New DET Feature – Book ‘O the Month

Frequent and attentive readers may have noticed that DET has offered a new feature for the last couple of weeks – namely, a “Book ‘O the Month” recommendation found at the top of the left sidebar. This feature compliments the DET Recommended Reading page accessible from the top bar. The idea is to feature one text each month that DET’s contributors find particularly helpful, interesting, etc., including a short statement from the recommender as to why that text is so. For the past few weeks I’ve had Keith Johnson’s book, Karl Barth and the Analogia Entis (now in a more affordable paperback edition!) featured there, a text that I have posted about before (here is one example).

July’s DET Book ‘O the Month is Bernard Cottret’s Calvin: A Biography. This text has long been my go-to source for Calvin biography, and I have been re-reading it recently in preparation for teaching Calvin in the Fall semester. While doing so I have been continually struck by the mastery of Cottret’s writing, by the scope of his vision, and by the depth of his insight. He is also quite good at handling some of the trickier biographical details concerning Calvin in a helpfully historical-critical way. I recommended this book as a resource in my guide, So, You Want to Read John Calvin?, and my estimation of it has only gone up. If you have any interest in Calvin at all, you must read Cottret.  


By way of sample, I leave you with this paragraph from Cottret on the importance of Calvin’s Strasbourg period for his career:
It was in Strasbourg that Calvin became “Calvin.” Or more exactly, at the beginning of his thirtieth year Calvin invented a Reformation that was distinct from that of his predecessors. At first it was a matter of style and temperament; Calvinism carried to its highest point the balance of thought and form. It proceeded from a literary passion. A new, thoroughly revised edition of the Institutes, which appeared in 1539-41, showed clearly the emergence of a current of thought different from Lutheranism. But the best indication of this change is to be found in the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1539), in which Calvin proclaimed clearly to the world that he was neither Melanchthon, nor Bucer, nor Bullinger, but simply Calvin. Finally, Calvin’s endorsement by Bucer, the Reformer of Strasbourg, confirmed his sense of an exceptional vocation, already recognized by Farel. Yes, Calvin undoubtedly spent the happiest years of his life in Strasbourg. (132)

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