John Calvin: Teacher And Practitioner Of Evangelism -- By: Joel R. Beeke

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 10:4 (Fall 2001)
Article: John Calvin: Teacher And Practitioner Of Evangelism
Author: Joel R. Beeke


John Calvin: Teacher And
Practitioner Of Evangelism

Joel R. Beeke

Not a few scholars would take issue with the title of this address. Some would say that Roman Catholicism kept the evangelistic torch of Christianity lit via the powerful forces of the papacy, the monasteries, and the monarch while Calvin and the Reformers tried to extinguish it.1 Others would assert that John Calvin (1509–1564), the father of Reformed and Presbyterian doctrine and theology, was largely responsible for relighting the torch of biblical evangelism during the Reformation.2

Some also credit Calvin with being a theological father of the Reformed missionary movement.3 Views of Calvin’s attitude toward evangelism and missions have ranged from hearty to moderate support on the positive side,4 and from almost silent indifference to active opposition on the negative side.5

Those who view Calvin’s evangelism negatively include: (1) people who fail to study Calvin’s writings prior to coming to their conclusions, (2) people who fail to understand Calvin’s view of evangelism within his own historical context, and (3) theologians who bring preconceived doctrinal notions about Calvin and his theology to their study. Among these critics, some naively assert that Calvin’s doctrine of election virtually negates evangelism.

To assess Calvin’s view of evangelism correctly, we must understand what Calvin himself had to say on the subject. Second, we must look at the entire scope of Calvin’s evangelism,

both in his teaching and his practice. We can find scores of references to evangelism in Calvin’s Institutes, commentaries, sermons, and letters. Then we will look at Calvin’s evangelistic work (1) in his own flock, (2) in his home city of Geneva, (3) in greater Europe, and (4) in mission opportunities overseas. As we shall see, Calvin was more of an evangelist than is commonly recognized. Through instruction and practice, he relit the torch of biblical, Reformed, God-centered evangelism.

Calvin: Teacher Of Evangelism

How was Calvin’s teaching evangelistic? In what way did his instruction oblige believers to seek the conversion of all people, including those within the church as well as those in the world outside it?

Along with other Reformers, Calvin taught evangelism in a general way by earnestly proclaiming the gospel and by ref...

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