2005 Conference - The Continental ReformationDeep in History

Calvin and the Radical Reformation – Dr. Kenneth Howell

April 5, 2016 No Comments

Dr. Kenneth Howell, former Presbyterian pastor, university professor, and author, gives an understanding of John Calvin and the part he played in the Reformation. Calvin, who may have been more influential than Martin Luther, believed that it was not he who was leaving the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, but that the “Romanists” (i.e. Catholics) already had. Dr. Howell delves into the history and theology of Calvin and Calvinist spirit.

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Study Questions:

-Calvin wanted to bring Christianity back to it’s Christian “roots” in the Early Church, back to what he called “the
simple Gospel.” What is Howell’s response to Calvin’s method?

-Howell enumerates four tones of Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto’s letter to John Calvin in Geneva. How could the cardinal’s tones be applied to evangelizing those outside the Catholic Church today?

-Howell stated, “Nothing should be more distasteful than someone introducing into Christianity something that Christ has not taught.” What do you think about this statement?

-What does Cardinal Sadoleto say in his letter to John Calvin about “faith alone”? What does the Latin word habitus mean in terms of salvation?

-What are the differences between Catholic and Calvinist views on justification and works? What is the difference between justification and sanctification? How does the Catholic Church respond to this?

-Howell believes that one of Calvin’s biggest mistakes was that he began to look at the Fathers of the Church selectively. What does it mean to “selectively” look at historical data?

-Why does Howell say that all of Calvinism can be summed up in the spirit of Iconoclasm?


Renaissance humanism: The term generally applied to the predominant social philosophy and intellectual and literary currents of the period from 1400 to 1650. The return to favor of the pagan classics of antiquity stimulated the philosophy of secularism, the appreciation of worldly pleasures, and above all intensified the assertion of personal independence and individual expression.

Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto: A well-educated and faithful servant of the papacy in many negotiations under successive
popes, especially as a peacemaker, his major aim was to win back the Protestants by peaceful persuasion and by putting Catholic doctrine in a conciliatory form, famously writing to the people of John Calvin’s Geneva, urging them to return to the Catholic faith.

Early Church Fathers: A title that gradually came to be applied to Christianity’s earliest teachers, who in the period of the Church’s infancy and first growth, instructed her members in the teaching of Jesus Christ and that teaching which He very specifically had given to His Apostles. An Early Church Father must be of must be of orthodox doctrine and learning, living a saintly life, and having a certain antiquity (usually, prior to the Council of Chalcedon, 451).

Iconoclasm: “Image-breaking”; the heresy against the veneration of images that, in the 8th and 9th centuries, disturbed the peace of the Eastern Church and later the Frankish kingdom to the west.


  • Dr. Kenneth Howell’s written conversion story
  • Dr. Howell’s Journey Home Program episodes  1 | 2 | 3  | 4
  • Dr. Howell’s books  Clement of Rome & the Didache | Ignatius of Antioch & Polycarp of Smyrna | Something Greater Is Here (memoirs)
  • Grant, Edward. The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional and Intellectual Contexts
  • Grant, Edward. Science and Religion, 400 B.C. to A.D. 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus
  • Grant, Edward. God and Reason in the Middle Ages
  • Grant, Edward. A History of Natural Philosophy: From the Ancient World to the Nineteenth Century
  • John Paul II, Pope. Ut Unum Sint
  • Ray, John. The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation
  • Sungenis, Robert. Not by Faith Alone: A Biblical Study of the Catholic Doctrine of Justification