Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bullinger and Infused Grace

Another characteristic feature of Bullinger’s writings in the middle of the 16th Century is his reference to gratia infusa. The timing is striking because the Tridentine decree on justification (1547) describes justification in terms of infusion. We might have expected that Bullinger would avoid this terminology. However, although Bullinger did not attend the Conference of Regensberg (Ratisbon 27 April 1541) it may well be that his writings such as the Decades also had a secondary purpose to reach out to those still embracing Rome. Although the catchcry of the reformers was ad fontes this did not mean that Bullinger cited the Church Fathers as much as possible, whenever he endorsed their understanding and application of Scripture. This was part of his strategy to emphasize that the Protestant church was the true spiritual descendants of the Church Fathers and that the popes over the centuries had diverted the church from the truth and how truth should be expressed.

Thus, Bullinger follows Augustine in his application of Romans 5:5 which Bullinger sees in terms of God pouring himself into man through the Holy Spirit. It is this text that Augustine used when referring to infused faith. Lombard (Sentences IQ.xvii) also follows to some extent Augustine’s understanding of infused grace from this passage. The passage also became the locus classicus of the Tridentine formulation of justification (Ch VII). Bullinger justifies using fides infusa because he would argue that faith comes sola gratia and indicates human dependence upon God.

The following is a section from the Decades Iv where Bullinger refers to fides infusa.

“Moreover, the disputation touching faith poured into us, and faith that we ourselves get; touching formal faith, and faith without fashion; I leave to be beaten out of them which of themselves do bring these new disputations into the church. True faith is obtained by no strength or merit of man, but is poured into him of God, as I declared in my last sermon: and though man obtain it by hearkening unto the word of God, yet nevertheless it is wholly imputed to the grace of God; for unless this grace do work inwardly in the heart of the hearer, the preacher that laboureth outwardly doth bring no profit at all.” (Parker Ed. P100)

The Latin is:

Porro diputationem de fide infusa et acquisita, de fide informi et formata illis excutiendam relinquo, qui ex seipsis novas illas disputationes invehunt in ecclesiam. Vera fides nullis acquiritur viribus et meritis humanis, sed infunditur a deo, sicut exposui superiori concione. Et cum auscultatione verbi divini ab homine acquiritur, nihilo minus totum gratiae dei imputatur, quae nisi operetur in animo auditoris interne, nihil proficit externus cultor aut prędicator. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p66)

The modern German is:

Ich lasse nun aber der Disput über den eingegossenen und den erworbenen sowie über den ungeformten und den geformten Glauben liber jene führen, die von sich aus neue Streitigkeiten in die Kirche tragen. Der wahre Glaube wird durch keine menschlichen Kräfte oder Verdienste erworben, sondern wird von Gott eingegossen, wie ich in der lezten Predigt erklärt habe. Und obwohl di Menschen den Glauben dadurch erwerben, dass sie das Wort Gottes hören, ist dennoch alles allein der Gnade gottes zuzurechnen. Denn wenn sie im Innern des Hörers nicht am Werk ist, vermag auch der nichts, der äußerlich pflanzt und predigt (vgl. 1 Kor 3,6f). (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, pp122,123)

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