Friday, October 22, 2010

Bullinger and the Doctrine of Predestination

J. Wayne Baker argued that Bullinger was the pioneer of “the other Reformed Tradition”. Put simply, Baker’s view was that Bullinger (ie Zurich) taught a view of a bilateral covenant in tandem with single predestination whereas Calvin (ie Geneva) taught a monopleuric covenant in tandem with double predestination. The two supposed Reformed traditions represent two approaches to express what Scripture teaches concerning sola gratia and sola fidei.

Baker’s position can be found in: J. Wayne Baker, Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenant: The Other Reformed Tradition (1980); J. Wayne Baker, “Heinrich Bullinger, the Covenant, and the Reformed Tradition in Retrospect”, The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 29/2 (1998), pp359-376 and J. Wayne Baker and Charles S. Mc Coy, Fountainhead of Federalism: Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenantal Tradition (1991).

Inter alia
Baker’s understanding of Calvin and the covenant has been challenged by Peter Lillback in The Binding of God (2001).

Baker’s understanding of Bullinger and predestination has been challenged by Cornelis P. Venema in Heinrich Bullinger and the Doctrine of Predestination: Author of “the Other Reformed Tradition”? (2002). Venema’s book follows on from his article: “Heinrich Bullinger’s Correspondence on Calvin’s Doctrine of Predestination, 1551-1553”, The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 17/4 (1986), pp435-450.

Venema’s study will be referred to in subsequent posts. The main focus of Venema’s study is Bullinger’s understanding of predestination in the Oratio of 1536, The Decades of 1549-1551, the Summa Christlicher Religion of 1556, Bullinger’s correspondence with Calvin concerning Bolsec, Bullinger’s correspondence with Bartholomäus Traheronus (1553) and his “conflicts” with Vermigli. Venema concludes that Bullinger had a very similar view to Calvin re predestination though Bullinger’s view was somewhat nuanced.

The following two comments on the back cover of the book are to be noted:

“Despite the fact that Heinrich Bullinger was one of the most significant and influential figures in the development of Reformed theology in the sixteenth century, he has not always been interpreted contextually. Cornelis Venema has provided us with a carefully researched and thoughtfully argued reassessment of Bullinger’s doctrine of predestination and soteriology. Venema’s work presents a significant challenge to those who find in Bullinger the source of a competing Reformed tradition distinct from Calvin and Reformed orthodoxy” (R. Scott Clark, Westminster Theological Seminary in California).

“This is the most careful and complete study of Bullinger’s doctrine of predestination in English. In the ongoing debate regarding whether Bullinger was the author of another Reformed tradition or another author of the Reformed tradition, Venema makes a compelling case for the latter. His finely nuanced arguments and ample support from the sources will make it difficult to contend any longer that Bullinger’s views of predestination and covenant diverged substantially from John Calvin’s” (Lyle D. Bierma, Calvin Theological Seminary).

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