Monday, August 28, 2023

McGrath on the Personality of Calvin


Note: This post is taken from my Twitter (X): @Riddle1689:

I've been reading through Alister E. McGrath, A Life of John Calvin (Baker, 1990).

Though McGrath is very much admiring of Calvin's achievement, this work is not hagiography. Here are some of his observations on Calvin's personality:

“… a curious silence resonates through history concerning the personality of Calvin” (14).

“Calvin…. appears to have been reticent to introduce any self-reference in his writings” (16).

“Nevertheless, it is probably fair to suggest that Calvin was not a particularly attractive person, lacking the wit, humour, and warmth which made Luther so entertaining at dinner parties. Calvin’s persona, as it emerges from his writings, is that of a somewhat cold and detached individual, increasingly inclined towards tetchiness and irritability as his health declined, and prone to launch into abusive personal attacks on those with whom he disagreed, rather than dealing primarily with their ideas” (17).

“…it is clear that he was an unhappy man, with whom it is difficult for the modern reader to feel any great bond of sympathy” (17).

“A timid and withdrawn character, he was nonetheless capable of a courage bordering on intransigence, a refusal to compromise, when he believed the will of God to be at stake” (18).

“Calvin was a remarkably private individual…” (18).

“…he emerges as something of a colourless figure, a man whose innermost thoughts, attitudes, and ambitions are largely denied to us” (19).


1 comment:

R. L. Vaughn said...

Those are intriguing comments about Calvin. I may need to get that book.