by Donald K. McKim
Cascade Books, Eugene, Ore. 178 pages
This small book provides an accessible account of Calvin’s life and theology. One might wonder why another book on this subject is needed when so many already exist. As Solomon said, “Of the making of many books, there is no end.” But that is no reason to ignore this little gem that is written so well and includes so much valuable material about John Calvin.
The author is not only a scholar; he is a theologian and, more importantly, he knows how to write clearly for non-scholars. This makes the book a needed addition to the Calvin studies. In a time when many Presbyterians are searching for fresh approaches to church and theology, McKim encourages us to return to the sources in much the same way that Calvin and the early Christian humanists did. The first half of the book surveys Calvin’s life and the second provides a concise overview of his theology, particularly the “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” Both are important and McKim shows us why.
As Presbyterian churches continue to attract persons who have no knowledge of Reformed theology or prior experience with Presbyterian polity, this little book could be a great aid for teaching the roots of the tradition. It’s rare that one finds a combination of biography and theology in such a well-written, accessible short book. This is a primer that will be very useful.