The amount of misrepresentation to which John Calvin’s theology has been subjected is enough to prove his doctrine of total depravity several times over. How we hate those who squelch our pride by demolishing our self-righteousness and exalting God’s sovereign grace!
Calvin was, in fact, the finest exegete, the greatest systematic theologian, and the profoundest religious thinker that the Reformation produced. Bible-centered in his teaching, God-centered in his living, and Christ-centered in his faith, he integrated the confessional emphases of Reformation thought – by faith alone, by Scripture alone, by grace alone, by Christ alone, for God’s glory alone – with supreme clarity and strength. He was ruled by two convictions written on every regenerate heart and expressed in every act of real prayer and worship: God is all and man is nothing, and praise is due to God for everything good. Both convictions permeated his life, right up to his final direction that his tomb be unmarked and there be no speeches at his burial, lest he become the focus of praise instead of his God. Both convictions permeate his theology, too.
Calvin was a biblical theologian – not a speculator, but an echoer of the Word of God. Also, Calvin was a systematic theologian – not a taker of haphazard soundings, but an integrator of earlier gains. The final version of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559), in which the consistent teaching of the sixty-six canonical books is topically spelled out, is a systematic masterpiece, one that has carved out a permanent niche for itself among the greatest Christian books.
The bodies of four centuries of Calvinists lie moldering in the grave, but Calvinism goes marching on. – J. I. Packer (born in 1926)