The Wisdom of Zwingli’s Methodology of Reform

S. Jackson writes

Deutsch: Kupferstich Leo Jud (1482-1542); Schw...

Caution was Zwingli’s characteristic. He would move no faster than public sentiment approved. Yet he did his best to form such sentiment. He prepared the way for the change and then quietly let things come to a crisis. So it was with the radical matter of using the vernacular for the Church services; Zwingli advocated it, but Leo Jud, in the baptism of a child in the Great Minster, August 10, 1523, first introduced it, and then when Zwingli found it was popular, he proceeded to reform the liturgy and unfold his novel teaching respecting it.

The reason for Zwingli’s caution and for his allowing others to put into practice Reforms that were necessary was simply that he considered it wise to allow Reform to unfold naturally, from ‘the bottom up’, as it were. When change is forced, it’s wildly resented. When it’s a natural process, an evolutionary movement forward, there may be offended souls but they will be a minority.

It was this easy pace which so annoyed the Anabaptists. They wanted change shoved down the throats of the citizens of the Canton and they wrongly imagined that Zwingli wanted the same thing. They were wrong. He was wise, and they were foolish.

Zwingli’s caution shouldn’t be seen as weakness, but rather as real strength.  If everything is ‘my idea’ I’ll get very little done but if I can plant the seeds of change and then allow others to harvest the fruit, it becomes ‘our Reformation’.  The egomaniacal are incapable of that viewpoint.  Such were Grebel and Manz and Hubmaier.

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