Monday, April 25, 2011

REFORC Conference in Zurich

The first RefoRC Conference will be held 8-11 June in Zurich.The Director of RefoRC is Herman Selderhuis. The conference organizing committee will be headed by Peter Opitz who heads the Institute for Swiss Reformation History at the University of Zurich.

Subsequent conferences will be held in Oslo (2012), Berlin (2013) and Bologna (2014).

The plenary papers at this conference are:

Barbara Mahlman-Bauer “Koversionsberichte der Frühen Neuzeit”

Bridget Heal “The Catholic eye and the Protestant ear. The Reformation as a non visual event?”

Piotr Wilcek “The ‘myth’ of the Polish Reformation in modern historiography”

Ignasi Fernández Terricabras “Was the Catholic Reformation a Spanish even?”

Rodney Petersen “The apocalyptic Luther-exegesis and self-identification”

Emidio Campi “The Reformation: A German Event?”

Of the short papers to be presented the ones that interest me most are:

Davy Hoolwerf (Stellendam) “Bullingers Endzeiterwartung in seinem Predigten über das Buch der Offenbarung”

Daniël Timmerman (Apeldoorn) “Between Rhetoric and Prophecy. The Development of Heinrich Bullinger’s Concept of Church Ministry (up to 1532)”

Frank Ewerszumrode OP (Mainz) “Die Abendmahlslehre der Confession Genevensis und des Consensus Tigurinus im Vergleich”

Urs Leu (Zentralbibliothek Zürich) “Buchdruck und Reformation in der Schweiz: Die Verlagsprogramme von Basel, Genf und Zürich im Vergleich. Digitalisierung Schweizer Drucke des 16.h.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Insights from Bullinger’s The Old Faith

Written in German to reach to a wider audience, Bullinger's The Old Faith (1537) is one of Bullinger’s most known works alongside his De Testamento (1534).

Two must read articles on this work of Bullinger are E.A Dowey, “The Old Faith: Comments on One of Heinrich Bullinger’s Most Distinctive Treatises” in William van’t Spijker (ed.) Calvin: Erbe und Auftrag: Festschrift für Wilhelm Neuser zu seinem 65. Geburtstag (Kampen – The Netherlands: Kok Pharos Publishing House, 1991), pp270-278 and W.P. Stephens, “Bullinger’s Defence of the Old Faith”, Reformation and Rennaissance Review, vol 6 (no.1), 2004, pp36-55. Stephens article looks at The Old Faith, The Decades and Ecclesias evangelicas.

One unmistakable theme of this work is the emphasis on the unity of the whole canon, the unity of the Old and New Testaments. It is not just a case of the Old Testament being read in a christocentric manner but the conviction that all of Scripture, from beginning (ie since the Fall) to the end is about God’s plan of salvation through Christ, the seed of the woman. It is well known that Bullinger was an histographer. This explains not only the way he wrote but also his attention to dates.

I believe Dowey wrote from his own a priori position as is evidenced by the following comments of his:

“For all the popular charm of The Old Faith and the basic simplicity of its thesis, it is often intricate in details and sometimes confusingly nuanced.”

“The gifted and diligent historian Bullinger used sequence and chronology to show that the Christian faith in substance is not subject to sequence and chronology. He appears to have used history to deny history in this case. This is not the last word to say about faith and history in Bullinger’s thought generally, but it appears to be the problem left with us from at least this one treatise.”

Stephens has a helpful summary of The Old Faith and writes:

“In the final chapter Bullinger says that after the apostles there came false customs, dangerous sects, and persecutions. This leads him to renew his discussion of the city of God and the city of the devil. He has already drawn on Augustine’s view of the two cities, pointing out that there are two kinds of people – one like Abel cleaving to Christ and the other like Cain cleaving to the devil. These two represent true and false believers. Abel reflects the one, becoming the first martyr in the church. Cain reflects the other, boasting about God but no offering him the right service. Can and his descendants are those who murder – which is what the Roman church does. Moreover, the Bible shows that before and after Christ, the faithful face suffering and persecution.

In the final chapter Bullinger gives a brief account of what has gone wrong with the church. He describes how ministers in the past were more concerned with money than with the exercise of their ministry and the good of the church, so they accepted superstition rather than true religion. As a result the church in Bullinger’s day has the abomination of papal power, indulgences, prayers for the living and the dead,merit, the intercession of the saints, the veneration of their bones, idols, ornaments, pomp, paid singing and prayer, and hosts of idle monks. These are not ancient and orthodox. They are novelties and perversions. They have no basis in God’s word, though some try to claim that they are the old faith.”

The following excerpt from Chapter X illustrates how Bullinger emphasized the unity of the Old and New Testaments:

“And though my purpose be now finished, even declared out of the scripture, that the christian faith hath endured since the beginning of the world, yet I will add a short instruction concerning the time of grace and performing of all promises; and I will declare, that God now also through the appearing of his Son would bring into the world and set forth none other religion, none other faith, neither any other salvation, than even the same which was shewed to the old fathers: saving that all things are more evident, more clearly practiced, accomplished , fulfilled, and performed; for the which cause also all figures, sacrifices, and ceremonies do cease: For in Christ is all perfection. Yet shall we not not therefore cast away the Old Testament, as some ignorant, unlearned, and foolish people do, but have it in greater reputation; forasmuch as we know now through Christ, what every thing signifieth, and wherefore every thing was thus and thus ordained, used, and spoken.Now shall every man first have a courage to read the law and the prophets, when he seeth whereupon every thing goeth. And thus at the beginning did the holy apostles preach Christ unto the Jews out of the law and the prophets, as it is oftimes mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. And our Lord himself, when he went with the two disciples towards Emaus, and preached so unto them, that their hearts burnt within them, he began at Moses and went through all the prophets, and opened unto them the old scriptures, and shewed them that so it behoved Christ to suffer, and to enter into his glory. This is the cause also that the scriptures of the New Testament hang all together and refer themselves to the scriptures of the Old Testament; so that these cannot be right understood without the other, no more than the gloss without the text. The text is the law and the prophets, the exposition are the evangelists and apostles.”

“Obwohl nun mein Vorhaben ausgeführt ist, d.h. aus der Schrift aufgezeigt worden ist, dass der christliche Glaube von Anfang der Welt an gewährt hat, möchte ich nun noch eine kurze Unterweisung über di Gnadenzeit und die Erfüllung aller Verheißungen anfügen und zeigen, dass Gott auch mit der Fleischwerdung seines Sohnes keine andere Gottesverehrung, keinen anderen Glauben und keine andere Rettungs in die Welt setzen oder verkünden lassen wollte, sodnern allein das, was auch schon den Alten verkündet worden ist. Daher und sämtliche Sinnbilder, Opfer und die Zeremonien nich mehr wicksam, denn in Christus ist alle Vollkommenheit. Deswegen soll man jedoch das Alte Testament nich wegwerfen, wie es manche unwissende und ungelahrte Narren tun, sondern in umso höheren Ehren halten, weil mir nun durch Christus erfahren haben, was dies alles bedeutet und warum es so und so eingerichtet, ausgeführt und gesprochen worden ist. Jetzt erst wird jeder Lust bekommen, das Gesetz und die Propheten zu lessen, wenn er sieht, worauf sich alles beziehlt. Daher haben auch die heiligen Apostel den Juden Christus anfangs uas dem Gesetz und die Propheten gepredigt, wie in der Apostelgeschichte oftmals berichtet wird. Und als under Herr mit den beiden Jüngen nach Emmaus ging und ihnen so predigte, dass ihnen die Herzen entbrannten, began et selbst bei Mose, durchlief alle Propheten, erklärte ihnen die alten Schiften und zeigte ihnen, dass Christus leaiden und in seine Herrlichkeit eingehen müsse. Daher verweisen und beziehen sich die Schriften des Neuen Testaments ganz auf die Schriften des Alten Testaments, so dass jene ohne diese nicht richtig verstanden werden können, so wie umgekehrt auch die Auslegung ohne den zugrunde liegenden Text nicht verstanden werden kann. Den Text bilden das Gesetz und die Schriften der Propheten, die Auslegung die Schriften der Evangelisten und Apostel.” (Schriften I, pp243,244)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bullinger’s Political Acumen

When Bullinger responded to the vitriolic attacks of Luther with the Zurich Confession he sent copies of the confession together with an accompanying letter to: the Council of Bern, the clergy of Bern, the clergy of Neuchatel, Bucer, Pfalzgraf Ottheinrich, Duke Ulrich of Wurttemburg, the town council of Frankfurt am Main. This letter displays Bullinger’s political acumen. The following is the text of the letter:

“It pains us greatly that Doctor Luther has written so forcefully against us, who are innocent, and has published this text. We regret in particular the damage which is done to simple Christians who are infuriated by this strife and in particular that we who preach one Lord Jesus Christ from one Gospel are drawn into a lengthy quarrel with one another over his holy sacrament and symbols. We greatly regret that the attempts by your Princely Grace and other pious Christian princes, estates, and cities, who have sought in both a friendly and peaceful manner to influence Doctor Luther, have been without success, so that after some years he has chosen to renew the battle. We Zurichers would rather have had peace and would have remained silent as we have done up until now, although we have perhaps been silent for longer than has been good for us. But the silence and patience we have demonstrated has only had the effect that in his last confession Luther has damned us as heretics and has insulted the faith and honour of our faithful ancestors, who were honourable Christian men, and our churches. Now that Luther’s writings have been printed, honour, duty, and our office demand that we reply. We have not done this for the Zurich church alone and without reference to our magistrates and the councilors, but rather we have acted with their knowledge and blessing, for all the faithful here are outraged by Luther’s appalling dishonouring of the living and the dead…. As our teaching is drawn closely from the first apostolic holy church, Dr Luther ought not to separate himself from us and provoke and unfounded split in the church.

As your princely grace is also mentioned in our reply – we wrote there of the Marburg Colloquy – we send you most humbly our answer and our confession with the earnest request that your grace kindly receive this text of your servants, and that further that you read it when time allows. We beseech you further that for the sake of God and his holy word you ensure that our confession and response and indeed all our other writings are not prohibited in your lands and that we who are innocent are not condemned, unheard, as heretics. Your honourable lords and superiors permit that in your towns, lands, villages, and countryside all of Luther’s books, as well as those of our other opponents, are sold and can be bought. We advise others to read these books. It is only right that both sides should be heard and that no one is suppressed without first having been read. We trust God and his clear eternal truth, that all the faithful will recognize that neither our churches nor we are damned people such as Dr Luther wishes to convince the whole world. God be merciful to him.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bolliger on Bullinger and the Role of the Prophet in the Church

Daniel Bolliger has a very perceptive article “Bullinger on Church Authority: The Transformation of the Prophetic Role in Christian Ministry” (Architect of Reformation pp159-177). Not only does he give a detailed account of Bullinger’s Karlstag sermon delivered on 28 January 1532 but he also compares this with his analysis of Bullinger’s De prophetae officio (30 June 1525).

Bolliger points out the covenant context to Bullinger’s view of the prophet in the church:

“This dialectic of teaching and defending did not necessarily draw out the more attractive aspects of this new pastoral side to the prophetic office. Bullinger, therefore, connected the pastoral and teaching aspects through another essential development indicated in De prophetae officio: covenant theology. Bullinger clearly applied covenant theology bot in his teaching on scriptural interpretation and in his treatment of the pastoral office of the prophet.

Already in 1523, referring to Romans 10:4, Bullinger cautiously employed the traditional term testamentum (covenant), in his writing. At the beginning of his interpretation of the letter to the Hebrews in 1526 he openly declared that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the covenant with Israel. He then proceeded further in this direction by responding to a question which, although only implicitly posed in the 1532 oration, was present in all the new disciples of the humanist philosophia christiana of the 1520’s: if the New Testament is the important part of the Bible, what is the purpose of the rest of scripture? Bullinger’s answer lay in the covenant of God and humanity, culminating in God’s testament in Christ, which is the overall status of scripture as a whole. Therefore, and correspondingly, the status of every precept, story, periscope or letter, in short, of every passage of the Bible refers, if adequately interpreted, to this great basic status (the covenant). The prophet is responsible for linking the traditional medieval understanding of the divine covenant or testament with the new principle of scriptural sufficiency. This unity, according to Bullinger, is only possible through the adoption of a new methodological approach, which is the true task of the prophet.”

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dowey on Bullinger’s Wahrhafftes Bekenntnis (1545)

Previous posts have referred to some of the background leading to the penning of the Wahrhafftes Bekenntis in response to Luther’s vitriolic attacks on Zurich. The following is E.A.Dowey’s perceptive comment on this work from his “Heinrich Bullinger as Theologian: Thematic, Comprehensive, and Schematic” in Architect of Reformation:

“This document is a reply from the Zurich ministers collectively (written entirely, however, by Bullinger) to Luther’s vitriolic attack on the Zurich church as heretical, chiefly aimed at the Zurich teaching about the sacraments. The reply also deals with the sacraments, but the opening unit of Part II is a complete Confession of Faith meant to demonstrate that Zurich follows the ‘true, old, indubitable’ faith and is not ‘Zwinglian, nor Oecolampadiun, much less Lutheran, ‘but merely Christian, depending wholly on scripture, ‘in which we find no straw,’ and the ‘true, plain apostolic teaching.’

The Confession begins with scripture in Bullinger’s manner as to authority, interpretation, and rejection of human traditions: inspired (yngeben) by the Holy Spirit and ‘has of and in itself authority, respect, trust, strength, truth, esteem, and perfection enough,’ and needs no authentication by men or church. From scripture arises the apostolic teaching of the creed. For our present purposes, two remarks seem apposite: the claim of antiquity and orthodoxy here is biblical and patristic, not Adamic, as in Der alte Glaube with its exaggerated treatment of Genesis 3:15; and the covenant teaching of De Testamento is totally absent! Faith is briefly mentioned. After this one subject – scripture – the remainder of the confession of faith is an exposition of the traditionally designated twelve articles of the Apostles Creed. Although Bullinger includes analysis of the Creed in the Decades, the Summa, and the Catechesis pro Adultioribus, and showered upon it unmeasured praise, the treatment is notable because it is the only instance in which he followed the twelve-article scheme for a general presentation of the entire Christian faith. A detailed analysis shows fascinating idiosyncratic treatment of these points, including a full Nice-Chalcedonian orthodoxy, a doctrine of original sin, and attack on Purgatory and monasticism, defence of the perpetual virginity of Mary, arecital of some deeds from Christ’s ministry, and an ethic of faithful good works – the last of these remarkably placed under the Last Judgement. Notable also is the comparative lengths of certain sections. Some doctrines, such as the triune God, are only half an octave page in length, and others, such as the Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father and the Return to Judgment, receive three pages each. The swelling of the latter two represents the elaboration of his polemic point against Luther’s doctrine of ubiquity. The ingenious freedom by which Bullinger does almost whatever he wants within and in addition to the Creed structure makes it all the more remarkable that the author of the Loci of 1524 (from the Ratio of 1527) and the famous De Testamento (1534, and repeatedly published with his commentary on the Epistles), in both of which the covenant is the chief theme of scripture, here makes no mention of the covenant at all….”

Inter alia we note the following: Bullinger emphasizes what Scripture teaches not necessarily the line held by Zwingli or Oecolampadius or whoever. This is the true Reformation principle of sola scriptura. He also emphasis the unity of the canon. It is all inspired by God and every part is relevant – he knocks Luther with his comment “in which we find no straw.” The reference to Nicene-Chalcedonian orthodoxy is probably also responding to views that argued that Zwingli had Nestorian tendencies because of his perceived understanding of the eucharist.

Dowey’s comments about the covenant in Bullinger is his response to the view of J Wayne Baker in his Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenant: The Other Reformed Tradition.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fesko on Baptism

J.V. Fesko of Westminster, California, has just written Word Water and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010). It is a work worth reading for its scholarship and stimulating conclusions.

Fesko has an extended section on Zwingli’s understanding on baptism pp57-65. Fesko has fair balance between consideration of Zwingli’s earlier works as well as his later works. In particular, he does refer to Fidei Ratio (Reckoning of the Faith, 1530). But a check of the index reveals no reference to the works of Peter Stephens though the bibliography lists Stephens’ The Theology of Huldrych Zwingli. Nor is there any reference to the works of Gottfried Locher. There is also no reference to Cottrell’s meticulous work on covenant and baptism in Zwingli.

However, his references to Bullinger are somewhat sketchy and don’t do Bullinger justice.

For example, in a section about Barth he writes:

“Barth also points out that the Second Helvetic confession (1566), written by Zwingli’s successor, Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), was a marked departure from the first-generation Swiss Reformer’s understanding of baptism and the sacraments in general:

‘When we read what the Confess. Helv. Post. (published thirty-five years after his death) has to say both about the sacraments in general and baptism in particular, we should never suspect, if we did not already know, that its author, Heinrich Bullinger was Zwingli’s immediate successor. This work is wholly influenced by the dominant Reformed tradition of Calvin, so much so that in the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper there is even a strange attempt at assimilation to the Roman Catholic doctrine of a change in the elements.’”

This quotation of Barth is from CD, IV.4, p128. Fesko makes no comment on Barth’s evaluation of Bullinger vis-à-vis Zwingli and continues to comment on Barth’s understanding on baptism (this discussion occurs in the section ‘Baptism in Modern Theology’).

Two of the earlier posts of this blog summarize an important article of Peter Stephens who demonstrates the similarities and differences between Zwingli and Bullinger. Particularly, Peters suggestion that Zwingli would have been able to sign the Consesnsus Tigurinus. Barth’s reference to Bullinger vis-à-vis Calvin comes as no surprise as my own view is that Calvin’s understanding of the covenant was greatly influenced by that of Bullinger’s which was one factor in his agreeing to the Consensus Tigurinus.

The second reference to Bullinger by Fesko in his book is in the section “Baptism and Its Recipients.” The text on page 359 says: “On the other hand, neither is the ground presumptive regeneration, whether in the case of adults or infants, as some in the Reformed tradition have argued.” There is footnote 62 here where Fesko mentions Bullinger – “The idea of basing baptism for both adults and especially infants on the presumption of a person’s regeneration has a distinguished pedigree, but nevertheless is incorrect. Those who have advocated it include Heinrich Bullinger (in the First Helvetic Confession, 1536), Peter Martyr Vermigli, Amandus Polanus, Theodore Beza, Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, Abraham Kuyper, and Lewis Schenck…”

The text of the book continues: “The administration of the covenant is grounded not on an individual profession of faith but on the covenant. Stated another way, the promise of redemption, or the covenant, is grounded in the redemption accomplished, the person and work of Christ as it is progressively unfolded in covenant history, not on the application of redemption. To ground the application of the sign of the covenant on a profession of faith shifts the soteric center of gravity away from God to man – it is to say, ‘I am saved because God has saved me’ (eg Gal. 4:9). Such a statement is not to minimize the faith of the one who is saved. Rather, it is to acknowledge that the covenant Lord has first condescended to His people – the sign of the covenant belongs to Him first and foremost. Baptism is the sign of His covenant promise. When received by faith, baptism is secondarily a sign of the response of the covenant servant.”

I’ll leave it up to the readers to make up their own minds on this.

Fesko’s third and final reference to Bullinger in the book is found on page 392. Here Fesko writes (in a section entitled ‘Baptism and Ecclesiology’): “Heinrich Bullinger, by contract, the chief author of the Second Helvetic Confession, explains: ‘The author of all sacraments is not any man but God alone. Men cannot institute sacraments. For they pertain to the worship of God, and it is not for man to appoint and prescribe a worship of God, but to accept and preserve the one he has received from God.’”

This third reference to Bullinger’s insistence upon God being the author of the sacraments has been referred to in previous posts of this blog.

I have only had time to skim read the book which appears to be a stimulating book. My only comment is that he does not really do justice to Bullinger.