John Calvin and Presbyterianism in Britain

This page contains information for the Southeast Asia Graduate School of Theology Doctorate Module tutored by John Roxborogh in 2009 on the influence of John Calvin on Presbyterianism in Britain.

The aims of the module involve both the content and level of study appropriate for a SEAGST doctorate. Despite the British and European focus, an Asian context is also in view. The intention is to better understand the English, Scottish and Irish background to the Presbyterian tradition in China and Southeast Asia (particularly Malaysia and Singapore, though less so the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand though they also have stories to tell). The purpose is that an understanding of the background to missionaries in this tradition helps empower the church today to understand itself and make informed decisions about its faith and its mission.

This involves not only looking at Calvin's life and teaching, but being able to place his influence on English and Scottish Presbyterianism in its European context and in relationship to his sense of mission to France and beyond. It is important both to distinguish and connect Calvin and Calvinism, Scotland, England and Europe, theology and culture. As well as characteristic theological concerns and the influence of Calvin's commentaries, there are themes which take the worship of God into daily live which still relevant today including Calvinism and education, justice and morality, migration, economics, and issues of church and state.

John Roxborogh

Learning outcomes in terms of content:

1. Able to identify and locate quality material (books, academic journals, worldwide web resources, experts in the field) reasonably available for the study of Calvin's influence on Presbyterian traditions in Britain.

2. Able to distinguish between Calvin and Calvinism and to identify the major indicators of Calvin's direct and indirect influence in terms of theology, worship, church discipline and church order.

3. Demonstrate familiarity with the writing and thought of major Calvin scholars.

4. Demonstrate familiarity with Calvin's life and major writings, particularly the Institutes of Christian Religion.

5. Demonstrate familiarity with major historical sources indicative of Calvinist influence including the First Book of Discipline of 1560, and the Westminster Confession of Faith and associated documents.

Learning outcomes in terms of level of study:

1. Able to interact critically with academic monographs.

2. Able to discuss the theoretical issues involved in studying the topic.

3. Ability to write a paper which engages with contemporary scholarship.

Completing the module involves:

1. Reading and reflection on the set topics and monthly discussion with the tutor (overview of the topic area, familiarity with key resources)

2. Completing a book review of one or more academic texts (ability to engage with issues at a doctoral level) (3000 words)

3. Completing a literature survey identifying and discussing recurring issues and critical frameworks (background to thesis) (3000 words)

4. Writing a research paper on an approved topic (integration and presentation of research at a doctoral level) (5000 words)



1. Calvin (See also Reform to 1564 and Calvin)

Calvin's life and theology, institutes, sermons, letters, discipline

2. Calvin's European Influence

What was it about Calvin which made him influential. The importance of the Academie and the Refugees who returned to their country of origin. Calvin's letters. The model of Calvin's Geneva. The model of Calvin's theology.

P Benedict A social history of Calvinism, section 1.pdf

3. Calvin and the Reformation in Britain (See also Reformation Scotland and John Knox)

Scottish Presbyterians and English Puritans. The emerging cultures of Calvinist Christianity. Key figures: John Knox.

4. The Westminster Assembly of Divines : Confession, Catechism and Church Order (See also Confessions and Confessions)

Content, context and significance for Congregational and Presbyterian Churches in England and Ireland and the Church of Scotland

5. The 18th Century background to the missionary movement from Britain

The rise of the missionary movement in Scotland and England with special reference to the London Missionary Society

6.  The Evangelical Revival and Presbyterian Mission in 19th and 20th century with special reference to interest in China

The background to the London Missionary Society mission to the Straits Settlements and then to China from 1842. The growth of missionary interest among English and Scottish Presbyterians and Congregationalists.

 Bibliography (required reading in bold)

Bauswein, Jean-Jacques, and Lukas Vischer, eds. The Reformed Family Worldwide : A Survey of Reformed Churches, Theological Schools, and International Organizations. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999.

Bebbington, D. W. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain : A History from the 1730s to the 1980s. London: Routledge, 1995.

Benedict, Philip. Christ's Churches Purely Reformed. A Social History of Calvinism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. section 1.pdf

Benedetto, Robert, Darrell L. Guder, and Donald K. McKim. Historical Dictionary of Reformed Churches, Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1999

Calvin, Jean, John Thomas McNeill, and Ford Lewis Battles. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Library of Christian Classics ; 20, 21. London: S.C.M. Press, 1961 (or a more recent translation).

Cornick, David. Under God's Good Hand : A History of the Traditions Which Have Come Together in the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom. London: United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom, 1998.

Fergusson, David, "The Reformed Churches" in Avis, Paul. The Christian Church : An Introduction to the Major Traditions. London: SPCK, 2002, 18-48.

Hirzel, Martin Ernst, and Martin Sallmann. John Calvin's Impact on Church and Society, 1509-2009. Grand Rapids, Mich. ; Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2009.

Kendall, R. T. Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649. New ed, Carlisle: Paternoster, 1997

Kirk, James. Patterns of Reform, Continuity and Change in the Reformation Kirk, T & T Clark, 1989.

Leith, John H. An Introduction to the Reformed Tradition : A Way of Being the Christian Community. Atlanta, Ga.: John Knox Press, 1981

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. The Reformation : A House Divided. London: Penguin, 2004

Macdonald, Lesley Orr. A Unique and Glorious Mission : Women and Presbyterianism in Scotland, 1830-1930. Edinburgh: J. Donald c2000

McGrath, Alister E., and Darren C. Marks. The Blackwell Companion to Protestantism, Blackwell Companions to Religion. Malden, Mass. ; Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

McKim, Donald K., ed. The Cambridge Companion to John Calvin, Cambridge Companions to Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

McKim, Donald K., ed. Major Themes in the Reformed Tradition. Grand Rapids, Mi: Eerdmans, 1992

McKim, Donald K.. ed. The Westminster Handbook to Reformed Theology. 1st ed. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001

Murdock, Graeme. Beyond Calvin : The Intellectual, Political and Cultural World of Europe's Reformed Churches, C. 1540-1620, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Partee, Charles. The Theology of John Calvin. Louisville, Ky. ; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.

Peel David, R. Reforming Theology : Explorations in the Theological Traditions of the United Reformed Church. London: United Reformed Church, 2002

Pettegree, Andrew, A. C. Duke, and Gillian Lewis. Calvinism in Europe, 1540-1620. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Rice, Howard L., and James C. Huffstutler. Reformed Worship. 1st ed. Louisville: Geneva Press, 2001.

Rohls, Jan, and John F. Hoffmeyer. Reformed Confessions : Theology from Zurich to Barmen, Columbia Series in Reformed Theology. Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998

Selderhuis, H. J. John Calvin : A Pilgrim's Life, Inter-Varsity Press, 2009 or other recent life of Calvin.

Sell, Alan P. F. P. T. Forsyth : Theologian for a New Millennium. London: The United Reformed Church, 2000.

Sell, Alan P. F., Anthony R. Cross, Protestant Nonconformity in the Twentieth Century. Carlisle, Eng.: Paternoster Press, 2003.

Shaw, Duncan, and Hugh Watt. Reformation and Revolution : Essays Presented to the Very Reverend Principal Emeritus Hugh Watt, D.D., D.Litt., on the Sixtieth Anniversary of His Ordination. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1967.

Torrance, Thomas F. Scottish Theology : From John Knox to John Mcleod Campbell. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996.

Todd, Margo. The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.

Toon, Peter.  The emergence of hyper-Calvinism in English Non-conformity, 1689-1765, 1967.

Tucker, Tony. Reformed Ministry : Traditions of Ministry and Ordination in the United Reformed Church. London: United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom, 2003.


Presbyterian Studies especially:

The 17th century




Martin Bucer


Thomas Chalmers

John Knox

Martin Luther

Andrew Melville

Reform to 1564

Reform to 1546

Reform to 1572

Reform to 1622


Reformation Scotland

Reformed Churches in the 18th Century

Revival and Party in 18th Century Scotland