This chapter presents a brief overview of John Calvin’s life and the stereotypes that surround many assessments of that life. The usefulness of such stereotypes is questioned, for they can not only impede the study of Calvin the man but they also can cloud one’s understanding of Calvin’s influence in American culture, one that can be traced not only through the positive appropriations of the Calvinist tradition but also through the ways in which even people who reject that tradition end up wrestling with the fruits of Calvin’s influence. There then follows a short narrative tracing the movement of Calvinism from Europe to the New World. Finally, there is a brief introduction to the contents of the book through a brief summary of each of the chapters.
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