John Calvin was not a man who inspired immediate confidence in those who first met him (Steinmetz 3). He was a slight man, shy and bookish, never robust and plagued by illness (Steinmetz 3). He is a man of order and peace born into a world of conflict (Parker 9). He was conservative by nature, by upbringing, by conviction, and his theology as so old-fashioned it seemed a novelty (Parker 9). He called himself a “lover of shaded paths and retired groves” as well as “merely a man among the common people” (Parker 9, 17). He also thought of himself as a “God frustrated Scholar” meaning that his plans had been set aside to do God’s will (Gerrish 152).
He had an unbelievable list of physical ailments, an inexhaustible work ethic, and he was sharp-tongued and short-tempered (Gerrish 152). He was irritable and difficult because of these circumstances yet those who were his friends testified to the deep affection and unfailing concern he showed them and to any who turned for him for help (Gerrish 153). Calvin has been chiefly defined as a rigid and systematic bureaucrat and theologian. However, Calvin’s concerns are not motivated by systematic but through pastoral concern (Barrett). He is a practical theologian who juxtaposes themes and leaves them be; he is able to hold together dialectical tensions as theology only makes sense in living and NOT on paper (Barrett).
Calvin will be a shy, thinker, usually at the back of the group, listening. He’s not loud nor have the ego like Luther or Zwingli, not super charming or witty like Erasmus. He will speak in imagistic and metaphoric language and comment on the other reformers actions under his breath. He is best described as the character “Crab Man” from My Name Is Earl. Incredibly profound and insightful, but largely misinterpreted by those around him. He is frustrated by this but keeps trusting that things will work out.