John Calvin (1509-1564 AD)
Next to Martin Luther, John Calvin had the most impact on the evolution of Protestantism. Calvin was active during the so-called "second generation" of reformers. In 1536, he published his influential book Institutes of the Christian Religion. The Institutes was Calvin's attempt to standardize Protestantism. Calvin emphasized the central role of scripture and a doctrine called "divine predestination."

calvinLeading Figure of Reformation
Calvin lived in Geneva, Switzerland, until anti-Protestant authorities in 1538 forced him to leave. He was invited back again in 1541, and upon his return from Germany, where he had been living, he became an important spiritual and political leader. Calvin used Protestant principles to establish a religious government; and in 1555, he was given absolute supremacy as leader in Geneva.

As Martin Luther's successor as the most important Protestant theologian, Calvin was known for an intellectual, unemotional approach to faith that provided Protestantism's theological underpinnings, whereas Luther tended to stress passion and populism.

Calvin's government punished "impiety" and dissent with execution (as the Catholic Church had done on occasion). In the first five years of his rule in Geneva, 58 people were executed and 76 exiled for their religious beliefs. Calvin allowed no art other than music, and even that could not involve instruments. Under his rule, Geneva became the center of Protestantism, and sent out pastors to the rest of Europe. This missionary work led to the creation of Presbyterianism in Scotland, the Puritan Movement in England and the Reformed Church in the Netherlands.

Death and Legacy
Calvin died on May 27, 1564, in Geneva, Switzerland. It is unknown where he is buried. Today, Calvin remains widely credited as the most important figure in the second generation of the Protestant Reformation.