Today is John Calvin's 500th birthday and Wikipedia's featured article is on him. The first line of the article is, "John Calvin (1509-1564) was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation." This sentence is both a massive understatement and a wonderful reflection on a crusader for God's Holy Scriptures. Calvin is one of the most misunderstood and unappreciate theologians in Christian history. He is certainly not to be deified- in Christ alone do we glory- but his courage, his contributions (as an 'influential theologian and pastor'), and his commitment to preach the Scriptures are an exemplary example to learn from.
He was not perfect. Not everything he taught or wrote was correct. Not everything he did was correct. There are certainly dark moments in his life. He was a man of his time which comes with baggage but he was also a man- like every believer- who is sanctified daily (not all at once). A couple years back I wrote a paper which I've developed into a biography sermon for this Sunday at my church that explores Calvin's conviction and preaching regarding the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in every believer's life. He wholeheartedly believed, preached, and lived that the Holy Spirit worked through the Holy Scriptures to draw people to God and transform them to God's glory. These were revolutionary ideas in the 16th century and we should be thankful for men like Calvin that carried this banner high even through persecution.
Let me recommend a couple lighter reading books on Calvin- The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven Lawson and Portrait of John Calvin by T.H.L. Parker (which DesiringGod.org is running a sale on today for only $2 per book!). If you want to read Calvin get a copy of Institutes of the Christian Religion or any of his commentaries. Also, John Dillenberger has put together a collection called John Calvin: Selections from his Writings. Read up- it's important to know your history and to praise God for men such as John Calvin.
HT: Cake pic is from World Magazine which has some great article links about the birthday boy.