Did you know that John Calvin made a point to write very little about himself—which is one reason why we don’t know much about his personal life? He isn’t the only one. The reformers didn’t write too many captivating memoirs, despite their brave and dangerous lives.

Why didn’t the reformers write about themselves, and what were they writing instead?

The reason the reformers wrote so little about themselves was that they were not focused on themselves; they were focused on the message. We may best remember Luther for nailing up his theses or Tyndale praying “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.” But I believe the reformers would be deeply saddened if we remembered only their brave actions and not their important message.

So, for those of us who are celebrating the anniversary of the Reformation, we should make it our aim to pick up something the reformers penned.


Of course, it’s slightly impossible to read everything the reformers penned. Even picking up Calvin’s Institutes alone is a daunting task. Plus, without being familiar with their writing styles and historical context, their writings can be difficult to understand.

Thankfully, the second generation of reformers was aware of this issue. They summarized reformation teachings into bite-sized pieces. Their intent was not to replace the works of the reformers, but to give people like us, who may never go to seminary, a place to get started. These summaries are contained in the confessions and catechisms of the reformed churches.


At Olive Tree, our goal is similar to that of the second generation of reformers. We want to make it easier to access the Scriptures and biblical teachings. That’s why we’ve released The Westminster Confession of Faith with the Shorter and Larger Catechisms for free. These resources line-up closely with the teachings of men like John Calvin and John Knox, expressing the most important parts of their message.

Wondering where to start? The authors recommend first reading through and becoming familiar with the Shorter Catechism. Then, read the Larger Catechism, which builds on the shorter. Lastly, study the Westminster Confession of Faith. When combined, these three relatively short documents provide an excellent summary of reformed teaching on faith, life, and worship. We hope that you’ll enjoy these free resources and grow in your understanding of church history.


We’ve released more than a few free resources recently, so we thought it would be a good idea to remind you all. Here are the other releases:

Luther’s 95 Theses
The Psalms of David in Metre
London Baptist Confession of Faith & Catechism


  1. Since this is Luther’s 500th anniversary, could you share more Lutheran documents? Well done on the 95 Theses. The Calvinist ones are interesting too, but it would great to see more of what Luther taught.

  2. Jeff Michaels

    To echo the other poster, it would be nice to add: the Augsburg Confession, Luther’s Small and Large Catechism. These would be an important contribution.

  3. M L Schneider

    To add to the previous posters’ comments, it would be of great help to add the entire Book of Concord, even if only a public domain edition, considering how important that text is to describing Lutheran theology. Either that, or it may be more helpful to specify that you are speaking only of the Calvinist Reformers who took a considerably different tack than Luther and the second generation of German Reformers.

  4. Edward Pearse

    At dinner time our family of 5 adults and two teenagers were introduced to how the rebellious seminarians “sent the 95 theses viral” by translating them from Latin to German and having them printed in the by now 70 years plus new technology and distributed throughout Europe.
    Who used the term “viral” first? The teenagers, of course.
    Thanks Olive Tree for sharing these Catechisms, let us hope and pray they will go viral.