Few theologians have had more influence on Western Christian thought and culture than John Calvin, one of the fathers of the reformed branch of Protestant Christianity. Calvin was born in Noyon on July 10, 1509. Born to a Roman Catholic family of means, Calvin was schooled in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, philosophy, and law in Paris, Orleans and Bourges. He received formal instruction for the priesthood at the Collège de la Marche and the Collège de Montaigue, branches of the University of Paris. Along with several friends he grew to appreciate the humanistic and reforming movements, and he undertook studies in the Greek Bible. In 1532 he published a commentary on Seneca's De Clementia, proving his skills as a humanist scholar. His association with Nicholas Cop, newly elected rector of the University of Paris, forced both to flee when Cop announced his support in 1535 of Martin Luther. Although he rarely spoke of it, Calvin underwent a personal religious experience about this time.
Calvin moved frequently during the next two years, avoiding Church authorities while he studied, wrote, and formulated from the Bible and Christian tradition the primary tenets of his theology. In 1536 he published the first edition of his Christianae Religionis Institutio' (Institutes of the Christian Religion), a concise and provocative work that thrust him into the forefront of Protestantism as a thinker and spokesman. Calvin's most famous and controversial doctrine is that God chooses to save some people and not others, a notion known as election' or predestination'. During the same year, Calvin visited Geneva on his way to Strasbourg and was asked by Guillaume Farel to assist in the city's reformation movement. Calvin remained in Geneva with Farel until 1538, when the town voted against Farel and asked both men to leave. He moved to Strasbourg where he married Idelette de Bure, a widow who died in 1549. The couple had one child, who died in infancy....