Calvin, by Bernard Cottret. Translated by M. Wallace McDonald.

Bernard Cottret set out to replace the commonplace, static picture most people have of John Calvin as "a doctrinaire divider, attached to his own ideas to the point of fanaticism" with "a portrait in motion" which pays particular attention to the role of Calvin's faith in shaping his life. Cottret particularly focuses on what he takes to be the central question posed by Calvin's life--how a shy, retiring scholar became a forceful Reformer who left his imprint on subsequent Western culture.

Cottret highlights this question by placing Calvin in continuity with the very different trajectories that emerge from his thought and life: Calvinism, and the philosophies of Descartes and Montaigne. How can the man who had "the same anguish, the same nostalgia, the same melancholy" as Montaigne be in part responsible for "the disenchantment of the world" and advocate for "the predestination of both the elect and the reprobates"?

 

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