Yale University.

YDS Home>Collins

Bruce Gordon's Calvin book centerpiece of New York Times column

GordonA new book on John Calvin by Professor of Reformation History Bruce Gordon figures prominently in a column by New York Times “Beliefs” writer Peter Steinfels, who writes that the “special value” of Gordon’s portrait of Calvin is that it makes the 16 century church reformer’s acute—and perhaps baffling—single-mindedness appreciable to 21st century readers.

Calvin’s sense of calling—as evangelist, interpreter, planter of churches, etc.—lead to single-mindedness so intense, according to Steinfels, that today it can only be appreciated “when it drives a political, artistic or intellectual rebel struggling against long odds.”

Writes Steinfels, “That is the special value of Professor Gordon’s detailed portrait of Calvin as a man in constant motion, beleaguered by political and religious turmoil, a leader who ‘never controlled his agenda.’”  [Click here to read the entire Steinfels column, which was published online on July 3.  Gordon also did an interview about the book with the Interfaith Voices online religion news magazine.  Click here to listen to the interview.]

Gordon’s book, entitled simply Calvin, was published by Yale University Press this year, which marks the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth.

CalvinJacket copy for Gordon’s book says, “The book explores with particular insight Calvin’s self-conscious view of himself as prophet and apostle for his age and his struggle to tame a sense of his own superiority, perceived by others as arrogance. Gordon looks at Calvin’s character, his maturing vision of God and humanity, his personal tragedies and failures, his extensive relationships with others, and the context within which he wrote and taught. What emerges is a man who devoted himself to the Church, inspiring and transforming the lives of others, especially those who suffered persecution for their religious beliefs.”

Before his arrival at Yale Divinity School in 2008, Gordon taught for 14 years at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, where he was professor of modern history and deputy director of the St. Andrews Reformation Institute.   Among his other works, The Swiss Reformation was the first comprehensive study of the subject and was named an “Outstanding Publication” for 2003 by Choice magazine.  His research interests range across late-medieval and early-modern religious history, in particular the Swiss and German Reformations, Bibles, devotional literature, the clergy, death and the dead, historical writing and historiography. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.