Thursday, December 30, 2010

More on Ella on Bullinger

The following quote from Ella’s book (pp168-170) indicates quite a different view of Calvin to most scholars:

“Though many scholars have emphasized Calvin's dependence on Melanchthon, Zwingli and Bucer, few have compared Calvin’s Institutes with Bullinger’s works. Walter Hollweg in his Heinrich Bullingers Hausbuch written in 1956 devotes an entire chapter to Bullinger’s enormous influence on Calvin’s Institutes, in particular the 1550 version. He states that Calvin is not guilty of plagiarism but leaves the impression that Calvin avoids the charge merely by rewording Bullinger in the numerous passages taken from him. Hollweg points out that Calvin not included Bullinger’s themes and Scriptural proofs but even the examples Bullinger gives to illustrate them. Gillian Lewis, writing in 1986 has obviously little to say about Bullinger’s influence as Calvin is his subject. However, soon after writing of Calvin’s death, Lewis turns her (sic) gaze on Bullinger and, not surprisingly, but rather critically says that Bullinger sat like a spider in the centre of the web of the Reformation. When we turn to evidence given in the recent works of Fritz Büsser, especially his Die Prophezei of 1994 in which he compares Calvin closely with Bullinger, we find there is just cause to question the idea that is so dominant in today’s Reformed churches that Calvin, under God, was the rock on which the Reformed faith was built.

As one studies the growth of Calvin’s Institutes from the six chapters of the first 1536 edition to the eighty chapters of the last 1559 edition one is amazed at the industry of the author. However, it is a compendium of Wittenburg, Strasburg and Zurich theology with very little new thought in it. Indeed, the doctrines which are outlines in it were fixed Reformed doctrines long before the major editions of the Institutes were written. Thus any influence this work has had on the theological development of other countries such as Holland, England, Scotland and the New World, is because of the thorough-going Reforms of Saxony, Pomerania, Hessen, the Palatine and the Swiss and Upper German states which had already produced enough spiritual giants to transform Protestant world theology. Though Calvin’s name alone is on the title page, its contents proudly proclaim the names of Zwingli, Melanchthon, Bucer, Capito and Bullinger besides Calvin’s own. This goes also for Calvin’s church order which is built solidly on the Strasburg orders. The one big difference between the French-speaking Reformation and the Swiss-German Reformation is that the former viewed the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as methods of establishing church discipline whereas the latter saw them as modes of preaching the gospel to all who would receive it. Unlike Calvin, Zwingli and Bullinger never sought to discipline their people by threats of exclusion from the privileges of sitting under the gospel.”

The section of Hollweg’s book is chapter 3 of the second part: “Der Einfluss des Buches auf die Insitutio Calvins und den Heidelberger Katechismus” (pp235-238). Hollweg cites a letter dated 18 August 1545 from Leonhard Soerinus from Znaim and Bullinger’s subsequent reply concerning Soerinus’s query about Bullinger’s opinion of the Institutes.

More on Zwingli and the Lord’s Supper

An earlier post considered the stimulating article of Peter Opitz that considered Zwingli’s liturgy for the Lord’s Supper, Aktion und Brauch des Nachtmals, that Zwingli prepared in 1525. This work represents a the climax of a growing understanding of the Lord’s Supper since the moment Zwingli considered Scripture freed from the traditions of the Roman church.

We know, for example (as referred to in an earlier post) that the 18th of his Sixty Seven Theses (developed for the First Zurich Disputation of 1523) declares:

“That Christ, having sacrificed himself once, is to eternity a certain and valid sacrifice for the sins of the faithful, wherefrom it follows that the mass is not a sacrifice, but is a remembrance of the sacrifice and assurance of the salvation which Christ has given us.”

Clearly, by 1523 Zwingli opposed the Roman view of the mass being a resacrifice of Christ. It also appears that in this same year that he began to reject transubstantiation. This may be deduced from a letter written 15 June 1523 to his former tutor at Basel, Thomas Wittenbach, who was then living at Biel. Zwingli wrote: “Just as you can dip someone a thousand times in the water of baptism but if he has no faith it is in vain, so too, I think, the bread and the wine remain unchanged to the unbeliever.”

The following is the footnote from G.R. Potter, Zwingli (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976) pp150,151:

“‘Ego haud aliter hic panem et vinum esse puto, quam aqua est in baptismo, in qua frustra millies etiam ablues eum, qui non credit.’ This long and important letter was not intended to be a full discussion of the subject but an indication of the way Zwingli’s thoughts were moving. He does however indicate clearly that it is the faith of the recipient that is effective and alone matters. It is unprofitable to enquire how it works for the believer: ‘quicquid hic agitur, divina virtute fieri, modum autem nobis penitus ignotum, quo deus illabatur animę, neque curiosos esse in hac re oportere, quam soli fideles sentiant.’ It is apparent that it was the problem of the veneration paid to objects, to images and statues, which was the urgent issue at the moment. This forced a consideration of the veneration of the reserved sacrament, and hurriedly and without any full argument Zwingli comes out against this practice. For him the believer received the body and blood of Christ at the time of reception, but there was not opus operatum irrespective of any faith, and the bread, after consecration and apart from the commemorative act of the Last Supper, remained plain bread and could not be adored without idolatry.”

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ella on Bullinger

George Ella has written Henry Bullinger: Shepherd of the Churches (Durham: Go Publications, 2007). As far as I can ascertain, there appear to be very few reviews of this work or even mention of it in the literature. I have referred to the work in some previous posts. Ella takes the view that Calvin was greatly influenced by both Bucer and Bullinger. This area of research deserves greater attention. Ella raises many interesting perspectives but is somewhat light on documentation backing up his conclusions.

The following is an excerpt from Ella’s book (pp167,168):

“In February 1536, whilst Bullinger was working on the Helvetic Confession, he met Calvin for the first time. At this theological workshop, Bullinger announced that the First Helvetic Confession should be a continuation of the Swiss Reformation as expressed in Zwingli’s In Expositionem Fidei ad Regem Christianum Expositio of 1531 which was re-published parallel with the Confession. This work was a systematic presentation of the Christian faith which Zwingli had given to Francis I. Bullinger’s aim was to show that Luther’s wild criticism that Zwingli was a heretic and an Anabaptist had no grounds whatsoever. It was merely because Luther was ignorant of Zwingli’s written works and confessed that he could not understand his spoken words and was basically very prejudiced. In his forward to the Expositio, Bullinger said that he was reprinting it as ‘an answer to all slanderers of the evangelical faith and evangelical preaching and to give them an apologeticum quondam absolutum. So as to bring the work up to date on Reformation issues, Bullinger added a treatise on the Protestant Lord’s Supper and the Roman Mass and a liturgy to be used at the communion service. Without needing to speculate as to whether Calvin’s work as Ford Lewis Battles says of Calvin’s Seneca Commentary, ‘a learned parroting of various classical views’, it does appear that Calvin wanted to do for French readers what had already been done for readers of the various German dialects between 1520 and 1536. Calvin’s action is most untypical of the Reformers, however, in that his Institutes gives few sources and Calvin does not acknowledge his obvious enormous reliance on the works of other, first generation, Reformers. It was as if, in seeking to support and teach the second generation of Protestants in France, Calvin wished to be seen as going entirely his own way.

It is interesting to note how scholars, in writing on one subject as a notable event, tend to close their eyes to others which occurred at the same time, and which would make their eyes to others which occurred at the same time, and which would make their subject less remarkable. M. Howard Reinstra, Director of the H.H. Meeter Center for Calvin Studies in his Preface to Ford Lewis Battles’ edition of the 1536 Institutes says, ‘1536 was not a particularly memorable year’, and he goes on to day of Basle, ‘In that year, in that city, an aging scholar dies, and a younger scholar published the first edition of his ‘little book’, as he affectionately called it.’ This reference to the death of Erasmus and the debut of Calvin as a systematic theologian leaves out the historical fact that the First Helvetic Confession was drawn up on Basle early in 1536, thus paving the way for the Reformed Church which Calvin was to join thirteen years later at the singing of the Consensus Tigurinus. It also fails to see the historical and theological importance of the drawing up of the Helvetic Confession in which the leading Swiss-German Reformers distanced themselves from the popish teaching which they saw in Luther’s attitude to the sacraments. Furthermore, it fails to appreciate the lasting importance of Bullinger’s extended publication of Zwingli’s Expositio, a work which is still highly favoured amongst Reformed scholars and still in print and which outlined long before 1536 elements of Reformed teaching on the Lord’s Supper which Calvin was not to acknowledge until 1549.”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Again on Bullinger and the English Church

Bullinger’s sermons from The Decades on the sacraments were published in English by the Parker Society as Sermons on the Sacraments by Henry Bullinger. The following is taken from the preface:

“Henry Bullinger was regarded as one of the most learned men of his time; and was distinguished also, for his piety, christian wisdom, and moderation. All the Fathers of the English Reformation held him in great esteem; and to many of them he afforded a hospitable refuge from the Marian persecution. He afterwards did good service to the Church of England by the letters which he addressed to different individuals in this country, during the disputes which grew up in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, respecting Ecclesiastical affairs. For although Bullinger himself, in common with many of the continental Protestants, preferred the disuse of the sacerdotal Habits, and had acquiesced in the Presbyterian Discipline, yet he constantly exhorted those of the Puritan faction in England to abstain from dividing Christ’s Church merely for the sake of their scruples respecting a particular kind of dress: and he, moreover, counseled the English Bishops that ‘it ought especially to be provided that there should not be any high authority given’ to those of the ‘Presbytery’. By this decided expression of his opinion, Bullinger greatly served the cause of Order; insomuch that in a joint Letter written to him by Bishops Grindal and Horn, those eminent persons attribute chiefly to his instrumentality the favourable change which, they inform him, had taken place in the feelings of the people toward the Church. Bullinger, in fact, was one of those who offered to make Edward VI the temporal Defender of the reformed continental Churches, and had expressed a willingness to have Bishops after the model of the Anglican Church. He, therefore, regarded those restless persons who were for abolishing Episcopacy in England, as no better than selfish innovators who, like the ‘seditious Tribunes of Rome,’ were, ‘by virtue of the Agrarian Law,’ for so bestowing ‘the public goods that they might enrich themselves.’

We need not, therefore, be surprised to find that among the writings of the continental Reformers, those of Bullinger were held in marked estimation by the Anglican Divines. An example of this occurs in the circumstance, that the University of Oxford selected Bullinger’s Catechism as one of those books which the Tutors were required to use, for the purpose of imparting sound religious principles to their Pupils…… The reason given in the Preface (ie of the English translation of The Decades) for selecting the Sermons of Bullinger for translation, in preference to the ‘worthie works’ of other ‘famous Divines’ of that time, is, that some of the ‘sort’ of Ministers for whom the labour was undertaken complained ‘that Calvin’s manner of writing in his Institutions is over deep and profound for them… Therefore questionless no writer yet in the hands of men can fit them better than Master Bullinger in these his Decades, who in them amendeth much Calvin’s obscurity with singular perspicuity; and Musculus’ scholastical subtility with great plainness and even popular facilitie.’”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Opitz on Zwingli and the Lord’s Supper

Peter Opitz, who heads the Institute for Swiss Reformation History in Zurich, recently delivered at the Sixteenth Century Conference this past October in Montreal a paper on Zwingli and the Lord’s Supper.

The paper is entitled: “At the Table of the Lord: to Zwingli’s View on the Lord’s Supper.” It can be downloaded via Jim West’s blog:

In this paper, Opitz takes issue with the often assumed view of Zwingli: that Zwingli “spiritualized” the Lord’s Supper with a result that Christ was not “really” present and that, therefore, the elements of bread and wine are mere “empty signs”.

Opitz draws attention to the liturgy for the Lord’s Supper developed by Zwingli in 1525: Aktion und Brauch des Nachtmahls. In this context, I believe that 1525 to be a critical year as it was the year that Bullinger gave input to Zwingli re the Lord’s Supper and, thereby, re the covenant.

Opitz’ focus on Zwingli’s liturgy is important. For it is one thing to scour Zwingli’s works and then piece together Zwingli’s thoughts on the Lord’s Supper. I have pointed out in a previous post that many of Zwingli’s earlier writings were “negative” in that they were attacking the Roman view. It is another thing to consider Zwingli’s liturgy as this gives us a window as to how he actually regarded the Lord’s Supper in practice.

The 18th of his Sixty Seven Theses (developed for the First Zurich Disputation of 1523) declares:

“That Christ, having sacrificed himself once, is to eternity a certain and valid sacrifice for the sins of the faithful, wherefrom it follows that the mass is not a sacrifice, but is a remembrance of the sacrifice and assurance of the salvation which Christ has given us.”

It can be seen for this statement how many people rush to the conclusion that, for Zwingli, the Lord’s Supper was primarily a “remembrance”. However, Opitz explains that, for Zwingli, the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of remembrance. It is also a liturgical activity commanded by Christ.

Opitz explains this as follows: “Zwingli names what happens during the Lord’s Supper, a ‘realization’ or an ‘assurance’ of the reconciliation of the person with God. The Lord’s Supper is thus a celebration of an event that has occurred and is therefore essentially a thankful, joyful and confessional meal. Zwingli’s liturgical blueprint Aktion und Brauch des Nachtmals is an attempt to put this theological idea into a liturgical form…..According to Zwingli, Christ called his church to act in a certain manner after his death, namely to celebrate Communion continuously until the eschatological meal at the accomplishment of his kingdom (Luke 22:30)”.

Opitz also explains that, for Zwingli, the Lord’s Supper is celebrated in the “Gefletz” – ie on he very level at which the congregation is seated. Zwingli’s practical instructions involved a sermon, the reading of 1 Corinthians 11:20-29 and then the passing of the bread and wine around the church by the members themsleves. Thus, as the bread was passed around everyone could break off a piece ‘with his own hand.’ For Zwingli, the Lord’s Supper was truly a gathering at the table of Christ. Christ is the host. He makes the invitation: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-burden, and I will give you rest.”

John 6:47-63 would have been read during the distribution of the elements. This was to underline the fact that “Christ describes Himself as the true spiritual ‘bread of life’, and in the ‘I’ form invited people to come to him. It is Christ’s intention to give peace to the ‘weary and heavy-lade’. Therefore, eating and drinking the elements occurs under the ‘promise of peace’ from the host – Christ. The church is invited to come to the table that Christ has prepared, just like beggars in the parable of the dinner (Luke 14:15-24)”.

Opitz also points out that, for Zwingli, “Therefore the Lord’s Supper does not only remind of Christ’s death, but rather the entire life of God’s Son among with people: A life of caring for the ‘tax collectors’ and ‘sinners’. Here, in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s death for the sins of the world, Christ’s earthly deeds and his care for the poor, sick and lost, and the outlook at the kingdom of God are present”.

The emphasis on “table fellowship” also points to a growing and deepening relationship between the believer and God and between the believer and other believers. It is the church militant in fellowship with the church triumphant: “the Lord’s Supper becomes the place where Christ’s entire life and work is present as a scene: His earthly life, his suffering on the cross, his being at the right hand of the Father, promising to celebrate the meal again in the future kingdom”.

Thus, Opitz cites from the preface of Zwingli’s liturgy: “Necessary and helpful in no small way, for the spiritual memory of the death of Christ, to strengthen faith and brotherly loyalty, for improving life, and for protecting Christians from the vices of their own heart.”

In other words, the Lord’s Supper serves to aid the believer to keep on dealing with sin in his or her life God’s grace is offered but the believer is cautioned about misappropriating God’s grace. That is why Opitz points out: “It is no coincidence that in Zwingli’s liturgy, not only the famous words consecrating the Lord’s Supper are provided. The whole passage, where Paul outlines a “Christian Order for the Lord’s Supper’ in 1 Corinthians should be read”. That is, the warning passage was always read.

Finally, Opitz cites Zwingli against Eck where he appeals “to the Spirit of Christ and its (sic – he means 'his') multi dimensional effects in the sacraments”:

“Preach the salvation given by God and lead the human senses towards this salvation; at the same time; they spark faith, a faith which is also promised to your neighbor, and they lead to brotherly charitable love. And this is all effectuated, when it occurs, by the one and the same spirit”.

Opitz concludes his paper by declaring that Zwingli did not spiritualize the Lord’s Supper. Rather, “the table was the point where the vertical, spiritual dimension, and the horizontal, human dimension, could meet.”

To Professor Opitz we say: Vielen Dank für Ihre aufschlussreichen Gedanken!

More on Bullinger and the English Church

The following is taken from Gulley’s dissertation:

On August 12 (1538), Nicholas Eliot in England wrote Bullinger a brief note stating that the latter’s books ‘are wonderfully well received, not only by our king but equally so by the lord Cromwell ….’ He concluded with an interesting comment: ‘Your writings have obtained for you a reputation and honor among the English, to say nothing of other nations beyond what could possibly be believed.

In September of that year Partridge wrote again to Bullinger from Frankfort giving the official account of the distribution of Bullingers letters and books. Upon arriving in England, Partridge and his companions made a call upon Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who received Bullinger’s book ‘most courteously.’ They asked Cranmer to deliver on their behalf a copy of the book intended for Henry VIII. At first the Archbishop refused, saying that Cromwell should perform that service, but after reconsideration, he agreed to make the presentation on two conditions; first, he must read the book lest he be guilty of recommending something of which he knew nothing, and secondly, provided the youths would be present at the presentation in case the king had any questions. As it happened, the copy was sent to the king by Cranmer and evidently was received favourable, for the king expressed the desire ‘to those around him, that it should be translated into English.’ A third copy was presented to Cromwell who was so pleased with the present that he read through it immediately, ‘notwithstanding he was overwhelmed with business.’ Indications are that a copy was sent to Bishop Ridley of London, for we are informed that he inquired of Bullinger and desired to write ‘in reply.’ A fifth copy was presented to Sir Edward Wooton, who received the book ‘with the greatest satisfaction,’ and promised to be at Bullinger’s service ‘if he can oblige in any way.’ The sixth copy was presented to Bishop Latimer who was most eager to write in reply. Partridge commented to Bullinger of the presentation: ‘Nothing, believe me, was ever more gratifying to him in the whole course of his life, than the present you sent him.’”

This excerpt from Gulley’s dissertation “The Influence of Heinrich Bullinger and the Tigurine Tradition upon the English Church in the Sixteenth Century” (Vanderbilt) pp 37-40 clearly underlines Bulinger’s influence on the English Church.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bullinger and the English Church

I have just had access to a copy of Frank Gulley’s dissertation: “The Influence of Heinrich Bullinger and the Tigurine Tradition upon the English Church in the Sixteenth Century” (Vanderbilt). I believe Gulley became professor of Church History at Vanderbilt. From time to time this dissertation is referred to in the literature. It is full of insightful comments and probably hasn’t received the recognition it justly deserves. Although Carrie Euler mentions the work in the bibliography of her Couriers of the Gospel: England and Zurich, 1531-1558 Torrance Kirby appears to make no mention of it in his The Zurich Connection and Tudor Political Theology. I hope to do a few posts citing sections of Gulley’s dissertation.

The following are references to Bullinger’s influence on the English church as cited by Gulley:

“Many years ago Allen Hinds wrote: ‘At the head of the Zurich church was the erudite Bullinger, a man universally respected, and who exercised and continued to exercise a vast influence over the English Protestants of all opinions.’ His judgment was also echoed by the learned Maitland a few years later: ‘A better example of a purely spiritual power could hardly be found that the influence that was exercised in England by Zwingli’s successor, Heinrich Bullinger. Bishops and Puritans argued their causes before him as if he were the judge.’ Even today Bullinger’s influence has been recognized by H.F. Woodhouse: ‘While one can endorse the general statement that the Anglican divines sought from continental Protestants inspiration and guidance, it is possible that a case might be made out that Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor, had more influence than any other single figure, ….’”

The references are:

Allen Hinds, The Making of the England of Elizabeth (New York: Macmillan and co., 1985), p43

F.W. Maitland, “The Anglican Settlement and the Scottish Reformation,” The Cambridge Modern History, ed. A.w. Ward et al (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1902), II, p597

H.F. Woodhouse, The Doctrine of the Church in Anglican Theology 1547-1603 (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1954), p167

Bullinger and Colossians 2:11

This following quote from The Decades in the section concerning circumcision reveals Bullinger’s understanding of Colossians 2:11. Unlike many modern exegetes who spend time comparing and contrasting the pros and cons of a subjective genitive or an objective genitive of te peritoume tou Christou, Bullinger sees this passage through the intimate link between the Old Testament and the New Testament. For Bullinger, circumcision in the Old Testament prefigures the circumcision Christ does on believers through the Spirit.

“The grace of God, therefore, was not tied to the sacrament of circumcision: but yet it was not despised and neglected of the holy saints of the old church, but used to the end for which it was ordained, that is, to be a testimony and a seal of free justification in Christ, who circumciseth us spiritually without hands by the working of the Holy Ghost.” Parker Edition p175)

The Latin is:

Ergo sacramento circuncisionis gratia dei non fuit alligata, sed iccirco a sanctis veteris ecclesię non spreta nec neglecta, sed usurpata in illum finem, ad quem instituta erat, ut esset testimonium et sigillum gratuitę iustificationis in Christo venturo, qui circuncidit spiritualiter sine manibus per spiritum sanctum. . (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p349)

The modern German translation is:

Folglich war die Gnade Gottes nicht an das Sakrament der Beschneidung gebunden. Sie wurde aber deshalb von den Gläubigen der alten Kirche nich verachtet, sondern zu dem Zweck gebraucht, zu dem sie eingesetzt worden war, nämlich um Zeugnis and Siegel zu sein für die freiwillig gewährte Rechtfertigung im künftigen Christus, der geistlich, ohne Hände, durch den Heiligen Geist bescheidet. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p11)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gordon on Bullinger

R. Ward Holder has just edited The Westminster Handbook to Theologies of the Reformation (Westminster: Louisville, 2010). Holder has recently edited some very interesting and thought provoking works.

In this book, Bruce Gordon (formerly of St Andrews, Scotland) of Yale has written the entry on Bullinger. Gordon does not require any introduction as he has published prolifically. His book on Calvin has been widely acclaimed while The Swiss Reformation won a major prize. Together with Emidio Campi (former professor at Zurich) he edited Architect of Reformation which contains essays on Bullinger.

Allow me to cite Gordon’s article on Bullinger in full:

“Bullinger, Heinrich (1504-75). Bullinger was a Swiss reformer, theologian, and leader of the Zurich church from 1531 until his death. His influence extended across Europe through his publications, correspondence and network of contacts. His best known work was the Decades, but he wrote biblical commentaries, histories, and pastoral tracts, all of which were widely translated. On the whole he remained faithful to the theology of Huldrych Zwingli, though significant modifications arose from polemical battles with Anabaptists, Lutherans, and Catholics, his relations with other Reformers and reform movements, and his pastoral work as head of a large territorial church. He did not write a definitive theological work: his Decades were never intended as a treatise of systematic theology, but without doubt they represent his principal concerns and ideas. Bullinger’s early theology was deeply influenced by Zwingli, Martin Luther, and Philip Melanchthon, particularly his 1521 Loci Communes.

Bullinger emerged as a reformer in the years following the outbreak of the controversy between Wittenberg and Zurich over the Lord’s Supper, and the hostilities dominated his life. From Zwingli he took up the importance of the covenant (De Testamento, 1534), but there was movement in his thought. From the later 1530’s, following his extensive commentaries, a shift toward pneumatology (De origine erroris, 1539) is detectable. This found full expression in the Decades of 1549, where it is placed alongside other key aspects of Bullinger’s theology, including the covenantal continuity of the Old and New Testaments and the Bible as a unified witness to God’s revelation.

Following Zwingli, Bullinger was particularly interested in sanctification and the ethical and communal nature of Christianity. He followed Zwingli in his conception of society as a corpus Christianum in which magistrates exercised authority over the church, whose authority resided in its prophetic witness to God’s Word. He moved beyond Zwingli in his willingness to speak of a spiritual presence in the sacraments, though he rejected any contention, against John Calvin, that the outward forms of the sacraments are instruments by which God conveyed grace. Bullinger’s reformation emphasis on grace alone was always accompanied with the exhortation to the Christian life.

In Bullinger’s mature theology the Spirit and its actions of sanctification, vivification, and communion with Christ are powerful and recurring themes. He emphasized the commandment to love, and in his extensive vernacular, pastoral literature enjoined the faithful to good works in the service of the community. Bulligner was a profound writer on the Christian life, continuously exploring the ways in which Christians should imitate Christ through humility, suffering, and self –negating love.” (pp29,30)

Many of Gordon’s comments are spot on. However, I would like to point out the following:

• I don’t follow the line that Bullinger followed on from Zwingli with respect to the covenant. I would actually like to argue that it was Bullinger who gave significant input to Zwingli re the covenant.
• No mention was made in the short article or either Bullinger’s biblical-historical-theological work The Old Faith nor of the significance of the Second Helvetic Confession.
• Although Gordon does mention Bullinger’s influence across Europe I think special mention should be made of his influence on England – see the works of Torrance Kirby and Carrie Euler for starters.
• I think Gordon is correct to refer to the importance of pneumatology for Bullinger which may, in fact, have been greatly influenced by Zwingli. However, I am not necessarily convinced that there was a shift to pneumatology commencing with De origine erroris. There must surely be a ‘slip of the pen’ in the last paragraph which should read “In Bullinger’s mature theology the Spirit and His (not its) actions …”
• A previous post of mine has referred to the work of Mark Burrows who concludes that Bullinger virtually identified justification with sanctification. I was looking for Gordon’s comment on this as I am still seeking to discover what Bullinger actually said about justification and sanctification.

These comments aside, we must thank Gordon for stimulating more thought on the significance of Bullinger in the 16th century.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bullinger and an Environment for Studying the Word of God

These photos of of the Kreuzgang or quadrangle beside the Grossmunster at Zurich give us an inkling of the sort of environment that Bullinger had for teaching the Word of God to generations of pastors.

Bullinger and Circumcision: Stone Knives

Recently, at a home exhibition, my wife bought a ceramic knife. Apparently it is the must have accessory for the modern kitchen because it is hygienic and can cut very sharply. For example, it can apparently cut tomatoes much more thinly than stainless steel knives.

What has this got to do with Bullinger? It reminded me of a comment that Bullinger made with the respect to stone knives used for circumcision in the Old Testament. In sermon of The Decades Bullinger goes to great detail to see how the ceremonies were fulfilled in Christ. Occasionally he cites writers such as Lactantius but he usually does not refer to the source of his ideas. After referring to knives of stone used for circumcision (at Exodus 4:25 and Joshua 5:2) Bullinger writes the following:

“Moreover, circumcision did signify and testify that God Almighty, of his mere grace and goodness, is joined with an indissoluble bond of covenant unto us men, whom his will is first to sanctify, then to justify, and lastly to enrich with all heavenly treasures through Christ our Lord and reconciler. For that was the meaning of the stony knife; because Christ the blessed Seed, is the rock of stone out of which do flow pure and cleansing waters; and he by his Spirit doth cut from us whatsoever things do hinder the mutual league and amity betwixt God and us: he also doth give and increase in us both hope and charity in faith, so that we may be knit and joined to God in life everlasting, which is the blessed and happy life indeed.” (Parker Edition p174)

The Latin is:

Deinde significabat, imo et attestabatur circuncisio deum omnipotentem ex mera gratia et bonitate cohaerere indissolubili foederis nexu cum hominibus, quos velit sanctificatos iustificare omnibusque coelestibus donis locupletare per Christum. Ideo enim adhibebatur culter saxeus sive petrinus. Christus enim semen illud benedictum est petra, ex qua unde profluunt purificantes, ac ipse nobis spiritu suo resecat, quaecunque amicitiam inter nos et deum mutuam impediunt, idem confert et auget spem et charitatem in fide, ut deo coniungi et cohaerere possimus in aeternum, que est vere beata et felix vita. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p348)

The modern German translation is:

Zweitens bedeutete, ja bezeugte di Beschneidung auch, dass der allmächtige Gott aus lauter Gnade und Güte durch ein unzertrennliches Band mit den Menschen verbunden ist. Diese möchte er heiligen, gerecht machen und durch Christus mit allen himmlischen Gaben bereichern. Deshalb nämlich wurde ein steinernes Messer verwendet. Denn, Christus, der gesegnete Nachkomme, ist der Fels, aus dem die reinigenden Wasser fließen und er schneidet mit seinem Geist von us alles ab, was die Freundschaft zwischen uns und Gott behindert. Ebenso vermehrt er die Hoffnung und die Liebe im Glauben, damit wir zu Gott kommen und auf ewig mit ihm verbunden bleiben können. Das ist das wahrhaftige, selige und glückiche Leben. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p10)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bullinger and Sanctification vis-à-vis Justification

Mark Burrows has written an oft cited article: “‘Christus intra nos Vivens’, The Peculiar Genius of Bullinger’s Doctrine of Sanctification”, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, vol 98 (1987), pp48-69. In this article Burrows concludes that Bullinger sees a very close link between sanctification and justification.

As far as I am aware, there has yet to be a detailed study of the works of Bullinger to either sustain this conclusion or otherwise.

The following quotation from The Decades might be a starting point. It occurs in a section where Bullinger discusses circumcision:

“Moreover, circumcision did signify and testify that God Almighty, of his mere grace and goodness, is joined with an indissoluble bond of covenant unto us men, whom his will is first to sanctify, then to justify, and lastly to enrich with all heavenly treasures through Christ our Lord and reconciler.” (Parker Edition p174)

The Latin is:

Deinde significabat, imo et attestabatur circuncisio deum omnipotentem ex mera gratia et bonitate cohaerere indissolubili foederis nexu cum hominibus, quos velit sanctificatos iustificare omnibusque coelestibus donis locupletare per Christum. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p348)

The modern German translation is:

Zweitens bedeutete, ja bezeugte di Beschneidung auch, dass der allmächtige Gott aus lauter Gnade und Güte durch ein unzertrennliches Band mit den Menschen verbunden ist. Diese möchte er heiligen, gerecht machen und durch Christus mit allen himmlischen Gaben bereichern. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p10)

Bullinger and the “Conditions” of the New Covenant

In The Decades Bullinger has this to say about the new covenant after pointing out that God’s covenant with mankind is “most excellently of all, most clearly and evidently” seen in Jesus:

“In that testament (ie the new testament) Christ alone is preached, the perfectness and fullness of all things; in it there is nothing more desired than faith and charity.” (Parker Edition p170)

The Latin is:

In eo solus praedicatur Christus perfectio et plenitude omnium, in eodem nihil post fidem et charitatem exigitur. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p345)

The modern German translation is:

Darin wird Christus allein als Vollendung und Vollkommenheit aller Menschen verkündigt, darin fordert er nichts als Glauben und Liebe. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p5)

Bullinger’s comment might be compared to the ideas expressed in “Love for God – A Neglected Theological Locus” by John A. Davies in John A. Davies and Allan M. Harman (eds.), An Everlasting Covenant: Biblical and Theological Essays in Honour of William J. Dumbrell (Reformed Theological Review Supplement #4 – Doncaster, Australia: 2010)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bullinger and Philippians 1:21

Not only did Bullinger view human history from the standpoint of salvation history in which God’s covenant with mankind was integral but he also saw his own life in terms of God’s plans for his life. He truly lived according to Philippians 1:21. He recovered from the Black Death of 1564-1565 which claimed the lives of his wife, Anna, and his daughters Margaretha, Elizabeth and Anna (and some of there children). This is not to mention Blarer, Gessner, Froschauer and Bibliander.

While he was very weak his friends assured him of their prayers for him. To this, Bullinger replied:

“If the Lord will make any further use of me and of my ministry in his church, I shall willingly obey him; but if shall please (as I much desire) to take me out of this miserable life, I shall exceedingly rejoice; as I shall be delivered from a wretched age, to go to my Saviour Christ. Socrates was glad when his death approached; because, as he thought, he should go to Homer, Hesiod, and other learned men, whom he supposed he should meet in the other world. How much more do I rejoice, who am sure that I shall see my Saviour Christ, the saints, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and all the holy men, who have lived from the beginning of the world. Since, I say, I am sure to see them, and partaker of their joys, why should I not willingly die, to be a sharer in their eternal society and glory.”

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bullinger’s Importance for the English Reformation

Bullinger’s commentaries began appearing in English in the 1530’s. An extant letter from this period by Nicolas Eliot refers to them. This undated letter to Bullinger from Bullinger’s English friend and pupil expresses the following compliments:

“Not only the church of Zurich, but other churches which are in Christ, bear witness to the skill, and purity, and simplicity of faith, with which you have expounded the whole Bible, and especially the epistles of St. Paul. And how great weight all persons attribute to your commentaries, how greedily they embrace and admire them, (to pass over numerous other arguments) the booksellers are most ample witnesses, whom by the sale of your writings alone, from being more destitute than Irus and Codrus, you see suddenly becoming as rich as Croesus. May God therefore give you the disposition to publish all your writings as speedily a spossible, whereby you will not only fill the coffers of the booksellers, but will gain over very many souls to Christ, and adorn his church with more previous jewels.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bullinger’s Common Places

Just over two years ago I came across an MA dissertation in the Central Library at Zurich. The dissertation is by David Grant Smith from the University of Virginia (1992) and entitled “The Influence of Heinrich Bullinger on Early English Covenant Theology”. As far as I can see, this work has not been published as a journal article. Nonetheless, the small section I photocopied contains a mine of information and insightful reflection on Bullinger.

The following is an extract from this dissertation where Smith makes some comments on the Common Places which is the English translation of Bullingers Summa:

“In the section entitled, ‘That God has bound man to him, unto salvation and perpetual worship’ we see this important summary, joining the covenant of God with justification by faith:

‘For religion seemeth not so much to have her name of reading as of binding. Are bound unto God, and joined in league through his free mercy (as has been said) by faith. Therefore the covenant of God and true religion are all one. And they are religious, which being (con)federates joined in league with God, do cleave unto his word and honor and serve him despising all other things.’

Here we see what appears to be faith-based and a works-based justification juxtaposed. Bullinger may have been aware of the potential to distort his doctrine legalistically, however; elsewhere in his listing of covenant conditions he adds (to my knowledge, for the first time in his writings) ‘and if it come to pass, that he do err and fall, that therefore he be not without hope of pardon, but that trusting unto God his bountifulness, he repent, and stand unto his mercy, and follow God.’ Although Bullinger uses the word ‘if’ (following the Biblical terminology of 1 John 2:1), the implication may well be that it is impossible for man to keep the covenant conditions perfectly. The law does show Christians what to do and not to do, but man cannot fulfill the law in his own strength. Those justified by faith are endued with the spirit, which impels them to live after the commandment of the law, ‘and that they do’. But this is not perfect obedience because ‘infirmity remains in the faithful throughout their lives.’ Their works are not acceptable of themselves, but because of their reconciliation by Christ, their works are ‘allowed by God’”.

David, if you are reading this out in blogosphere do please make contact. Your work deserves the recognition it justly deserves. I kick myself for not photocopying more of the dissertation when I was in Zurich that time.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bullinger and Humility

Jim West's blog ( has this quote from Bullinger:

All luxurious attire, all pride, and everything unbecoming to Christian humility, discipline and modesty, are to be banished from the sanctuaries and places of prayer of Christians. For the true ornamentation of churches does not consist in ivory, gold, and precious stones, but in the frugality, piety, and virtues of those who are in the Church. Let all things be done decently and in order in the church, and finally, let all things be done for edification. — Heinrich Bullinger

Reading Bullinger and Calvin

It is well attested that Calvin wrote his Institutes to stimulate his readers to read his commentaries and, therefore, reflect deeply on the Scriptures themselves. This is clearly evident from the familiar words Calvin addressed to the reader:

“Moreover, it has been my purpose in this labor to prepare and instruct candidates in sacred theology for the reading of the divine Word, in order that they may be able both to have easy access to it and to advance in it without stumbling. For I believe I have so embraced the sum of religion in all its parts, and have arranged it in such an order, that if anyone rightly grasps it, it will not be difficult for him to determine what he ought especially to seek in Scripture, and to what end he ought to relate its contents. If, after this road has, as it were, been paved, I shall publish any interpretations of Scripture, I shall always condense them, because I shall have no need to undertake long doctrinal discussions, and to digress into commonplaces. In this way the godly reader will be spared great annoyance and boredom, provided he approach Scripture armed with a knowledge of the present work, as a necessary tool” (John T. McNeill (ed.), Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion vol 1, (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2006), pp 4,5)

It is clear that Calvin viewed the Institutes as a “necessary tool” or hermeneutical guide for reading Scripture. In this connection, Ganoczy has expressed the link between Calvin’s Institutes and the text of Scripture in terms of the “first hermeneutical circle” (Alexandre Ganoczy, “Calvin als paulinischer Theologe”, in Wilhelm Neuser (ed.), Calvinus Theologus, (Neukirchen, 1976), pp 39-69. “Hermeneutical circle” is used in the abstract to translate ‘hermeneutisch Leitfaden’). Scripture and the Spirit constitute a “second hermeneutical circle”. Such a ‘hermeneutical circle’ is evident in Calvin’s comment on Romans 3:28 where, in the context of alluding to the epistle of James and the meaning of justification, he urges the reader, “On this subject, see my Institutes” (John Calvin (translator: Ross Mackenzie), The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), p 79).

Calvin was concerned that the Institutes guide his readers through what he referred to as the “labyrinth” of the Scriptures. Thus the concept of sola scriptura was somewhat nuanced.

Bullinger, on the other hand, was concerned that his readers develop the skills to rightly interpret Scripture. His starting point was the perspicuity of Scripture. He believed that God communicates to men and women intelligibly and that this can be discerned through judicious application of rhetoric in interpreting Scripture. Thus, in his commentaries, Bullinger did not deal with every textual or philological detail (contra, for example, Bucer’s commentary on Romans). Bullinger sought to write in a manner characterized by brevity, faithfully pointing out the major thread of the arguments of the particular book of Scripture. In his commentaries Bullinger sought to give a concise overview of the major themes on the book (eg a Pauline epistle) with a view that his commentaries would be aids to assist the reader to preach the message of the book from the pulpit. This accords with Bullinger’s emphasis that to preach the Word of God is the Word of God (Praedicatio verbi Dei est verbum Dei).

The message of the Bible as a whole from the stand point of biblical theology is reflected in particular works of Bullinger that would have been in the hands of the pastors he targeted, viz De Testamento, der alt gloub, The Decades and the Summa christenlicher Religion. His strategy was for his readers to be familiar with these works and, therefore, of the overall message of Scripture. Bullinger expected his readers to draw the lines, as it were, linking his various works which would have been in their hands.

This can be illustrated from the following quote from The Decades 3.viii:

“Touching the likeness and agreement, the unlikeness and difference of both, I mean, the old and new testaments or people, I have therefore spoken the more briefly, because I have in the first sermon of the first decade, and in the sixth sermon of the third decade, aleady handled the selfsame matter. Finally, I have but shortly touched the abrogation of the law, because I did a good while ago set forth two treatises; the one Of the ancient faith, the other Of the only and eternal covenant of God; which treatises I know to be familiar among you”. (Parker Edition p299)

Here, Bullinger directly refers to der alt gloub which was translated into English as The Old Faith. He also refers to De Testamento which, strangely, was not translated into English.

The Latin of the above quote is:

Paucioribus haec de similitudine et congrentia, item de discrimine et differentia utriusque tam veteris quam novi populi et testamenti perstrinxi, quod hoc negotii attigerim sermone 1. Decadis 1., item sermone 6. Decadis 3. denique in negotio de abrogatione legis et quod olim quoque de antiqua fide et de unico aeternoque dei testamento tractatus ediderim, quos scio vobis esse familiarissimos. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p412)

The modern German translation is:

Nur kurz habe ich geredet über die Ähnlichkeit und Gleichheit aber auch über die Unterschiede beider Testamente und beider Bundesvölker, des alten und des neuen, weil ich dieses Thema schon in der ersten Predigt der ersten Dekade, dann in der sechsten Predigt der dritten Dekade und schließlich in der Abhandlung über die Aufhebung des Gestzes angeschnitten habe, und weil ich bereits früher Abhandlungen veröffentlicht habe über den alten Glauben und über das einzige und ewige Testament Gottes, von denen ich weiß, dass sie euch wohl bekannt sind. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p133,134)