Quote of the Day

“From December 17 until the day of Epiphany, which is January 6, it is not permitted to be absent from church.” – Council of Saragossa (380)

Oh for the good old days when absenting oneself from Church could result in severe penalties.

Today With Zwingli: Departure from Einsiedeln

S. Jackson writes

zwingliOn Sunday, December 19th, at Glarus, he laid down his office as pastor there [in Glarus], and at the same time nominated as his successor his former pupil, Valentine Tschudi. His place at Einsiedeln was given to another friend, on his recommendation—Leo Jud, to whom he wrote thus [on 17 December] concerning the charge: “The people over whom you are to be placed are single-minded and willingly hear Christ preached unto them, even by me as forerunner; the provision is ample, and the administrator [Diebold von Geroldseck] is a man of fair learning, himself most eager for it, and, above all, a lover of the learned.”

zwingliThe chief ruler and the council of the canton of Schwyz, in which Einsiedeln is located, politely expressed regret at his leaving the canton, but congratulated him upon his promotion, and then improved the opportunity to solicit his influence for a protégé of theirs!  All the preliminaries being arranged, Zwingli came to Zurich upon St. John the Evangelist’s day, which was that year on Monday, December 27th, and took up his temporary abode at the Hermit Hotel, which was at the southern angle of the city wall. He was well and honourably received, although there were many in Zurich not altogether favourable to him.  The news of his election naturally occasioned many congratulations from his friends and correspondents.*

Einsiedeln really is a brilliantly lovely place. When you’re next in Zurich, grab a train and head over. There’s loads to see- including a stunning library containing first edition 16th century and later volumes. Or, as I called it while there, heaven.

Here are some photos I took in Einsiedeln in 2014 during the Calvin Conference in Zurich:

*S. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (pp. 119–121).

Crossing Traditions: Essays on the Reformation and Intellectual History in Honour of Irena Backus

Edited by Maria-Cristina Pitassi and Daniela Solfaroli Camillocci (University of Geneva).  Irena Backus’ scholarship has been characterised by profound historical learning and philological acumen, extraordinary mastery of a wide range of languages, and broad-ranging interests. From the history of historiography to the story of Biblical exegesis and the reception of the Church Fathers, her research on the long sixteenth century stands as a point of reference for both historians of ideas and church historians alike. She also explored late medieval theology before turning her attention to the interplay of religion and philosophy in the seventeenth century, the focus of her late research. This volume assembles contributions from 35 international specialists that reflect the breadth of her interests and both illustrate and extend her path-breaking legacy as a scholar, teacher and colleague.

Fun Facts From Church History: Calvin’s Foes and the Ends they Went to In Order to Discourage Him

calvin4It took ten years constant and vigilant police oversight with combined moral and spiritual education to secure to Calvin his triumph over the intrigues of parties and the hatred of base born men. From 1545 to 1555 he felt the utmost venom of their opposition.

At one time he almost despaired and, December 14, 1547, wrote to Farel: “Affairs are in such a state of confusion that I despair of being able longer to retain the Church, at least by my own endeavors.” His opponents were of the same crowd who drove him away in 1538, and though they afterwards submitted, and in the case of one or two, even joined in the invitation for his return, yet under the fretting of his harsh discipline they began serious and offensive resistance.

They nicknamed him “Cain,” and named dogs after him; they threatened him in the pulpit, and fired guns off under his windows; even trying on one occasion to wrest from his hands the sacred elements at the Eucharist. Only an extraordinary man could have resisted the pressure.*

Just remember that the next time your Elders or Deacons call you up and tell you you’re a failure.  At least they aren’t naming their dogs after you… or…. are they?

RT Stevenson, John Calvin: The Statesman, p. 137.

Luther Burns Your Bull

Our Saxon friends write

“Exsurge Domine” (Latin: Arise O Lord) is a papal bull issued on 15 June 1520 by Pope Leo X. It was written in response to the teachings of Martin Luther which opposed the views of the Church. It censured forty one propositions extracted from Luther’s 95 theses and subsequent writings, and threatened him with excommunication unless he recanted within a sixty-day period commencing upon the publication of the bull in Saxony and its neighboring regions. Luther refused to recant and responded instead by composing polemical tracts lashing out at the papacy and by publicly burning a copy of the bull on 10 December 1520.

‪#‎Luther‬ ‪#‎OnThisDay‬

Luther would be burning a lot of bull if he were alive today.  A LOT.


December 8, 1523

That is the date upon which the first report of the Second Zurich Disputation was published according to the account by Ludwig Hetzer in Zurich. The Second Disputation was October 28-30, 1523-

gmHere’s how it happened:

The [City] Council [of Zurich], on Monday before St. Gall’s day (i. e., October 12th), summoned all the clergy of the canton to discuss in a public debate on Monday, October 26, 1523, what should be done about the Church images and also the mass. Urgent invitations to be represented were sent to the bishops of Constance, Basel, and Chur, to the University of Basel, and to each canton.

The answers were characteristic. Constance declared (October 16th) that he would be answerable to both his rulers (Pope and Emperor) if he took part in the proposed disputation; urged the Council to give the idea up, and leave all such questions for answer at the coming General Council. Basel declared that he was too old and weak to make the journey; that only the whole Church should undertake such changes, and also they should avoid schism. Chur sent no reply at all. The cantons, except Schaffhausen and St. Gall, declined to send deputations. Bern and Solothurn replied in friendly fashion, but said the matter should be discussed by the Confederacy as a whole; the abbot of St. Gall politely declined to come; Lucerne reproached Zurich for her persistency in error; Upper Unterwalden was bitter and abusive.

Notwithstanding this rather discouraging result, Zurich persisted and the debate was held. The Council laid down the same general conditions as in January: the language used should be the vernacular; the final authority should be the Word of God. Schaffhausen was represented by Sebastian Hofmeister; St. Gall by Vadian and Schappeler. The burgomaster presided, and 350 ecclesiastics of the canton and 550 other persons were counted as attendants.

The proceedings lasted three days. The first day was given to a debate upon the proposition: the Church images are forbidden by God and Holy Scripture, and therefore Christians should neither make, set up, nor reverence them, but they should be removed. It was resolved to remove them wherever it could be done without disturbance or wounding tender consciences.

Those in prison for the offence of removing them were recommended to mercy, and the burgomaster promised to spare them.

The second and third days were taken up in discussing this proposition: the mass is no sacrifice, and hitherto has been celebrated with many abuses, quite different from its original institution by Christ. The debate being now on a burning question was livelier. Zwingli shrewdly avoided a plain statement as to the exact nature of the elements, for the time had not come for his radical stand, but he showed wherein a representation differed from a repetition of Christ’s sacrifice. He confessed that transubstantiation and its defenders, especially the monks, had too frequently been attacked by abuse rather than by argument, but stoutly declared that the monks were hypocrites, and monasticism was of the devil.

The debate on the third day began at noon, and was in continuation of the preceding. But although so much time was consumed, no decision was arrived at, except to let the Council handle it. It was perhaps noticed that the debate on the third day did not begin till noon. The explanation is that Zwingli preached that morning. So many country preachers could not separate without having a sermon from the leading city preacher. Many months later he expanded the discourse by urgent request, and published it March 26, 1524. It is called “The Shepherd.” In it he contrasts the good and the false shepherds. He set plainly before them the prospect that fidelity would lead to martyrdom. Such was the fate he expected for himself, as appears from his letters.*

The Papist yoke was cast thoroughly aside and Zurich became the first city to embrace Reform.

*S. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (pp. 203–205).

Today is the Anniversary of the Promulgation of the ‘Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary’

Of this ridiculous doctrine, Adolf von Harnack writes

Perhaps the plainest evidence of the decline of an inwardly grounded doctrine of salvation and of the growing attachment of value to creaturely goodness in the last centuries of the Middle Ages, is the doctrine of Mary, as embracing both the doctrine of her immaculate conception and the doctrine of her co-operation in the work of redemption.  We have seen above (Vol. V., p. 235) that even Augustine had doubts as to whether Mary was subject to the general law of sin, and Paschasius Radbertus already knows that Mary was sanctified in the womb. Anselm, certainly, who on this point was more Augustinian than Augustine, had distinctly rejected the immaculate conception (Cur deus homo II. 16); but a few years after his death we meet with a festival in Lyons (1140) in honour of the immaculate conception of Mary, which proves how widely current the superstition had already become in the lower strata of the Church.*

The doctrine, in short, is evidence of the corruption of the doctrine of salvation itself. And nothing less. And, most importantly, the doctrine has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. People who talk about the immaculate conception of Jesus simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

*Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma, ed. T. K. Cheyne and A. B. Bruce, trans. Neil Buchanan, vol. 6, Harnack’s History of Dogma (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1899), 312–313.

After Zwingli’s Death… Bullinger Was Called to Zurich to Take his Place on 9 December, 1531

And he was the ideal replacement.

bullinger54After the disaster at Cappel, [Bullinger left Bremgarten and] removed to Zuerich, and was unanimously elected by the Council and the citizens preacher of the Great Minster, Dec. 9, 1531. It was rumored that Zwingli himself, in the presentiment of his death, had designated him as his successor. No better man could have been selected. It was of vital importance for the Swiss churches that the place of the Reformer should be filled by a man of the same spirit, but of greater moderation and self-restraint.

Bullinger now assumed the task of saving, purifying, and consolidating the life-work of Zwingli; and faithfully and successfully did he carry out this task. When he ascended the pulpit of the Great Minster in Dec. 23, 1531, many hearers thought that Zwingli had risen from the grave.  He took a firm stand for the Reformation, which was in danger of being abandoned by timid men in the Council. He kept free from interference with politics, which had proved ruinous to Zwingli. He established a more independent, though friendly relation between Church and State. He confined himself to his proper vocation as preacher and teacher.

In the first years he preached six or seven times a week; after 1542 only twice, on Sundays and Fridays. He followed the plan of Zwingli in explaining whole books of the Scriptures from the pulpit. His sermons were simple, clear, and practical, and served as models for young preachers.

He was a most devoted pastor, dispensing counsel and comfort in every direction, and exposing even his life during the pestilence which several times visited Zuerich. His house was open from morning till night to all who desired his help. He freely dispensed food, clothing, and money from his scanty income and contributions of friends, to widows and orphans, to strangers and exiles, not excluding persons of other creeds. He secured a decent pension for the widow of Zwingli, and educated two of his children with his own. He entertained persecuted brethren for weeks and months in his own house, or procured them places and means of travel.

He paid great attention to education, as superintendent of the schools in Zuerich. He filled the professorships in the Carolinum with able theologians, as Pellican, Bibliander, Peter Martyr. He secured a well-educated ministry. He prepared, in connection with Leo Judae, a book of church order, which was adopted by the Synod, Oct. 22, 1532, issued by authority of the burgomaster, the Small and the Great Council, and continued in force for nearly three hundred years. It provides the necessary rules for the examination, election, and duties of ministers (Predicanten) and deans (Decani), for semi-annual meetings of synods with clerical and lay representatives, and the power of discipline. The charges were divided into eight districts or chapters.*

And much, much more.  And it all began on the 9th of December, 1531.

* P. Schaff, History of the Christian Church.

December 8, 1532

Luther and Melanchthon never saw eye to eye on the subject of astrology. At the table on 8 December, 1532, Luther remarked

Astrology is not a science because it has no principles and proofs. On the contrary, astrologers judge everything by the outcome and by individual cases and say, ‘This happened once and twice, and therefore it will always happen so.’ They base their judgment on the results that suit them and prudently don’t talk about those that don’t suit.

My Philip has devoted much attention to this business, but he has never been able to persuade me to accept it, for he himself confesses, ‘There is science in it, but nobody has mastered it, for astrologers have neither principles nor knowledge gained from experience, unless they wish to call something that happens experience.’ But knowledge gained from experience is derived by induction from many individual instances, as in the case of this fire: this fire burns, therefore all fire burns. Astrology doesn’t have such knowledge but judges only on the basis of uncertain events.*

I’ve never understood Melanchthon’s attitude towards the nonsense of astrology.  He was too smart for such craziness.   I guess no one is perfect.

*Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 54; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 173.

‘If They Had Been of Us, They Would Have Remained With Us’: Zwingli and the Re-Baptizers

H. Wayne Pipkin’s fine essay titled  «They went out from us, for they were not of US»  Zwingli’s Judgment of the Early Anabaptists is as interesting now as it was in 1992, two decades ago.  He begins

zw941.jpgWe will never know what the Reformation would have looked like if the reformers Luther, Zwingli or Calvin had been able to carry out their reforms without controversy. As it was, the theologies and the churches that emerged were fashioned within the context of vigorous interaction with opponents on the left and right. This commonplace judgment was especially true of the reforming efforts of Zwingli, whose work was early circumscribed by energetic adversaries. Zwingli’s early program was directed against the abuses of the medieval Catholic church in Zürich. He hoped to carry out this reform thoroughly and consistently with the assistance of all the evangelical groups in the city and the region. He expected that support for his campaign would be unquestioned. It was not to be.

You’ll enjoy the entire thing. This passage is especially worth highlighting-

The literary activity of December demonstrates how lively the issues had become once again between Zwingli and his internal opponents. In a letter to Vadian, Grebel noted what he had heard of Zwingli’s activity: «Der Zwingli schribt vom gwalt. Ob er denselben kretzen werd, weiß ich nit; ist wol müglich. Er der Zwingli schribt ouch von den ufrüereren oder ufruor; darf wol unß beträffen. Sähend zuo; eß wirt etwas bringen» (this is the volume refereed to earlier today).

Grebel the Syphilitic was on a tear and he would do his best in rending Zurich to pieces had he succeeded.  Read this true gem in the archives of Zwingliana.

Fun Facts From Church History: Zwingli Was a Better Preacher Than Luther or Calvin

Eyewitnesses to Zwingli’s sermons were always incredibly impressed.  For instance-

Caspar Hedio, subsequently the Reformer of Strassburg, who wrote from Basel to Zwingli on November 6, 1519 (vii., 89), in the following very complimentary terms respecting a sermon he heard him preach at Einsiedeln at Pentecost, apparently of that year, 1519, from Luke, 5:17–26, the story of the paralytic:

“I was greatly charmed by an address of yours, so elegant, learned, and weighty, fluent, discerning, and evangelical, such a one as plainly recalled the energy of the old theologians.… That address, I say, so inflamed me that I began at once to feel a deep affection for Zwingli, to respect and admire him.”*

Other hearers also gushed compliments. There’s little doubt that Zwingli’s success as a Reformer was in no small part based in his success as a brilliant preacher. The best, I suspect, of all the Reformers (since no one seems to have felt as strongly about either Luther’s preaching or Calvin’s).

*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).

Something for the Papists…

Just to show I can have some interest in the terrible wretches so valued by Rome (even though for no good reason)-

Remembering John of Damascus – 4 December

JOHN OF DAMASCUS, surnamed Mansur (d. in extreme old age about 780). He is the greatest systematic theologian of the Eastern church and chief champion of image-worship against iconoclasm under the reigns of Leo the Isaurian (717–741), and Constantinus Copronymus (741–775). He spent a part of his life in the convent of Mar Sâba (or St. Sabas) in the desolate valley of the Kedron, between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. He was thought to have been especially inspired by the Virgin Mary, the patron of that Convent, to consecrate his muse to the praise of Christ. He wrote a great part of the Octoechus, which contains the Sunday services of the Eastern church. His canon for Easter Day is called “the golden Canon” or “the queen of Canons,” and is sung at midnight before Easter, beginning with the shout of joy, “Christ is risen,” and the response, “Christ is risen indeed.” His memory is celebrated December 4.  (Philip Schaff and David Schley Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 4 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910), 405–406.)

Catholic Reform in the Age of Luther

In his portrait of Duke George of Saxony (1471–1539) Christoph Volkmar offers a fresh perspective on the early Reformation in Germany. Long before the Council of Trent, this book traces the origins of Catholic Reform to the very neighborhood of Wittenberg. The Dresden duke, cousin of Frederick the Wise, was one of Luther’s most prominent opponents. Not only did he fight the Reformation, he also promoted ideas for renewal of the church. Based on thousands of archival records, many of them considered for the first time, Christoph Volkmar is mapping the church politics of a German prince who used the power of the territorial state to boost Catholic Reform, marking a third way apart from both Luther and Trent.

Important Women of the Reformation

In his letter of November 30, 1524, Martin Luther made reference to a noblewoman named Argula von Grumbach. Today let’s take a closer look at this very interesting woman.

Argula von Grumbach was born into the Bavarian noble family known as von Stauff in 1492. She was given a good education and, at the age of ten, her father gave her a copy of the Koberger Bible, a contemporary German-language translation. Her parents both died of the plague in 1509 and her uncle, Hieronymus von Stauff, became her guardian. At the age of sixteen, she became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Kunigunde, the wife of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. It was possibly here that her serious theological study began.

In 1516, Argula married Friedrich von Grumbach with whom she had four children. Her study of theology, especially the works of Martin Luther and Phillip Melanchthon put an enormous strain on their marriage.

Argula came to the attention of the theological world when she wrote a letter to the Rector and faculty of the University of Ingolstadt in 1523. A young faculty member named Arsacius Seehofer, who had studied in Wittenberg, brought the writings of Melanchthon and Karlstadt into his class, and was arrested for his Lutheran views. Argula’s letter was strongly worded and filled with scriptural references. She admitted that she did not know Latin and so may not have been as well educated as they, but she knew her Bible and would make her case from that.

The letter was published in pamphlet form, widely disseminated, and soon her name was impugned in sermon’s across Bavaria. The defamation did not stop her. Argula continued writing letters encouraging the reformers in their work.

Argula never considered herself a Lutheran. Luther, however, referred to her positively in his letters and even met her while he was at the Coberg Castle during the meetings at Augsberg which led to the Augsberg Confession.

Her letter writing apparently lasted only a few years. The reason isn’t clear but may have partially been due to the fact that the Reformation did not take a strong hold in Bavaria. Unclear also is when Argula died. But Argula von Grumbach’s name still lives among us as a defender of the faith through the written word.

The picture “Argula von Grumbach while explaining the Scriptures” is from the website ciekawostki historyczne.

-Rebecca DeGarmeaux for Katie Luther

Predestination and Preaching in Genevan Theology from Calvin to Pictet

Given the conclusions of recent research, that predestination was no central dogma to, and did not affect the method of reformed theology, this study investigates the question of if and how the doctrne of predestination affected the ideas and practice of preaching. The relation of predestination and covenant, congregation, atonement, faith etc. are researched in the theology and sermons of John Calvin, Theodore Beza, John Diodati, and Theodore Tronchin, Francis Turretin, and Benedict Pictet.

This study shows that in Genevan Reformed Theology from Calvin to Pictet, predestination and the external call were inseparably connected, but that the doctrine of predestination neither dominated the content nor restricted the address of the external call.

Today With Calvin: In Dispute With Hesshuss

On November 28, 1554 Calvin published a tract against one Hesshuss of Westphalia who had involved himself in dispute with the Reformer on the subject of the sacraments. That was a pretty bad idea on the part of Mr Hesshuss- for Calvin noted in the Preface:

It is the property of Satan to slander, to darken the light; and as the father of contention, to destroy peace, and break the unity of the faith. Such being the characteristics of this babbler, nothing remains for us but to designate him a child of the devil.”*

Yes, it’s a bad idea to annoy Calvin, known to many as ‘Mr I-Won’t-Put-Up-With-Any-Of-Your-Nonsense!’  I like that about him.

*The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer Volume 2 (281). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

Reformation of Prayerbooks: The Humanist Transformation of Early Modern Piety in Germany and England

In her study Chaoluan Kao offers a comprehensive investigation of popular piety at the time of the European Reformations through the study of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant prayerbooks. It pursues a historical-contextual approach to spirituality by integrating social and religious history in order to yield a deeper understanding of both the history of Christian piety and of church history in general. The study explores seven prayerbooks by German authors and seventeen English prayerbooks from the Reformation and post-Reformation as well as from Lutheran, Anglican, and Puritan traditions, examining them as spiritual texts with social and theological significance that helped disseminate popular understandings of Protestant piety. Early Protestant piety required intellectual engagement, emphasized a faithful and heartfelt attitude in approaching God, and urged regular exercise in prayer and reading. Early Protestant prayerbooks modeled for their readers a Protestant piety that was a fervent spiritual practice solidly grounded in the social context and connections of its practitioners. Through those books, Reformation could be understood as redefining the meanings of people’s spiritual lives and re-discovering of a pious life. In a broader sense, they functioned as a channel of historical and spiritual transition, which not only tells us the transformation and transmission of Reformation historically but also signifies the development of Christian spirituality. The social-historical study of the prayerbooks furthers our understanding of continuity, change, and inter-confessional influence in the Christian piety of early modern Europe.

V&R have provided a review copy.  Stay tuned.