Readers of John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion often regard this masterwork of doctrine as a cold, sterile, and merely intellectual project. But Matthew Myer Boulton reads it very differently. In Life in God: John Calvin, Practical Formation, and the Future of Protestant Theology Matthew Myer Boulton argues that for Calvin, Christian doctrine is properly conceived and articulated primarily for the sake of practical Christian formation--the immersive, restorative training for wholeness and holiness embodied in the church's disciplinary treasury.
Although Calvin famously opposed the cloister, Boulton shows that his purpose was not the eradication but the democratization of monastic spiritual disciplines. Just as Calvin endorsed the "priesthood of all believers," so too did he envision that ordinary disciples could live with God daily, consecrate themselves to the art of knowing God, and embrace spiritually formative practices including scriptural and theological study, daily prayer and worship, regular Psalm singing, frequent reception of the Lord's Supper, renunciation of "the world," rigorous moral accountability, and the like.