There was a time when John Calvin’s magnum opus, The Institutes of Christian Religion, was required reading at Oxford. How times have changed! Even the few who have even heard of John Calvin usually only know him as the guy who had something to do with tulips or the five points of Calvinism. For those of us who are interested in reading Calvin’s great work, it can be a bit hard if you’re looking for a dead-tree copy that’s portable. While I would strongly recommend reading it in it’s entirety, the Baker Academic edition as edited by Tony Lane is an excellent abridged version for those who are seeking a good introduction to Calvin’s Institutes.
The Lane edition is great for easy reading. It was edited in a way that condenses Calvin’s elaborate expositions down to a series of short excerpts. In a way, it reads like a good reference for the full version. However, though it is clearly an abridged version, I do find myself looking for passages in the book only to find out that they weren’t included. Regardless, by reading Lane’s edition of The Institutes I must say that I have a greater respect for John Calvin. I especially loved his writings on prayer. Many historians have painted Calvin as a rather cold personality. When you actually study some of his work you’ll find that, in addition to being brilliant, he was a very warm and humble servant of God who has been quite misunderstood. Oh, and you also won’t find the word
Calvinism in Calvin’s writings. He would have eschewed the term given that his theology wasn’t derived from himself. Rather, Calvin’s theology is thoroughly biblical. For Calvin, all glory goes to The Lord as it should.
Whether you’re looking for an introduction, a useful reference, or if you’re just wanting to learn more about the reformer who was one of the greatest witnesses in church history, I highly recommend Tony Lane’s version of The Institutes of Christian Religion.