Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Was the Covenant Central in Bullinger’s Writings?

This is an area that I am reading up on and would appreciate any input, thoughts or suggestions.

The key works in English to read on this are:

J. Wayne Baker, Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenant: The Other Reformed Tradition (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1980)

Baker, J. Wayne, “Heinrich Bullinger, the Covenant, and the Reformed Tradition in Retrospect”, Sixteenth Century Journal, vol 29 (no2, 1998), pp359-376

Dowey, Edward A., “Heinrich Bullinger as Theologian: Thematic, Comprehensive, and Schematic” in Bruce Gordon and Emidio Campi (eds.), Architect of Reformation: An Introduction to Heinrich Bullinger 1504-1575 (Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought), (Baker, 2004), pp35-65

Baker’s position is that Bullinger’s (ie that of Zurich) was the original Reformed understanding of the covenant (bilateral) vis-à-vis single predestination while Calvin’s (ie that of Geneva) understanding of the covenant (unilateral testament) vis-à-vis double predestination was a later, alternative reformed position.

In some earlier posts some comments and critique has been given of Baker’s position. In particular, mention was made of the work of Cornelis P. Venema author of Heinrich Bullinger and the Doctrine of Predestination: Author of the ‘Other Reformed Tradition’?

Doweys’ full and comprehensive article on the works of Bullinger seriously questions the centrality of the theme of the covenant in Bullinger. Baker responded to Dowey (and others) with his article of 1998 in Sixteenth Century Journal. Peter Opitz’s Heinrich Bullinger als Theologe: eine Studie zu den also critically evaluates Baker’s postion.

Papers presented at the Bullinger conference held in Zurich in August 2004 were published in two volumes: Campi, Emidio and Opitz, Peter (eds), Heinrich Bullinger: Life, Thought, Influence, (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2007). Of the fifty articles in these two volumes three of them are concerned with the covenant. That in itself is some sort of indication of the importance of the covenant in Bullinger’s works:

Willem van ‘t Spijker “Bullinger als Bundestheologe” pp573-593

Aurelio A. Garcia “Bullinger’s De Testamento: The Amply Biblical Basis of Reformed Origian” pp 671-692

Lukas Vischer “…. Einem Bund mit euch und allen lebenden Wesen” pp961-976

This post will seek to summarize the main points of Vischer’s article.

Vischer has a section on Bullinger’s use of the terms testamentum and foedus. This is an area which needs to be further explored. He also correctly pointed out that Bullinger emphasized: 1 the unity of the Old Testament and the New Testament; 2. promise and fulfillment between the two Testaments; 3. the continuity between the people God of the Old Testament with the people of God of the New Testament or the church of the Old Testament with the church of the New Testament; 4. Understanding the nature of God’s covenant with mankind is the first step in understanding how mankind should live together. Vischer also points out that the covenant was with ‘every living creature’ or with the whole creation This means that the theme of creation-redemption was pivotal in the thought of Bullinger.

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