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A Reader's Guide to Calvin's Institutes

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"An excellent hermeneutical guide to Calvin's Institutes. College and seminary students and general readers new to Calvin will profit most from this book."--Hans Madueme, Themelios

2009 marks the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth, and throughout the year scholars from around the world are gathering to discuss Calvin and his influence. Calvin's Institutes is one of the great classics of Christian theology. Here a leading Calvin expert offers an affordable guide to reading the Institutes (keyed to the McNeill/Battles translation).

The book includes annotations to selected readings that offer readers a streamlined introduction to the heart of Calvin's theology. Dividing the Institutes into thirty-two portions, the author has chosen an average of eighteen pages to be read from each portion to cover the whole range of the Institutes and provide readers with passages critical to understanding Calvin's theology. The notes guide readers through the text, concentrating on the sections chosen for reading, summarizing the material, and drawing attention to the most significant footnotes in the McNeill/Battles edition. An introduction and questions at the beginning of each portion direct the reader's attention to important points. The book will serve professors and students of the Institutes; courses in Calvin, Reformed theology, and historical theology; and readers seeking a guide to the Institutes.


"Tony Lane's Reader's Guide to Calvin's Institutes is truth in advertising. Nothing truly worthwhile is really easy to master, and John Calvin is one of the best theologians ever produced by the Christian faith. In this study, the range and depth of Calvin's reflections are soundly and helpfully surveyed."--Charles Partee, P. C. Rossin professor of church history, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

"A Reader's Guide to Calvin's Institutes makes a first-time read of John Calvin's Reformation classic more efficient by highlighting its most important sections. Tony Lane provides sufficient summaries, teasers, directions, and assessments to make the study of Calvin's magnum opus stimulating and enlightening. Though few will agree with all of Lane's assessments of Calvin, even areas of disagreement can be used as a springboard for further research. I, for one, hope to keep this handy reference tool beside my McNeill-Battles edition of the Institutes."--Joel R. Beeke, president, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids

"A concise yet meticulous guide to the Battles translation of the Institutes. Tony Lane admirably succeeds in identifying its structure and in highlighting its arguments. This guide will be an invaluable help to new readers of Calvin's great work."--Paul Helm, teaching fellow, Regent College, Vancouver

"Reading over 1500 pages of Calvin's Institutes is a daunting prospect for most people. In Professor Lane's guide, they have an invaluable companion to help them on their way. The book enables readers to concentrate on the substance of the Institutes, but not in isolation from the whole, for it summarizes sections not proposed for study. Having Lane's book with you as you read the Institutes is like having an enthusiastic teacher sitting alongside you, helping you with the background and context, pointing you to key ideas, and offering succinct summaries, sometimes challenging you to consider whether you agree with Calvin, but above all assisting you in understanding Calvin. I am glad to use this in my Calvin class and am happy to recommend its use to others."--W. P. Stephens, emeritus professor of church history, University of Aberdeen

"The best tourist's guide is of limited use if it outweighs one's suitcase. Tony Lane has captured Calvin's own ideal for 'lucid brevity' by producing a guide that pares down the monumental Institutes to a manageable third of its original length, yet does so with little feeling of loss, because even the unassigned sections are given concise and trenchant summaries. For teachers, this reader's guide will enable them to teach the whole Institutes without pushing students to exhaustion, or to study the Institutes alongside ample selections from Calvin's other works. For students, Lane's work will lead them through the Institutes strategically--allowing time for reading and reflection--with the sort of guidance that will invite them to return for deeper and broader exploration."--John L. Thompson, professor of historical theology and Gaylen and Susan Byker Professor of Reformed Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, and author of Reading the Bible with the Dead: What You Can Learn from the History of Exegesis That You Can't Learn from Exegesis Alone

"Tony Lane is one of the world's most well-respected Calvin scholars. In this book, he draws on his impressive knowledge of the Reformer to provide contemporary readers with a careful guide to the structure, argument, and content of the 1559 edition of the Institutes. After an introductory essay setting the work in context, the author guides the reader through the complexities of the text in a sure-footed and accessible way. This work clearly supersedes previous reading guides and is likely to become the standard overview."--Carl R. Trueman, professor of historical theology and church history, Westminster Theological Seminary, PA

The Author

  1. Anthony N. S. Lane

    Anthony N. S. Lane

    Anthony N. S. Lane (DD, University of Oxford) is professor of historical doctrine at the London School of Theology. He is the author of A Concise History of Christian Thought, John Calvin: Student of the Church Fathers, and Justification by...

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"Lane is . . . already established as a first-rate Calvin scholar. But this is a different, more intentionally pedagogical book. Its aim is to help the reader benefit from Calvin's Institutes. . . . An excellent hermeneutical guide to Calvin's Institutes. College and seminary students and general readers new to Calvin will profit most from this book."--Hans Madueme, Themelios

"Calvin's Institutes of Christian Religion is one of the most important and influential Christian books ever written. . . . However, for today's Christians, used to simple sentences and paperbacks, the 1,300 pages of closely argued text seem so daunting that many who buy the book do not actually read it. . . . Professor Lane's helpful reader aims to remedy this situation. . . . Lane admirably succeeds in his mission."--Alan Hill,

"Lane is adept at pointing readers to key sentences and phrases that get at the heart of Calvin's staked out position. . . . This volume is modest in size, apt and reliable in its descriptions of Calvin's views, and delivers what is advertised. Those who wish to take a hike through the mountain peaks and valleys of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion will discover that Lane is a first-rate escort."--J. Mark Beach, Mid-America Journal of Theology

"There have been numerous publications commemorating the life and thought of the great Genevan reformer [John Calvin]. An extremely helpful addition to the growing Calviniana is Anthony N. S. Lane's A Reader's Guide to Calvin's Institutes. Lane has produced a relatively brief aid for the potentially overwhelmed reader of what is arguably Calvin's massive magnum opus. . . . . This is an excellent aid to comprehension of Calvin."--Jeffrey C. Waddington, Themelios

"[Lane] is one of the leading Calvin scholars working today and has established a reputation for his articulate, precise, and exhaustive knowledge of Calvin, his contexts, sources, and theology. . . . Lane acts as a guide through the Institutes, bringing in ripe observations and informed scholarship, yet never allowing his own voice to eclipse that of Calvin's. Lane designed the Reader to be used in classes on Calvin to aid teachers in getting students into the Institutes and actually reading it for themselves. The division of the readings into eighteen pages and the succinct comments Lane provides to guide readers through the work are brilliantly devised and most welcome. There is no doubt this text will be widely used in classrooms around the globe. Lane has done the academy a service in showing how a good reading course on the Institutes can proceed and as such has saved many of us a lot of time. I for one will turn to this book whenever students ask me to take them through the Institutes."--Myk Habets, Pacific Journal of Baptist Research

"This handy volume is a reading guide to the McNeil-Battles translation of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Lane enables us to dip into the Institutes, providing a selection of readings that gives a representative sampling of this massive classic of Christian theology. . . . No one is better qualified than Professor Anthony Lane . . . to introduce Calvin and his magnum opus to the Christian reading public. . . . With Lane's volume on the desk next to the Institutes, we have our own Calvin tutorial. As a theological student I was required to read the Institutes from cover to cover without any such assistance. I learned much by having to do this, but would have learned even more if I had had Lane as my trusty guide."--Greg Goswell, New Life

"Lane is highly respected for his expertise in Calvin studies, and in this volume he presents a book to help students as they read through Calvin's Institutes. . . . Students and teachers are going to find this book a superb guide to have alongside them as they read and ponder on the Institutes. Advanced scholars will find something here, but especially those coming to read Calvin for the first time will soon realize how valuable this Reader's Guide is. Anthony Lane is to be warmly thanked for putting his knowledge of Calvin at the disposal of so many others."--Allan M. Harman, Reformed Theological Review

"Lane's work offers a flexible, contemporary guide to the study of the Institutes for the specialist, student, and general reader. Anyone interested in examining Calvin's theology would benefit from this guide. . . . This volume addresses all of the major elements of Calvin's theology in a clear outline and gives good insight into Calvin's methodology, style, perspective, tendencies, and favorite analogies. . . . This work would be very useful for the serious student of Calvin's theology and best employed in a classroom setting. It could be read for single topics of interest and is accessible enough for the general reader who would like to become familiar with this important source of Reformation theology."--L. Thomas Smith Jr., Stone-Campbell Journal

"Having this little volume by one's side as one studies Calvin may be considered the next best thing to having a tutor. In fact it would be very useful to the tutor himself as he teaches."--William R. Underhay, Haddington House Journal

"[A] very useful guide."--Rinse Reeling Brouwer, Journal of Reformed Theology

"The book helps a reader, be he seminary student, busy pastor, or layman, to tackle the significant undertaking of reading Calvin's magnus opus. . . . I recommend this book for any layperson, members of a Bible study group, or of a book reading club, who want to read through the Institutes, but are daunted by the task. This book will help make the task manageable."--Douglas J. Kuiper, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal

"One's theological education is incomplete without being exposed to [Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion]. . . . Since the two-volume Institutes look daunting and inaccessible, Lane comes to our assistance by providing a kind of CliffsNotes keyed to the definitive McNeill-Battles two-volume translation of Calvin's 1559 edition. . . . Lane's greatest service may be simply showing us which parts of the Institutes to read, which parts to skim, and which to skip altogether."--Eric Sorenson, Covenant Quarterly