Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Book Review: The Institutes of Christian Religion

The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Abridged. John Calvin. (1536) Edited by Tony Lane and Hilary Osborne (1987). Baker Books. 272 pages. [Source: Bought] 

First sentence: Our wisdom, if it is to be thought genuine, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. 

I decided to read the abridged edition of John Calvin's Institutes. I have previously read several books of the unabridged edition; Calvin's theological masterpiece contains four books in all: "the knowledge of God the Creator," "the knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ," "the way of obtaining the grace of Christ," and "outward means by which God helps us." I know I completed the first two books and part of the third book. The length of the book is probably the most intimidating aspect of it. Taking a few days off from reading it, soon became a few weeks, a few months, and then you reach the point: well, it's been twenty plus months since I read the last I need to start over on page one?! can I begin at the last section?! It was easier for me to pick up the abridged version. 

I don't know that I can assess how great the abridgment is since I never finished the original...but I will try to be helpful in my review.

Is this one accessible? Is it reader-friendly? Is the subject so heavy--so dense--that it's difficult to comprehend? Do the rewards of reading outweigh the effort to comprehend it? 

I found it to be accessible. I found the layout to be great. Each book, each chapter, each section is clearly labeled. It is clear when whole sections have been removed for the abridgment. I also liked how each chapter has headings. These headings are not only identified in the text itself but also in the table of contents. If you were looking for a specific subject--say predestination or election--you could easily find which section/chapter where Calvin discusses it. (Though, of course, Calvin writes about more than just election. Calvin's name be associated with Calvinism, but Calvinism did not get its start with Calvin.)

I also found it reader-friendly. But this is completely subjective. If you've never picked up any theology whatsoever...if you've never read any christian nonfiction may not find it to be so. 

The content is substantive--not fluffy--but it is rewarding. So it is definitely worth any effort you put into it. 

Who is God? What is God like? What is his nature? 
Who is man? What was man like before the fall? what was man like after the fall? What is his nature? What is he capable of? Does he have free will? 
Who is Christ? What was his mission? what did he come to do? What did his life accomplish? what did his death accomplish? what did his resurrection accomplish? 
What is faith? How is faith given/received/applied? What is saving faith? 
What is justification? what is sanctification? Why is piety important? Why should we live holy lives?
What is the church? What are the sacraments? What elements of the faith are essential?
What role does the Bible play in the lives of believers? What authority does Scripture have?
What is the role of the Holy Spirit? 
What is sin? 
What is grace?
How can God be both just and merciful?
Does God owe mercy to everyone? 
What is predestination or election? 
What comfort can God's providence give believers?
Why is there so much suffering?

These are just a few of the topics/subjects addressed within this comprehensive and historically significant read.

There are WAY too many quotes to share in one post. But I will be sharing quotes.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

Lois Tinúviel said...

I read this abridged version too after trying to read the unabridged version. I found this much more readable and loved it!