Author: John Calvin (Translated by Stuart Olyott)
Page Count: 77
Publisher: Banner of Truth
Genre: Systematic Theology
Synopsis: This little treasure found its way into my hands via a recommendation from my good friend and blogging buddy over at Spice Mines of Kessel. After finishing the book he lamented that he had not read it immediately following his conversion. He commented that he would have been much more well established in the foundations of the Christian faith from the get-go and wouldn’t have struggled nearly as much to attain the doctrinal understanding he has achieved today. Curious, I ordered a copy immediately. I must admit, I couldn’t agree more with his assertion. Truth For All Time is a concise outline of the essential Christian doctrines that no believer should be deficient in. I’ll let Stuart Olyott, who translated the text from French to English, explain Calvin’s motivation for sketching an outline of the Christian faith. This is from the book’s preface:
John Calvin knew that if the biblical truths rediscovered at the Reformation were to spread throughout the world, they would have to be presented in a form which ordinary people could understand. So, during the winter of 1536-1537, the 29-year-old Calvin wrote in French, his Brief Outline of the Christian Faith [Bre’ve Instruction chre’tienne]. This short book is, in fact, a resume’ of the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion and many passages in it are taken word for word from that earlier work.
Calvin packed volumes of wisdom in a mere 77 pages. Here are the major topics he covers:
- Knowing God
- Knowing Ourselves
- The Law
- The Sacraments
- Church Order
In addition, Calvin touches upon these other important doctrines:
- Free Will
- Function of the Law
- Sin & Death
- Justification in Christ by Faith
- Election & Predestination
- Repentance & the New Birth
A few other features of this little volume include:
- A concise, accurate summary of each of the Ten Commandments and the importance they play in the everyday life of the Christian
- Exposition upon every point of the Apostle’s Creed
- A verse-by-verse study through the Lord’s Prayer
Kudos: Truth For All Time may quite simply be the best, most concise summary of the Christian faith ever written. If you’ve never read Calvin you may be surprised to find how easily digestible his writings are. He is no dry, musty old theologian who will bore you to tears with technical dissections of the Greek and Hebrew language. John Calvin was both a theologian and a pastor. His writings reflect the love and passion he has for God and for his people.
Knocks: How much can one learn from only 77 pages? A lot, frankly. However, if you want more then I highly recommend Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. As Olyatt wrote in the above quote, the Institutes is a greatly expanded version of this book, taking the form of a thoroughly comprehensive systematic theology. Its influence on Christian thinking throughout the centuries should not be under-estimated.
Recommendations: Whether you are a new convert or a seasoned believer, Truth For All Time will never fail to bless. It is a beautiful reminder of both the simplicity and majesty of the redemption we have in Christ Jesus our Lord. This book would make a wonderful tract to hand out to people we witness to in our evangelism efforts. Monergism Books sells a paperback edition for only $1.50. Order 10 or 20 at a time and hand out to friends, loved ones, co-workers or strangers you meet on the streets. Catechize your children with it or study it alongside your spouse.
I also recommend you check out my gold-plated friend’s take on the book at Spice Mines of Kessel.