Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bullinger on Justification and Sanctification

Earlier posts have referred to the conclusion of Mark Burrows who argues that Bullinger virtually identifies justification with sanctification. The following are some sections from the Decades Ivi – readers of this blog can make their own conclusions:

“And first I will shew you, that this term of justification is taken in this present treatise for the absolution and remission of sins, for sanctification, and adoption into the number of the sons of God…. Justification of life therefore is an absolution from sins, a delivery from death, a quickening or translating from death to life. For in the fourth to the Romans the same apostle expoundeth justification by sanctification, and sanctification by the remission of sins. For in treating of faith, whereby we are justified, or which God imputeth to us for righteousness without works, he saith: ‘Even as David also doth expound the blessedness of that man, to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works, saying: Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.’ What could be more plainly spoken than this? For he doth evidently expound justification by sanctification, and sanctification by remission of sins. Furthermore, what else is sanctification but the adoption whereby we are received into the grace and number of the sons of God?.... By all this it is made manifest, that the question of justification containeth nothing else but the manner and reason of sanctification; that is to say, whereby how men have their sins forgiven, and are received into the grace and number of the sons of God, and, being justified, are made heirs of the kingdom of God. (Parker ed pp105-107)

The Latin is:

Principio demonstrabo iustificationis vocabulum in praesenti causa usurpari pro absolutione sive remissione peccatorum, pro beatificatione et adoptione in numerum filiorum dei….. Est ergo iustificatio vitae absolutio a peccatis, liberatio a morte, vivicatio seu translatio a morte in vitam. Nam in 4.cap. idem apostolus ad Rom. iustificationem exponit per beatificationem et hanc per remissionem peccatorum. Disputans enim de fide, qua iustificamur vel quam nobis imputat deus pro iustitia absque operibus: >Quemadmodum et David explicat<, inquit, >beatificationem hominis, cui deu imputat iustitiam absque operibus: Beati, quorum remissae sunt iniquitates et quorum obtecta sunt peccata< [Röm 4,6f] etc. Quid clarius adferri his poterat? Manisfeste enim iustificationem exponit per beatificationem et hanc per remissionem peccatorum. Praeterea quid est beatificatio aliud quam adoptio ea, qua recipimur in gratiam et numerum filiorum dei?..... Ex quibus omnibus planum fit quęstionem de iustificatione aliud non continere quam modum et rationem beatificandi, nempe per quid aut quomodo remittantur homnibus peccata, recipiantur autem in gratiam et in numerum filiorum dei fiantque iusti et haeredes regni dei. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, pp69,70)

The modern German is:

Zuerst will ich aufzeigen, dass der Wort >Gerechtsprechung< im vorliegenden Fall für den Erlass oder die Vergebung der Sünden verwendet wird, für die Vierleihung der Seligkeit und die Aufnahme in die Schar der Kinder Gottes….Wiederum wird die Gerechtsprechung zum Leben der Verurteilung zum Tode gegenübergestellt, die wegen der Sünde über uns verhängt worden ist. Also ist die Gerechtsprechung zum Leben die Vergebung der Sünden, die Befreiung vom Tod, das Lebenigmachen oder Überführen vom Tod ins Leben. Denn im Römerbrief, Kapitel 4, erklärt der Apostel die Gerechtprechung durch di Seligmachung und diese durch die Vergebung der Sünden. Denn über den Glauben, durch den wir gerechtgesprochen werden und den uns Gott ohne Werke zur Gerechtigkeit anrechnet, sagt er [Röm 4,6f]: >Wie denn auch David die Seligpreisung des Menschen ausspricht, dem Gott die Gerechtigkeit ohne Werke zurechnet: > Selig sind die, deren Übertretungen vergeben und deren Sünden bedeckt sind.<< Wie könnte man es noch deutlicher aussprechen? Denn ausdrücklich erläutert er die Gerechtsprechung durch die Seligpreisung und diese wiederum durch die Vergebung der Sünden. Was ist die Seligpreisung außerdem anderes als die Annahme, durch die wir in die Gnade und in die Schar der Kinder Gottes aufgenommen werden? …. Als alleden wird deutlich, dass die Frage nach der Gerechtsprechung nichts anderes zum Inhalt hat als die Art und Weise, wie man selig wird, nämlich wodurch und die wie den Menschen ihre Sünden vergeben werden, wie sie zu Gnaden und in die Schar der Kinder Gottes aufgenommen werden und wie sie gerecht und zu Erben des Reiches Gottes werden. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p128-130)

A note needs to made about the terminology used by Bullinger. With respect to beatificatio the Parker edition of the Decades has this in the footnote on page 106: “This is the term which Bullinger employs in this Treatise of Justification, and which the translator, rather unhappily, has rendered sanctification. The idea intended by Bullinger is expressed in Rom. iv.7, which he quotes – cf Calvin, Instit. Lib. III, cap II. 4. & 22.”

Burrows has the following comment re the translation of beatificatio in one of his footnotes: “Throughout this English rendition, the translators opted to express this as ‘sanctification’, which initially at least appears an unfelicitous reading. Thus, the editors of the Parker Society text point this supposed ‘error’ out at every juncture of the way. Yet our wider reading of Bullinger’s oevre – and, specifically, the consideration of how he spoke of sanctification in his mature writings – suggests that his intention of speaking of ‘beatificatio’ was that of describing our growth not in grace but in obedience – the very process which Bullinger, like Calvin, otherwise describes as ‘sanctificatio’. The point is that Bullinger always resists the traditional Catholic reading of sanctification as a ‘progress’ in righteousness; justification and sanctification rely on the one righteousness of Christ, and derive exclusively from Christ’s ‘fromgheit’. This makes it all the more difficult to minimize Bullinger’s use of ‘beatificatio’, since he uses it in a manner similar to his pronouncements elsewhere on sanctification. And, we must here recall that this word was understood in medieval theology to describe the final union of the believer with God. It is, in this historically familiar sense, an ‘eschatological’ term. Hence, Bullinger’s intentions, particularly if he is here addressing – and altering – common expectations of his hearers/readers, seems to have been to flatten out this eschatological interpretation of ‘beatificatio’ and to bring it into line with the believer’s present life in Christ. To recall a characteristic theme of his, as articulated in the Second Helvetic Confession: ‘Christus intra nos vivens’. This is, thus, a powerful reworking of an established tradition, by which he perceives the Christian not as a ‘viator’ wandering in this nether world of shadows and hoping for a full vision of God hereafter, rather, this pilgrim is already beatified, already ‘in’ God through Christ’s righteousness. The English translators seem to be vindicated on this crucial point, since their reading captures the full force of Bullinger’s critical revision of this medieval tradition.”

Burrows' analysis, therefore, is that Bullinger uses beatificatio in both a ‘realized eschatlogical’ as well as a ‘future eschatological’ sense. The ‘realized eschatological’ sense is rooted in gratia. The ‘future eschatlogical’ sense is linked to vivificatio and Bullinger’s oft reminder to live integer before the Lord.

See Peter Opitz’s HabilitationschriftHeinrich Bullinger als Theologe: eine Studie zu den especially the following sections:

IV 2.2.5 Iustificatio als sanctificatio aufgrund der communio mit Christus

IV 4 Sanctificatio als vivificatio, poenitentia und restitutio der imago Dei

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)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bullinger on Justification and Sanctification

Is Fesko (see the reference to his article on Bullinger and union with Christ in an earlier post) correctly reflecting Bullinger in concluding: “Though Bullinger prioritizes justification over sanctification, he does not render them asunder. Both justification and sanctification are aspects of union with Christ. He also shows that they are united but distinct: ‘But grace or faith and works, justification also and sanctification, are so joined together, that they cannot be severed one from another…. I verily neither dare nor do in any ease gainsay, that faith and works do cleave together.’ So for Bullinger, justification and sanctification are inseparably joined together, but neither are they confused.” (the quotation is from the Decades 3ix).

The previous post noted that Fesko makes no reference to Burrows’celebrated article “‘Christus intra nos Vivens’ The Peculiar Genius of Bullinger’s Doctrine of Sancification” in Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, vol.98(no.1), pp48-69. The following is part of footnote 2 from this article.

“The theme of the union of justification and sanctification, and the parallel established by the Church’s Christological language, emerges as a central argument in Calvin’s 1559 edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion: ‘As Christ cannot be torn into parts, so these two which we perceive in him together and conjointly are inseparable – namely, righteousness [or, justification which results from God’s ‘free acceptance’] and sanctification’. III.xi.6…..W. Niesel rightly concludes, in respect of Calvin’s argument, that ‘the two things – justification and sanctification – are one in [Christ], but only in Him’. W.Niesel, The Theology of Calvin p138. Alfred Goehler reaches the same conclusion regarding Calvin: ‘Die Einheitlichkeit des göttlichen Gnadenwirkens kommt darin zum Ausdruck, daß Rechtfertigung unf Heiligung immer gleichzetig vom Menschen ergriffen warden können… Da Gott beide Gnadengaben gleichzeitig schenken will, ist es unmöglich, die Heiligung zeitlich oder genetisch der Rechfertigung nachfolgen zu lassen… Gott [heiligt und rechfertigt] in völliger Parallelität’. Alfred Goehler, Calvins Lehre von der Heiligung. Dargestellt auf Grund der Institutio, exegetischer und homiletischer Schriften (1934) pp87-88. Clearly, the parallel development of this theme in Bullinger and Calvin is more than accidental, for we have here come upon a distinct identity of argument and even terminological distinctions. In this case, moreover, Bullinger’s contribution antedates that of Calvin, a fact which supports our contention that Bullinger is a constructive and original theologian in his own right”.

Burrows comes to the following analysis:

“In the Decades, the early emphases we have noted from Bullinger’s commentaries become even more pronounced. In this collection of sermons, Bullinger introduces what must be seen as a characteristic theme in this theology: namely, his fusion of the justification and sanctification doctrines. As he argues in a sermon from the First Decade, Paul ‘doth expound justification by sanctification, and sanctification by remission of sins… The question of justification containeth nothing else but the manner and reason of sanctification’. And as he goes on to argue in a manner strikingly reminiscent of Melanchthon’s insistence that the justified person can and must do good works, we hear Bullinger affirming the necessity with which faith brings forth good works:

‘…whereas we say that the faithful are justified by faith alone, or else by faith without works, we do not say, as many think we do, that faith is post alone, or utterly destitute of good works: for wheresoever faith is, there also it sheweth itself by good works, because the righteous cannot but work righteousness’.”

This quotation from the Decades can be found in the Parker ed p118. The Latin is:

Praeterea cum dicimus sola fide aut fide absque operibus iustificari credentes, non hoc dicimus, quod multi intelligunt, fidem esse solam aut destitutam bonis operibus. Nam ubicunque fides est, ibi se se exerit per bona opera. Iustus enim non potest non operari iustitiam. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p76)

The modern German is:

Wenn ich sage, dass die Gläubigen allein durch den Glauben oder durch den Glauben ohne Werke gerechtgesprochen werden, so meine ich damit nicht, wie viele annehmen, dass der Glaube getrennt und entblößt von guten Werken sei. Denn wo immer Glaube ist, da äußert er sich auch durch gute Werke. Denn ein Gerechter kann nicht anders als gerecht handeln. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p142)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bullinger and the Imputation of Faith

In the Second Helvetic Confession Bullinger writes the following about justification:

“We do not share in the benefit of justification partly because of the grace of God or Christ, and partly because of ourselves, our love, our works, or merit, but we attribute it wholly to the grace of God in Christ through faith. For our love and our works could not please God if performed by unrighteousness men. Therefore, it is necessary for us to be righteous before we may love and do good works. We are made truly righteous, as we have said, by faith in Christ purely by the grace of God, who does not impute to us our sins, but the righteousness of Christ, or rather, he imputes faith in Christ to us for righteousness.”

The Latin is:

Itaque iustificationis beneficium non partimur, partim gratiae Dei, vel Christo, partim nobis, aut dilectioni operibusve, vel merito nostro, sed insolidum gratiæ Dei in Christo per fidem tribuimus. Sed et non possent Deo placere dilectio et opera nostra, si fierent ab iniustis; proinde oportet nos prius iustos esse, quam diligamus aut faciamus opera iusta. Iusti vere efficimur, quemadmodum diximus, per fidem in Christum, mera gratia Dei, qui peccata nobis non imputat, sed justitiam Christi, adeoque fidem in Christum ad justitiam nobis imputat

We note that although Bullinger refers to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness he does qualify it by pointing out that what is imputed is faith in Christ. Bullinger refers more directly to the imputation of righteousness is a previous clause:

“For Christ took upon himself and bore the sins of the world, and satisfied divine justice. Therefore, solely on account of Christ's sufferings and resurrection God is propitious with respect to our sins and does not impute them to us, but imputes Christ's righteousness to us as our own (II Cor. 5;19 ff.; Rom. 4;25), so that now we are not only cleansed and purged from sins or are holy, but also, granted the righteousness of Christ, and so absolved from sin, death and condemnation, are at last righteous and heirs of eternal life. Properly speaking, therefore, God alone justifies us, and justifies only on account of Christ, not imputing sins to us but imputing his righteousness to us.”

The Latin is:

Etenim Christus peccata mundi in se recepit et sustulit, divinæque iustitiæ satisfecit. Deus ergo propter solum Christum passum et resuscitatum, propitius est peccatis nostris, nec illa nobis imputat, imputat autem justitiam Christi pro nostra: ita, ut iam simus non solum mundati a peccatis et purgati, vel sancti, sed etiam donati iustitia Christi, adeoque absoluti a peccatis, morte vel condemnatione, iusti denique ac hæredes vitæ æternæ. Proprie ergo loquendo, Deus solus nos justificat, et duntaxat propter Christum iustificat, non imputans nobis peccata, sed imputans ejus nobis justitiam (2 Cor. v. 21; Rom. iv. 24, 25).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bullinger on Union with Christ and Justification

J.V. Fesko has written an article “Heinrich Bullinger on Union with Christ and Justification” in The Confessional Presbyterian, vol. 6 (2010), pp3-10. Fesko has written widely on justification, specifically on the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ. He has written, for example, “A Critical Examination of N.T. Wright’s Doctrine of Justification” in The Confessional Presbyterian, vol 1 (2005), pp102-115.

In this article, Fesko seeks to respond to many authors who see union in Christ in the writing of Calvin as the context for understanding justification and sanctification. In citing the work of William Evans, Imputation and Impartation (Carlisle/Eugene: Paternoster/Wipf & Stock, 2008), Fesko summarizes: “Evans explains that Calvin gave causal priority to union with Christ, in that justification and sanctification were communicated through union; union with Christ is the instrumental basis of both justification and sanctification. Justification should not have logical priority over sanctification, but rather union with Christ should have logical priority over both justification and sanctification.”

Fesko endeavours to demonstrate that Bullinger (primarily from the Decades and the Compendium) affirms the ordo salutis of later Reformed theology (‘Calvinism’) in giving priority to justification over sanctification. He acknowledges that one might easily conclude that Bullinger’s doctrine of union with Christ is undifferentiated – ie that he does not make distinctions between justification and sanctification. He concludes: “Though Bullinger prioritizes justification over sanctification, he does not render them asunder. Both justification and sanctification are aspects of union with Christ. He also shows that they are united but distinct: ‘But grace or faith and works, justification also and sanctification, are so joined together, that they cannot be severed one from another…. I verily neither dare nor do in any ease gainsay, that faith and works do cleave together.’ So for Bullinger, justification and sanctification are inseparably joined together, but neither are they confused.” (the quotation is from the Decades 3ix)

Fesko concludes his article in the following fashion: “This essay has demonstrated that Evans’ construction of the relationship between Calvin and the subsequent Reformed tradition requires greater nuance and exploration of the work of other Reformed theologians such as Bullinger. Bullinger clearly affirms the doctrine of union with Christ, which features prominently in his doctrine of election, since those elected are in Christ. But he also does so in conjunction with his basic ordo salutis, which accords justification priority over sanctification. Bullinger prioritizes justification by giving it chief place – that which secures our salvation and is the lens through which the believer is always viewed – but he does not emphasize it to the exclusion of sanctification. Rather, ‘Good works belong to grace, but after a certain manner, order, and fashion.’” (another quotation from the Decades 3ix)

I am not in a position to critically evaluate Fesko’s understanding of Bullinger. Fesko has certainly prompted us to further study Bullinger’s works. However, I would like to make the following observations.

Fesko has based his conclusions on his understanding of the Decades, the Compendium and the Second Helvetic Confession. He does not refer to Bullinger’s commentaries with respect to key New Testament texts.

Fesko does not refer to Burrows' work that has been referred to in previous posts of this blog - Mark S. Burrows, “ ‘Christus intra nos Vivens’ The Peculiar Genius of Bullinger’s Doctrine of Sanctification”, Zeitschschrift für Kirchengeschichte, vol. 98 (no.1), 1987, pp48-69. This widely cited work of Burrows argues that that a characteristic feature of Bullinger’s thought is “the manner in which he speaks of sanctification in essential identity with justification, as two aspects of Christ’s one saving act.” As far as I can see those who cite Burrows work do not criticize or doubt his conclusions with respect to his understanding of Bullinger.

Perhaps someone out there in blogosphere has read widely in Bullinger and can shed some light on whether Burrows’ understanding of Bullinger is closer to the mark than Fesko’s? I hope to find the time to check all the quotations that Fesko makes to Bullinger and then, in due course, put up some posts for all to consider. Let us let Bullinger speak for himself. As many misunderstand Zwingli with respect to the Lord’s Supper so I humbly think that Fesko has misunderstood Bullinger. Furthermore, referring to the final comment in Fesko’s article, I wonder if Calvin’s view re union with Christ vis-à-vis justification and sanctification is so close to that of Bullinger that Calvin must have been influenced by Bullinger’s work.

My gut feeling is that Bullinger's view supports the approach of Mike Bird who refers to incorporated righteousness in The Saving Righteousness of God (Wipf & Stock, 2007).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bullinger’s Summary of the Gospel

Sermon 4i of Bullinger’s Decades focuses on the gospel. The subscription is “Of the gospel of the grace of God, who hath given his son unto the world, and in him all things necessary to salvation (verae salutis omnia), that we, believing in him, might obtain eternal life."

The following is Bullinger’s summary of the gospel. It should dispel any thought that Bullinger might have a synergistic view:

“This is the sum and breviary of the whole gospel, that we are justified, that is to say, absolved from sins, from the definite sentence of death and damnation, and sanctified and adopted into the number of the sons of God, by faith, that is, by an assured confidence in the name of Christ, which is given by the Father to be our only Saviour. And here are works by name excluded, to the end there should be given to us no occasion to entangle faith with works, or to attribute to works the glory and title due to faith alone, or rather to Christ, upon whom our faith is grounded and upheld.” (Parker edition p43)

The Latin is:

Haec summa est brevissima totius evangelii iustificari nos,id est absolvi a peccatis, a lata mortis vel condemnationis sententia, sanctificari autem et adoptari in numerum filiorum dei fide, id est fiduicia in nomen Christi, qui datus est nobis salvator a patre unicus. Et hic nominatim excluduntur opera, ne ulla nobis suppeditetur occasio implicandi fidem operibus aut operibus eam tribuendi gloriam, quae uni fidei vel potius Christo domino, cui fides innitur, debetur. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p516)

The modern German is:

Dies ist die kürzeste Zusammenfassung des gesamten Evangeliums: dass wir gerechtgesprochen, d.h. von den Sünden, von dem Todes- und Verdammungsurteil, das an uns ergangen ist, losgesprochen werden und dass wir geheiligt und in die Zahl der Kinder Gottes aufgenommen werden durch den Glauben, d.h. durch das Vertrauen auf den Namen Christi, de runs vom Vater als der einzige Erlöser gegeben worden ist. Und dabei werden die Werke ausdrücklich ausgeschlossen, damit uns keine Gelegenheit geboten wird, den Glauben mit den Werken zu vermengen oder den Werken die Ehre zuzuerkennen, die einzig dem Glauben – oder vielmehr Christus dem Herrn, auf dem der Glaube beruht – zusteht. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, vol IV TVZ 2006, p307)

We note that in this short summary of the gospel Bullinger refers to: justification, forgivness of sins, freedom from condemnation, sanctification, adoption, by faith, the definite number of the saved, assurance of salvation, Christ the only Saviour, exclusion of works for salvation, Christ as Lord.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Faith-based Justification and Works-based Justification Juxtaposed in Bullinger?

The following quotation from Bullinger’s Compendium might give the impression that Bullinger juxtaposes a faith-based justification with a works-based justification. It certainly may appear that way. The quotation is taken from that section of the Compendium that Bullinger entitles “That God has bound man to him, unto salvation and perpetual worship.” In this quotation Bullinger links the covenant with God with justification:

“For religion seemeth not so much to have her name of reading as of binding. And we are bound unto God, and joined in league through his free mercy (as has been said) by faith. Therefore the covenant of God and true religion are all one. And they are religious, which being (con)federates joined in league with God, do cleave unto his word and honor and serve him despising all other things.”
(Heinrich Bullinger, Common Places of the Christian Religion, translated by J. Stockwood (London: 1572), p43)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

R.C. Walton on Bullinger

The following is taken from Robert C. Walton’s article on Bullinger in The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church edited by J.D. Douglas in 1974. I have had this dictionary since the mid 1970's but only just read Walton's article. Walton has published much in the area of the Swiss Reformation (he also wrote the article on Zwingli in the same dictionary) and it is interesting to see what he chooses to highlight in the constraints of a dictionary article.

“Although he accommodated his own moderate Augustinian doctrine in predestination to the more rigorous one advance by Calvin, Bullinger remained a lifelong opponent of Calvin’s theory of the two polities within the Christian commonwealth and the Genevan ecclesiastical discipline. He was Thomas Erastus’ closest ally in the partially successful struggle to prevent the introduction of a Presbyterian polity into the Rhineland Palatinate, and he supported the English bishops against Thomas Cartwright’s Presbyterianism because he viewed it as new form of papal tyranny. Denying that the punishment of Christians should include exclusion from the Lord’s Supper, he delegated all coercive power to the secular magistrate whom he assumed was Christian. It was left to the clergy to fulfill their prophetic function by preaching the Word and administering the sacraments to a Christian people whom Bullinger, a covenant theologian, believed were in a covenant relationship with God.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bullinger and Circumcision – a Sign of Justification by Faith or Justification by Law?

In sermon 3vi of The Decades Bullinger deals with the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. It is this sermon that has the most extended comment on the covenant – but the context is justification by faith alone.

Many people continue to misread Bullinger and, therefore, wrongly read synergism into his writings. In speaking about circumcision as a sign of the covenant bond between God and His people, Bullinger emphasizes the grace of God in working out spiritual circumcision in the hearts of His chosen people. Bullinger underlines the fact that Abraham received God’s righteousness through faith before he was circumcised (citing Romans 4:11) and then continues as follows:

“Lo here, Abraham’s circumcision was a sign that God by his grace had justified Abraham; which justification he received by faith before his circumcision: which is an argument, that they which believe, though they be not circumcised, are nevertheless justified with faithful Abraham; and again, that the Jews, which are circumcised, are justified of God by faith. And for that cause was circumcision given in the very body of man, that he might bear in his body the league of God, and be thereby admonished that he is justified by grace through faith.” (Parker Edition p175)

The Latin is:

En circuncisio Abrahe erat signaculum, quod dues gratia sua iustificarat Abraham, quam iustificationem fide receperat et receperat quidem, antequam circuncideretur in argumentum, quod qui praeputiati credunt, iustificantur cum fideli Abraham et rursus, qui circunciduntur Iudaei, sciant se per fidem iustificari a deo. Ideoque dabatur cicumcisio in ipsum hominis corpus, ut in corpore gereret foedus dei admonereturque gratia per fidem se iustificari. . (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p349)

The modern German is:

Die Bescheidung Abraham war das Siegel dafür, dass Gott Abraham durch seine Gnade gerechtgesprochen hatte. Diese Rechtfertigung hatte er durch den Glauben emfangen, und zwar vor der Beschneidung, zum Zeichen dafür, dass auch die, die in unbeschnittenem Zustand glauben, zusammen mit dem gläubingen Abraham gerechtgesprochen werden und damit auch die Juden, die beschnitten wurden, wüssten, dass sie von Gott durch den Glauben gerechtgesprochen werden. Deshalb wurde di Beschneidung am Leib des Menschen vorgenommen, damit er am eigenen Leib den Bund mit Gott trage und daran erinnert werde, dass er aus Gnade durch den Glauben gerechtfertigt wird. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, vol 4, p11)

Bullinger’s understanding of the parallel between circumcision and baptism becomes clearer from this passage. Both are signs of God’s grace as well as justification by faith alone.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Zwingli and the Perspicuity of Scripture

The following is summarized from Arnold Snyder, “Word and power in Reformation Zurich”, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, vol. 81 (1990), pp263-285:

“It was during this early stage of struggle against the traditional church (in which the question of ecclesiastical authority was paramount) that Zwingli expressed most fully his views concerning the overriding authority of Scripture and the right of all believers to read and interpret Scripture. In August 1522, following the public breaking of the Lenten fast, a confrontation with the bishop’s representatives, and an admonition from the bishop of Constance, Zwingli published the Archeteles in which he devoted an important section to the question of Bible reading and interpretation by the laity. ‘I want to leave you here for reflection from time to time the shameless statement of a certain smatterer who ventured to proclaim in a public assembly that it was unlawful for laymen to know or to read the gospel, but only for those to whom that function had been entrusted; namely, for our little priests and masters…. Country bumpkins! Do you not see that the spirit of God is everywhere like unto itself and ever the same? The more unskilled a man is in human devices and at the same time devoted to the divine, the more clearly that spirit informs him, as is shown by the apostles and by the foolish things of this world which God has chosen …. It is not the function of one or two to expound passages of Scripture, but of all who believe in Christ (Non unius esse videtis aut alterius de scripturae locis pronunciare, sed omnium qui christo credunt).’ At this early date Zwingli appeared sanguine indeed about the possibility of simple, lay people expounding Scripture, a position he would later come to regret.

Zwingli developed his ideas further in Of the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God, published less than a month after the Archeteles. Zwingli argued that the Word of God is all-powerful, perspicuous and sufficient of itself to lead the truth. All human beings have an innate spiritual capacity that can recognize the truth of God’s Word, when the Spirit of God is allowed to lead. The Word of God brings its own certainty, with no need of human intervention. What is needed, quite simple, is a humble spirit, God’s grace, and a willingness to be led to truth by God’s Word. Human wisdom, philosophy and man-made ceremonies only divert believers from the truth; in fact, the simple are more disposed to receive God’s truth than are the ‘wise’ (Matt. 11:25).”

This extended quote from Snyder reminds us of Zwingli’s role in stressing the perspicuity of Scripture. Zwingli, of course, was later to struggle against the Anabaptists and their interpretation of Scripture.

Zwingli, Bullinger and the Influence of Erasmus

To what extent was Zwingli influenced by Erasmus? Certainly in his early years, Zwingli was influenced by Erasmus’ humanist reform agenda and the focus on the philosophia Christi. Gillies in his article (‘Zwingli and the Origin of the Reformed Covenant 1524-1527”, Scottish Journal of Theology, vol 54 (2001), pp21-50) argued that in his earlier period, Zwingli was so influenced by Erasmus’ view of the Old Testament that he had an ‘often belligerent attitude toward the Old Testament’.

Erasmus is quoted as saying: “I wish the Church did not rely so much on the Old Testament”. Furthermore, Gillies cites Hagan’s celebrated article (‘From testament to covenant in the early sixteenth century’ Sixteenth Century Journal, vol 3 (no.1), 1972, pp1-24) as noting that “Erasmus was willing ‘…to give up the Old Testament…’ in order to safeguard the primacy of the Gospel as the touchstone of the philosopia Christi.” The reconstruction that Gillies gives is that Zwingli, therefore, only began to consider the unity of the Old and New Testaments in his interactions with the Anabaptists.

Can this reconstruction be justified?

The influence of Erasmus on Bullinger has been the study of Christ-von Wedel (‘Zum Einfluss von Erasmus von Rotterdam auf Heinrich Bullinger,’ in Emidio Campi and Peter Opitz (eds.) Heinrich Bullinger: Life-Thought-Influence, pp407-424). Although he was profoundly influenced by Erasmus’s method, Bullinger clearly made up his own mind on exegetical cruces and did not follow Erasmus implicitly.

In particular, Bullinger wrote about the unity of the Old and New testaments very early on in his writings. In his De Scripturae negotio of 30 November 5123 Bullinger wrote: “In brief, I find that the New Testament is nothing but the interpretation of the Old. Except that I saw that the Old promises, the New teaches what has been exhibited; the Old is more concealed, the New is more revealed openly; the Old has to do with veils and figures, the New with clear evidences and the very things themselves” (Heinrich Bullinger Werke Dritte Abteilung: Theologische Schriften – Band 2: Unveröffentichlichte Werke aus der Kappeler Zeit (Zurich: Theologischer Verlag Zurich, 1991), p25).

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bullinger’s Influence on the English Church

Previous posts have referred to Bullinger’s advice re the Vestarian Controversy in the reign of Elizabeth. The following is cited from Walter Phillips’ article “Henry Bullinger and the Elizabethan Vestarian Controversy: An Analysis of Influence” in Journal of Religious History, vol 11(3) 1981, pp363-384:

“Henry Bullinger (1504-1575), though one of the lesser Reformers, was the most prolific letter-writer of them all – a counselor to the Reformed churches throughout Europe. His influence on the Elizabethan Church is not really a question to be argued. Bullinger’s importance for English Reformation history is manifestly clear from Bishop Burnet’s History of the Reformation of the Church of England (1679-1714) and John Strype’s Annals of the Reformation (1709-31). Moreover, the Parker Society ensured that Bullinger should not be forgotten in the nineteenth century by publishing, largely for polemical purposes, the correspondence between English churchmen and the Swiss Reformers. As well as the works and correspondence of various bishops and divines, it also re-published Bullinger’s Decades, fifty sermons on the Christian faith and life, corresponding in scope and context to Calvin’s Institutes; Archbishop Whitgift prescribed the Decades in 1586 for reading by the clergy in the province of Canterbury. At the beginning of this century F.W. Maitland observed in the Cambridge Modern History that:

‘A better example of a purely spiritual power could hardly be found than the influence that was exercised in England by Zwingli’s successor Heinrich Bullinger. Bishops and Puritans argued their causes before him as if he were the judge.’”

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bullinger on Marriage

Bullinger’s treatise on marriage Der Christlich Eestand was translated into English and was widely consulted in England. See Carrie Euler’s helpful article “ Bullinger’s Der Christlich Eestand: Marriage and the Covenant” in Gordon and Campi (eds.) Architect of Reformation.

The following is taken from Selderhuis’ Marriage and Divorce in the Thought of Martin Bucer (1999):

“Bullinger continually stresses that the character of marriage did not alter after the fall. This is also the fundamental motif of his theology of marriage. Marriage, as divine institution, did not suffer because of the fall, but this is true of human beings and hence of married human beings. Marriage itself remained a gift of God, given for the benefit of humankind, and a means by which people can attain to eternal life because it keeps them from much sin. Married persons are enabled by it to fulfill essential demands of God. Accordingly, marriage is not an emergency measure, necessitated by sin, to restrain sin as much as possible.

Bullinger frequently cites the saying of Hebrews 13:4, which requires that ‘marriage be held in honor among all.’ The very Creator of marriage and the place where marriage was first instituted make clear how highly marriage is to be esteemed. Furthermore, asked Bullinger, is not the fact that the greatest believers in Scripture were married a powerful witness to the value of marriage?

Marriage is an image of the relation between Christ and the believer. The covenantal character of marriage, accordingly, means that sins committed against marriage are simultaneously sins committed against Christ, for one who sins against marriage ‘violates the grace of Christ and desecrates the holy covenant made between him and Christ.’ Bullinger stresses that fornication is an act of breaking that covenant: ‘Fornication makes us into covenant breakers and dishonors the grace of God and members of Christ.’”