Graeme Murdock

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online June 2011 | | DOI:

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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Calvinism was a term first used by Calvin’s opponents. Calvinism has become a widely used label to describe the ideas adopted by Reformed churches across Europe. Some writers prefer to use the label “Reformed” to describe a movement that owed much to the insights of a range of reformers, and was certainly not solely reliant on John Calvin’s leadership. Calvinism was distinctive among 16th-century reform movements because of particular notions about God’s plan for the salvation of humanity, about the meaning and celebration of the sacraments, and about the danger posed by idolatry. Calvinism spread quickly across the Continent during the middle decades of the 16th century as a dynamic and an international reform movement. International connections were maintained by correspondence between reformers and by contacts between Reformed churches. A strong sense of belonging to an international religious community was felt by many Calvinists, and in particular by exiles and refugees from religious persecution. There were differences between the beliefs and practices of Reformed churches in a range of distinct political and social conditions. Reformed communities in France and the Netherlands had to fight for the right to worship. This gave Calvinism a certain reputation for political radicalism. However, Calvinism also received the support of monarchs and princes in parts of the Holy Roman Empire, central Europe, and the British Isles. Different Reformed churches developed a variety of structures. One important institution in many churches was the consistory, used to promote moral and social discipline. Historians and theologians have examined the nature of Calvinist ideas, the dynamic growth of Calvinism, the international character of Calvinism, and the complex impact of Calvinism on the political and cultural history of diverse European societies from Ulster to Transylvania.

Article.  7238 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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