Original Research

The influence of John Calvin’s theology on the World Council of Churches

G.M.J. van Wyk
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 44 | a195 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v44i0.195 | © 2010 G.M.J. van Wyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 July 2010 | Published: 26 July 2010

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G.M.J. van Wyk, Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika, Cape Town, South Africa

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This article explores the question whether any traces of Calvin’s theological views on church unity can be found in the purpose statements and goals of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Although no direct influence of Calvin’s theology on the work of the WCC can be proved, the structure and content of Calvin’s thought on church unity can be recognised in the statements and work of the WCC. Calvin believed that true church unity is not in the first place a unity of church structures, but one of truth, love, hope and confession. The ecumenical movement is in agreement with Calvin in this regard.


The ecumenical movement and the World Council of Churches are products of modern culture. The ecumenical movement could not have developed in a world that is not tolerant and where the free use of reason is not one of the core values of society. The ecumenical movement is also the natural answer to the problem of religious division that pre-modern Europe left us with. After a brief description of the World Council of Church- es as a modern institution the influence of Calvin’s theology on the theology of the World Council of Churches is explored.


Church Unity; Ecumenical; World Council Of Churches


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