The Soul of Life: The Piety of John Calvin

The Soul of Life: The Piety of John Calvin

Here’s a great introduction to the piety and godliness of John Calvin: The Soul of Life ed. Joel Beeke (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009).  It is a book about Calvin which contains much of Calvin’s own comments on Scripture, but it is not a book that puts Calvin front and center.  The book puts front and center what Calvin put front and center: the Triune God and a robust body-and-soul trust in him.

There is a brief historical description of Calvin and his times by Joel Beeke, which serves as a great introduction to the Reformer.  This is an easy to follow, clear, and concise summary of who Calvin was.  I may use the intro itself for a Sunday School lesson in the future. [Side note: the book is small – around 3.5 x 5.5 inches or so – a nice size for the bedside or backpack.]

After the intro, Beeke briefly summarizes the book’s content and structure.  First, on Calvin’s Piety: 1) Its definition and importance, and 2) Its supreme goal, God’s glory.  Then Beeke explains the parts of piety: 1) Its root: mystical union, 2) Its double bond: the Spirit and faith, and 3) Its double cleansing: justification and sanctification.  After this there is a brief section on church-focused piety, Psalter-grounded piety, as well as brief discussions on prayer, repentance, cross-bearing, obedience, and heavenly-mindedness.  The intro and these sections cover pages 1-54.  Pages 55-211 are very brief (1 to 3 page) selections from Calvin’s writings that are structured in the above manner.  The selections from Calvin’s writings that make up the bulk of the book are perfect for a daily devotional – sort of tiny, understandable windows into Calvin’s God-centered focus on piety.   This piety is not the typical “pietism” that we find today, the kool-aid type of piety; rather, this is the “look-away-from-yourself-to-the-risen-Christ” kind of piety.

Here’s a very short quote from the introduction (p. 29), where Beeke quotes Calvin on the definition of piety:

“I call ‘piety’ that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces…the whole life of Christians ought to be a sort of practice of godliness.”

I’ll post again on this book in the future, but in the mean time, go get it and read it!

shane lems

sunnyside wa

4 thoughts on “The Soul of Life: The Piety of John Calvin”

  1. […] Many thanks go out to Reformation Heritage Books and Thabiti Anyabwile for this great little jewel.  It not only contains a bio, but also a few excerpts from Haynes’ pen.  May We Meet in the Heavenly World is part of the series, “Profiles in Reformed Spirituality” that RHB is in the middle of publishing (note: I posted on the John Calvin profile here). […]


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