Original Research - Special Collection: Structural subjects - Church History and Systematic Theology

Calvin and the confessions of the Reformation

Alasdair I.C. Heron
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 70, No 1 | a2084 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v70i1.2084 | © 2014 Alasdair I.C. Heron | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 October 2013 | Published: 29 April 2014

About the author(s)

Alasdair I.C. Heron, Reformed Theology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany; Department of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, University of Pretoria, South Africa


This article discusses the complicated question of the connection between Calvin and the confessions of the Presbyterian Reformed tradition. Firstly, a contrast is drawn to the question of the connection between Luther and the Lutheran confessions. It is noted that here a closed canon of Lutheran confessions exists, and Luther himself wrote three of the documents. On the other hand, there is no closed canon of Reformed confessions. However, there is a broad consensus concerning which Reformed confessions from the 16th century are classical. In this article a synopsis is provided of this list, and it is discovered that Calvin himself only wrote one of the classical Reformed confessional documents, although he influenced some others. The article then continues to discuss Calvin’s own contribution, his Catechism of 1542/1545. The historical context of writing in which this Catechism is sketched, its use in Geneva is described, and the outline of the Catechism is mentioned. The article continues to discuss why Calvin thought there was a need for a catechism, and why he wrote it in Latin and sent it to East Friesland. In conclusion the author explains why he has discussed Calvin’s Catechism, instead of focusing on the English Confession of 1556.


Calvin; Reformed confessions; Calvin's Catechism; catechisms


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