I’ve always wanted a nice copy of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion – not just to have it but to actually read it as well. Recently I was able to fulfill the first half of that wish by getting the edition published for the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth. Christianbook.com had it for only $19.99, a great price, so I went ahead and bought it. Now I have to make good on my second wish and read it.
This is not a light read. It’s also long. It’s over 900 pages, not including prefaces, introductions, etc. In my experience, the best way to read a book like this is in small portions over a long period of time. I’ve read the Bible that way for a while now, breaking it up into bite-sized portions and completing it over the course of six months to a year. (If you’ve not made plans to read the entirety of the scriptures in the coming year, I encourage you to do that. If you need some tips, go here). I wondered if something similar would work for Calvin’s Institutes.
With that in mind, I developed a reading schedule for the Institutes that allows you to finish it completely in 90 days – actually 87 days if you’re diligent. Otherwise you’ve got a few days leeway. The Institutes consists of four books, each with chapter and section divisions. The schedule uses only book, chapter and section numbers (no page numbers) so it should be adaptable to any version you’re reading.
For each of the four books, I used a notation system similar to that used for chapter and verse in the Bible – chapter numbers first, the, if applicable, section numbers after a colon. For example 1-4 means read chapters one through four, 13:1-12 means read chapter thirteen, sections one through twelve and 11:12 – 12:3 means read chapter eleven, section twelve through chapter twelve, section three. You get the idea. I’ve tried to keep each section as close to ten pages as possible but some sections are a bit longer because a more natural break occurs a few pages further on.
To get a free copy of the reading schedule, go here where you can download it for your use and to share with whoever you’d like.
If you need a copy of Calvin’s Institutes, the Kindle version can be found here for only $0.99. A free copy is available here at Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Another helpful resource is Timothy Lane’s A Reader’s Guide to Calvin’s Institutes which provides chapter outlines and summaries. This is not designed to replace reading the full work but as a supplement to it.
If you use the schedule to read the Institutes in the coming months, I’d love to hear from you and find out how it went.