A few years ago, one of my professors at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary encouraged us to pick a theologian of the past and get to know him very well. So, believing it to be wise counsel, the pursuit of who to choose started. I landed on Calvin because I already knew something about him and had read enough to know that I would benefit significantly from consuming as much material from him and about him throughout my ministerial life.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion is the magnum opus work of Calvin. Yet, few in the modern church have read it. I suspect several reasons why that is the case. One of them being its length (over 1500 pages). Another may be its level of difficulty. It is not the most straightforward reading, mainly because of the depth contained in the material as well as the language. The English editions of the Institutes are translated from Latin (one publication is a translation of the French edition). The writing is wonderfully done but difficult for modern readers to follow. The material is profound, and Calvin does not hesitate to look under every stone and rock to uncover the deep truths of God’s Word. For these reasons, I suspect many either start and give up or never bother.
Therefore, I have developed a reading plan that, if followed, will take you through the entire Institutes in 18 weeks (reading five days per week). Combined with the reading are three secondary volumes carefully paralleled with the section of the Institutes assigned. Those secondary sources will help the reader of the Institutes understand the bulk of Calvin’s thoughts.