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The Starting Point of Calvin's Theology

The Starting Point of Calvin's Theology
Tavard, George H.
Eerdmans, 2000
ISBN: 978-0-8028-4718-8

This volume is unique in the field of Calvin studies. George Tavard introduces readers to Calvin's little-known Psychopannychia, the first writing in which he spoke as a theologian. Tavard shows how this early work, generally neglected by Calvin scholars, serves as an essential starting point for understanding Calvin's final theology found in the Institutes. Composed during Calvin's sojourns around Angoulême and Orléans in 1534, Psychopannychia was aimed primarily against "heretics" like the anabaptists, who held that the soul "sleeps" after the death of the body.

Tavard insists on the book's importance for several reasons. First, it shows Calvin's essential humanism against its Renaissance backdrop, along with his ambition to write the definitive work on the immortality of the soul. Second, it shows how Calvin departed from the standard methodology in a revolutionary way—complete dependence on analysis of Scripture and the testimonies of the early church. Third, it shows Calvin's rootedness in the medieval mystic tradition and his deep catholicity, even as he took the steps that would define him as a Reformer. Finally, it shows the intricate relationship between Calvin's earliest theological concerns and the themes he would later develop in his Institutes.

The only study of Calvin's Psychopannychia in English, Tavard's work is essential to a full-orbed understanding of Calvin's thought, including the "catholic" scope of his reforming intentions. As such, it will be equally valuable to students of theology, church history, and contemporary ecumenical dialogue.