Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Margaret McGlynn


One of the most significant challenges faced by sixteenth century Protestants was the need to define the character and function of the ministerial office. Having rejected the medieval model of a cleric who mediated contacted with the Divine via the sacramental system, Protestant were confronted with the task of redefining the clerical task in light of their core values of sola fide and sola Scriptura. The first generation Reformers, however (men like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and Martin Bucer), had proven unable to meet this challenge in a sustained and substantial way. Thus, the task fell to the next generation of Protestant leaders. As a second generation reformer John Calvin was able to reflect at length about the matter of pastoral formation and he developed a comprehensive vision of how the new Protestant clergy were to function.

Ultimately, Calvin devised a model of pastoral function that not only succeeded in firmly establishing the Reformation in Geneva, but strengthened the evangelical cause throughout the whole of Europe. The model Calvin created directed pastors towards the Apostle Paul as an exemplar of pastoral excellence and articulated a clear sense of how the critically important task of preaching was to be undertaken by the ministers and received by the laity. Calvin also worked to clarify acceptable standards of conduct for the clergy and to regulate clerical-lay interaction by depicting ministers as professional men. Finally, he developed institutional structures that helped to train, support and supervise the men who assumed the ministerial mantle.

This study presents a comprehensive overview of Calvin’s understanding of the pastoral office and attempts to assess the ways in which Calvin’s personal experiences shaped the development of that model.