To Reform or Not to Reform: The First Zurich Disputation

Opened on the 29th of January, 1523 and during the disputation Zwingli and his colleagues urged the clerics and burgermeisters of the Canton to adopt Zwingli’s reformatory theology.  Abandon the ‘mass’, purify worship and Church, update the laws of the Canton in conformity with the Gospel, and adopt a more authentic version of Christianity than was presently being practiced.

Philip Schaff does a brilliant job of describing this exceedingly important event and includes among his observations:

On the same day the magistracy passed judgment in favor of Zwingli, and directed him “to continue to preach the holy gospel as heretofore, and to proclaim the true, divine Scriptures until he was better informed.” All other preachers and pastors in the city and country were warned “not to preach anything which they could not establish by the holy Gospel and other divine Scriptures,” and to avoid personal controversy and bitter names.

The disputation soon produced its natural effects. Ministers took regular wives; the nunnery of Oetenbach was emptied; baptism was administered in the vernacular, and without exorcism; the mass and worship of images were neglected and despised. A band of citizens, under the lead of a shoemaker, Klaus Hottinger, overthrew the great wooden crucifix in Stadelhofen, near the city, and committed other lawless acts. Zwingli was radical in his opposition to idolatrous and superstitious ceremonies, but disapproved disorderly methods, and wished the magistracy to authorize the necessary changes.

One thought on “To Reform or Not to Reform: The First Zurich Disputation

  1. irishanglican 29 Jan 2010 at 10:31 am

    Schaff was such a great Christian all around! Mercersburg theology was well ahead of its time, with JW Nevin. But Charles Hodge and American Presbyterianism won the day sadly, rather than German Reformed.


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