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Unit information: The Thought of John Calvin in 2021/22

Unit name The Thought of John Calvin
Unit code THRS20197
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Balserak
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit examines the life, teachings and legacy of the sixteenth-century reformer, pastor, theologian, biblical interpreter, lawyer, social visionary, and humanist, John Calvin. One of the most significant thinkers in the Western tradition, Calvin has been called profoundly forward-looking, hopelessly conservative, shamefully licentious, ruthlessly dictatorial. Whatever he was, his thought has had a massive impact on our society and on us. The unit will examine Calvin's context and seek to understand his theology: both its broad contours and the positions he takes on a range of subjects—doctrine of God, creation and the fall of humankind, predestination and soteriology, the church, etc. It will also consider his thinking on government, economics and other "secular" subjects.


  • To introduce students to the thought of John Calvin, to Protestant theology more broadly and to the religious, cultural and institutional contexts informing them.
  • To provide a framework for analysing and evaluating a variety of perceptions of these topics.
  • To develop critical interaction with primary and secondary materials.
  • To develop written presentation skills through the course assessment.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the thought of John Calvin and (more broadly) medieval/Reformation theology;
  2. critically evaluate the religious, cultural and institutional contexts informing these;
  3. analyse and critically evaluate competing perceptions of Calvin and his theological context;
  4. demonstrate the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate a cogent argument orally and in writing.

Teaching Information

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback. 

Assessment Information


1 x 2000 word portfolio [ILOs 1-4] 


1 x 2500 word essay (100%) [1-4] 


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. THRS20197).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.