Nicodemism and the English Calvin, 1544–1584


In Nicodemism and the English Calvin Kenneth J. Woo reassesses John Calvin's decades-long attack against Nicodemism, which Calvin described as evangelicals playing Catholic to avoid hardship or persecution. Frequently portrayed as a static argument varying little over time, the reformer's anti-Nicodemite polemic actually was adapted to shifting contexts and diverse audiences. Calvin's strategic approach to Nicodemism was not lost on readers, influencing its reception in England.

Quatre sermons (1552) presents Calvin's anti-Nicodemism in the only sermons he personally prepared for publication. By setting this work in its original context and examining its reception in five sixteenth-century English editions, Woo demonstrates how Calvin and others deployed his rhetoric against Nicodemism to address concerns having little to do with religious dissimulation.

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Kenneth J. Woo, Th.D. (2015), Duke University, is Assistant Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. His publications on Reformation history and theology include articles in Church History and Religious Culture and Martin Luther in Context (Cambridge, 2018).
"Over the course of the book Woo shows the reader that Calvin’s work and message was not only seemingly infinitely adaptable by English translators, men who advocated widely diverse messages, but also useful in particular for personal agendas, self-serving propaganda, and as a weapon against just about any identifiable opposing stance. Th[is] work is particularly valuable in that it raises a number of questions as well, providing foundations for much future research." Andrew Chibi, Distance Learning Association, Sheffield, U.K., in: Sixteenth Century Journal Volume LII.4 (2021).

"make[s an] important contribution to our understanding of Nicodemism and the Reformation. A valuable conclusion to draw from his book (...) is that as a concept, Nicodemism offered almost unlimited possibilities for the denunciation of enemies, real or imagined." Susan Wabuda, Fordham University, in: Renaissance Quarterly Volume LXXIV.2 (2021).

"Woo splendidly shows that ‘Calvin’s adaptive use of Nicodemism resulted in attractive opportunities for deploying his rhetoric and reputation in similarly strategic ways not lost on his English readers’. This is an excellent work of scholarship.", Donald K. McKim, Germantown, Tennessee, in: Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Volume 70.4 (2019).
All interested in John Calvin and the English Reformation, especially those concerned with the reception of Calvin's thought in other sixteenth-century contexts, and anyone with an interest in early modern theological rhetoric concerning religious identity, persecution, and exile.
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