Am I a Pastor or Am I a Scholar?

Jeff Robinson | October 27, 2015


Editors’ note: This is the first installment in a new series on the pastor-scholar. Articles will be published each Tuesday through the opening of the 2015 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), November 17 to 19, in Atlanta.


John Calvin was certain God had called and gifted him to serve the burgeoning reform movement in France through biblical scholarship. He would retire to Strasbourg and lead the quiet life of a scholar. Having published the first edition of his Institutes, Calvin had unwittingly invented a new category of investigation: systematic theology. The ivory tower beckoned.

But divine providence, by means of a red-haired firebrand of a preacher named William (or Guillaume) Farel, intercepted the would-be academic on a summer evening in 1536. Forced by the Hapsburg-Valois War to travel an alternate path from Basel to Strasbourg, Calvin ended up spending a night in Geneva. There he encountered Farel, who urged Calvin to stay and serve the reformation’s cause as a pastor. Calvin viewed himself as an academic, not a pastor, so he resisted Farel’s overtures. In desperation, Farel called down a curse on his studies and, surprisingly, Calvin caved.

Calvin spent much of the remainder of his life as a pastor, penning many…


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