Some Observations Concerning the Educational Philosophy of John Calvin -- By: T. M. Moore

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 46:1 (Spring 1984)
Article: Some Observations Concerning the Educational Philosophy of John Calvin
Author: T. M. Moore

Some Observations Concerning
the Educational Philosophy of John Calvin

T. M. Moore

An attempt to synthesize the thinking of John Calvin in matters pertaining to a philosophy of education is justified on at least four grounds.

First, Reformed Christians, particularly as they are concerned for the articulation of a consistent world and life view, acknowledge the impetus given to all areas of Christian endeavor by the systematic genius of the Geneva reformer with respect to the development of a comprehensive doctrinal expression. The Institutes alone, as valuable now as in Calvin’s day, represent a statement so cogent as to shed light on our every task as Christians in the world. How that theological capacity was employed in the guidance of Calvin’s work of education in Geneva can be instructive for us today as well.

Second, it is clear that a great deal of Calvin’s energy was devoted to the development of educational institutions. Since he, the prince of reformers, was so evidently concerned over this area, we also must be who would continue this tradition today. Yet if we would emulate his labors in this area, we must begin at the beginning, with his thinking on the matter, his philosophy of education.

Third, it is further generally acknowledged that it was in the area of education that Calvin enjoyed one of his most enduring of successes.1 His influence in this area spread beyond his own adopted city and even the rest of Switzerland and his native France to England, Scotland, the American colonies, and elsewhere.2 The factors in Calvin’s

thinking which contributed to his widespread and durable success should be of interest to his spiritual descendants today.

Finally, though many have undertaken to write in a summary manner on Calvin’s educational work, and others on certain aspects of his approach to the work of education,3 no comprehensive attempt has been made (to this student’s knowledge) to organize his thinking on education according to the perspective of a modern educator. This brief study certainly cannot claim to satisfy that need; rather, our hope is to point in the direction of discerning certain aspects of Calvin’s philosophy of education with a view to stimulating further research on the subject among scholars and to broadening the educational foundations of Reformed practitioners in all areas of Christian education.

One problem immediately facing us is that Calvin was certainly no philosopher of education, nor was such a formal dis...

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