Did John Calvin believe in the inerrancy of the Bible?

by Matt Slick

Yes, John Calvin believed in the inerrancy of scripture.  John Calvin was a French reformer and theologian who was born in 1509 and died in 1664.  He was a brilliant systametician and wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion before he was 30. 

I know of no statement from Calvin where he said, "The Bible is inerrant." But, we find numerous quotes in his Institutes regarding Scripture that allude to its sufficiency, authority, and authorship from God.  Please consider the following.

  • "The chief thing to be attended to in the Creed is, that it furnishes us with a full and every way complete summary of faith, containing nothing but what has been derived from the infallible word of God." (Institutes, Book 2, Chapter 16, Section 8)
  • "The authority of Scripture derived not from men, but from the Spirit of God." (Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 7, Section 1)
  • That the authority of Scripture is founded on its being spoken by God." (Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 7, Section 4).
  • "For the truth is vindicated in opposition to every doubt, when, unsupported by foreign aid, it has its sole sufficiency in itself. How peculiarly this property belongs to Scripture appears from this, that no human writings, however skilfully composed, are at all capable of affecting us in a similar way." (Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 8, Section 13:1)
  • "We shall see a little farther on, that the volume of sacred Scripture very far surpasses all other writings. Nay, if we look at it with clear eyes, and unblessed judgement, it will forthwith present itself with a divine majesty which will subdue our presumptuous opposition, and force us to do it homage." (Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 7, Section 4)
  • "I have endeavoured to give such a summary of religion in all its parts, and have digested it into such an order as may make it not difficult for any one, who is rightly acquainted with it, to ascertain both what he ought principally to look for in Scripture, and also to what head he ought to refer whatever is contained in it." (Institutes, Prefix to Second Edition, Epistle to the Reader)
  • "Although the Holy Scriptures contain a perfect doctrine, to which nothing can be added - our Lord having been pleased therein to unfold the infinite treasures of his wisdom - still every person, not intimately acquainted with them, stands in need of some guidance and direction, as to what he ought to look for in them, that he may not wander up and down, but pursue a certain path, and so attain the end to which the Holy Spirit invites him." (Institutes,(Institutes, Prefix to Second Edition, Subject of the Present Work)

As you can see from the preceding quotes, John Calvin had a high view of Scripture. There is nothing in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that hinted at the insufficiency of Scripture. He proclaimed its authority as coming from God and not from men or any supposed authority of human institutions formed in any particular church structure.

John Calvin considered the word of God to have "inherent efficacy" (Institutes, Book 1, Section 7), that we were to "lean and rest upon it" (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 7), that was is "pure" (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 15), that we are to "cling to the word of God" (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 31), and that you cannot err when you trust what is "dictated to him from the word of God" (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 4, Section 22).  Such references continue in his Institutes.

Therefore, we can confidently conclude that John Calvin believed in the inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture.





About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.