Calvin - The Giant of Noyon

by PA de Rover
age group: 10 years & older

Noyon is a city on the River Oise. One stormy day John Calvin and his brother Charles go down to the river searching for their grandfather. The river is rough & wild and they would love to take the dingy out on the river. “Grandpa, may we go sailing? The waves are really good today, yells John, the younger of the two. “ Grandpa says, “No John, the water is too turbulent. If a wave crashes onto the dingy you will drown.”  John however convinces his brother to go in the dingy, forgetting grandpa’s warning, resulting in John being tossed into the water, fighting for his life.

John was a stubborn lad yet a brilliant scholar. His family wanted him to study. He excelled in school and with tutors. At the age of 12, through his father’s request John became a curate – and assistant to the priest. He was thus able to continue his studies because he received a wage.

In the meantime his father was deeply concerned about the actions of the clergy. They are arguing about trivial matters rather than discussing spiritual matters.  When John finished his studies he shows his father his college degree. Instead of being happy that John can now be a priest, as both father & mother desired, he states that he will not become a priest. He does not want him to be involved in the petty discussions. Instead he wants him to study law.

And John? He is a deep thinker. During his studies he had come into contact with the writings of Lefevre d’Etaples who opposed some of the practices of the church of the time. He had written commentaries and translated the bible into the common language so the common folk could read the scriptures. Being persecuted he had to flee. Groups of people amongst whom was William Farel, were coming together to read the bible.  Farel too had to flee. John abhors conflict in the church. His father warns him. ”Listen John. The church is all-powerful. She crushes all who rise up against her.”

After his father dies John studies law in Orleans where he meets a follower of Martin Luther who recognizes Johns potential and encourages John to study theology. Thus he goes to Paris.  While studying he comes to realize that a reformation is necessary for the church. He becomes a target of the Inquisition- the monster with a thousand arms. Wherever he goes he is not safe for long. So he and a friend flee to the Queen of Navarre and on to Geneva. Here William Farel convinces him to stay.

So John Calvin’s life long battle for the truth begins. For Calvin the most important thing was God’s glory. He said “ a church which does not give God the glory is not the true church”

A very interesting and readable account of the reformer’s life. Highly recommended.

Review by GJ. de Vos