Friday, June 10, 2011

Was the Reformation a German Event?

The first RefoRC Conference was held at Zurich 8-11 June 2011. The theme of the conference was “The Myth of the Reformation.”

The closing plenary lecture was given by Emidio Campi (the former director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History at Zurich). His lecture was entitled “Was the Reformation a German Event?”

In the first point Campi considered if the reformation were a Protestant notion. A perceptive and incisive review as given of recent works on the Reformation. His thoughts were a development of what he has published as “Ecclesia semper reformanda: Metamorphosen einer alterwüriden Formel”, Zwingliana, Vol 30, 2010, pp1-19.

The second point examined whether the Reformation were an event or a process. The third point raised the question concerning the Reformation: German or European?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Olevianus vis-à-vis Bullinger re United with Christ

A careful comparison between Olevianus and Bullinger with respect to the covenant would be a good exercise to do – especially their use and understanding of the terms, foedus, testamentum and pactum. Time permitting, I would like to have a go at doing this.

Bullinger often refers to union with Christ. This for him is the context of a restored relationship with God. The message of the covenant is God “pouring Himself” into a covenant relationship with the elect. Thus Bullinger emphaizes the two natures in Christ as “in Christ” we are joined in union with God. Bullinger also points out the role of the Holy Spirit in all this.

The following is quoted from Lyle D. Bierma’s book The Covenant Theology of Caspar Olevianus. These quotations illustrate the importance of union with Christ for Olevianus.

“But the mystical union plays a far more significant role when Olevianus speaks of covenant in the broader sense, ie, as actual reconciliation between God and believers. Here union with Christ is the vital link in the covenant between out faith, on the one hand, and God’s promises, on the other. Only through faith are we incorporated into Christ and only through that incorporation are we accepted as chidlren of God and coheirs with Christ. Furthermore, it is only as we are truly engrafted into Christ through faith that we experience the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of the imago dei (true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness) within us. As Mediator of the reconciliation or covenant between God and us, then, Christ is the channel through which god’s favor flows, and we possess that favor only insofar as we possess Christ Himself. It is in union with Him that the terms of the covenant set down in the Creed are put into effect.”

“Christ is the link between the Father and us, and the Holy Spirit is the link between us and Christ. Or as Olevianus himself puts it, ‘God unites Himself to us with an indissoluble bond in Christ our Head through the fetter of the Holy Spirit.’ What we really have in this covenant is communion with the entire Trinity.”

“The very possibility of the work of Christ, however, rested on an even deeper foundation, the person of Christ. Time and again Olevianus stresses that the fundament und grundt of the priesthood of Christ – and thus of the eternal covenant between God and us – is comprehended in the person of Christ, more particularly in the union of natures in that person. The covenant of grace or union between God and us is grounded first and foremost in Immanuel, the highest expression of the divine and human in union. Without this union there is no true Christ, and without this Christ there is no true covenant or reconciliation with God. This hypostatic union, moreover, must be preserved into all eternity if our covenant of reconciliation with God is to remain intact.”

Some brief comments about these quotations from Bierma:

1. Bierma cites from Vester Grundt – “Quotquot enim vere Christo per fidem sumus insiti, praeter illud beneficium remissionis…”

2. It is interesting that Bierma has identified Olevinus’ use of “incorporation into Christ.” I hope to search the writings of Bulligner to see if Bullinger might have also referred to “incorporation into Christ.” Bullinger certainly emphasized the imputation of Christ’s alien righteousness. But if Bierma has correctly understood Olevianus then we might see here something similar to the view of Michael Bird re “incorporated righteousness” that he expounds in his The Saving Righteousness of God.

3. Olevianus emphasizes Christ’s role of Mediator of the covenant.

4. Olevianus’ views on the two natures of Christ appear to be very similar to what Bullinger expounded in De testamento.