6.0 of 5.0 (No typo)
The bottom line: A game-changing treatise on justification by faith alone and a cornerstone of Reformation theology.
Institutes of the Christian Religion is an introduction God, God’s Word (the Bible), and defends the theocentric principles of the Protestant Reformation, particularly the total sovereignty of The Lord.
In essence, if God isn’t sovereign then He ceases to be God. Institutes makes an ageless and compelling case that salvation is possible only by God’s grace.
The central existential question a sinner can ever seriously contemplate is how they, in their total depravity, can face the judgment of a holy and righteous God. The obvious answer is that a sinner cannot, nor can he or she reconcile their iniquities based on their own corrupt merit. In order to face God’s judgment, that individual must be justified or be made righteous.
The Protestant Reformation clarified how a sinner is made righteous, and Calvin, in Institutes of the Christian Religion, elucidates the precise mechanism: that we justified by grace alone through faith alone.
After all, how can one who is innately sinful ever attempt to become good? In other words, we are imputed with righteousness not by our own works, but by the exclusivity of Christ, He who is eternally and totally righteous. This justification is facilitated by the sacrifice on the Cross, where there is forgiveness of sins. Resultantly, we are treated “as if” we were righteous by a merciful God.
Throughout Institutes, Calvin also clarifies what has been come to be known as the five petals of Calvin’s T.U.L.I.P., or the five points of Calvinism: Total depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. Unconditional election refers to “predestination,” the component of Calvinism that is most commonly known.
Although this classic is called Institutes of the Christian Religion, this isn’t a book about religion at all. It’s a book about theology or the study of God. Religion begins with humankind and then asks, “What does God mean to me?” Here, god is molded in the image of man. Theology begins with God, and through the study of Scripture, history and nature, compels the creation to ask, “Who is the Creator?” Here, man is made in the image of God. If one begins with humankind and is, in fact, able to fully grasp, or “figure out,” God, then ‘god’ isn’t god at all.
Subsequently, Calvin’s treatise is principally theocentric and all of his doctrinal formulations are built upon this premise. Calvin engages reason, performs marvelous exegesis, interacts with other theologians (Augustine), and invites the reader to contemplate the natural world in a sincere pursuit to understand God Almighty. By asking the tough, probing questions, Calvin ultimately makes a timeless case for why everything is centered on God, why His Word alone matters, why faith alone matters, and of course, why Jesus matters. If you’ve never bothered to ask why, then you’ve never truly contemplated God. For any Christian serious about The Lord or serious about theology, you must read this book.
Institutes breaks the rating scale because it is more than a book—it illuminates the path to comprehend the awesomeness and gratuitous grace of Yahweh. Highest possible recommendation.