland 18 Feb. 2014
By MR KENNETH B KIRBY - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very useful history that describes the foundations of the positive integration that was necessary as individual Cantons decided to go protestant or remain Roman Catholic. Keen insights into the personality of the central figure and how he drove the transition forward. I was most amazed to learn that the schism between the forebears of modern Baptists, the Anabaptist, and the Reformed Faith was more a politically, and more particularly Taxes-driven division than it was doctrinal.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
people and institutions not theology 9 Nov. 2013
By Joan N. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is not what I had hoped. Rather than a discussion of the development of the doctrines or theology of Calvinism, it is a history of the people and institutions associated with Calvinism. A more appropriate title might have been something like Calvinism: a History of its People and Institutions.

Being of Dutch descent and deep Calvinist background, I still read the book. I found out that the Reformation in the Low Countries produced the most martyrs of any nation. There were no strong independent nobles buffering Protestants from the Holy Roman Empire. More than 1,300 Dutch believers were executed between 1523 and 1566 (compared to around 500 in France, a nation with nine times the population). By 1555 the Netherlands had produced more martyrs for the Protestant cause than any other European country.

My heritage is the Reformed Church in America and Hart covers the Dutch exploration and the founding of colonies, such as in what would be New York, and establishing a church in 1628 (that makes the RCA the oldest denomination in America with continuous activity).

He also reports on the mission activity of the Calvinistic churches. "Three centuries later [after the Reformation], Reformed Protestants had taken their faith and churches to every corner of the habitable world." (200) Colonialism and migration accounted for some of that in the 17th and 18th centuries but foreign missions and the efforts of pastors in the colonies produced the greatest growth in the 19th century.

Hart details the political situations as he follows the history of those associated with Calvinism. He does write about the confessions developed over time but with a view to the results of the documents, not their content.

If you want to see how Calvinism spread, the political situations encountered, and the people involved, this is the book for you. If you are interested in a history of the beliefs associated with Calvinism you will have to go elsewhere.
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