Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bullinger viewing the Saints of the Old Testament as Looking unto Christ

The following citation from The Decades 3.viii illustrates that Bullinger’s understanding of the Old Testament is not so much Christocentric but, rather, as looking unto Christ. This quote shows Bullinger’s emphasis on the unity of the old and new testaments, on the unity of the covenant and on the same faith in both the OT and the NT. Salvation, both in the OT and the NT, is by faith through grace. There is no synergism.

“And out of that which I have hitherto said we may also learn, that the ancient saints, which lived under the old testament, did not seek for righteousness and salvation in the works of the law, but in him who is the perfectness and end of the law, even Jesus Christ; and therefore that they used the law and the ceremonies as a guide and schoolmistress to lead them by the hand to Christ their Saviour. For so often as they heard that the law required perfect righteousness at their hands, they did by faith through grace understand, that in the law Christ was set forth to be the most absolute righteousness, to whom all men ought to fly for the obtaining of righteousness. So often as they met together in the holy congregation, to behold the holy ceremonies which God hath ordained, they did not look upon the bare figures only, nor think that they did please God, and were purged from their sins, by that external kind of worship; but they did cast the eyes of their minds and of faith upon the Messiah to come, who was prefigured in all the ceremonies and ordinances of the law.” (Parker Edition p242)

Illud quoque discimus ex praedisputatis veteres sanctos, qui sub veteri testamento vixerunt homines, salutem et iustitiam quaesivisse non in operibus legis, sed in eo, qui est perfectio et finis legis, nempe in Christo, ergo lege edt caeremoniis usos esse tanquam manuductione et paedagogia ad Christum. Nam quoties audierunt perfectam a se legis iustitiam requiri, fide donate ex gratia intellexerunt Christum perfectissimam iustitiam proponi, ad quem pro iustitia consequenda omnes confugere debeant homines. Quoties in loco sacro convenerunt ad contemplanda sacra illa divinitus instituta, non nudas inspexerunt figuras neque putaverunt se propter cultum illum placere deo purgarique a peccatis, sed oculos animi et fidei intenderunt in ipsum futurm Messiam, qui in omnibus caeremoniis et legalibus praefigurabatur. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p387)

Aus dem zuvor Erörterten lernen wir auch, dass die einstigen Gläubigen, die Menschen, die unter dem Alten Testament gelebt haben, das Heil und die Gerechtigkeit nicht in den Werken des Gestzes gesucht haben, sondern in dem, der di Vollkomenheit und die Vollendung des Gesetzes ist, nämlich in Christus, dass sie also das Gesetz und die Zeremonien als Hinführung und als Vorschule zu Christus gebrauchten. Denn sooft sie hörten, dass von ihnen vollkommene Gerechtigkeit nach dem Gesetz verlangt wurde, verstanden sie durch den Glauben, der ihnen aus Gnade geschenkt worden ist, dass ihnen Christus als die vollkommene Gerechtigkeit vor Augen gestellt wurde, zu dem alle Menschen hineilen sollen, um Gerechtigkeit zu erlangen. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p78)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bullinger and Justification as the Hinge of Evangelical Doctrine

In The Decades 4.i Bullinger writes: “And although I oftener than once handled this argument in these sermons of mine; yet because it is the hook whereupon the hinge of the evangelical doctrine (which is the door to Christ) doth hang and that this doctrine (to wit, that Christ is received by faith, and not by works) is of many men very greatly resisted; I will for the declaration and confirmation sake thereof, produce here two places only, but such as be apparent enough and evident to prove and confirm it by: the one out of the gospel of Christ our Lord, the other out of Paul’s epistles.” (Parker Edition p37 there is an explanation that the words in brackets are not in the original Latin).

The Latin version is:

Et quamvis hoc argumentum tractaverim semel et iterum in hisce nostris sermonibus, quia tamen in eo volvitur cardo doctrinae evangelicae et hoc dogma (nempe fide, non operibus recipe Christum) a multis acerrime oppugnatur, duos tantum locos, sed maxime illustres pro eius declaratione et confrimatione adducam, alterum quidem ex evangelio Christi domini, alterum ex epistolis sancti Pauli.
(Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p512)

One might compare what Bullinger wrote with what Calvin wrote in the Institutes at 3.11.1 which deals with the “Place and meaning of the doctrine of justification”:

“And we must so discuss them as to bear in mind that this is the main hinge on which religion turns, so that we may devote the greater attention and care to it” (Battles translation).

The Latin version is:

Et ita discutienda ut meminerimus praecipuum esse sustinendae religionis cardinem: quo maiorem attentionem curamque afferamus.

Several lines earlier in this sermon 4.i of The Decades Bullinger writes:

“But the promise is received by faith, and not by works: therefore the gospel, and Christ in the gospel, are received by faith. For we must diligently distinguish between the precepts and the promises. The promises are received by faith: the precepts are accomplished by works.” (Parker Edition, p36)

The Latin version is:

Caeterum promissio fide, non operibus recipitur, ideoque evangelium et in evangelio Christus fide recipitur. Etenim distinguendum erit diligenter inter praecepta et promissiones. Nam hae recipiuntur fide, illa perficiuntur operibus.
(Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p511)

The following are the recent German translations (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006) of the same sections.

“Und obwohl ich dies in diesen meinem Predigten schon das eine oder andere Mal behandelt habe, möchte ich dennoch nur zwei, aber zwei überaus deutliche Schriftstellen zur Erklärung und Bekräftigung anführen, weil darin der Kern der Lehre des Evangeliums liegt und dieser Glaubenssatz – dass Christus durch den Glauben und nicht durch Werke empfangen wird – von vielen sehr heftig bekämpt wird: eine Stelle aus dem Evangelium Christi, des Herrn, und eine aus den Briefen des heiligen Paulus.”

“Diese Verheißung wird aber nicht durch Werke, sondern im Glauben empfangen, deshalb wird das Evangelium – und im Evangelium Christus – im Glauben empfangen. Es ist nämlich sorgfältig zwischen den Geboten und Verheiβungen zu unterschieden, denn diese werden im Glauben, jene durch Werke empfangen.”

Bullinger and Climate Change

There was a mini ice age in the middle of the 16th century. Bullinger wrote about it in his Diarium. The mini ice age was so severe that Bullinger considered that it was the judgment of God.

Otto Ulbricht has written “Extreme Wetterlagen im Diarium Heinrich Bullinger” which is to be found in Wolfgang Behringer, Hartman Lehmann dan Christian Pfister (eds), Kulurelle Konsequenzer der kleinen Eiszeit, pp147-175.

The following is a citation from the summary of the article:

“When looking closely at Bullinger’s diary, it becomes clear that he not only sensed the climatic change beginning in the early 1560’s (coldness, frost, hail frozen over lakes, floods), but he also described it as unique and sometimes even as a breakdown of the natural order of things. Adjectives he applied to characterize these changes have strong (and negative) emotional connotations. The extreme weather conditions – sometimes joined by famine – became the most important expression of God’s wrath in his thinking, thus displacing war and pestilence as secondary.

According to Bullinger, the main reason for God’s scorn was heavy drinking. Therefore, he and his colleagues tried to extend mandates against it to leading and secular authorities in Zurich. Religious reasons also played a role in keeping interest rates down throughout the famine of 1570/71. During this crisis, there was a major change in the liturgy through the introduction of common public prayer.”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Carrie Euler on Bullinger

A previous post has referred to Carrie Euler’s book Couriers of the Gospel: England and Zurich which represents many years of meticulous attention to Bullinger’s correspondence. Euler is currently a professor at Central Michigan University.

The following is a quotation from the book illustrating her understanding of Bullinger and the covenant.

“Bullinger’s commitment to Old Testament law – a commitment much admired and reiterated by many English evangelicals – stemmed, in part, from his belief in the unity of the Old and New Testament covenant between God and man. As did Zwingli, Bullinger asserted this unity in his early writings against the Anabaptists. In one work written in 1534, however, Bullinger took this argument further than Zwingli. He distinguished between a testamentum (a written testament) and foedus (a covenant or conditional agreement between two parties). Moreover, he maintained that the covenant between God and man was a foedus, and he emphasized its conditional, bilateral nature.

Bullinger’s later writings, however, are much more concerned with the hermeneutical unity of the Testaments, first proposed by Zwingli in his writings against the Anabaptists but extended by Bullinger. The unity of the Old and New Testaments was very useful to Bullinger for two reasons. It allowed him to state that Christianity in its pure (Reformed) sate was the one and original faith, the faith of Adam and Abraham as well as the apostles and other early Christians. It also allowed him to use the Old Testament in his writings. This gave Bullinger more evidence to support Zwingli’s ideas about the place of law and secular authority in Christian societies, and it justified the application of Old Testament laws to those societies.”

Euler has made some very helpful comments here. For example, she is spot on with respect to the admiration of the English evangelicals to Bullinger’s understanding and application of Old Testament law for the believer. I believe the Puritans were profoundly influenced by Bullinger’s understanding of the law and this is reflected in the Westminster Confession. However, I suspect that many English evangelicals actually misunderstood Bullinger on the law. I hope to do some work on this.

Euler is also correct to point out that Bullinger’s understanding of the Old Testament (and of the law in the OT) was important for his understanding of church and state. This is well illustrated in Torrance Kirby’s book Zurich Connection.

Euler also suggested that for Bullinger the unity of the Old and New Testaments allowed him to “use the Old Tesament extensively in his writings”. Actually, this was more because of Bullinger’s canonical understanding of Scripture (he wrote a commentary on Revelation and preached a 100 sermons on it). We might even go so far as to say that Bullinger was a biblical theologian. That is why he did not write in the loci format but constantly referred to the overall message of the canon as is most apparent in der alte Glaube.

However, I do not agree with Euler’s comments on testamentum and foedus. I believe that a linguistic study of Bullinger’s writings with respect to the use of these terms (as well as of pactum) leads us to the conclusion expressed by Lillback and Bierma that Bullinger and Calvin had very similar views of the covenant. In other words, although Euler does acknowledge that there is a debate, Baker’s views can not be substantiated. Nonetheless, Baker has stimulated much thought on the covenant in Bullinger. This is a topic I am seeking to do further work on.

These observations on Euler’s views aside, her book is a mine of information and reflection on the significance of Bullinger for England. Her book provides access to the work of Andreas Mühling’s, Bullingers europäische Kirchenpolitik which may be less readily available to many of us. (pp32-33)

Conference organized by Refo500

Refo500 is organizing a conference in Zurich 8-10 June 2011 with the theme “The Myth of the Reformation). The conference will be hosted by the Institute for Swiss Reformation History. Details may be found at:

The Plenary sessions will be:

Emidio Campi (Zurich)
Was the Reformation a German event?

Bridget Heal (St. Andrews)
Sola Scriptura? The Reformation a non-visual event?

Barbara Mahlmann-Bauer (Bern)
Konversionen in der Frühen Neuzeit

At the Table with the Reformers

This well known painting portrays some of the key figures associated with the Reformation.

The top three from the left are:

Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562)
John Knox (1513-1572)
Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531)

In the original picture:
Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) is to the left of Vermigli

The second row from left to right are:

John Hus (1370-1415)
Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560)
Hieronymus van Praag (1379-1416)
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Hieronymus Zanchius (1516-1590)
John Calvin (1509-1564)
Theodorus Beza (1519-1605)
William Perkins (1558-1602)
Below Perkins is John Wycliff (1386-1428)

In the original picture:

Martin Bucer (1491-1551)is to the left of John Hus
Matthius Flaccius (1520-1572) is to the right of William Perkins
Behind Flaccius is Johannes Oecolampadius (1481-1531)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bullinger and the Pauline Epistles

Peter Opitz, the director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History in Zurich, has a comprehensive article on “Bullinger and Paul” in R. Ward Holder (ed.) A Companion to Paul in the Reformation (Brill, 2009), pp243-265.

Opitz show his understanding of Bullinger and the events surrounding the writing of commentaries on particular epistles of Paul. It is well known that Bullinger defended Pauline authorship of Hebrews. In this regard, Opitz writes: “In spite of the counter-arguments that he knows Erasmus has made, he pleads for Paul as its author. In any case the significance and authority of this epistle do not depend on Pauline authorship, but rather on its message. He rates this message very highly: as early as 1526, Bullinger claims that there is no other book in the New Testament that more strongly places the focus on the covenant, brings Christ before our eyes and argues on the basis of the Old Testament writings (HBTS I, p135).”

The following quote illustrates Opitz’s understanding of Bullinger and his contemporaries:

“Bullinger judges the difficult message of Hebrews 6:4, which discusses the impossibility of a second repentance after a fundamental apostasy, as rhetorical exaggeration in the service of paranesis, and points out at the same time that only such an interpretation of the passage, rather than a literal one, does justice to the atonement theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews (In epistolas, p679). The contemporary background is the controversy with some ‘Anabaptists’.

Bullinger consciously places himself in the Zwinglian Christological tradition with his high opinion and defence of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Thus is is no coincidence that Bullinger published his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews first, and dedicated it to Landgrave Philipp of Hessen. The foreword bears the date 17 August, 1532. Without a doubt, Bullinger had the intention of exegetically underlining the agreement between the Zwinglian and Pauline Christology. At the same time he wished to ensure Philipp’s lasting goodwill, in the particularly difficult times that the ‘reformed’ wing of Protestantism was experiencing after the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 and Zwingli’s death.”

Friday, November 26, 2010

Zwingli and the Eucharist Further Observations

An earlier post has considered Zwingli and the eucharist. Carrie Euler in her meticulously researched book Couriers of the Gospel: England and Zurich, 1531-1558 (TVZ 2006) makes the following observations about Zwingli and the eucharist. As in our earlier post there is a timely reminder to consider the later writings of Zwingli when considering his understanding of the eucharist.

“Zwingli has gone down in history as a ‘memorialist’ and ‘rationalist’, one who maintained the bread and the wine were ‘empty signs’. These charges greatly oversimplify Zwingli’s position and his influence on the development of Reformed Eucharistic theology.

Zwingli’s writings between 1524 and 1529 do vigorously confute any real presence of Christ, corporeal or spiritual, in the supper, but it is misleading to say that the Zurich reformer relegated the bread and wine to the status of empty memorials. In addition to there being a physical similarity between the sign and the thing signified (wine looks like blood), there was, for Zwingli, an emotional and spiritual connection. For the Jews, the Passover lamb did not merely represent the feast of Passover, but liberation from bondage, the actual passing over of the first-born in Egypt the night before the Exodus. Similarly, the supper of the Lord brings to Christians’ minds their salvation through Christ (Zwingli, On the Lord’s Supper, pp225-227).

Zwingli’s later writings provide even more connection between the sign and the thing signified, for in the last years of his life he inclined towards accepting Christ’s spiritual presence in the bread and wine (Gäbler, Ulrich Zwingli, p137). In A Brief Exposition of the Faith (1531), he compared the sacramental signs to a betrothal ring. When a wife beholds the ring on her finger, she does not value it only for its gold substance, but her heart is warmed by the thought of her husband and her bond to him, of which the ring is a symbol (Zwingli, A Brief Exposition of the Faith, pp262-263). In this treatise, Zwingli introduced the phrase ‘sacramental eating’. ‘Spiritual eating’ was ‘trusting with heart and soul upon the mercy and goodness of God through Christ.’ We can do this at any time. But eating Christ sacramentally, Zwingli wrote was spiritual eating in conjunction with the communal celebration of the sacrament. At this time, ‘You do inwardly what you represent outwardly, your soul being strengthened by the faith which you attest in the tokens.’ Here and in his Account of Faith (1530), Zwingli allowed that the sacrament can ‘strengthen’ or ‘augment’ faith, but he was adamant that it could not convey faith. Those who partake of the sacrament without faith do not eat spiritually or sacramentally (A Brief Exposition of the Faith, pp260-261). A spiritual presence for the faithful was far from a bodily presence for all, however. In these later writings, he continued to defy Luther by asserting the spiritual/material divide and rejecting the ubiquity of Christ’s body (A Brief Exposition of the Faith, pp254-258)”.
(Couriers of the Gospel, pp22,23)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Zentralbibliothek Zürich

The Central Library of Zurich is situated in Zähringer Platz. The photo shows the main entrance with the Predigerkirche in the background.

The website to the section of the library that houses its magnificent collection of the works of Zwingli, Bullinger and other writers in the 16th century is: http://www.zb.unizh.ch/spezialsammlungen/alte-drucke-rara/index.html.de

Dr Urs Leu is the head of this section. He and his colleagues have published prolifically.
www.e-rara.ch is the library’s website where many works of Zwingli, Bullinger and others made be downloaded in pdf format. A great tool for access to their works.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Critical edition of Bullinger’s De scripturae sanctae

The latest edition of Zwingliana has a review by Amy Nelson Burnett of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln of the recently published (TVZ 2009) critical edition of Bullinger’s De scripturae sanctae authoritate deque episcoporum institutione et functione (1538). This was a joint effort by Emidio Campi and Philipp Wälchli. Campi was the immediate past professor at Zurich (succeeding Alfred Schindler) while Wälchli is one of the researchers in the Institute for Swiss Reformation History who previously worked on the critical edition of the Second Helvetic Confession.

Bullinger wrote this work in 1538 and dedicated it to King Henry VIII of England. This was one year before Bulligner wrote De origine erroris III and De omnibus scripturae libris. The work consists of two books, as may be apparent from its title. The first deals with Scripture while the second (and much longer work) focuses on church structure and leadership.

The following are some quotes from Burnett’s review:

“His chief concern in Book I is to assert the superiority of Scripture against the Roman church’s claim to judge Scripture and to be the custodian of extra-scriptural tradition. Bullinger does this by attesting both to Scripture’s antiquity – God spoke to Adam and the patriarchs long before Moses put the first books of the Bible into writing, let alone before the church established the canon – and to its completeness, since it contains all that is necessary for piety.”

“Book II deals with more practical matters of church structure. Bullinger describes how the leadership of God’s people was entrusted fist to the prophets, then to the levitical priesthood, and finally to the ministers of God’s word, who are bishops or overseers. Bullinger’s understanding of the church’s leadership is non-hierarchical: his only distinction is between the ministers and those he calls ‘clerics’, the deacons or assistants and disciples or students who are preparing for the ministry. As a consequence, his discussion of the ‘institution and function of bishops’ is a broad description of the preparation fro the tasks of ministry. He includes in it a plea for adequate financial support for ministers and emphasizes the need to maintain the schools and libraries essential fro educating the boys who will enter the ministry. Bullinger focuses on the chief responsibilities of ministers, to preach, to pray, and to administer the sacraments – but he also refers to the more specialized functions of the prophets, who expound God’s word, and doctors, including professors and schoolteachers. Last but certainly not least, he rejects the claims of the bishop of Rome to headship over the church, providing his own exegesis of the Scripture texts used to support papal primacy, describing how the church fathers regarded the bishop of Rome, and condemning the corruption of the Roman hierarchy from the pope on down.”

“Bullinger also refers several times to Erasmus’s handbook for preachers, Ecclesiastes, which had been published three years earlier, even incorporating lengthy quotations from it into his text.”

Ecclesia semper reformanda

Emidio Campi has an article “Ecclesia semper reformanda: Metamorphosen einer altehrwürdigen Formel” in the latest edition of Zwingliana Vol 37 (2010), pp1-20. Campi was the previous professor at Zurich and head of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History.

The following is the abstract of the article:

“The purpose of this essay is to examine the history of the old formula ecclesia semper reformanda that is the church is always in need of reform. This phrase is constantly attributed to the Reformers, but in fact can be found throughout the bimillenial history of Christianity, from the early monastic movement to the medieval forms of dissent, in the documents of the Council of Trent and in the treaties of the Protestant Orthodoxy, in the decree of ecumenism of the II Vatican Council and in the Constitution of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. However, reform of the church is not mere change, and certainly not ‘modernization’. Reform of the church comes, as the Reformers understood it and Karl Barth in the mid 20th century reiterated it, from the leading of God’s word, made present in the power of the Spirit. After reviewing recent deliberations of ecumenical bodies the paper concludes that ecclesia semper reformanda is much more than a confessional slogan. To be really universal the church is always to refocused on Christ the Saviour as he is presented to us in the Scriptures.”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bullinger’s Understanding of the Law

To ascertain Bullinger’s understanding of the Law we would need to carefully study a range of his works covering several decades. It does appear that Bullinger considered that the giving of the law at the time of Moses was precipitated by the idolatry which arose during the time the Israelites spent in Egypt and which was reflected in several events of flagrant idolatry in the wilderness wandering. Bullinger’s view was that there was nothing new in the giving of the law at the time of Moses but, rather, the enscripturating of the ‘conditions’ of the covenant that were in place beginning with Adam. For Bullinger there was no place for synergism and the covenant was based on the grace of God who accommodated Himself with mankind and entered into a covenant relationship with mankind. A subsequent post will look at the ‘conditions’ of the covenant that Bullinger refers to.

Bullinger, thus, wrote that many years prior to the prophecy of Jeremiah 31 that God’s law was written on the hearts of the holy fathers.

For example, in chapter 5 of The Old Faith (der alt gloub/Der Alte Glaube) Bullinger writes:

“Besides this, the Lord gave unto Noe certain laws; but none other than even such as he had given to his forefathers, and written on their hearts”
(translation by Miles Coverdale)

“Darüber hinaus gab der Herr Noah einige Gesetze, jedoch keine anderen als jene, die er seinen Vorfahren gegeben und in die Herzen geschrieben hatte”
(translation by Roland Diethelm)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bullinger and the Proleptic Sacrifice of Christ

In chapter 5 of The Old Faith (der alt gloub/Der Alte Glaube) Bullinger refers to the faith of Abel as demonstrated by the sacrifice of Abel which was acceptable and pleasing to God.

Bullinger makes this interesting comment:

“Inasmuch then as it cannot be denied, but that all they which are saved are just and righteous be made righteous through the blessed Seed, and Abel was justified; it followeth that he was made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. In that he did sacrifice, it is a token and fruit of a heart that was thankful and feared God. It was no such enterprise, that he would cleanse and make himself acceptable unto God through that outward sacrifice. For certain it is, that no outward oblation purifieth man within; but the grace of God, granted unto us through Jesus Christ, purfieth us aright. And the outward sacrifices of the old fathers, beside that they were tokens of thankfulness, praise, and magnifying of God, as it said afore, were figures of the only perpetual sacrifice of our Saviour Christ: and in this behalf they were even as much as sacraments of things to come.”
(translation by Miles Coverdale)

“Da unbestreitbar gilt, dass alle Frommen und Gerechten allein durch den Glauben an den gesegneten Samen gerechfertigt worden sind und Abel gerechtfertigt ist, folgt, dass er durch den Glauben an Jesus Christus gottgefällig geworden ist.

Dass er aber opfert, ist Zeichen und Frucht seiner dankbaren, gottesfürchtigen Gesinnung und nicht etwa der Vesuch, sich durch ein äuβerliches Opfer zu reinigen und Gott wohlgefällig zu machen. Denn es ist gewiss, dass kein äuβerliches Opfer den innersten Menschen rein macht, sondern dass allein die Gnade Gottes, die uns durch Jesus Christus erwiesen worden ist, wahrhaftig reinigt. Die äuβerlichen Opfer der alten Gläubigen waren nebst dem, dass die Zeichen der Dankbarkeit, des Lobs und Preises Gottes waren, vor allem, wie oben erwähnt, Bilder, die auf das einmalige und immerwährende Opfer unseres Heilands Christus vorauswiesen. Deshalb waren sie so etwas wie Sakremente der künftigen Dinge.”
(translation by Roland Diethelm)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bullinger and Back to the Future –Who were the First Christians?

In chapter 1 of The Old Faith (der alt gloub/Der Alte Glaube) Bullinger commences by arguing that the faith of the “holy men” from the time of Adam was essentially the same as those after the coming of Christ and, therefore, they can be termed ‘Christian’. Bullinger is seeking to emphasize the unity of the message of the canon from Genesis to Revelation.

“Now it is true, that all prophecies were then first fulfilled, and the true salvation performed; yea, from that time forth were all the glorious treasures of Christ so richly declared and poured out among all people, as they never were afore. Notwithstanding the same salvation in Christ Jesu was promised long afore, and so opened to the holy old fathers, that they have had no less sight of Christ Jesus in the spirit than we, and put their trust in him as well as we; though among us it be clear and open, or performed and fulfilled, that among them was somewhat darker, and therefore looked for with heart’s desire, as a thing to come. Moreover, it is not I that first bring forth this meaning concerning the antiquity or oldness of our christian faith. For the holy bishop Eusebius Caesariensis, which lived above eleven hundred years ago, and likewise many other christian doctors, hath also taught and written the same more clearly before me. For Eusebius, in the first book De Ecclesiastica Historia: saith plainly: ‘all they that in their estate are noted according to the generations, to reckon backward from Abraham unto the first man, though they had not the name of christian men, (for at Antioch, certain years after the ascension of Christ, was that name given to the faithful Acts xi) yet, as pertaining to the religion and substance, they were all Christian.’

For if this word Christian be as much to say, as one that putteth his trust in Christ, through his doctrine fastened unto faith, unto the grace and righteousness of God, doth cleave with all diligence to God’s doctrine, and exerciseth himself in every thing that is virtuous; then verily those holy men, whom we speak of first, were even the same that christian men boast themselves now to be. All these are the words of the foresaid old christian doctors. But to the intent that no man shall think, how that we build upon men, and upon a strange foundation, therefore will we first declare our mind out of the scripture, and allege somewhat more the better understanding of the matter.”
(translation by Miles Coverdale)

“Nun stimmt es zwar, dass erst damals alle Prophetezeiungen erfüllt worden sind und die wahre Rettung vollendet worden ist. Auch wurden est seit damals die herrlichen Schätze Christi so reichlich wie nie zuvor allen Völkern verkündet und mitgeteilt. Dennoch ist diese Rettung in Christus Jesus längst verheißen und auch den heiligen Patriarchen bildhaft gezeight worden, so dass sie nich weniger als wir Christus Jesus im Geist gesehen und auf ihn vertraut haben, obschon uns alles klarer vor Augen gestellt und erfüllt ist, was bei ihnen noch dunkel war und sie erst in der Zukunft mit Sehnsucht erwarteten. Dazu kommt, dass ich nich als Erster diese Ansicht über das Alter unseres christlichen Glaubens zur Sprache bringe. Denn vor mir haben dies schon der heilige Bischof Eusebius von Caesarea, der von elfeinhalb Jahrhunderten lebte, und andere christliche Lehrer kalr gelehrt und geschreiben. So sagt Eusebius im ersten Buch seiner Kirchengeschichte klar: >Alle Menschen, die in der Generationenfolge von Abraham zurückgerechnet bis zum ersten Menschen stehen, waren wenn auch nicht dem Namen nach Christen< - denn der wurde erst einige Jahre nach der Himmelfahrt Christi den Gläubigen zu Antiochia gegeben, Aporstelgeschichte 11.26, so doch ihrem Glauben und Wesen nach. Denn wenn das Wort >Christ< jemanden bezeichnet, der Christus vertraut und durch dessen Lehre am glauben, an der Güte und an der Gerechtigkeit Gottes festhält, mit eifrigen Bemühen göttlicher Weisung anhängt and alles das tut, was tugendhaft ist, dann waren die genannten heiligen Männer das, was heute die Christen ze sein bekennen usw. So weit die Worte dieses alten christlichen Lehrers. Damit aber niemand auf den Gedanken kommt, ich stütze mich auf Menschen und auf eine sachfremde Grundlage, wollen wir von nun an unser Vorhaben mit Belegen aus der Schrift stützen und zum besseren Verständnis genauer auf die Sache eingehen.”
(translation by Roland Diethelm)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bullinger as a Theologian

G.W. Bromiley unfairly described Bullinger’s writings as “pedestrian” compared to those of Zwingli. However, he failed to give due consideration to the context of Bullinger’s works.

E.A. Dowey is closer to the mark.

“Bullinger’s theology may be chatacterised as:

1. biblical in root
2. orthodox and catholic in intent
3. dominated by churchly motifs in expression
4. historical in conceptuality
5. comprehensive in scope”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Zwingli on the Lord’s Supper in 1524

Over at Jim West’s blog (Zwingliusredivivus) there is a post on Zwingli’s letter to Matthew Alber (#41 of Zwingli’s works listed in Peter Stephens’ The Theology of Huldrych Zwingli). It is worth checking out.


The post gives the link to the website of the Central Library of Zurich (www.e-rara.ch) where Zwingli’s letter can be downloaded as a pdf file.

This letter gives us a glimpse of Zwingli’s understanding of the Eucharist in 1524 and how he was emphatic in opposing transubstantiation. A timely reminder that many of Zwingli’s earlier works were ‘negative’, such as opposing transubstantiation.

Bullinger and the Exposition of Scripture

Kok noted that Bullinger wrote his commentaries “for the sake of the inexperienced and moderately educated (Scripserunt illi eruditis, ego rudibus et mediocribus).”

Leith has summarized from the Third Sermon of the First Decade (The title of this sermon is ‘Of the Sense and Right Exposition of the Word of God, and by What Manner of Means it may be Expounded’) Bullinger’s principles of expounding Scripture as:

(1) the rule of faith
(2) love of God and neighbor
(3) the historical situation
(4) scripture interpreted in the context of scripture
(5) a heart that loves God and continually prays to God for the Holy Spirit.

Significantly, Leith makes the observation, “From what has been said and from what follows this would seem to be a fair summary of Calvin’s own hermeneutical principles.”

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

(Joel E. Kok, “Heinrich Bullinger’s Exegetical Model: The Model for Calvin?” in Richard A. Muller and John L. Thompson (eds.), Biblical Interpretation in the Era of the Reformation, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), pp241-254; John H. Leith, “Calvin’s Doctrine of the Proclamation of the Word and Its Significance for Today” in Timothy George (ed.), John Calvin and the Church: A Prism of Reform, (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990), pp206-209, pp214,215)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bullinger and the Law in De Testamento

In De Testamento Bullinger concludes that the “holy patriarchs” (Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph) were pleasing to God without the “ceremonies” (29a). In citing Galatians 3:16-17 he affirms, “Hence the patriarchs were saved by the blessing of the covenant, not of the law or of the ceremonies”. Significantly, Bullinger emphasizes at this point that the law which “originated later does not make void this covenant established earlier by God in Christ”.

Bullinger’s understanding is that because of the idolatry of Israel at the time of Moses so “it was pleasing to the wise and merciful Lord to come up and aid the collapsed covenant with certain props”. This is explained as follows, “God restored the main points of the ancient covenant, but unfolded it more fully, and inscribed it on tablets of stone with his own finger” (30a). That is to say, Bullinger understood that at the beginning the covenant was written on the hearts of the patriarchs but was codified in stone later on because of the covenant unfaithfulness of Israel. That is why, in his discussion of Genesis 17 earlier on, Bullinger makes this observation about “the record of the covenant”, viz “I should explain why there is no mention of legal records. Indeed, in place of such records are the words of Moses which we have already quoted, or, if you prefer more abundant words, the whole canonical Scripture” (6a). Bullinger’s assertion that the ‘conditions’ of the covenant were inscribed on the hearts of the patriarchs is directly alluded to in (45a): “The Lord did not bother to have any records written for the ancient patriarchs, for they bore the covenant in their hearts, inscribed by the finger of God”.

Bullinger further explains concerning the “ceremonies” in that “when they continued to be unfaithful and wicked, the burden of worthless ceremonies was thrown on their shoulders, ceremonies that the patriarchs did not have. Nevertheless, it is evident that the burden was imposed for an urgent reason, for this aim and with this plan, so that they would not introduce the worship of strange gods” (30a). In referring to the worship of God in Psalm 50 in this context, Bullinger employs some mental gymnastics to conclude, “Therefore, God instituted his own worship, and he declared that it was pleasing to him (Psalm 50), which he actually despised, so that, with this plan, he confirmed the covenant, and in addition to that he enveloped the mystery of Christ in these ceremonies as types”. In making this analysis Bullinger cites Tertullian, “For Tertullian, in his Against Marcion, book 2, says, ‘No one should blame God for the burden of the sacrifices, or the troublesome scrupulosities of the ceremonies, and oblations, as if he had desired such things for himself who clearly exclaimed, ‘What are the multitude of your sacrifices to me and who requires them from your hands?’ (Isaiah 1:11-12)’” (30b).

In Bullinger’s understanding, contrary to what he has to say about the “ceremonies”, he points out, “Now, therefore, in respect to the Decalogue and civil laws, no difference at all has arisen regarding the covenant and the people of God. For everywhere the love of God and the neighbour, faith and love maintain the mastery” (31a). In the same breath Bullinger underlines that “all the ceremonies were fulfilled by Christ, by whom alone it proclaims. Since they were types and shadows of eternal things, they become obsolete. So, that ancient religion, which was thriving in that golden age of the patriarchs before the law was brought forth, now flourishes throughout the entire world, renewed and restored more fully and more clearly by Christ and made perfect with a new people, namely, the Gentiles, as though a new light had been introduced into the world”. Bullinger firmly defends his view that it is not correct to “stigmatize…all the fathers preceding the coming of the Lord by the name of carnal Israel” because “antiquity also had the spiritual Israel”.

(see 'The One and Eternal Covenant of God' in An Everlasting Covenant: Biblical and Theological Essays in Honour of William J. Dumbrell (Reformed Theological Review Supplement Series #4, 2010) pp201-233)

See Steven Coxhead “Paul and the New Covenant Paradigm” in An Everlasting Covenant: Biblical and Theological Essays in Honour of William J. Dumbrell (Reformed Theological Review Supplement Series #4, 2010) pp119-144 for an interesting analysis which appears to have some parallels with Bullinger.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bullinger and the Covenant as the Source of our Religion

In De prophetae officio (1532) Bullinger wrote (sig. Aivv-Avr): “For testament, which also is the title for all of Scripture, surely strands for the content of all Scripture. Neither is this to be wondered at as something recent and devoid of meaning. For by the word testament we understand the covenant and the agreement by which God agreed with the entire human race, to be himself our God, our sufficiency, source of good and horn of plenty. And this he would abundantly prove by the gift of the fertile earth and the incarnation of his son. Man, however, ought to pursue integrity, that he may stand before this God with a perfect and upright mind, that he may walk in his ways and commit himself totally to him, as to the highest and most loving Father”.

Hence Bullinger concludes that the covenant is “the source of our religion and the first chapter of it” (haec nimirum religionis nostrae origio & illud caput primarium est).

Bullinger and the Unity of the Old and New Testaments

Having thus surveyed in a broad sweep the message of the law, the prophets, the Gospels and the writings of the apostles in De Testamento, Bullinger summarizes his thoughts on the unity of the covenant on folio 25a. In the sub-section with the subtitle “The unity of the covenant” Bullinger states, “There is therefore one covenant and one church of all the saints before and after Christ, one way to heaven, and one unchanging religion of all the saints (Psalms 14 and 23)”. With respect to the era of the Old Testament and the era of the New Testament he points out that “The times are different, but not the faith”.

Bullinger also inserted a sub-section on “The source of the terms ‘old’ and ‘new’ covenant (folio 28b). After a brief consideration of Jeremiah 31:31,21, Ezekiel 36:26 and Galatians 4:24 he concludes, “…it is certain that the nomenclature of the old and new covenant, spirit, and people did not arise from the very essence of the covenant but from certain foreign and unnecessary things because the diversity of the times recommended that now this, now that be added according to the contrariety of the Jewish people. These additions did not exist as perpetual and necessary things for salvation, but they arose as unchangeable things according to the time, the persons, and the circumstances. The covenant itself could easily continue without them”. Taken at face value it may seem to indicate here that Bullinger is seeing a sort of hiatus between the period of Abraham and that ushered in by the coming of Christ with respect to the law rather than an understanding of progressive revelation.

(see 'The One and Eternal Covenant of God' in An Everlasting Covenant: Biblical and Theological Essays in Honour of William J. Dumbrell (Reformed Theological Review Supplement Series #4, 2010) pp201-233)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Was Bullinger’s Understanding of the Covenant Monopleuric or Dipleuric?

In his The Binding of God (2001), Lillback pointed out the many similarities between Calvin’s understanding of the covenant and that of Bullinger, especially with respect to the responsibilities of God’s people vis-à-vis the covenant. Indeed, a correct understanding of the “conditions” in Bullinger’s De Testamento indicates many similarities with the view of Calvin. Whenever the language of conditionality is employed what is highlighted is that the blessings of the covenant rest on the covenant conditions of faith and obedience in the context that El Shaddai graciously and unilaterally initiates the covenant relationship .

Venema (Heinrich Bullinger and the Doctrine of Predestination, 2002)has also reviewed Bullinger’s understanding of predestination and has demonstrated that, though he did not emphasize it, Bullinger did hold on to reprobation (see a previous post for a detailed account of this). It is true that election is not directly mentioned in De Testamento but this does not mean that election was not important for Bullinger. Thus Venema makes the following conclusion: “Thus, it is not correct to characterize Calvin’s covenant as ‘unilateral’ and ‘monopleuric’, in contrast to the conditional covenant doctrine of Bullinger. Calvin also affirms the bilateral and dipleuric nature of the covenant”. When Bullinger writes about the covenant he emphasizes, at times, its monopleuric dimension while, at other times, he underlines its dipleuric dimension.

Archilla observes, “What is required of humans in the covenant (the so-called human condition) is a response in faith. Faith is indeed expressed through works, but these works are a fruit of faith produced by the Holy Spirit and not a human accomplishment. The patriarchs do respond to God by earning their way into the covenant; rather, they hope in the promise” - Aurelio A. Garcia Archilla, The Theology of History and Apologetic Historiography in Heinrich Bullinger (1992), p17.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bullinger and the Covenant of the Most High God with Sinful Mankind

At the end of this first section of De Testamento (folio 4b) Bullinger alludes to the fact and reality that the Most Holy God, who is immortal and the creator of the universe, can indeed enter into a relationship with sinful mankind when he states, “… it was God Himself who deigned to name this mystery of divine union (unitatis) and partnership (societatis) with a human title. The same also conformed to human foolishness on account of the weakness (imbecillitatis) of our nature in the striking of the covenant or the arranging of the testament” (Peter Lillback, The Binding of God, Dissertation, p501) .

This is further elaborated in folio 6b of De Testamento where Bullinger emphasizes, “For what greater deed than this has ever been heard in the world, that ….. God….. joined himself in covenant with miserable mortals corrupted by sin (Charles S. McCoy and J. Wayne Baker, Fountainhead of Federalism, p105)” . Garcia has correctly concluded that “this is no bilateral covenant between equal partners (Aurelio A. Garcia, “Bullinger’s De Testamento: The Amply Biblical Basis of Reformed Origins”, pp674,675)” but, rather, a concrete example of the accommodation of God to initiate a relationship with humans .

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bullinger and Hermeneutics

Although Bullinger acknowledged his indebtedness to Erasmus whom he regarded as a fine scholar of Greek and although he often consulted Erasmus’ work, Bullinger made conclusions on the text based on his own study of the Greek text using a biblical theological hermeneutic. That is, Bullinger did widely use rhetoric in interpreting Scripture but did not do so blindly.

While expressing amazement at Erasmus’ conclusion in De libero arbitrio, Bullinger revealed in a letter written on 26 January 1526 to Johannes Eizlin and Christoph Stiltz that the use of rhetoric in unpacking the message of Scripture must be carried in the context of exegesis that is faithful to the message of Scripture as a whole:

“I will not dwell now on how inappropriate, ineffectual, and feeble it is so that no pious person could ever praise it for anything but its artifice. But in a controversy of this magnitude a theologian would have been preferable to a rhetorician: what has piety to do with Erasmus’ flourishes or rhetoric?.... Otherwise I honour, look up to and admire Erasmus as the father of his country (i.e. second Cicero), the prince of eloquence, patron of literature, source of humanities and the restorer of languages together with Reuchlin but in holy Scripture I judge him to be the sage of the world. What this sort think to true religion Paul teaches us at the beginning of his letter to the Corinthians”.

In his Ecclesias evangelicas (1552) Bullinger affirmed, on the basis of 2 Peter 1:21, that the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture and, therefore, “not of private interpretation”. By referring to Romans 12:3 Bullinger explains that interpreting Scripture is “to be moderated according to the measure of faith…(moderari ad proportionem fidei)” He further pointed out that, “the Evangelical churches do not receive or recognize any interpretation of Scripture whatsoever, but only that sense which that Scripture in itself demands, which comes from the Spirit of God by whom Scripture is inspired, which agrees with itself throughout and which is in accordance with the rule of faith and love (non quem vis scripturae sensum recipit aut agnoscit ecclesia evangelica, sed eum tantum quam petitur ex ipsa scriptura, qui est ex ipso spiritu Dei, per quem scriptura inspirata est, qui sibi per omnia constat, ac cum regula fidei …. & charitatis concordat)”.

The very first sentence in the Preface to Bullinger’s combined commentaries on the Pauline 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.”

Bullinger sought to write his commentaries on the Pauline epistles in a manner characterized by brevity, faithfully communicating what the apostle intended as well as indicating the major thread of the argument of the apostle. Bullinger explained to the reader:

“I have pointed out whenever an unusual or obscure word appears. I have explained those words which are more difficult. And, as much as I could, I have also smoothed out and even filled out roughness and gaps of the language. I have annotated whenever idioms or metaphors of the Hebrew language occur.”

This declaration indicates that Bullinger had not only mastered the biblical languages philologically but that he was clearly aware of the background to the Greek style that the apostle Paul used, especially his frequent use of ellipsis. Kok noted that Bullinger wrote the commentary “for the sake of the inexperienced and moderately educated.”

(see Irena Backus, “Bullinger and Humanism”, in Emidio Campi and Peter Opitz (eds.) Heinirch Bullinger: Life-Thought-Influence, (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2007), pp637-659; Christine Christ-von Wedel, “Zum Einfluss von Erasmus von Rotterdam auf Heinrich Bullinger”. in Emidio Campi and Peter Opitz (eds.) Heinirch Bullinger: Life-Thought-Influence, (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2007), pp407-424; Diana Clavuot-Lutz, “Eleganter et breviter Erasmus exposuit: Auf Spurensuche in den Predigkommentaren zum Römer- und zum Galaterbrief von Heinrich Bullinger”, in Christine Christ-von Wedel and Urs Leu (eds.), Erasmus in Zürich : eine verschwiegene Autorität, (Zürich: Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2007), pp 193-221; Aurelio A. Garcia Archilla, The Theology of History and Apologetic Historiography in Heinrich Bullinger: Truth in History, (San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1992), pp172,173. The full title of Ecclesias evangelicas is: Ecclesias evangelicas neque hæreticas neque schismaticas, sed plane orthodoxas & catholicas esse Iesu Christi ecclesias, Apodixis, ad illustissimum principem & dominum D. Georgium Comitem Vuirtenbergen. & Montis Bellgradi, &c)

Bullinger's Title Pages

As was Bullinger’s usual practice in all his books, on the title page of De testamento Bullinger cited Matthew 17:5 in the following manner:

This is my beloved son in whom
my soul is reconciled . Hear him!
Matthew 17:5

The particular significance of Matthew 17:5 for De testamento indicates that Bullinger believed that Jesus to be the goal or focus of the covenant, hence His name is printed in upper case. He also sought to underline the fact that God continues to speak to men and women throughout the ages by means of the biblical account of the covenant. Moreover, since the context of Matthew 17:5 is the transfiguration of Christ when Moses and Elijah appeared talking with Him, it is most probable that Bullinger had in the back of his mind the prophet to come referred to in Deuteronomy 18:15. Certainly Bullinger emphasized the significance of Acts 3:25 in De testamento. It is possible that Bullinger may well be indicating that Christ came to bring the new Torah (His Word which would be written on the hearts of men and women in fulfillment of Jeremiah 31) which would replace the Torah of the Old Testament. Thus, in his Answer to Burchard, Bullinger was insistent that one should listen to Christ alone. In citing Acts 26:22 in this work addressed to Burchard, Bullinger sought to demonstrate the sufficiency of Scripture and that traditions and councils were unnecessary.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Zwingliana now in print

The latest volume of Zwingliana is now in print.

Here is a summary of the main articles:

Emidio Campi: "Ecclesia semper reformanda": Metamorphosen einer altehrwürdigen Formel

Christine Christ-von Wedel: Erasmus von Rotterdam zwischen den Glaubensparteien

Judith Steiniger: Ortensio Lando, ein "irregolare" und "capriccioso" zwischen Katholizismus und Reformation: Zu Landos frühen, lateinischen Werken

Jan Andrea Bernhard: Francesco Negri zwischen konfessionellen und geographischen Grenzen

Erich Bryner: "Über den Ausgang des Heiligen Geistes": Eine Schrift eines anonymen Russen als Beilage im Brief von Simon Budny an Heinrich Bullinger vom 18. April 1563

Emidio Campi is the immediate past Director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History while Judith Steiniger is part of the Institute's team working on Bullinger's correspondence.

The website for Zwingliana is: www.zwingliana.ch

Back issues up to 2007 are now able to be read online and downloaded as PDF files. Kudos to Peter Opitz and Christian Moser and the editorial staff of Zwingliana for making Zwingliana so accessible.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bullinger and Henry VIII

The following extended quote from Pamela Biel's book Doorkeepers at the House of Righteousness: Heinrich Bullinger and the Zurich Clergy 1535-1575 gives us an insight to Bullinger’s understanding of church and state.

“Once one considers the general situation of the English church and state in the 1530’s, some of Bullinger’s assertions of the absolute power of the king’s judgment and control over his church become more comprehensible. Bullinger sought to justify the break the English church had just made from Rome while he also hoped to preserve the Episcopal structure intact. He realized that to accomplish these ends, while at the same time perhaps achieving some sort of reconciliation, perhaps via Bucer, of the English church with the Lutherans, he needed to keep Henry as free as possible from both Catholic and incipient Puritan advisors. Thus Bullinger makes a strong case for the potestatis jurdictionis of the king. Henry has the ultimate power and responsibility for the fate of the church in his land. The potential for positive change in England dictates Bulinger’s position.

Bullinger did not, however, believe that the king ought to be left entirely to his own devices when it came to matters of religion. Most of Concerning Sacred Scripture argued from the priority of the Bible in all matters of religion and specifically for the position the ministers as interpreters of Scripture. In the peroration to the king (ie his 1538 work Concerning Sacred Scripture )Bullinger returned to some of the themes that he brought up in the dedication, but now with a slightly different emphasis. Bullinger asserted that although the monarch certainly has the ultimate responsibility for the state of the church in his or her land, the bishops carry some of this weight by virtue of their advisory capacity. The bishops help the king to understand what exactly God wants from him.

Bullinger opened the peroration with the negative assertion that, whatever the abilities of the bishop, even the bishop of Rome, he has no right to reform or attempt to reform the church. Not only does such an attempt appear to be a practical impossibility, but is also a practical impossibility, but it is also out of the realm of the bishop’s duty. ‘For it is not, your serene highness,’ Bullinger argued, ‘that you actually hope fro anything from the Pope, it is rather that the council (of Trent) has sworn truly to attempt a just reformation of the church and the ministry.’ In point of fact, popes and councils have always been at their most dangerous when they have tried to usurp this or any other power which rightly belongs to the ruler.

Henry, moreover, had a wealth of advisers to help him in his difficult job as defender of the faith since ‘today is ENGLAND, your kingdom, there flourishes an abundance of doctors, wise, and pious men.’ God sent such to the monarch fro good and useful purposes:

‘By these advisers, most Christian prince, the common things of religion ought to be regulated. They ought not be judged by any others.’

Thus God did not foist the job of defender of the faith on a helpless monarch, rather God gave the leader adequate advisers fro the task. The bishops, then, are the opening through which Henry’s understanding of Scripture may pass. Like the ancient Levites, the bishops are the ultimate keepers of the sacred things of God.

Bullinger’s tactic was both skillful and persuasive. His dedication placed the responsibility for the faith of Henry’s subjects squarely on the back of the monarch while at the same time it justified the king’s decision to break with Rome. The peroration, with which he closed the booklet, stressed the importance of the king’s seeking and following the expert advice offered by the bishops if he was to decide rightly fro the church in his land.” (pp35-37)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bullinger and the role of the Prophet

In his De prophetae officio of 1532 Bullinger wrote concerning the function of the prophet:

“For it was this one who restored the principle of the testament and the eternal covenant and renewed what was worn out. It is this one who restored to its former splendour the omnipotence and goodness and unity of God which invocation and veneration of other gods had obscured”.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bullinger and Predestination III

In addition to Venema’s book the following works of W. Peter Stephens should be consulted. Stephens was previously professor at Aberdeen. He is an expert on Zwingli and in recent years has been increasingly writing on Bullinger.

“Election in Zwingli and Bullinger: A Comparison of Zwingli’s Sermonis de providential dei anamnema (1530) and Bullinger’s Oratio de moderatione servanda in negotio providentiae, praedestinationis, gratiae et liberi arbitrii (1536)”, Reformation and Renaissance Review, vol. 7.1 (2005), pp42-56.

“Predestination or Election in Zwingli and Bullinger” in Emidio Campi and Peter Opitz (eds.), Heinrich Bullinger: Life – Thought – Influence (Zurich: TVZ, 2004), pp313-334.

In a letter written to Calvin on 1 December 1551 Bullinger appears to implicitly criticize Calvin:

“Now believe me, many are offended by your statements on predestination in your Institutes, and from that Hieronymous (ie Bolsec) has drawn the same conclusion as he did from Zwingli’s book on providence. In fact, it is my opinion that the apostles touched upon this sublime matter only briefly, and not unless compelled to do so and even in such circumstances, they were cautious that the pious were not thereby offended, but understood God to desire well for all men, and also to offer salvation in Christ, which itself can be received not by one’s own worth but by faith which is truly a gift of God. And indeed the elect are chosen on account of Christ and his grace and not on account of any respect of their own; the reprobate perish truly on account of their own guilt, and not by the malice of God”.

Calvin was neither pleased at the official letter from the ministers at Zurich nor at Bullinger’s personal letter to him. He interpreted them as attacks on his integrity and honour. He wrote to Farel:

“I can hardly express to you, my dear Farel, how much I am annoyed by their rudeness. There is less humanity among us than among wild beasts…. Should you be displeased with the general letter of the men of Zurich, let me tell you, that Bullinger’s private letter to me was not a whit better”.

In January 1552 Calvin wrote to Bullinger stating that he was “grieved beyond measure”. Bullinger replied on 20 February 1552 “Explaining to Calvin that he gave the impression of teaching that God had not only foreseen Adam’s fall but predestinated and activated it so that He is made the author of sin. Such a teaching would only scare people away from listening to the gospel, Bullinger added” (see George M. Ella, Henry Bullinger: Shepherd of the Churches (Durham: Go Publications, 2007), p221).

Bullinger’s advice to his son

When Bullinger’s son, Henry, was sent to study at Wittenberg where he boarded with Melanchthon, Bullinger wrote to his son in 1553 giving several words of advice including the following:
1. Fear God at all times, and remember that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom
2. Humble yourself before God, and pray to him alone through Christ. Our only Mediator and Advocate.
3. Believe firmly that God has done all for our salvation through his Son.
4. Pray above all things for strong faith active in love.
5. Pray that God may protect your good name and keep you from sin, sickness and bad company.
6. Pray for the fatherland, for you dear parents, benefactors, friends, and all men, for the spread of the Word of God; conclude always with the Lord’s Prayer, and use also the beautiful hymn Te Deum laudamus.
7. Be reticent, be always more willing to hear than to speak, and do not meddle with things you do not understand.
8. Study diligently Hebrew and Greek as well as Latin, history, philosophy, and the sciences, especially the New Testament, and read daily three chapters in the Bible, beginning with Genesis.
9. Keep your body clean and unspotted, be neat in your dress, and avoid above all things intemperance in eating and drinking.
10. Let your conversation be decent, cheerful, moderate and free from all uncharitableness.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bullinger and Predestination II

In 1551 Bolsec appealed Bullinger’s view in the controversy over double predestination. The Senate in Geneva wrote to the ministers of Zurich for clarification. This letter referred to Bolsec’s repudiation of Zwingli (his view as expressed in his Providentia) while, at the same time, appealing to Bullinger's view in support for his position.

The relevant sentence in the letter reads: Huc quoque accessit quod vestram ecclesiam implicabat. Zuinglium enim prae aliis omnibus damnans. Bullingerum eiusdem secum esse sententiae mentiebatur”.

In one of Bullinger’s personal letters to Calvin he emphasized what he had outlined in the Decades: God is a ‘lover of man’ (philanthropos); because of His mercy God “wants all men to be saved” (vult omnes homines salvos facere; justification is purely because of grace and “not on account of works which man has done” (non per opera quae ipse homo facit); those who are damned are not damned as a result of a fatal necessity that proceeds from God’s will but because they willingly reject the grace of God.

Bullinger wrote:

“Therefore, however many men are preserved, they are preserved by the mere grace of God the savior; those who perish do not perish by virtue of being compelled by a fatal necessity, but because they willingly reject the grace of God. Indeed, there is no sin in God; both this and the blame for damnation inheres in us”.

(Quotquot ergo homines servantur mera Dei servatoris gratia servantur: qui pereunt, non fatali necessitate adacti pereunt, sed quod volentes gratiam Dei respuerent. Neque enim peccatum in Deo ullum: in nobis id et culpa damnationis nostrae inhaeret.)

(see Venema, pp58ff)