Thursday, July 28, 2011

Was Bullinger Erastian?

The following is an extended extract from Jean-Marc Berthoud’s celebrated lecture of 2004 :

“Let us here remove some unnecessary misunderstandings as to Bullinger´s position on the relation of the Church to the State. As a defender of Chalcedon he refused any confusion between the spiritual and the temporal orders. The Magistrate was not to usurp the proper spiritual function of the Church: the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments. The Church, on the other hand, was not to pretend to any kind of rule over the Magistrate, as was the case with the Roman theocratic system. But one must add that the absence, for political and theological reasons, in the Zurich arrangement of 1531-1532 of that clear institutional distinction between Church and State, for which Calvin was later to fight so strenuously in Geneva, made the balance between the spiritual and temporal powers in Zurich unduly (and dangerously) dependent on the stature both of the Magistrates and of the Pastors. Once Bullinger was gone, and with him his great spiritual and political authority, the State would increasingly be tempted to dominate the Church. Nothing on the institutional level would then hinder this growing appetite for the usurped authority of the State in the spiritual sphere. This historical fact "“ that of the ulterior Erastian subordination of the Church to the State "“ may in part explain why Bullinger, the historical representative of the faithful Zurich Church, has today become so utterly unknown, even in his native canton. The institutionalisation by Calvin of a clear distinction between Church and State was certainly more biblical (and less dangerous) than Bullinger´s political accommodation and, in the long run, certainly more productive both spiritually and politically.

But it is best here to let Bullinger speak for himself. An important part of his Decades is given to a detailed exposition of the Ten Commandments. The sixth commandment "“ Thou shalt commit no murder "“ is separated into its two aspects: the interdiction of homicide and the description of the function of the Magistrate. In passing, it is interesting to point out that the duties of the Magistrate are usually dealt with under the fifth commandment, that ordering children to honour their parents. On this question of the biblical teaching on homicide and on civil authority, Bullinger devotes no less than four sermons in the first volume of the Parker Society edition of the Decades, some 95 pages in all. The titles of each of these sermons in the Second Decade merit attention.

* Sixth sermon: Of the second precept of the second table, which is in order the sixth of the ten commandments, thou shalt not kill and of the magistrate.
* Seventh sermon: Of the office of the magistrate, whether the care of religion appertain to him or no, and whether he may make laws and ordinances in cases of religion.
* Eighth sermon: Of judgement, and the office of the judge; that Christians are not forbidden to judge; of revengement and punishment; whether it be lawful for a magistrate to kill the guilty; wherefore, when, how, and what a magistrate must punish; whether he may punish offenders in religion or no.
* Ninth sermon: Of war; whether it be lawful for a magistrate to make war. What the Scripture teacheth touching war. Whether a Christian man may bear the office of a magistrate and of the duty of subjects.

He explains his position, and that of the Zurich Church, in no uncertain terms.

For I know that many are of the opinion that the things of religion and their ordering belong to the bishops alone and not to the kings, princes and other magistrates. But the catholic truth teaches that the things of religion especially belong to the magistracy and that the same not only may but also should and ought to order and promote religion.23

After quoting a number of examples from the Old Testament, he adds:

Who is ignorant, that the magistrate´s especial care ought to be to keep the commonweal in safeguard and prosperity? Which undoubtedly he cannot do, unless he provide to have the word of God preached to his people, and cause them to be taught the true worship of God, by that means making himself, as it were, the minister of true religion.24

Now the exaggeration of this teaching was to lead to what later was to be known as Erastianism and it is known, through Bullinger´s unprinted correspondence with Thomas Erastus in the Palatinate, that the Zurich Reformer played an important role in the formulation of this position.25 But in Bullinger´s mind this by no means implied the subordination of the Church to the Magistrate. It was implicit in his view of the comprehensive character of the Christian faith that the totality of the Commonwealth was included in any truly biblical perception of reality. It is also to be noted that it was his recognition of the necessary and beneficent role of the godly magistrate in affairs of religion that so strongly favoured the great influence Bullinger exercised in the establishment of the Reformation in England, this of course in the context of the English Monarch as the Head of the Church.

For Bullinger, there existed a relation of mutual dependence between the faithful Church and the godly Magistrate. Pamela Biel comments on the need for the Magistrate to hear and heed the preaching of God´s Word, when she writes of the 17th Sermon of the Decades26

Bullinger expends the remainder of the sermon on demonstrating that, as the discernment of right religion is a complicated process, the magistrates ought to seek help in the right ordering of the church. The ministers, as the expert interpreters of God´s word and will, assisted the magistrates in keeping the territory on the path of right religion. The magistrate, for his part, retained the exercise of power such that he still stood as an authority over the minister in all things save the interpretation of Scripture.27

What was important for Bullinger "“ and here we again find his constant aim of attaining to a truly comprehensive faith "“ was not the exact definition of the particular rights and duties of Church and State as separate or even opposed institutions, but what Biel rightly calls "˜the reciprocal relationship between the minister and the magistrate´.28 Is it necessary here to add that his comprehensive way of thinking about every aspect of reality "“ a logic of "˜both and´ - does not function in fields where error and sin are involved. There rules supreme the antithesis "“ "˜either or´ "” the necessary choice between truth and error, good and evil. But Bullinger´s general strain of thought, strongly founded as it was on the original perfect coherence of the unfallen creation, viewed reality in terms of reciprocity, of the logic of "˜both and´, of coherence and complementarity. His words speak for themselves:

To the magistrate is commanded [by God] that he hear the servants of the Church. On the other hand, the servant of the church should follow the magistrate in all these things which the law commands. So the magistrate is not made subject by God to the priests or servants of the church as lords but as servants of the Lord God. Thus the servants of the church as much as the magistrates must be submissive to God in himself and his law. For if a single one of the priests does not speak the word of God, and he is priest only in name, no one of the common people should hold him before their eyes [as a model to follow]; I will be silent about a prince or a magistrate.29

Elsewhere he explicitly affirms with the apostles that, faced with an iniquitous political power, the Christian must "˜Obey God rather than men´.

This priority given to the monarch in the work of the Reformation of the Church comes out very clearly in his 1538 dedication of his book Concerning Sacred Scripture to Henry VIII. There he exhorts the king to take in hand the liberation of what later became the Anglican Church from the errors of Rome. For Bullinger, as Biel puts it,

Henry has the ultimate power and responsibility for the fate of the Church in his land. The potential for positive change in England through Henry dictates Bullinger´s position.30

Bullinger was aware that politics, the art of the possible "“ here the advancement of the Reformation in Britain "“ depended on the wise and prudent use of the historically established powers and institutions of the time. In the 16th Century, without the conversion of those in political authority, there was little hope for the free proclamation of the Word, a ministry without which no Reformation whatever was possible. Biel qualifies what we can call the Erastian tendency of Bullinger´s thinking as follows:

Bullinger did not, however, believe that the king ought to be left to his own devices when it came to matters of religion. Most of Concerning Sacred Scripture argued for the priority of the Bible in all matters of religion and specifically for the position of the ministers as interpreters of Scripture. "¦ The bishops help the king to understand what exactly God wants from him.31

For Bullinger the function of the Christian Magistrate was utterly subsumed under God´s own justice: he was under God´s law and to establish himself as his own law "“ as is the case for all forms of modern democracy "“ was to claim for himself the title of Tyrant or, as we would say today, of totalitarian power. For Bullinger,

The prince, indeed, is the living law, if his mind obey the written laws, and square [separate] not from the law of nature. Power and authority, therefore, is subject unto laws; for unless the prince in his heart agree with the law, in his breast do write the law, and in his deeds express the law [ie God´s law], he is not worthy to be called a good man, much less a prince.32

But Bullinger´s comprehensive mind adds the following caveat to his massive affirmation, showing how necessary a jurisprudential application of the law is essential to true equity, to the exercise of justice.

Again, a good prince and magistrate hath power over the law, and is master of the laws, not that they may turn, put out, undo, make and unmake, them as they list [wish], at their pleasure; but that he may put them into practice among the people, apply them to the necessity of the state, and attemper their interpretation to the meaning of their maker.33

And he continues:

Among all men, at all times and of all ages, the meaning and substance of the laws touching honesty, justice and public peace, is kept inviolable. If change is to be made, it is in the circumstances and the law is interpreted as the case requireth, according to justice and a good end. "¦ It is apparently evident that laws are good and not to be broken, and how far forth they do admit the prince´s epieikeion (Aristotle, Ethics, Lib. V, cp 10), that is the prince´s moderation, interpretation, limitation, or dispensation, lest peradventure that old and accustomed proverb be rightly applied unto them, Law with extremity is extreme injury.34

And he gives as example the necessary difference in treatment, by a judge attentive to equity, of accidental homicide and premeditated murder, even though both acts end up in the killing of a person.

As to the content of the laws applied by the Magistrate, Bullinger speaks in no uncertain terms:

The apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ did bind or burden no man with the laws of Moses [here he of course means not all the laws of Moses but, as Aquinas teaches, only those laws of the Torah specific to the vocation of the Old Testament Israelite nation]; they never condemned good laws of the heathen, nor commended to any man naughty [evil] laws of the Gentiles, but left the laws, with the use and free choice of them, for the saints to use as they thought good. But therewithal they ceased not most diligently to beat into men´s heads the fear of God, faith, charity, justice and temperance; because they knew that they in whose hearts those virtues were settled, can either easily make good laws themselves, or pick and choose out of the best of those which other men make. For it maketh no matter whether the magistrate pick out of Moses´ Jewish laws, or out of the allowable laws of the heathen, sufficient laws for him and his countrymen, or else do keep still the old and accustomed laws which have before been used in his country, so that he have an eye to cut off such wicked, unjust and lawless laws, as one found to be thrust in among the better sort. "¦

For civil and politic laws, I add this much, and say, that those seem to be the best laws, which according to the circumstances of every place, person, state, and time, do come nearest to the precepts of the ten commandments and the rule of charity, not having in them any spot and iniquity, licentious liberty, or shameless dishonesty. Let them moreover, be brief and short, not stretched out beyond measure, and wrapped in with many expositions; let them have a full respect to the matter whereto they are directed, and not be frivolous and of no effect.35

To conclude these quotations drawn from Bullinger´s treatment of the Sixth Commandment in the Decades let us add that our Zurich Antistes in no way condoned any kind of confusion between the spiritual and temporal orders, a confusion leading either to the spiritual tyranny of the Church over the Magistrate or, contrariwise (as is much more common today), the accumulation of all power, both spiritual and temporal, in the hands of the Providential Welfare State. In this 17th sermon, which contains much of his teaching on these matters, Bullinger writes:

But our disputation tendeth not to the confounding of the offices and duties of the magistrates and ministers of the church, as that we would have the king to preach, to baptize and to minister the Lord´s Supper; or the priest, on the other side, to sit in the judgement seat, and give judgement against a murderer, or by pronouncing sentence to take on matters of strife. The church of Christ hath, and retaineth, several and distinguished [distinct] offices; and God is a God of order, not of confusion.36

To characterise Bullinger´s complementary vision of the mutually supportive reciprocal relationship between the temporal and spiritual orders, a distinction which excluded both inchoate confusion and absolute separation, I can do no better, in closing this part of my lecture, than to refer to an astonishing text written in 1941 by a Serbian Orthodox theologian, Nicholas Velimirovitch, at the very moment Hitler launched his divisions in a massive onslaught on the Yugoslav Monarchy. This citation drawn from Velimirovitch´s short theological and historical study, Theodouly: The Serbian people as the Servant of God will, I hope, help us better understand Bullinger´s comprehensive understanding of the mutually dependent relationship, within the wider Commonwealth, of a faithful Church and a God-fearing Magistracy.

What then differentiates Theocracy from Theodouly? It is the difference between an imposed master and a voluntary servant. Theocracy can be of two kinds: clerical or lay. We only know clerical theocracy [ie the clerical tyranny of the Papacy] and it is profoundly despised in Europe; however lay theocracy is well known in the Muslim world, where Caliph and Sheikh or Shah holds a divine authority.37

Of course our modern world knows a kind of "˜atheistic theocracy´ with the total sovereignty of a political power become god, a law unto itself and its own end, its own finality, in the modern totalitarian and democratic state. Speaking of the Patron Saint of the Serbian nation, Velimirovitch continues:

St Sava (1174-1235) by his example instituted and consolidated the reality of the public service of God in such a way that the Archbishop of Serbia became the principal servant of Christ in the spiritual sphere and the King of Serbia the first servant of Christ in the civil sphere. Thus, if the archbishop was the servant of Christ, all the clergy were also constituted servants of Christ; and if the King was also the servant of Christ, then all constituted powers, civil and military were equally established as servants of Christ.

The whole spiritual hierarchy was expected to serve Christ and likewise the whole civil and military hierarchy was also expected to be in Christ´s service. Thus it was not only expected of the Church that it be enrolled under the banner of the service of Jesus Christ, but also the State: the State, no less than the Church, and the King no less than the Archbishop. Theodouly, the service of God, was the way and the purpose of both the Church and the State, each in the entirety of their respective functions.38

Such a comprehensive Orthodox view of the relation of harmony and reciprocal dependence between the godly magistrate and the faithful church would no doubt have found considerable sympathy with the Antistes of Zurich. But such a harmony between Church and State is difficult for us to understand today, confronted as we are with an antinomian and impious State (the Beast of biblical symbolism) and a prostituted spiritual power. The latter is not the Church, become largely spiritually and politically insignificant, but the general relativistic and ideological culture "“ "˜culture´ comes from "˜cult´, worship"“ a revolutionary civilisation establishing in all fields false and destructive norms, radically opposed both to God and to his Commandments.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More on Stephens on Bullinger and the Interpretation of Scripture

An earlier post referred to Peter Stephens’ article in RRR on the interpretation of the Bible in Bullinger’s early works. The following is another excerpt from this helpful article :

‘Bullinger’s other writings in the years after On Scripture express and develop what he says about the relation of the Old and New Testament, in particular the understanding of the covenant, the interpretation of Scripture by Scripture, and the role of the Holy Spirit as author and interpreter. These issues are, of course, related to each other.

Like the other reformers, Bullinger emphasizes that the Spirit is the author and interpreter of Scripture. The inspiration of Scripture underlies what Bullinger says about the Spirit and the biblical writers as authors, but inspiration is affirmed rather than discussed. With the Holy Spirit as the author of Scripture, there is naturally consistency between one part of Scripture and another, so that, for example, the evangelists agree with Paul on the Eucharist. The consistency of Scripture is both expressed and implied in his Reply to Burchard. He maintains that there is no difference between the teaching of Christ, Paul, and the Apostles, and that listening to Christ is not different from listening to the Spirit or listening to the Apostles. He concludes that the Spirit is consistent and, therefore, that he did not later command what he had forbidden through the apostles.

The Holy Spirit, as the author of Scripture, does not, however, override the distinctiveness of the human authors. In his lectures on Romans, Bullinger can speak of Paul as writing inexactly. For Bullinger, the inspiration of Scripture also does not preclude differences in Scripture. Thus there are differences in words. These, however, are not necessarily a problem, as the sense is fundamental rather than the words.

Likewise, the authorship of the Holy Spirit does not preclude other differences between the biblical books. In his second lecture on Romans at Kappel, Bulligner gives a lyrical account of Paul’s virtues. He draws on the praises of Fathers, such as Chrysostom, Macrobius, and Gregory of Nazianzus, in describing Paul as more eloquent than others and his writings as higher than theirs. Paul’s pre-eminence, however, does not derive from his personal qualities, but from the Spirit. All are taught by the Spirit, but the Spirit’s gifts are varied and the grace of God is given more powerfully to one person than to another. In this context Bullinger speaks of Paul as presenting Christ ‘in a lively way in all his epistles’ but as doing it most richly in Romans ‘the chief work of the whole New Testament and the heart of divine Scripture.’ Similarly in Hebrews he refers to Genesis as ‘the finest book’ in the Bible.

Some differences are not explicitly related to the gifts of the Spirit, but have to do with circumstances. Luke and Paul are said to have written more clearly on the cup, but that is because they wrote after Matthew and Mark and were seeking to prevent misunderstanding of the wine as blood. Similarly, Paul is to be preferred to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, although he wrote the same as they did, because he wrote last and wrote against error. Likewise, John related ‘most clearly the stories, speeches, and power of Jesus because he wrote last and much error had arisen.’ Nevertheless, some differences between certain Pauline epistles by the fact that they were actually written by a secretary and not by Paul himself. Again, however, he insists that there is no difference in sense.’

This except clearly points out how Bullinger viewed the unity of the canon. The covenant was the theme that linked the Old and New Testaments. But since the Holy Spirit is the author of all of Scripture it means that Scripture must be interpreted in an wholistic manner before seeking to interpret its constituent parts.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Zwingli and Symbolism in the Eucharist

An earlier post has referred to the doctoral dissertation of Paul Sanders. Sanders is presently the chairman of the Accrediting Council of the European Evangelical Accrediting Association and is based in Paris. He kindly sent me a small section of this unpublished dissertation.

Sanders’ work cautions us against the caricature of viewing Zwingli’s view of the Eucharist as “symbolic” only. Here is part of the introduction of Sanders’ dissertation:

‘L'historiographie a souvent enfermé le zwinglianisme dans le carcan du "symbolisme" eucharistique. Cependant, des recherches récentes ont montré qu'il fallait nuancer les idées reçues sur les conceptions eucharistiques "sacramentaires" du zwinglianisme. Notre lecture de cette littérature nous a fait prendre conscience d'une contradiction apparente.

En effet, en 1549, Bullinger et Calvin conclurent un accord sur les sacrements, reflétant des prises de position sensiblement différentes de celles de Zwingli, du moins celles que l'historiographie lui reconnaît. Or, Bullinger, en tant que successeur de Zwingli, se devait de rester "fidèle" au legs théologique qu'il lui avait transmis.

Aussi avons-nous tenté de répondre à trois questions es¬sentielles :

a) Les historiens ont-ils raison de représenter la théologie eucharistique de Zwingli comme une doctrine "symbolique" ?

b) Comment Bullinger a-t-il géré l'héritage doctrinal reçu de Zwingli sur ce point (non seulement sur le plan des convictions, mais aussi sur le plan de la nécessité socio-historique) ?

c) Quel a été le rôle précis de Bullinger dans la mise en place, avec Calvin, d'une théologie "réformée" de la Cène ?’

Sanders also makes this observation about the conclusion of French scholar Emile G. Leonard :

‘Emile G. LEONARD reconnaît l'importance historique et théologique de Heinrich Bullinger, et voit notamment dans l'adoption de la Confession helvétique postérieure de Bullinger par Genève une victoire de la conception zwinglienne de la Cène - un "zwinglianisme revu et corrigé par Bullinger" - sur la position calvinienne.’

Bullinger and Scripture

It is well documented that Bullinger emphasized ad fontes and seeing Christ as the goal of Scripture. Bullinger further emphasized the unity of the Old and New Testament and that the Old is interpreted by the New.The following is an extract of an article by Peter Opitz, ‘Hebräische-biblische Züge in promissio-Verständnis Heinrich Bullingers’ in Sigrid Lehebusch and Hans-Georg Ulrichs (eds.), Historische Horizonte (Wuppertal 2002), pp105-117:

“In einem Brief an Rudolf Asper von 30. November 1523 (De scripturae negotio) schildert der damals 19jährigen Kappeler Lehrer seinem Erkenntnisweg als consequent verfolgen Weg hin “ad fontes sacrarum litterarum, denn es ist besser “aus den Quellen selbst zu trinken als aus den Bächen”. Theologisch getragen ist dieser Weg durch das “solus Christus audiendus,” das er dort ausführlich erläutert, wobei bereits diese Cyprian entlehnte Fassung des reformatorischen Fundamentalartikels andeutet, dass Christus hier nicht nur soteriologsich relevant ist, sondern auch als göttlich autorisierter “Lehrer” in seinem Selbszeugnis gehört zu werden beansprucht.

Wie aber is das Verhältnis von Schrift und Christus genauer zu verstehen? Bullinger macht nun auf seinem humanistischen Weg ”ad fontes” bei der Bibel selbst nicht halt. As Schriftprinzip fordert hermeneutisch, dass “Schrift mit Schrift” ausgelegt werden muss, wie schon Luther, aber keineswegs nur er betont hatte. Ist aber Christus nach Röm 10,4 – so versteht es Bullinger – das Ziel und der Ausleger (interpraes) der Schrift, dann bedeutet christologische Schriftaulegung darauf zu achten, wie Christus selber in Wort und Tat die Schrift auslegt, und wie die ihn bezeugenden neutestamentichen Schriftsteller mit der Schrift von Christus her und auf Christus hin umgehen. “Christus beweist alles aus den alten Schriften und will allein aus ihnen erkannt werden,” schreibt Bullinger 1523 und weist dazu auf Joh 5,39 hin: “Die Schrift ist es, die von mir zeugt!” “Schrift” kann hier nur heißen: die hebräische Bibel. Diese wiederum konstituiert sich durch einem Traditionszusammenhang, wie schon die immanenten vielfältigen Bezüge der Propheten und “Schriften” auf die Tora, aber auch die Tora selber als Geschichtsbuch deutlich machen. In diesen Traditionszusammenhang ordnen sich Christus und die neutestamentlichen Zeugen selbstverständlich ein,wie Bullinger erkennt. Christus bezieht ihn oft ausdrücklich auf sich, exemplarisch bei der Abendmahlseinsetzung, wo er explizit wie implizit an die Passatradition interpretierend anknüpft. Si ist es für Bullinger eine Konsequenz des reformatorischen und christologisch begründeten Schriftprinzips, wenn er sagt: das Neue Testament ist die Auslegung, der authentische “Kommentar” des Alten: “Novum testamentum aliud non esse quam veteris interpraetionem.” Was umgekehrt bedeutet: Das Alte Testament ist die notwendige Voraussetzung zum Verständnis der neutestamentichen Botschaft, und dies nicht in einem lediglich äußerlichen Sinn oder gar als Negativfolie, sondern in seinem positiven Gehalt: Die Kenntnis der altestamentichen Christusverheißungen ist zum Verständnis der neutestamentlichen Christusverkündigung so notwendig wie die Kenntnis Homers bei der Lektüre des Homerauslegers Eustathios.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Was Zwingli a “Zwinglian”?

Earlier posts have pointed out that scholars such as Peter Stephens have demonstrated the importance of considering both “early” Zwingli with the “later” Zwingli when considering his understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Paul Sanders wrote a thesis that is very germane to this: Henri Bullinger et l’invention (1546-1551) avec Jean Calvin d’une théologique réformée de la Cène, la gestion de l’héritage zwinglien lors de la conclusion du et de la rédaction des (1551), thèse de doctorat, Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne, février, 1990.

Results of this thesis are reflected in Sander’s article in Zwingliana - « Heinrich Bullinger et le «zwinglianisme tardif» aux lendemains du ‘Consensus Tigurinus’ » Zwingliana 19/1 (1992). The following is a thought provoking excerpt from this article :

« Zwingli a-t-il modifé sa doctrine de la Cène après le Colloque de Marbourg ? Les écrits fondamentaux à examiner pour y répondre sont l’ (, juillet 1530), la (août 1530 et l’ (Christianae fidei expositio>, juillet 1531). Résumons notre réponse à la question posée.

1. Dans ces écrits, Zwingli a modifié le ton de sa présentation eucharistique. Les écrits d’avant Marbourg avaient un but polémique : détruire la fausse religion et ses vestiges eucharistiques (luthériens). Après Marbourg, Zwingli abandonne toute volonté de réconciliation avec Luther. Son souci de défendre son honneur et sa doctrine a pour résultat une présentation positive de ses vues eucharistiques. Il se donne de manière ingénieuse à l’exercice diplomatique qui consiste à présenter ses idées dans un langage familier à ses destinaires, tout en maintenant le fond de sa pensée sur ce chapitre fondamental de sa doctrine.

2. Zwingli modifie sa terminologie eucharistique. Ne refusant plus ni la notion de sacrement ni la terminologie eucharistique traditionelle, il verse dans ces moules lexicaux classiques des idées nouvelles.

3. Zwingli met l’accent sur le lien entre signum et res signata, après avoir insisté pendant la période symbolique sur une distinction tranchée entre eux : ils sont liés non seulement par les vérités représentées, mais aussi chez le croyant par les sens. Cette communication entre l’espirit humain et les sens dans la célébration des sacrements atténue le dualisme zwinglien de la période symbolique. Zwingli maintient cepednat son refus de toute liaison ontologique entre le signe et la chose signifiée, et rappelle la nécessaire distinction entre eux.

4. La relation entre le sacrement et la grâce est définie pour la première fois dans la période suivant Marbourg. Sur la base doctrinale de la souveraineté du Saint-Esprit, Zwingli refuse catégoriquement tout lien entre grâce et sacrement. L’Esprit doit rester libre et non pas être d’agir lors de la célébration des sacrements.

5. En ce qui concerne la relation entre sacrement et foi, Zwingli innove de nouveau en présentant sa notion de la contemplatio fidei : ce sont les signes qui offrent la réalité spirituelle signifiée à la contemplation croyante. Les signes constituent des stimuli sensoriels qui aident le croyant à saisir de manière indubitable la vérité spirtuelle. Ainsi se formulent chez Zwingli l’originalité de sa doctrine et la nécessité du sacrement.

6. Zwingli introduit, sans le développer de manière détaillée, le thème de la présence du Saint-Esprit. Son affirmation d’une présence spirituelle donne une nouvelle dimension à l’expression de sa pensée. Zwingli n’est plus limité par des présupposé dualistes. Par le moyen de la contemplatio fidei. Christ devient comme présent, une présence encore plus précieuse physique. Si Zwingli qualifie la controverse sur la présence du Christ de querelle de mots, ce qui ne trompe personne parmi les théologiens catholiques ou luthériens, la terminologie eucharistique demeure un véritable problème à résoudre entre protestants.

La mort de Zwingli sur le champ de bataille de Kappel interrompit l’évolution de sa doctrine. Apès avoir mis en pace les structures doctrinales et la terminolgie fondamentale d’une théologie réformée de la Cène, ce sera à Bullinger et à Calvin de développer et de nuancer cette doctrine.>

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bullinger and France

There are several works in French on the significance of Zwingli and Bullinger for the Reformation. Some of these include:

J. Courvoisier, Zwingli, théologien réformé (Neuchâtel: Delachaux et Niestlé, 1965); J.-V. Pollet, Huldrych Zwingli: Biographie et Théologie (Genève: Labor et Fides, 1988); Huldrych Zwingli et le zwinglianisme (Paris: Vrin, 1988); J. Rilliet, Zwingli. Le troisième homme de la Réforme (Paris: Fayard, 1959); A. Bouvier, Henri Bullinger, Réformateur et conseiller œecuménique d'après sa correspondance avec les réformés et les humanistes de langue française, (Zurich-Neuchâtel: Delachaux & Niestlé, 1940).

Bullinger’s influence for Europe, including France, is reflected in the following delivered in a lecture by Paul Sanders at l'Institut biblique de Nogent-sur-Marne:

“C'est en 1536 que les premiers liens se nouent entre Bullinger et les protestants anglais, vraisemblablement à la suite des contacts déjà pris entre l'archevêque Cranmer et Zwingli, en raison de la question posée aux Réformateurs concernant le divorce d'Henri VIII. Au début des années 1550, les rapports avec les Anglais devinrent plus étroits. Edouard VI meurt en 1553, Marie Tudor accède au trône. Sa politique religieuse provoque le départ d'un flot d'Anglais, dont un nombre important sont reçus à Zurich. Ils y trouvent Bullinger, qui est devenu pendant le règne d'Edouard VI, grâce à son attitude accueillante, ses publications et sa correspondance, une sorte d'oracle pour l'Eglise d'Angleterre. L'accueil qui a été réservé à ses Décades en fait foi.

Bullinger et la ville de Zurich jouent aussi un rôle auprès des exilés français. Bullinger compose le traité Von der schweren Verfolgung der christlichen Kirchen en 1573 après le massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy, traduit en latin, en néerlandais, en français et en anglais. Bullinger garde des relations épistolaires et personnelles avec de nombreux diplomates, humanistes et autres hommes importants de France, ce qui fait de Zurich un lieu à l'hospitalité reconnue.

Un nombre important de publications de Bullinger est destiné à réconforter les protestants exilés par la persécution. Toute l'Europe protestante en est touchée. Des exilés protestants de toutes parts (Hongrie, Pologne, Angleterre, France, Danemark, Allemagne) viennent chercher refuge à Zurich.

Cela contribue à forger la réputation de Bullinger: sa notoriété est importante parmi les Réformateurs de son époque. Le nombre très important de visiteurs de nombreux pays que Bullinger reçoit à Zurich explique en partie l'étendue de son influence, la quantité de sa correspondance et le succès de ses publications.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stephens on Bullinger and Interpreting Scripture

Peter Stephens (see earlier post) observes the following with respect to Bullinger and Scripture:

“Bullinger regards three things as essential in reading the Bible: knowledge of languages, the scope of Scripture, and certain methods of interpretation. First, he emphasizes the necessity and usefulness of languages, and what is lost in not having them. In his support, he appeals to theologians, such as Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and others, who recognized that fruitful theological work was not possible without the knowledge of languages. He even outlines in a practical way a course in Hebrew and Greek, having shown what is lost in not having the original biblical languages.

The second essential element concerns the scope (scopus) of Scripture, to which all the books of the Bible relate. Bullinger begins by referring to the Lutheran idea of law and gospel. He does not explicitly reject it, but simply says that he neither finds fault with it, nor wishes to praise it. For Bullinger, however, all the books of the Bible involve the eternal testament or covenant, which God has made with the human race (Genesis 17 and 22).

It is significant that in the list of the theological terms which Bullinger gives at the end of the book (ie Studiorum ratio), the covenant comes first, before either God or Scripture. The covenant has two parts. First, God binds himself to us and shows and promises who and what kind of God he wishes to be to us. Second, we are to keep this covenant, serve God faithfully, cleave to him alone, and live in innocence and in accordance with his will. The Bullinger adds significantly something which is not in Genesis: that God punishes those who break the covenant. In effect he reads this back from the rest of the Bible, which shows God’s relation to unbelievers. The treatment is the same in both Old and New Testament.”

Stephens’ conclusion is consistent with Bullinger’s insistence on the unity of the canon. Since the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture then “covenant” (berith) in the Old Testament can be legitimately understood (hence Stephens’ comment ‘he reads back from the rest of the Bible’) through the lens of the New Testament use of diatheke (both ‘covenant’ and ‘testament’).

Bullinger and Scripture

At the recent RefoRC Conference that was held in Zurich, one of the presenters made the following observation about Bullinger and his understanding of Scripture:

Bullinger’s hermeneutics appears to be somewhat different from Calvin’s. Calvin clearly viewed the Institutes as a “necessary tool” or hermeneutical guide for reading Scripture. Thus, for Calvin, the understanding of sola scriptura was somewhat nuanced. Bullinger, for his part, sought to stimulate his readers to read the Scriptures for themselves. He would refer to the church fathers or other Reformers when he assessed that they had correctly interpreted Scripture.

The very first sentence in the Preface to Bullinger’s combined commentaries on the Pauline and Catholic epistles indicates the paramount importance that he placed on the Word of God, its perspicuity and its authority:

“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.”

What is highlighted by Bullinger in The Decades is that the person who seeks to study the Scriptures must come with a humble heart under the authority of the Scriptures through the help of the Holy Spirit.

The Studium ratio which was completed by Bullinger in 1528 during his time at Kappel and not published until 1594 outlines the hermeneutical approach that was employed by Bullinger. With a healthy respect for humanist exegesis, Bullinger used rhetorical analysis judicially on the biblical texts in their original languages. Indeed, Opitz concludes that “the Reformation principle of sola scriptura demanded a methodologically thought-out ‘philology’, as well as a ‘rhetorical’ analysis of biblical texts.” In this early work of his, Bullinger noted the central position of the covenant as the scopus of the Old and New Testaments.

Bullinger’s method of writing commentaries may be illustrated by his commentary on Romans. It was characteristic of Bullinger not to focus on each and every textual or philological detail. Rather, Bullinger sought to give a concise overview of the major themes of the book (eg Romans) with a view to aid preaching that particular book from the pulpit. In doing so, Bullinger emphasized that to preach the Word of God is the Word of God (Prædicatio verbi Dei est verbum Dei).

Timmerman on Bucer and Bullinger on Understanding Scripture

Dutch scholar Daniel Timmerman (see earlier post) identifies the following difference between Bucer and Bullinger vis-à-vis Scripture.

“Eine weitere Differenz liegt in der Auswertung des Alten Testaments. Wie erwähnt funktionierten >Glaube und Liebe< bei Bucer als ein hermeneutischer Schlüssel bei der Auslegung der Schrift, wodurch das Alte Testament in einem gewissen Maße hintangesetzt wurde. Bullinger aber, der die Einheit des Bundes gegen die Täufer betont, ist weniger an einem Relief innerhalb des christlichen Kanons interessiert. Für ihn lehren auch >die Bücher Mose gerade in den Gesetzen, ja sogar in dem Zeremonien, teils den Glauben, teils die Unschuld<.”

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bullinger and the Interpretation of the Bible

The latest issue of Reformation and Renaissance Review has an article on Bullinger and the interpretation of the Bible by Peter Stephens. Stephens has been progressing writing articles on Bullinger.

The article is W. Peter Stephens “The Interpretation of the Bible in Bullinger’s Early Works” Reformation and Renaissance Review, vol 11 (no.3), 2009, pp311-333. The RRR website lists this as the latest edition of RRR but I don’t understand why the year is 2009.

Stephens is correct to point out that Bullinger emphasizes understanding the message of whole individual books of Scripture, the message of the canon as a whole and the message of the individual books in relation to the message of the Bible as a whole.

The following is the abstract of the article:

“This article notes Luther’s, Melanchthon’s, and Augustine’s influence, but also Bullinger’s independence in interpretation. It explores Bullinger’s rejection of the view that Scripture is obscure and needs the Fathers to interpret it. His underlying position is that Scripture interprets Scripture. Other principles include the comparison of passages of Scripture, interpreting a few texts by many, obscure texts by clear ones, the necessity for languages, the use of rhetoric, the covenant and the sum and scope of Scripture, an emphasis on the natural sense, and the contribution of secular disciplines. A concluding section considers briefly Bullinger’s later use of essentially five principles.”

Other subsequent posts will refer to sections of the paper.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bullinger and Bucer in understanding the message of Scripture

Dutch scholar Daniel Timmerman (Theologische Universiteit Apeldoorn, photo above)has written an insightful article “Bucers Verständnis von Schrift und Schriftauslegung. Ein Vergleich mit Heinrich Bullinger” in Wolfgang Simon (ed.), Martin Bucer zwischen den Reichstagen von Augsburg (1530) und Regensburg (1532) (Mohr Siebeck 2011), pp83-97. Timmerman points out to the centrality of the theme on the covenant in Bullinger’s writings. This is what Timmerman concludes:

“Was Bucer den Skopus der Schrift nennt, heiß bei Bullinger der Status oder Grundfrage. Schon 1532 ist es dem Zürcher ganz klar, dass nur der Bund Gottes die zentrale Botschaft der Schrift sein kann. Sich bewusst distanzierend von dem Begriffspaar Gesetz und Evangelium, weist Bullinger dezidiert auf das testamentum als die Grundfrage der Heilsgeschichte hin. Der Inhalt des Bundes sind die Verheißung der Gnade Gottes und die Verflichtung der Menschen zu einem unschuldigen Lebenswandel. Sowohl die Bücher des Alten als auch die des Neuen Testaments weisen eindeutig auf diesen Bund Gottes, der aus Glaube und Unschuld, fides et innocentia, besteht. In der Sache sind Bucer und Bullinger sich also durchaus einig. Die Rechtfertigung des Gottlosen aus dem Glauben kommt für beide als Zentrum der Schrift nicht in den Blick, die Rechtfertigungsterminologie wird von ihnen selbst nicht oder nur beiläufig erwähnt. Der Hauptinhalt der Offenbarung lässt sich für beide mit Glaube und Liebe bzw. Unschuld charakterisieren.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Zwingli and Remembering

Most people in the English speaking world associate Zwingli with the understanding of the Lord’s Supper primarily in terms of ‘remembering’. However, scholars such as W. Peter Stephens have demonstrated clearly that to appreciate Zwingli's understanding of the Lord’s Supper we have to look at all of Zwingli’s works. In particular, we must also look at the “later Zwingli” (ie around 1530) and not just the “early Zwingli.”

Visitors to Zurich are familiar with the statue of Zwingli just adjacent to the Wasserkirche on the bank of the Limmat. Here Zwingli is holding the Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. The sculptor was apparently a famous one who was commissioned to do several sculptures at the same time. What a pity the relevant authorities did not check the historical facts as the image depicted of Zwingli is not a true one. Unfortunately, it adds fuel to the misconceptions many people have of Zwingli.

The photo above (sorry for its poor quality) is the memorial plaque on the site of the battle field at Kappel-am-Albis where Zwingli died. The writing is very hard to decipher and read because of weathering. The plaque is virtually overgrown by a tree and most locals would probably be struggling to give visitors directions to Zwingli’s Denkmal. It is located only a few hundred metres away from the monastery where Bullinger taught as a young man and where he wrote his early works. Zug and Luzern are only just over the horizon so one can imagine the opposing forces meeting in combat on the field behind the Denkmal.

Remembering is important but it must be based on fact.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Zurich and Iconoclasm

At the end of the RefoRC conference with the theme “The myth of the Reformation” held in Zurich, Peter Opitz, director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History, took some of the conference attendees aside to give them background to the Reformation in Zurich.

One of the popular “myths” concerning the Zurich Reformation concerns iconoclasm. Iconoclasm first begun as a ‘lay’ response to the fiery sermons of Leo Jud at the St Peter’s Church. A similar pattern took place at the near by Fraumunster.

In time, the Zurich authorities wisely decided that future removal of images be done in an orderly manner. With respect to the Grossmunster the images were returned to the donors where known or systematically destroyed in an orderly fashion. It was not a ‘bull in a china shop’ approach.

Zurich and the Anabaptists

At the end of the recent RefoRC conference with the theme “The myth of the Reformation” held in Zurich, Peter Opitz, director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History, took some of the conference attendees on a tour of places of key historical interest for the Swiss Reformation.

Opitz showed the place on the bank of the Limmat River (near the Hotel Am Storken across the Limmat from the Grossmunster). One of the ‘myths’ about the Swiss was their seemingly ‘uncivilized’ way of execution of the Anabaptists by drowning in the Limmat. What actually happened was that Muntzer and others were first held in the tower what used to be in the Limmat just beyond the Wasserkirche and only released when they gave an oath that they would desist from spreading their teaching about rebaptism. When they were caught and reconvicted of spreading this teaching they would be imprisoned in the tower for a longer period of time. This was repeated several times with increasing periods of time of imprisonment in the tower. Eventually Muntzer and others were warned of the death penalty if they continued to disobey the authorities. According to the account, Muntzer’s own wife and children urged him not to give up stating that he would continue to disseminate his views on baptism and gladly be drowned for his belief. Technically, Muntzer and others were executed by drowning for their repeated disobedience of the authorities despite the authorities showing them much patience.