John Calvin was a French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. While pastoring in Geneva, Switzerland, Calvin created a college, because he firmly believed in the religious training of children. Prior to Calvin’s college, school was reserved for the aristocratic elites of society; common people were excluded from any form of public education. Calvin divided his college into two divisions: a public school and a seminary (Hall, 14). The public school became known as Calvin College, and the seminary because known as the University of Geneva. Historians have stated that both of Calvin’s schools were the “forerunners of modern public education,” in part because they were tuition-free (Hall, 14).
Calvin firmly believed that Christian influence touched all areas of life. Since Calvin believed that faith and education belonged together, he drew up a catechism for parents to teach their children while receiving a secular education. Calvin also added departments of law and medicine to his college, making it the first liberal arts college since it also taught Hebrew, Greek, and the Arts. Historians have noted that “Calvin’s Academy became the standard bearer for education in all major fields” (Hall, 63). The Academy educated the masses, trained pastors, and provided an excellence in education for international students. Overall, the University of Geneva was one of Calvin’s greatest contributions to society.
Calvin greatly influenced the society of his day for the better. One of his students returned to England to establish the Bodleian Library, a famous research facility (Hall, 64). His Academy also trained missionaries to reach the countries bordering Switzerland. John Knox took Calvin’s training back to native Scotland where he championed the Protestant cause. Calvin’s spiritual emphasis on education was unparalleled during his lifetime. Sadly, his college abandoned its spiritual foundation just a few generations after his death.
Calvin is still important today because he properly recognized the importance of education. He fervently believed in seminary training, supporting the Biblical training of future pastors, a practice still prevalent in America. Modern Christian educators should follow Calvin’s example by coupling faith with academic excellence.
– Hannah S. Bowers
Hall, D. (2008). The legacy of John Calvin: his influence on the modern world. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing.