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Calvinism

The theology of John Calvin (1509-64), French reformer and theologian, who shaped the reformation in Geneva. This was formulated in his Institutes (final edition published in Latin, 1559). He accepted various tenets of Lutheranism (Scripture as the only rule of faith; the denial of free-will after the Fall; justification by faith alone without works) but added the doctrines of predestination, the certainty of salvation and the impossibility of losing grace. On the question of the Lord's Supper, Calvin stood some way between Luther's belief in the Real Presence and Zwingli's view of the breaking of bread and drinking of wine as mere symbolism. Calvin was also concerned to reform the worship of Christians. Its nature was determined in the Scriptures and to his mind rejection of the Commandment not to worship images was a grave affront to God's majesty. He, and the churches who followed his teaching, reafffirmed the centrality of spiritual worship and drew strict boundaries between the spiritual and material which on occasion led to civil disobedience in a war against the idols (iconoclasm). It represented a determined move away from a worship in which ritual and sacraments produced predictable and specific effects. This approach sharply distinguished the Calvinists from the Lutheran churches which retained much of what Archbishop Laud was later to describe as 'the beauty of holiness' and clung to the centrality of the doctrine of justification by faith alone as a protection against material instrumentality in religion. The Second Helvetic Confession of 1566, which summed up Calvinistic theology, was accepted by many Protestant countries but not by England. Many of the 'precise' Christians of Elizabethan England wished for a further reformation of the English church to bring it in line with the Calvinist continental churches.