Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bullinger’s advice to Calvin

In response to the Gnesio-Lutherans re the Reformed understanding of the Lord’s Supper (in particular, the Consensus Tigurinus) Calvin, in tandem with Beza, drafted a reply that would be sent to Westphal. Calvin sent his draft to Bullinger for his comments as Bullinger had previously stated re this effort: “May the Lord give you His Holy Spirit so that the enterprise will be to His honor and a blessing to many. I await your answer with longing.”

But when Calvin’s full draft was received in Zurich it was deemed not on the ball enough re the Lord’s Supper, especially its attitude to the Augsburg Confession. Furthermore, it was a very aggressive attack on the Gnesio-Lutherans without sufficiently analyzing their position. It was more a case of playing the man rather than playing the ball. Bullinger was given the task of conveying the comments of the ministers at Zurich to Calvin. The following is an extract of Bullinger’s letter to Calvin:

“It appears to us, dear Calvin, that you proceed far too roughly against our opponents. Three or four times, you call them ‘good-for-nothing’ and you reproach them because of the cows of their country and their nearness to the polar seas and you call Westphal a ‘beast’. Well, we admit freely that they deserve such harsh treatment but – not from you and not from us. It will be more to our favor to remain charitable. It was exactly invective like this in Luther’s writings which put off many sincere people. Your written response, therefore, should be, in our opinion, thoroughly moderate in tone, so that one will in every respect appreciate that the author simply aims at the upkeep and defence of the truth. He retains his Christian dignity and leniency in spite of these stormy and violent times. We wish, as far as is possible, to give Westphal, this verbose and belligerent man, no further opportunity to squabble. In Saxony and northwards to the Baltic Sea there are many thousands of well-meaning people whose friendship, as you mention, we should cultivate. Perhaps, however, exactly these people would feel insulted by your offensive statements. As you use general terms of abuse concerning cold and icy people, beasts and ne’er-do-wells, it would be better to strike them out and name the renewer of the sacrament controversy by his correct name, Westphal, so that everyone will know that we are proceeding against him.” (Pestalozzi, p389)

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