Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bullinger and Calvin and the Consensus Tigurinus

The previous post referred to some of the background leading up to the signing of the Consensus Tigurinus.

The historical events aside two questions need to be asked.

Firstly, why was Calvin so keen for such an agreement? Clearly he was somewhat irritated at the perceived tardiness of Bullinger leading up to the Consensus Tigurinus. What is more, he made several trips to Zurich. Why was Calvin willing to compromise so much, especially with respect to terminology (ie no reference to the sacraments as instruments of grace) despite his background as a legal expert and his attention to words and terms in other contexts? Could it be that he was keen on getting wider recognition amongst the Swiss?

Gäbler concluded as follows: “The question of Zwingli’s impact on John Calvin (1509-1564) has not been really answered: the Geneva reformer’s judgments on Zwingli are not consistent.Especially in his early period (before 1540-1541), Calvin criticized Calvin’s doctrine of the Eucharist and objected to the preference forZwingli over Luther on the part of Luther’s Swiss followers. The fault Calvin found with Zwingli’s doctrine of the Eucharist was that he had conceived the Lord’s Supper as a metaphorical event.

In 1549, however, Calvin and Bullinger succeeded in overcoming the differences between the Zurich and the Geneva conceptions of the Lord’s Supper. The so-called Zuirch Consensus (Consensus Tigurinus) declared that the Eucharist is not merely a metaphor for the spiritual meal. However, they retained their objection to Luther, insisting that the Spirit of God does not bind itself to the elements. Thus Calvin moved away from his original position, and Bullinger also abandoned Zwingli’s conviction – without a word – by conceding to the sacraments the function of an eternal sealing of an inner, invisible work. Zwingli would have repudiated such a link between inner and outer. The Zurich Consensus brought a rapprochement between the Geneva and Zurich churches and allowed Calvin to find his place within the Swiss Reformed Church. But it also created a wider gulf between Calvinism and Lutheranism” (Huldrych Zwingli: His Life and Work p159).

Secondly, why was Bullinger open to signing a joint document with Calvin if the Zurchers were still suspicious of Bucer’s influence in the background?

No comments:

Post a Comment