Category Archives: Church History

Handbook of European History, 1400-1600

The Handbook of European History 1400-1600 brings together the best scholarship into an array of topical chapters that present current knowledge and thinking in ways useful to the specialist and accessible to students and to the educated non-specialist. Forty-one leading scholars in this field of history present the state of knowledge about the grand themes, main controversies and fruitful directions for research of European history in this era.

Volume 1 ( Structures and Assertions) describes the people, lands, religions and political structures which define the setting for this historical period. Volume 2 ( Visions, Programs, Outcomes) covers the early stages of the process by which newly established confessional structures began to work their way among the populace.

Sounds great.

Something to Look for In Denver

The Opening of the Synod of Dort

Reihe-ADSND_1280x1280A national Synod was called to meet in Dort in 1618 for the purpose of examining the views of Arminius in the light of Scripture. The Great Synod was convened by the States-General of Holland on November 13, 1618. There were 84 members and 18 secular commissioners. Included were 27 delegates from Germany, the Palatinate, Switzerland and England. There were 154 sessions held during the seven months that the Synod met to consider these matters, the last of which was on May 9, 1619. — David N. Steele

The Synod rejected Arminianism.  As do all wise souls.  Since it’s just semi-Pelagianism with a new name.

The good folk at V&R are publishing the entire protocols of the Synod.  It’s fantastic work.

It’s Johannes Eck’s Birth-iversary

eckJohn Eck, more correctly Johann Maier, was born at Eck (now Egg, near Memmingen, south of Augsburg) in Swabia, November 13, 1486. When twelve years of age he began his studies at Heidelberg and continued them at Tuebingen, Cologne and Freiburg. When fourteen years of age he became Magister Artium, when nineteen bachelor of theology, when twenty-two priest at Strassburg, and in 1510, when twenty-four years, doctor and professor of theology in the University of Ingolstadt.

Having studied under humanistic teachers he advocated at first liberal views in theology and philosophy and as early as 1517 entered into friendly relations with Luther. But his unbounded ambition to be regarded as the leading theologian of Germany caused him to become the defender of the papacy and of Catholic doctrine. In 1519, he began his fight against Luther. In 1520, he visited Rome at the invitation of the Pope, when he presented to him his work on the Primacy of Peter against Luther, Ingolstadt 1520, for which he was awarded with the appointment as papal prothonotary. When on June 16, 1520, the papal bull, Exsurge Domine, appeared, in which forty-one propositions of Luther were condemned, Eck was entrusted with its execution in Germany.

At the Diet of Augsburg, Eck took a leading part as defender of the Roman Catholic position. He extracted 404 articles from the works of the reformers and with seventy other theologians collaborated in the Confutatio pontificia, in which the Catholic refutation of Protestantism was embodied.

Against Zwingli and his party, Eck first appeared at the public disputation at Baden, in Catholic territory, twelve miles northwest of Zurich, on May 21–June 18, 1526. The affair ended in favor of Eck, who induced the authorities to suppress the reformation at Baden. The dispution of Berne, which was conducted in the absence of Eck in January 1528, was won for the reformation.

When Zwingli’s account of his faith had been submitted to the emperor in July 1530, it was turned over to Eck for answer. He sat down at once and within three days, as he boasts, he produced what he intended to be a crushing reply. It was completed on July 17, 1530, dedicated to the Cardinal of Liege and printed most likely in the same month at Augsburg.

Eck was more highly esteemed as the champion of the true faith in Rome than in Germany, where he had many enemies. He was accused of drunkenness, immorality, unbounded greed for money and passionate desire for honor and preferment. When Rome did not gratify all his ambitions, he made overtures for peace to the Protestants, but they failed through hatred and contempt by which he was generally regarded.

But through his scholarly attainments, and controversial ability, he made himself the most prominent, and also the most violent opponent of the reformation. He died at Ingolstadt on February 10, 1543. Numerous works in Latin and German testify both to his ability and to his violent temper.*

It’s worth remembering that were it not for Eck, no one would probably have heard of Luther.  You have to take the bad with the good.

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*Huldreich Zwingli, The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli (ed. William John Hinke; vol. 2; Philadelphia: Heidelberg Press, 1922), 62–63.

November 12, 1537- The Day All Genevans Had to Swear Fidelity to Calvin’s Confession of Faith

Nothing could check the zeal of Calvin. On October 30 he presented himself to the council, and set forth various grievances. ‘The hospital,’ he said, ‘is very poorly furnished, and the sick are suffering in consequence. Geneva has a Christian school, and nevertheless some children go to the school of the papacy. Lastly it is to be feared that dissensions will arise between the citizens, for while some have taken the oath as to the manner of living, others have not done so.’ The sick, the young, and peace among the citizens, these were the matters which occupied the mind of the reformer, subjects well worthy of his attention. The council decreed—‘The hospital shall be supplied; all children shall be bound to go to the Christian school, and not to the papistical; and the confession shall be required of all who have not yet made it.’

The confession was that penned by Calvin.  And those who had not sworn to it July 29 of that year were ordered to do so November 12, or leave the city.

Calvin wasn’t one to mess around…

The First World War and the Mobilization of Biblical Scholarship

This fascinating collection of essays charts, for the first time, the range of responses by scholars on both sides of the conflict to the outbreak of war in August 1914. The volume examines how biblical scholars, like their compatriots from every walk of life, responded to the great crisis they faced, and, with relatively few exceptions, were keen to contribute to the war effort.

Some joined up as soldiers. More commonly, however, biblical scholars and theologians put pen to paper as part of the torrent of patriotic publication that arose both in the United Kingdom and in Germany. The contributors reveal that, in many cases, scholars were repeating or refining common arguments about the responsibility for the war. In Germany and Britain, where the Bible was still central to a Protestant national culture, we also find numerous more specialized works, where biblical scholars brought their own disciplinary expertise to bear on the matter of war in general, and this war in particular. The volume’s contributors thus offer new insights into the place of both the Bible and biblical scholarship in early 20th-century culture.

Fascinating!

On the Anniversary of Martin Bucer’s Birth

He’s a guy really worth celebrating. Here’s what Schaff says, briefly-

bucerThe chief reformer of Strassburg was Martin Bucer (1491–1552). He was a native of Alsace, a Dominican monk, and ordained to the priesthood. He received a deep impression from Luther at the disputation in Heidelberg, 1518; obtained papal dispensation from his monastic vows (1521); left the Roman Church; found refuge in the castle of Francis of Sickingen; married a nun, and accepted a call to Strassburg in 1523.

Here he labored as minister for twenty-five years, and had a hand in many important movements connected with the Reformation. He attended the colloquy at Marburg (1529); wrote, with Capito, the Confessio Tetrapolitana (1530); brought about an artificial and short-lived armistice between Luther and Zwingli by the Wittenberg Concordia (1536); connived, unfortunately, at the bigamy of Philip of Hesse; and took a leading part, with Melanchthon, in the unsuccessful reformation of Archbishop Herrmann of Cologne (1542). Serious political troubles, and his resistance to the semi-popish Interim, made his stay in Strassburg dangerous, and at last impossible.

bucer2Melanchthon in Wittenberg, Myconius in Basel, and Calvin in Geneva, offered him an asylum; but be accepted, with his younger colleague Fagius, a call of Cranmer to England (1549). He aided him in his reforms; was highly esteemed by the archbisbop and King Edward VI., and ended his labors as professor of theology in Cambridge. His bones were exhumed in the reign of Bloody Mary (1556), but his memory was honorably restored by Queen Elizabeth (1560).

Bucer figures largely in the history of his age as the third (next to Luther and Melanchthon) among the Reformers of Germany, as a learned theologian and diplomatist, and especially as a unionist and peacemaker between the Lutherans and Zwinglians. He forms also a connecting link between Germany and England, and exerted some influence in framing the Anglican standards of doctrine and worship. His motto was: “We believe in Christ, not in the church.”

bucer3He impressed his character upon the church of Strassburg, which occupied a middle ground between Wittenberg and Zuerich, and gave shelter to Calvin and the Reformed refugees of France. Strict Lutheranism triumphed for a period, but his irenical catholicity revived in the practical pietism of Spener, who was likewise an Alsacian. In recent times the Strassburg professors, under the lead of Dr. Reuss, mediated between the Protestant theology of Germany and that of France, in both languages, and furnished the best edition of the works of John Calvin.*

The best and most thorough biography of the good man was written by Greschat.  And of course you can read most of his stuff here, at PRDL.  Spend some time with Bucer today.  It’s his birthday!

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*History of the Christian church (Vol. 7, pp. 572–573).

The 400th Anniversary of the Synod of Dordrecht

All the fun is described here.

In a six-months program, Hollands oldest city shows how revolutionary the Synod was and what a great and lasting effect it had on Protestantism, culture and society; not only in Europe but also in Asia, Africa and America. And of course in the Netherlands, which has been regarded since as a Calvinist country.

The whole European Calvinist family was represented in Dordrecht 400 years ago. The meeting lasted no less than 180 sessions! Trade, migration and missions spread its mental legacy around the world from the 17th century on till now. We invite everyone to visit Dordrecht, see the beautiful city and enjoy our program.

The Birth of Martin Luther…

luther33Took place on 10 November, 1483. Luther tells the story of his origins thusly:

Concerning my family background, no one can give more trustworthy information than the counts of Mansfeld. I believe that these nobles have enough of a name and authority in the Empire to deserve to be believed on this subject. … I was born, by the way, at Eisleben, and baptized there in St. Peter’s Church. I do not remember this, but I believe my parents and the folks at home.

My parents moved there from [a place] near Eisenach. Nearly all my kinfolk are at Eisenach, and I am known there and recognized by them even today, since I went to school there for four years, and there is no other town in which I am better known. I hope the people there would not have been so stupid that any one of them would call the son of Luther “nephew,” another “uncle,” another “cousin” (I have many of them there), had they known that my father and my mother were Bohemians or other such People, rather than those born in their midst.

The rest of my life I spent in school and in the monastery at Erfurt until I came to Wittenberg. I was also in Magdeburg for one year at the age of fourteen.*

Luther tells Spalatin all this because, at the time he wrote the letter, some were accusing him of being a native of Bohemia.  It is the only place in his writings where he mentions his birth (that I’ve been able to track down).
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*M. Luther, Luther’s works, vol. 48: Letters I, pp. 145–146.

On Luther’s Birthday- The Two Best Recent Bios

 

If you’re looking for really very good very recent bios of Luther- you won’t do better than Volker Leppin’s or Herman Selderhuis’s.

Huldrych Zwingli On The Problem With Pseudo-Scholars

Illustration: Daniel Lienhard/Flyer Reformierte Kirche Kanton Zürich

Illustration: Daniel Lienhard/Flyer Reformierte Kirche Kanton Zürich

They are so ignorant as to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in their essence, substance, divinity, power, that they do not know what you mean when you speak of one and understand all three; and their lack of knowledge is accompanied by such recklessness that what they are extremely ignorant of they all the more violently drag under suspicion.

Or they are so willingly and knowingly impious that they assail with the depravity of a perverted heart what they see is done rightly and piously, and since they despair of accomplishing anything in open warfare, they make an underground attack, alleging a fear that we are too much inclined sometimes towards the Father, sometimes towards the Son. To all such I say, κλαίειν, “fare ill.”

Contra Hubmaier

Zwingli’s Antwort über Balthasar Hubmaiers Taufbüchlein, appeared on 5 November 1525.

It commences (after its Preface to Hubmaier)

Für das erst, das der widertouff ein sect oder ein rott sye, ist offenbar, dann ir anfang hat dise gstalt: Die by uns den widertouff angehebt, habend vormals uns zuegemuotet, daß wir ein besundere kilchen anhuebind. Und do wir inen das nit gestattet, sind sy hinus gefaren uff das land, und habend on alles kundthuon der obergheit der kilchen: der bischoffen oder wächteren, in den wincklen angehebt ze widertouffen.

Nun verstadt mencklich, so sy das liecht geflohen habend, das sy ir meinung vom widertouff der kilchen nit gesagt habend, darinn sy inn angehebt, und darinn ir urteil und bericht nit erwartet, das es offenlich ein sect und rott ist; dann die kilch sol unser leer urteilen 1. Corinth. 14. [1. Cor. 14. 29], Ioan. 10. [Joh. 10. 27]. Denn das sind rotten, die zämenvallend hinder der ordnung, dero sy ordenlich söllend ghorsam sin etc.

Nun habend sy das nit an einem end allein gethon, sunder an gheinem end anderst, dann wie sy zum ersten gethon habend, das ist: ir meinung vor gheiner kilchen offen nie fürgetragen, sunder all weg zum ersten in den wincklen angehebt ze widertouffen.

Hubmaier was the most intellectually gifted of the ‘Anabaptists’ but he was a man given to waffling.  When faced with the prospect of expulsion from Zurich he suddenly came to agree with Zwingli on the subject of baptism and then his conscience got the better of him and he recanted his recantation.

So he was locked up.  And then expelled.

Zwingli’s ‘Answer’ is a fine example of an excellent and yet ultimately unpersuasive defense of infant baptism.  And that primarily for one reason- baptism isn’t like circumcision.  Baptism is an act undertaken by believers.  Circumcision was an act performed upon newborns.

The analogy Zwingli and other defenders of infant baptism cling to – i.e., that just as circumcision served as a sign of the covenant for Israel so too does baptism for Christians – is false.  They are incomparable.

Still, Zwingli being wrong about baptism only means one thing: he wasn’t always right. But even given his disagreement with Hubmaier, his tone is extremely civil (a gift Luther completely lacked) –

Von Erasmus bis zum Sonderbundskrieg: Grundlagen und Wirkung der Schweizer Reformation

Das Gebiet der heutigen Schweiz war für die Reformation und ihre weltweite Ausstrahlung von grosser Bedeutung. Ein personelles Geflecht von Humanisten und Pfarrern, unterstützt von Bauern, Zünften und Stadträten, gab der Bewegung im 16. Jahrhundert nachhaltigen Schwung – und wirkte bis weit über die Landesgrenzen hinaus. Zentrale Protagonisten waren der Basler Humanist Erasmus von Rotterdam, die Zürcher Pfarrer Ulrich Zwingli und Heinrich Bullinger sowie Johannes Calvin in Genf, dessen Einfluss insbesondere in den USA bis heute spürbar bleibt. Vom verheerenden Dreissigjährigen Krieg blieb die Eidgenossenschaft grösstenteils verschont, die Konfessionalisierung war aber auch hierzulande kein konfliktfreier Prozess. Den Abschluss dieser Auseinandersetzungen bildete der Sonderbundskrieg 1847, der – zumindest indirekt – die Basis für den Schweizer Bundesstaat legte.

Mit Beiträgen von:  Christine Christ-von Wedel, Josef Lang, Thomas Lau, Peter Opitz, Jürgen Overhoff, Andrea Strübind

Today With Zwingli: Why He Wrote His “Suggestio deliberandi super propositione Hadriani Nerobergae facta”

zw.jpgA friend, writing from Ravensburg, in Wurtemberg, twenty-two miles east-north-east of Constance, had informed Zwingli, under date of November 2, 1522, that at the Imperial Diet at Nuremberg that year it was declared that the Pope had four plans in hand: “peace between Cæsar and Pompey [i. e., between the Emperor and the King of France]; the annihilation of the cause of Luther; the reform of the Church; and a war against the Turks.”

This was the occasion of Zwingli’s Latin pamphlet, hastily written as usual, entitled: “A suggestion of the advisability of reflecting upon the proposal made by Pope Adrian to the princes of Germany at Nuremberg; written by one who has deeply at heart the welfare of the Republic of Christ in general and of Germany in particular.”

It is characterised by Zwingli’s qualities of clear-mindedness, candour, modesty, and Christian zeal. It contains several skilful quotations of Scripture. It expresses great scepticism as to the reality of the alleged papal schemes except the crushing of Luther; and against that it utters an emphatic protest. No reformation could come from Rome.*

Zwingli concludes this little Flugschrift thusly:

Summa summarum: Nemo tam hebes sit, ut propter Romanenses, qui Germaniam tot sęculis riserunt, quicquam tumulti excitet etiamsi Christi causa non ageretur; iterum nemo tam servili ac abiecto animo, ut, ultro oblata libertate, nolit ea iuxta Pauli verbum potius uti, quam infructuosę imo detrimentosę, servitutis loris teneri. Esaię 8 [Jes. 8. 9f.]: Congregamini populi et vincemini, et audite universę procul terrę! Confortamini et vincemini, accingite vos et vincemini, inite consilium et dissipabitur, loquimini verbum et non fiet, quia nobiscum deus.

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*Samuel Macauley Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (Heroes of the Reformation; New York; London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Knickerbocker Press, 1901), 176–177.

Jesus’ Female Disciples: A Discussion with Helen Bond and Joan Taylor

Ursula: Kinoaufführung in Verbund mit der Ausstellung “Schatten der Reformation”

In den Wirren der Zürcher Reformation verlieben sich Ursula und der Bauernsohn und Söldner Hansli. Ursula hat sich den Täufern angeschlossen – dem «linken» Flügel der Reformation. Diese fordern unter anderem Glaubensfreiheit und die Trennung von Kirche und Staat. Das Sakrament der Ehe lehnen sie ab. Hansli hingegen begeistert sich für die Lehren Huldrych Zwinglis. Erst auf dem Schlachtfeld von Kappel finden die beiden ihr gemeinsames Glück.

Die Verfilmung von Gottfried Kellers Novelle – am Bettagssonntag 1978 ausgestrahlt – wurde wegen ihren zum Teil drastischen Bildern, aber auch wegen ihrer kontroversen Darstellung von Zwingli und den Täufern zum Fernsehskandal.

Etc.

‘Reformation Day’? Nope. ‘Reformations Days’? Yup.

‘Reformation Day’  Nope!’

‘The Reformation’ is a misnomer if ever there were one, for in fact there was no ‘one’ Reformation any more than there was just one Reformer. ‘The Reformation’, when used by students and the general public, usually refers to the Reformation of Martin Luther which commenced at the end of October in the year of our Lord, 1517.

Even then, though, Luther’s intent wasn’t as earth-shattering as later ages took it to be. For Luther, the placement of a series of theses in Latin on the Church Door at Wittenberg Castle was nothing more than an invitation to debate. In other words, Luther didn’t see his act as the commencement of a revolution; he saw it as an academic exercise.

‘The Reformation’ is, then, little more than a label derived from historical hindsight gazing mono-focularly at a series of events over a period of time across a wide geographical landscape. Each Reformer had roots sunk in fertile ground and their work was simply the coming to fruition of generations of shift in the Roman Catholic Church.

Hence, it would be more appropriate to speak of ‘Reformations’ in the same way that we now speak of ‘Judaisms’ and ‘Christianities’. The Reformation was no monolith.

Who, then were the Reformers who gave birth to the Reformations most closely associated with them? They were Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, in just that order.

In 1515 while he was Pastor of the village Church in Glarus, Huldrych Zwingli began to call into question the dependence of the Church on the teachings of the Scholastics. He also questioned the value of the Vulgate for preaching and began earnest study of the Greek New Testament. There, memorizing the letters of Paul (in Greek) he discovered the Gospel which would come to feature so prominently in his Reforming efforts: Salvation is by grace, through faith, and not through works as proclaimed by the Scholastic theologians. By 1519, when he moved to Zurich to become the Pastor of the Great Minster, Zwingli was already well on his way to Reforming the worship of the Church and the administration of the ‘Sacraments’. In short order, within a few years, the Mass was abandoned and replaced by the ‘Lord’s Supper’ and the fixation of the Church on images was denounced and those images removed in due course.

Zwingli’s Reformation was carried out with the cooperation of the City government, which is why Zwingli, along with Luther and Calvin, were to be known to history as ‘Magisterial Reformers’. Not because they were ‘Magisterial’ but because each had the support of their city’s magistrates.

North of Zurich, in Wittenberg, Luther’s Reformatory efforts were coming to full steam around the same time. In 1520 he broke with Rome irrevocably with the publication of his stunning ‘On The Babylonian Captivity of the Church’. From there, there was to be no turning back. And here we must remind ourselves that at this juncture Luther was not dependent on the work of Zwingli, nor was Zwingli dependent on the work of Luther. Both were pursuing reform along parallel tracks, separately.

Further to the West of Switzerland a decade later John Calvin, an exile from France, a lawyer by training and a theologian by training and desire, began his own efforts at Reform. Several years after Zwingli’s death and long after Luther’s demise Calvin plodded away in Geneva attempting manfully to bring that raucous city to heel under the power of the Gospel.

Each of these Reformers were ‘Fathers’ of their own Reformation. Each was, originally, independent of the other and in many ways they tried very hard to retain that independence even when their common foe, the Church of Rome, was the target as their common enemy. Each contributed to ‘The Reformation’ in their own unique way.

If, then, we wish to honor their memory and their efforts, it behooves us to set aside our preconceptions or our beliefs that ‘The Reformation’ began on October 31, 1517. It didn’t. It began in 1515 in Glarus. And it began in 1517 in Wittenberg. And it began in Geneva in 1536.

Happy Reformations Days.

Happy Reformation Day!

Or as I like to call it- Second Reformation Day Initiated by the Third Reformer, Luther, Who Wasn’t the First Reformer (That Was Zwingli, Already in 1515) or the Brightest Reformer (That Was Calvin).  But that’s an awfully long title and it hasn’t really caught on.  Though in order to be historically accurate, it should.

At any rate- Happy Day to all those children of the Reformers!

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Jean_Calvin

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On Reformation Day Tomorrow Don’t Read ABOUT the Reformers, Read the Reformers

Hop over here and read Zwingli. And here you can read Calvin. And over here, Luther. It’s well and good to read about the Reformers in secondary sources. But there’s nothing like reading the Reformers themselves, in their own words. Nothing.

The Role of Women in Zurich’s Reformation

If you’re in Zurich, go to this: