Friday, November 5, 2010

Bullinger and Predestination III

In addition to Venema’s book the following works of W. Peter Stephens should be consulted. Stephens was previously professor at Aberdeen. He is an expert on Zwingli and in recent years has been increasingly writing on Bullinger.

“Election in Zwingli and Bullinger: A Comparison of Zwingli’s Sermonis de providential dei anamnema (1530) and Bullinger’s Oratio de moderatione servanda in negotio providentiae, praedestinationis, gratiae et liberi arbitrii (1536)”, Reformation and Renaissance Review, vol. 7.1 (2005), pp42-56.

“Predestination or Election in Zwingli and Bullinger” in Emidio Campi and Peter Opitz (eds.), Heinrich Bullinger: Life – Thought – Influence (Zurich: TVZ, 2004), pp313-334.

In a letter written to Calvin on 1 December 1551 Bullinger appears to implicitly criticize Calvin:

“Now believe me, many are offended by your statements on predestination in your Institutes, and from that Hieronymous (ie Bolsec) has drawn the same conclusion as he did from Zwingli’s book on providence. In fact, it is my opinion that the apostles touched upon this sublime matter only briefly, and not unless compelled to do so and even in such circumstances, they were cautious that the pious were not thereby offended, but understood God to desire well for all men, and also to offer salvation in Christ, which itself can be received not by one’s own worth but by faith which is truly a gift of God. And indeed the elect are chosen on account of Christ and his grace and not on account of any respect of their own; the reprobate perish truly on account of their own guilt, and not by the malice of God”.

Calvin was neither pleased at the official letter from the ministers at Zurich nor at Bullinger’s personal letter to him. He interpreted them as attacks on his integrity and honour. He wrote to Farel:

“I can hardly express to you, my dear Farel, how much I am annoyed by their rudeness. There is less humanity among us than among wild beasts…. Should you be displeased with the general letter of the men of Zurich, let me tell you, that Bullinger’s private letter to me was not a whit better”.

In January 1552 Calvin wrote to Bullinger stating that he was “grieved beyond measure”. Bullinger replied on 20 February 1552 “Explaining to Calvin that he gave the impression of teaching that God had not only foreseen Adam’s fall but predestinated and activated it so that He is made the author of sin. Such a teaching would only scare people away from listening to the gospel, Bullinger added” (see George M. Ella, Henry Bullinger: Shepherd of the Churches (Durham: Go Publications, 2007), p221).

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