Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bullinger and Predestination I

The work to consult with respect to Bullinger and predestination is Cornelis P. Venema, Heinrich Bullinger and the Doctrine of Predestination: Author of “the Other Reformed Tradition”? (2002).

The previous post contained a quotation from Bullinger’s Decades which was cited by the Remonstants at the Synod of Dort. It is a good example of the golden rule of giving proper consideration to the context of the quotation.

This quotation is to be found on page 509 lines 24-33 in Peter Opitz, Heinrich Bullinger Werke – Dritte Abteilung: Theologische Schriften. Band 3: Sermonum Decades quinque de potissimus Christianae religionibus capitibus (1552) (2008).

The quotation occurs in sermon IV.i which is given the title “Of the gospel of the grace of God, who hath given his son unto the world, and in him all things necessary to salvation, that we, believing in him, might obtain eternal life” (De evangelio gratiae dei, qui filium mundo dedit et in hoc verae salutis omnia, ut credentes in ipsum vitam consequamur aeternam).

We note the clear emphasis on grace. Indeed the first section of this sermon prior to the quotation above focuses on grace. Some of the marginal comments are: evangelium annunciate gratiam, gratia dei quid sit, causa gratiae divinae, operatio gratiae divinae, pugna s.Agustini et Pelagii de gratia dei, gratia iustificamur, in Christo suam nobis gratiam deus.

It is evident that Bullinger’s understanding of grace permits no room for any synergism.

The second thing to note from the title of sermon IV.i is the emphasis on believing in Christ. For Bullinger the reprobate are those who choose not to believe in Christ.
The quotation above from IV.i also needs to be read alongside the following quotations from IV.iv (this sermon is about God’s providence and has the sermon title ‘That God is the creator of all things, and governeth all things by his providence: where mention is also made of the goodwill of God to usward, and of predestination’ (Deum esse creatorem omnium ominiaque sua gubernare providentia, ubi et de bona dei erga nos voluntate ac de praedestinatione disseritur)).

“The predestination of God is the eternal decree (decretum) of God, whereby he has ordained either to save or destroy men; a most certain end of life and death being appointed unto them. Whereupon also it is elsewhere called a foreappointment (praefinitio)”.

This is found on page 596, lines 23-25 of Opitz’s critical Latin text of the Decades.

“Praedestinatio autem decretum dei aeternum est, quo destinavit homines vel servare vel perdere certissimo vitae et mortis termino praefixo. Unde et praefinitio alicubi eadem appelatur”.

“Furthermore, God by his eternal and unchangeable counsel has foreappointed who are to be saved, and who are to be condemned. Now the end or the decree of life and death is short and manifest to all the godly. The end of predestination, or foreappointment, is Christ, the Son of God the Father. For God has ordained and decreed to save all, how many soever have communion and fellowship with Christ, his only-begotten Son, and to destroy or condemn all, how many soever have no part in the communion or fellowship of Christ, his only Son”.

This is found on page 597, lines 4-9 of Opitz’s critical Latin text of the Decades.

“Caeterum ab aeterno immutabili consilio praefinivit dues, qui salvari quive damnari debeant. Finis autem sive decretum vitae et mortis breve est et omnibus piis perspicuum. Finis praedestioninis vel praefinitionis Christus est dei patris filius. Decrevit enim deus servare omnes, quotquot communionem habent cum Christo unigenito filio suo, perdere autem omnes, quotquot a Christi filii sui unici communione alieni sunt”.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bullinger and The Decades

It is 500 years since Bullinger wrote the Decades in 1549-1551. 1549 was the very year that Calvin and Bullinger hammered out the Consensus Tigurinus.

The Decades comprise fifty sermons in Latin probably originally aimed at equipping the pastors and teachers of Zurich for their ministries. They were translated into German and Dutch and was known as the “Housebook”. Copies of it in Dutch have been found in the East Indies (Indonesia). The Decades played in a important in the early Elizabethan church.

The structure of the Decades can viewed as follows:

1. An introductory section on the Four General Councils of the church and the important creeds and decrees of the church (12 documents). This was Bullinger’s way of underlying the fact that the Reformation church was the true descendent of the true Catholic Church.
2. Soteriology (I.i-IV.ii)
3. God and Creation (IV.iii-x)
4. Church and Sacraments (V.i-x)

Two important books to consult on the Decades are:

Walter Hollweg, Heinrich Bullingers Hausbuch (1956)
Peter Opitz, Heinrich Bullinger als Theologe: Eine Studie zu den Dekaden (2004)

At the Synod of Dort, the Remonstrants cited Bullinger out of context, thus giving the false impression that Bullinger differed from Calvin with respect to predestination. The following excerpt from IV.i was one of the passages that the Remonstrants used to support their views:

“And although it may by all this be indifferently well gathered, to whom that salvation belongs, and to whom that grace is rightly preached: yet the matter itself does seem to require in flat words expressly to show, that Christ and the preaching of the gospel belong unto all. For we must not imagine that in heaven there are laid two books, in the one whereof the names of them are written that are to be saved, and so to be saved, as it were of necessity, that, do what they will against the word of Christ, and commit they never so heinous offences, they cannot possibly choose but to be saved; and that in the other are contained the names of those, who do what they can and live never so holily, yet cannot avoid everlasting damnation. Let us rather hold that the holy gospel of Christ does generally preach to the whole world the grace of God, the remission of sins, and life everlasting.”

In subsequent posts I will cite other sections of the Decades to demonstrate the Bullinger’s view on predestination was very similar to that of Calvin’s. Venema has rightly termed Bullinger’s approach that of “homilietical Augustinianism”.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Zwingli and Bullinger vis-à-vis the Eucharist

In an earlier post (Zwingli and the Eucharist) I flagged that I would post concerning my conclusion that Bullinger had a significant influence on Zwingli which resulted in Zwingli’s linking the Eucharist with the covenant commencing in 1525.

Bullinger first met Zwingli and Jud in 1523. This is recorded in his Diarium:

“Hoc eodem anno primo vidi d. Huld. Zuinglium et Leonem Iudae, et primum eorum usus sum familiaritate. Placebant eorum libri et conciones hoc impensius, quo ardentior iam in 4. anno dogmatis eram sectator” (Diarium, p8).

Bullinger’s input to Zwingli concerning the Eucharist was made on 12 September 1523:

“12. Septembris primo aperuit mihi mentem suam Zuinglius, quid sentiret de sacramento corporis et sanguinis Domini. Nam bona fide illi exponebam sententiam meam, quam hauseram ex scripto quodam fratrum Vualdens. | et Augustinus libris. Interim prohibebat, ne cui id mysterii explicarem; nondum enim satis tempestivum esse, ut proferatur; velle se iusto tempore proferre” (Diarium, p9).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Calvin and Bullinger vis-à-vis the Covenant

How similar were Calvin and Bullinger in their understanding of the covenant? Very similar according to Lillback’s analysis in his book The Binding of God. Indeed at the end of Lillback’s doctoral dissertation he appends an English translation of Bullinger’s De Testamento.

It is not widely acknowledged that Calvin did not hesitate to speak of the covenant in terms of its “stipulations” and “conditions”. This is evident from his commentary on Genesis 17:1,2:

“In making the covenant, God stipulates for obedience, on the part of his servant… For this condition, he adopts children as his own, that he may, in return, obtain the place and the honour of a Father. And as he himself cannot lie, so he rightly demands mutual fidelity from his own children ….

We have said that the covenant of God with Abram had two parts. The first was a declaration of gratuitous love; to which was annexed the promise of a happy life. But the other was an exhortation to the sincere endeavour to cultivate uprightness, since God had given, in a single word only, a slight taste of his grace; and then immediately had descended to the design of his calling; namely that Abram should be upright”

(cf Institutes, II.x.8: ‘For the Lord always covenanted with his servants thus: ‘I will be your God, and you shall be my people.’ The prophets also commonly explained that life and salvation and the whole of blessedness are embodied in these words … He is our God on this condition: that he dwell among us, as he has testified through Moses.”

Calvin’s reference to be upright (integer) echoes Bullinger’s frequent emphasis in his writings.

Monday, October 25, 2010

From Faith to Faith

In the lectures on Romans that he gave in1525, Bullinger stated that he differed from Luther and Melanchthon in some aspects of understanding the message of Romans. For example, with respect to ’εκ πιστεως ’εις πιιστιν (1:17) Bullinger concluded that Paul means “the righteousness of God emerges from faith in (his) faithfulness”. Thus πιιστις is first understood as ‘faith’ and then as ‘faithfulness’. What Bullinger meant by this faithfulness is the faithfulness of God that leads a person to faith. From the very beginning with his lectures in 1525, Bullinger underscored that fides encompasses ‘faithfulness’ both on the part of men and women as well as on the part of God. He concluded that the divine fides is identical with God’s ‘faithfulness’, His fidelitas and His veritas.

(cited from “Bullinger and Romans", Reformed Theological Review vol 69 (2010), pp34-47, p43)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bullinger on expounding the Word of God

The following quote from towards the end of the third sermon of the first decade of Bullinger’s Decades illustrates the importance of a humble heart guided by the Holy Spirit as we seek to expound Scripture:

“And finally, the most effective rule of all, whereby to expound the word of God, is an heart that loveth God and his glory, not puffed up with pride, not desirous of vainglory, not corrupted with heresies and evil affections; but which doth continually pray to God for his holy Spirit, that, as by it the scripture was revealed and inspired, so also by the same Spirit it may be expounded to the glory of God and safeguard of the faithful.”
(Parker Society Edition)

“His omnibus addimus iam omnium efficacissimum verbum dei exponendi canonem: pectus dei et gloriae eius amans, non superbum, non ambitiosum, non hæresibus, non pravis corruptum affectibus, quod precibus indesinentibus vocet spiritum sanctum, per quem prodita et inspirata est scriptura, ut per eundem etiam explicetur ad gloriam dei et fidelium incolumitatem” in Peter Optiz, Heinrich Bullinger Werke – Dritte Abteilung: Theologische Schriften, Band 3: Sermonum Decades quinque de potissimis Christianae religionis capitibus (1552), Teilband 1, (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2008), p54

Covenant and Predestination in Bullinger

Venema has a thoughtful comment concerning covenant and predestination in the writings of Bullinger:

“It should also be noted that none of these earlier writings does Bullinger systematically develop the connection between the doctrine of the covenant and of predestination. Though the doctrine of the covenant is an organizing feature of his Summa, and though it received substantial elaboration in his De testamento seu foedere Dei unico et aeterno of 1534, in the writings we have considered, Bullinger does not explicitly draw any connections between these doctrinal loci. That such a connection exists is apparent, no doubt, from the location of Bullinger’s treatment of predestination in his Decades and Summa. The salvation promised in the covenant of grace could only be realized upon the basis of God’s provision of a Mediator and Savior. From eternity God purposed to provide this Moderator as the Savior of his elect people, those to whom he purposed to grant faith and repentance at the preaching of the gospel. The doctrine of predestination, therefore, constitutes a necessary basis for the realization of God’s saving purposes in history through the administration of the covenant of grace. Consistent with Bullinger’s stress upon God’s use of the means in the realization of his sovereign and gracious purposes, the covenant of grace is instrumental to the provision of salvation for the elect. What the covenant requires or demands, God graciously grants to his elect. Thus, Bullinger’s doctrine of God’s monopleuric and unconditional election correlates with his stress upon the covenantal means of salvation, even though he does not explicitly develop this correlation. The conditions of the covenant are only realized upon the basis of God’s sovereign and gracious purpose of election.”

(Heinrich Bullinger and the Doctrine of Predestination: Author of “the Other Reformed Tradition”? (2002) pp55,56)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bullinger and the Doctrine of Predestination

J. Wayne Baker argued that Bullinger was the pioneer of “the other Reformed Tradition”. Put simply, Baker’s view was that Bullinger (ie Zurich) taught a view of a bilateral covenant in tandem with single predestination whereas Calvin (ie Geneva) taught a monopleuric covenant in tandem with double predestination. The two supposed Reformed traditions represent two approaches to express what Scripture teaches concerning sola gratia and sola fidei.

Baker’s position can be found in: J. Wayne Baker, Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenant: The Other Reformed Tradition (1980); J. Wayne Baker, “Heinrich Bullinger, the Covenant, and the Reformed Tradition in Retrospect”, The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 29/2 (1998), pp359-376 and J. Wayne Baker and Charles S. Mc Coy, Fountainhead of Federalism: Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenantal Tradition (1991).

Inter alia
Baker’s understanding of Calvin and the covenant has been challenged by Peter Lillback in The Binding of God (2001).

Baker’s understanding of Bullinger and predestination has been challenged by Cornelis P. Venema in Heinrich Bullinger and the Doctrine of Predestination: Author of “the Other Reformed Tradition”? (2002). Venema’s book follows on from his article: “Heinrich Bullinger’s Correspondence on Calvin’s Doctrine of Predestination, 1551-1553”, The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 17/4 (1986), pp435-450.

Venema’s study will be referred to in subsequent posts. The main focus of Venema’s study is Bullinger’s understanding of predestination in the Oratio of 1536, The Decades of 1549-1551, the Summa Christlicher Religion of 1556, Bullinger’s correspondence with Calvin concerning Bolsec, Bullinger’s correspondence with Bartholomäus Traheronus (1553) and his “conflicts” with Vermigli. Venema concludes that Bullinger had a very similar view to Calvin re predestination though Bullinger’s view was somewhat nuanced.

The following two comments on the back cover of the book are to be noted:

“Despite the fact that Heinrich Bullinger was one of the most significant and influential figures in the development of Reformed theology in the sixteenth century, he has not always been interpreted contextually. Cornelis Venema has provided us with a carefully researched and thoughtfully argued reassessment of Bullinger’s doctrine of predestination and soteriology. Venema’s work presents a significant challenge to those who find in Bullinger the source of a competing Reformed tradition distinct from Calvin and Reformed orthodoxy” (R. Scott Clark, Westminster Theological Seminary in California).

“This is the most careful and complete study of Bullinger’s doctrine of predestination in English. In the ongoing debate regarding whether Bullinger was the author of another Reformed tradition or another author of the Reformed tradition, Venema makes a compelling case for the latter. His finely nuanced arguments and ample support from the sources will make it difficult to contend any longer that Bullinger’s views of predestination and covenant diverged substantially from John Calvin’s” (Lyle D. Bierma, Calvin Theological Seminary).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Zwingli and the Eucharist

Zwingli’s stress on the sovereignty of God underlies his understanding of word and sacrament. Thus he rejected any notion that the sacraments could be effective in or of themselves. For that would be to deny the sovereignty of God.

In his correspondence with Luther, Zwingli focused on Johannine texts such as John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”, John 6:45 “And they shall all be taught of God” and John 3:8 “The Spirit blows where he wills”. He was particularly fond of quoting John 6:63 to Luther – “It is the Spirit who gives live, the flesh is of no avail”.

Despite what is commonly believed, Zwingli did believe in the presence of Christ during the Eucharist. The commonly held view is that Zwingli denied the presence of Christ in the Eucharist as if others believed in the real presence and Zwingli in the real absence! In point of fact, Zwingli did believe in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist – but not his bodily presence, nor his presence in his human nature. Christ is present through the Spirit.

Zwingli’s position was developed in The Canon of the Mass in which he defended the use of the term “Eucharist”. Although this term was not used by Christ or the apostles, it makes clear that the sacrament is a gift from God. On the other hand, the term “mass” indicates that it is something that men and women offer to God.

There were several influences on Zwingli’s understanding of the Eucharist. These include Erasmus, Augustine and Hoen. The young Bullinger also had a significant influence on Zwingli’s thought concerning the Eucharist and this will be the subject of a subsequent post. Indeed, most scholars assume that Bullinger, as Zwingli’s Nachfolger, followed and developed Zwingli’s ideas. Stephens, for example, states that, “As Zwingli’s successor in Zurich, Bullinger consciously maintained Zwingli’s teaching and practice.”

On 15 June 1523 Zwingli wrote to his former teacher, Thomas Wyttenbach, concerning the Eucharist. The main concern raised was the presence of Christ. Zwingli wrote:

Eucharistiam illic edi puto, ubi fides est; in eum enim usum data est, ut mortis domini fructum, gratiam et donum cantemus, usque dum dominus veniat.

(see the post on Jim West’s blog:

In 1524 Zwingli read a letter by Cornelius Hoen. This letter argued for interpreting the word “is” as “signifies” in “this is my body”. In 1525 Zwingli was influenced by Bullinger though this is not widely known.

Gillies concluded that Zwingli made “the covenantal discovery” in the summer of 1525. 1525 was, indeed, a productive year for Zwingli. In June the Prophezei was commenced with studies on Genesis. These were subsequently published in March 1527 as the Genesis Commentary. In August of the same year Zwingli produced his Subsidiary Essay on the Eucharist of which Gillies noted, “attests to the existence of a developed covenantal theme during this period.” 1525 was also the year that Bullinger was in Zurich! He was invited by the Zürich council to attend the first disputation with the Anabaptists in Zürich on 16 January. Bullinger subsequently acted as clerk at the second (17 March) and third disputations (6-8 November). 1525 was also the year that reforms took a firm hold in Zürich.

Stephens has documented how Zwingli had different emphases on the Eucharist at different phases of his ministry. His earlier writings sought to counteract transubstantiation and Luther’s understanding of the presence of Christ. Thus he emphasized the symbolic nature of the Eucharist. For him, the focus was on remembering the death of Christ and not on the eating of the body. From 1525 onwards Zwingli referred more and more to the covenant in connection with the Eucharist. Stephens observed that in his later writings “the Eucharist is a thanksgiving for Christ’s death for us, a confession of our faith, and a commitment to love them as Christ loved us.”

(This post is based on W.P. Stephens, “Zwingli: An Introduction to his Thought”. The quotations are from: W. Peter Stephens, “Bullinger and the Anabaptists with Reference to His Von dem universchämten Frevel (1531) and to Zwingli’s Writings on the Anabaptists”, Reformation and Renaissance Review, vol. 3 (2001), p96 and Scott A. Gillies, “Zwingli and the Origin of the Reformed Covenant 1524-7”, Scottish Journal of Theology, Vol. 54 (2001), p21-50)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bullinger and the task of the ministry of the Word

“As antistes Bullinger had to exercise extreme wisdom and discernment with respect to the future direction of the Zürich church in uncertain times, not to mention that his leadership was required to address matters of church and state, church discipline, a strained relationship with the Lutherans, in addition to the Anabaptist controversy. In his maiden Karlstag address (on the annual occasion to commemorate Charlemagne who is traditionally linked to the founding of the Grossmünster) Bullinger delineated his understanding of the office of minister. For Bullinger what is fundamental to the office of minister is that of a prophet through the faithful exegesis and proclamation of Scripture in building up the congregation:

‘The task of a true prophet is none other than … to exegete the Holy Scriptures, to oppose errors and evils, to further the fear of God and truth, and finally not only to offer righteousness, faith and mutual love to the hearts of men with full eagerness and zeal, but to heavily press these upon them. It is also his task to strengthen the faint, to comfort the sad, and encourage and exhort those failing or falling behind in the way of the Lord.’”

(Cited from “Bullinger and Romans”, Reformed Theological Review vol 69 (2010), pp34-47, p35)

Bullinger goes on to state the following:

“First of all, we would like to point out, dear reader, that we have written no laws, but commentaries, which one must verify, and may not be considered as divine oracles. The Bible is the only measuring stick for the truth. Where, then, you notice that I have not been quite correct in my interpretation, lay my commentary aside and follow the Bible.”

(cited from the same article p39)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Zwingli and Symbolism

When Zwingli replaced the mass with Protestant Lord’s Supper in the Grossmunster he performed some powerful symbolic acts. The stone altar was dismantled and the stones used as part of the paving on which the communion table (see an earlier post) was placed. Directly above was the new pulpit he constructed. The picture above is a drawing of this elevated pulpit.

What strikes our attention vis-à-vis the symbolism employed by Zwingli – the replacement of the altar with a table, the use of the stone of the altar for the paving under the communion table directly under the pulpit.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Zwingli’s emphasis on the Word of God and the Spirit

Zwingli commenced his ministry at the Grossmunster in Zurich on his 35th birthday on 1 January 1519. He announced that on the very next day he would commence a continuous exposition of the Gospel of Matthew. In point of fact, he had already commenced preaching the continuous exposition on whole books of the Bible in 1516 during his stint at Einsiedeln in Canton Schwyz just beyond Rapperswil at the southern end of Lake Zurich.

A case could be made that 1516 was the year in which Zwingli became a reformer. If so, a case could be made for the commencement of the Reformation in 1516 which would predate 31 October 1517 and the 95 Theses of Luther.

Certainly from 1516 Zwingli had a clear conviction that Scripture is the very Word of God. This spurred him on to study the text of the Bible in its original languages and to be meticulous in interpreting it. In the Prophezei (where preachers and students met five times a week to study the Bible) the Old Testament was first read in Latin from the Vulgate, then in Hebrew, and finally in Greek from the LXX. The Hebrew and Geek texts were expounded in Latin followed by an exposition in German.

Stephens wrote: “The authority of the Bible lay in its being God’s word, and Zwingli opposed this to man’s word, as he opposed truth to error. The tradition of the church, even when expressed by councils or pope, was in the end man’s word and not God’s. In this conflict Zwingli frequently referred to Romans 3:4 ‘Let God be true, though every man be false’” (W.P. Stephens, ‘Zwingli: An Introduction to His Thought’ (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992) p 32).

The following indicates the approach that Zwingli took in interpreting Scripture:
“Before I say anything or listen to the teaching of man, I will first consult the mind of the Spirit of God (Ps 84 (AV 85): ‘I will hear what the Lord will speak.’ Then you should reverently ask God for his grace, that he may give you his mind and Spirit, so that you will not lay hold of your own opinion but of his. And a firm trust that he will teach you a right understanding, for all wisdom is of God the Lord….. You must be theodidacti, that is taught of God, not of men” (G.W. Bromley, ‘Zwingli and Bullinger’ LCC XXIV (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953) pp88,89; Z I 377.7-20).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bullinger and the Vestarian Controversy

Following the enactment of the Elizabethan Settlement on 1559 there was the real threat of schism because of the differing views concerning uniformity of church ornaments and ecclesiastical dress.

In 1559 An Act for the Uniformity of Common Prayer and Service in the Church and Administration of the Sacraments was passed. The first effect of this statute was to repeal the Act of Mary as and from 24 June 1559, and to restore the Book of Common Prayer from that date. The Second Prayer Book (1552) of Edward VI with certain additions and alterations was thenceforth to be used. There were severe penalties for detractors.
Sampson, Jewel and others sought Vermigli’s advice (he was then on the continent). They, and others, termed the vestments “the relics of the Amorites”.
Sampson wrote a letter to Bullinger dated 16 February 1566 (Zurich Letters I, pp153-155) in which twelve key questions were posed. Bullinger’s reply was addressed to Laurence Humphrey and Thomas Sampson and dated 1 May 1566. A full discussion of this letter is found in Walter Phillips, “Henry Bullinger and the Elizabethan Vestarian Controversy: An Analysis of Influence”, Journal of Religious History 2 (1981), pp363-384.

Basically, Bulinger’s view was that the clerical dress was acceptable “for the sake of decency, and comeliness of appearance, or dignity or order”, that they are allowable as “a matter of indifference and civil order”. Furthermore, he quotes Vermigli in support of such clerical dress being “agreeable to the light of nature”.
Bullinger was no supporter of popish ceremony and any “relics of the Amorites”. However, the necessary requirement of preaching the gospel takes unconditional priority over the retention or abolition of things “of themselves” indifferent. For Bullinger separation would have been a greater injury than the burden of conformity.
Bullinger sent copies of the letter to former Marian exiles who had been in Zurich and had since become bishops. Grindal published the letter in both Latin and English for the benefit of the clergy as whole.

Grindal then wrote to Bullinger: “Some of the clergy influenced by your judgment and authority, have relinquished their former intention of deserting their ministry. And may also fo the laity have begun to entertain milder sentiments, now that they have understood that our ceremonies were by no means considered by you as unlawful, though you do not yourselves adopt them; but of this, before the publication of your letter, no one could have persuaded them. There are nevertheless some, among whom are masters Humphrey and Sampson, and others, who still continue in their former opinion. Nothing would be easier to reconcile them to the Queen, if they would but be bought to change their mind; but until they do this, we are unable to effect any thing with Her Majesty, irritated as she is by the controversy.”

(summarized from Torrance Kirby’s ‘The Zurich Connection and Tudor Political Theology’)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Holy Communion at Zurich

The close connection between the Word of God and the sacraments is clearly visible through the communion table in the Grossmunster. It is shaped like a wine goblet and, therefore, doubles up as the baptismal font. With the removable wooden lid in place it is the table for the communion service. When communion is not being celebrated, an open Bible is placed on top. It is centrally placed at the front of the Grossmunster. Similar communion tables may be seen in the nearby Fraumunster, St. Peterskirche and Predigerkirke.

The close connection between the pulpit and the communion table is clearly evident in the Grossmunster.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bullinger and the English Church

Through the Marian exiles who spent time in Zurich as well as through his correspondence Bullinger exerted significant influence on the church in England. The competing imputs to the English church from Zurich and Geneva may be seen in the following quotation from Torrance Kirby:

“The Admonition Controversy, with its focus upon the institutions of ecclesiastical discipline and the jurisdiction of both magistrate and bishops, was in may ways a reply in England of the disagreement over excommunication which erupted in the Palatinate in the late 1560’s. Caspar Olevianus, Court preacher in Heidelberg, had sought a ‘purer’ church with powers of discipline independent of the Magistrate; he was opposed by Thomas Erastus who defended the magisterial supremacy. This exchange concerning the disciplinary power of excommunication escalated into a full-scale dispute over the first principles of ecclesiology and the fundamental nature of the authority of scripture. Bullinger interceded with the Elector Friedrich III in support of his erstwhile pupil Erastus and set out reasons for his opposition to the conduct of church discipline by presbyters independently of the civil magistrate, a position shortly reiterated with events across the channel. The Heidelberg dispute highlights the difference between the Zurich and the Geneva ‘brands’ pf Reform on the question of both the distinction and the interconnection between ministerial and magisterial jurisdiction. The result was something of a compromise between the two principal exemplars of a Reformed ecclesiology; by 1570 a presbytery had been established in Heidelberg although its power to excommunicate was subject to the consent of the magistrate. Bullinger’s reaction with respect to the English proponents of the disciplina – such as Field and Wilcox, as well as Walter Travers and Thomas Cartwright – is to view their challenge to the Elizabethan establishment largely in terms of this continental dispute, and to assure Bishop Sandys of his sold support of the status quo. England had become yet another battleground between two competing visions of Reformed ecclesiastical polity with the Queen and her Zurich-trained bench of bishops ranged in support of the Tigurine model now openly challenged by disciplinarian critics of 1559 Settlement, all sympathizers of the example of Geneva. Bullinger’s 1574 response to Sandys in support of the Elizabethan establishment may be taken as emblematic of the prophetical role he exercised towards England throughout his career”
(Torrance Kirby, “The Zurich Connection and Tudor Political Theology” (Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp37,38)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

De Testamento

Bullinger wrote a treatise on the covenant in 1534. He gave this work the title “The one and eternal testament or covenant of God” (De testamento seu foedere dei unico & aeterno).

The following is a helpful synopsis of the content of this treatise taken from a blog ”The Heinrich Bullinger Page” (

I. Introduction
1. Definition of the terms
i. Testamentum
ii. Foedus
The parts of a human covenant.
2. God in condescension to man has expressed himself by way of and in the form of earthly covenants.
3. The Covenant is expressed in Genesis 17:1-14, and includes the following elements:
i. Who is bound: God and the Descendants of Abraham.
ii. The Conditions and Terms of the Covenant.
iii. The Duration of the Covenant: It is One and Everlasting.
iv. The Confirmatory Seal of the Covenant
v. The Records of the Covenant
II. The Parties
i. God. Our religion is founded upon God’s gracious entrance into this Covenant.
ii. The Descendants of Abraham.
1. The “Children of Abraham” are not the physical descendants, but the faithful.
2. However, children of the faithful are most certainly included in the covenant; no child, however, can claim a right to the blessings of the covenant purely by physical descent.
3. Contra the Anabaptists, the first mention of the “Spiritual People of God” is not in the NT. Compare Jer. 4 and Romans 2; or the prophets with John 8 or Gal. And Rom.
4. Thus, NT statements about the seed being the faithful is not said in exclusion of infants, rather it is said in exclusion of hypocrites and those who trusted in physical descent and outward ceremony.
III. The Conditions
i. The Promises of God
1. Summarized in his name: El Shaddai (The All-sufficient God)
2. The Promise is chiefly spiritual, consisting in the grant of himself.
i. It was often presented under the form of earthly goods.
ii. Nevertheless, behind these earthly goods the faithful sought the true substance.
2. The Conditions for Man
i. “You will keep my covenant, you and your descendants in their generations. Walk before me and be upright.”
ii. The summation of the requirements for men are:
1. Faith
2. Love toward God and neighbor
3. Excursus: Thus, these conditions and terms of the covenant contain the substance of all things found in scripture; and thus is it said that the covenant is the scope of scripture.
i. The Moral law (or Decalogue) is but an expansion of the Covenant terms.
ii. The Judicial laws express certain principles of walking uprightly in the covenant as pertains to human dealings; Abraham lived according to these principles; Moses delivered them to the people; and societies today ought to live in accord with them. The magistrate is a vital minister of God.
iii. The prophets show us the terms of the covenant in action.
iv. Christ, as recorded in the gospels:
1. By the very fact of his incarnation, death and resurrection confirms the promises and sufficiency of God.
2. He also prescribes the conditions for men, both:
i. By his actions;
ii. By his teaching.
3. The apostles also teach who are the heirs of Abraham, etc.
IV. The Unity or Duration of the Covenant: It is One and Everlasting
i. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, scripture refers us back constantly to Abraham as the paradigm of our salvation.
ii.The accidents of the Covenant have differed in time, and in this respect we may refer to the Old and the New.
iii.The reason for the Law at Sinai
1.The requirements expanded into a list by the finger of God in the form of the 10 Commandments.
2.The ceremonies afterwards added to keep men from idolatry and to show forth Christ.
iv.The benefits of the present Church-state.
v.Several Objections dealt with:
1.Matthew 5
2.2 Cor.
3.Accusation of the Ebionite Heresy
4.Deut. 5
5.That the Old Covenant was based upon promises of earthly glory and the Land of Canaan; whereas the New Covenant says we shall suffer.
V.The Seal of the Covenant
1. Circumcision was instituted to consecrate his Covenant.
i. He who despises the sign despises also the Covenant.
ii.But he who does not contemn the ordinance, but rather is prevented should not thus be thought cast off from God’s people.
2. With the confirmation of the Covenant by Christ’s death, the confirmatory sign also changes.
i. Baptism
ii. The Eucharist
VI The Records of the Covenant
1. They were published continually over time in the books of the Old and New Testament.
2. As with earthly testaments, any disputes or questions over the inheritance and conditions is to be resolved in these documents.
VII. Epilogue: The Antiquity of this Reformed Faith
1. The worship bound to this Covenant far precedes heathen religions, and those of the Muslims and Papists.
2. Continuing in the terms of the Covenant, God will continue to establish the true religion.

Zwingli and the Word of God

Zwingli’s firm belief in the centrality of the Word of God can be seen in the following which he wrote to the Bishop of Konstanz in 1522:

“To put you in the picture concerning my preaching activity in Zurich: four years ago I preached right through the Gospel according to Matthew. After the Gospel, I continued immediately with the Acts of the Apostles, for now the Church in Zurich ought to see how, and under what authorities, the further proclamation of the Gospel began. There followed at once Paul’s Fist Epistle to Timothy, which seemed to me to be of excellent benefit to the good flock, because it contains, as it were, the rules of the Christian life. In the meantime, certain persons who had a smattering of knowledge had strayed into such ungodly madness that they had almost brought he name of Paul into disrepute, as they gave themselves airs with their seemingly pious and harmless remarks: ‘Who is Paul, anyway? I she not just a man? Certainly he is an Apostle, but only an additional member, not one of the Twelve; for he never spoke with Christ, and he never composed an article of faith; for my part I believe a Thomas or a Scotus just as much as a Paul’. So I expounded the two letters of Peter, the prince of the Apostles, so that they might clearly see whether both the Apostles, filled with the same Spirit, did not say the same thing. When I had finished with that , I took up the letter to the Hebrews, in order that they should learn that Christ is the High Priest; and they have already learned this, to a certain extent”.

(Z I p284f as cited in Locher p27)