Understanding God’s Incomprehensible Providence

zwingli453We struggle and waver in the matter of Providence. When It presents Itself before our eyes so plainly that we are forced even against our will to see It, regard It, and execute Its commands, we yet bid ourselves to hope for results according to our own desires.

This recklessness sometimes goes so far that it promises us the treasures of the Indies even in spite of the Deity. But however we clamor and whatever we devise, the plans of God remain unchanged. Tyrants scheme, and restless peasants, far less skillful and happy in plotting than they, also scheme, the one to strangle the sprouting germ of the Gospel, that the boundless extortions with which they keep up every lewdness and luxury may not be brought to light, nor the distinction between right and wrong be seen, lest the wiles of their crooked lives and words be discovered, and they be no longer able to cover up their violence with the name of righteousness, if ever the people understand what force and right are; the others to see how under pretense of championing the Gospel they can aim at unrestrained wantonness rather than at the liberty of a free man.

Does not greed urge them on as much as it did Balak and Balaam? But what purpose will finally succeed? Certainly not Balak’s, however much he rages and fears for his kingdom, for the camp of Israel will be safe under the protection of the Lord; nor the purpose of Balaam boiling with greed, for the Gospel of Christ seeketh not wantonness nor wrong. But the purpose of the Lord will be victorious, in accordance with which He has determined to cleanse His Church of the worst rubbish, not to introduce it therein.*

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*The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli, (Vol. 2, p. 231).

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.”

Today With Zwingli in His Letters

The 8th of November, 1528, was an interesting day in Zwingli’s life.  Two letters from two colleagues were written on that day.  The first, by his old friend Oecolampadius; and the second, by his new friend Bullinger.  Oecolampadius’ letter discusses various matters and then gets to the meat in a discussion of the descent of Christ into hell.  Bullinger’s is more a tweet than a letter, but it also mentions the descent of Christ into hell.

Oecolampadius writes

Gratia et pax a Christo. Ut monebas, mi Huldrice, Capitoni insinuavi fideliter de civitate nostra impetranda. Is in hęc verba scripsit: “Nescio, quid ad tuas respondeam. Non sumus ignavi, sed oportet ut omnia per occasionem. Queruntur varii varia. Bellua multiceps est status reipublicae popularis. Horrent plerique incertissimas actiones amicorum nostrorum. Sunt, qui Constantiam ob Christi professionem communem sibi de futuris sociis pollicentur. Sed nova omnia gnaris suspecta habentur. Audi nunc alia. Venere huc Metenses quidam; ii nunciant, praeclaram famam apud suos esse de foedere civitatum sanciendo; duodecimus Novembris, quo die fędus meditatum sancietur; nam articulos aiunt conscriptos esse et ferme comprobatos. Verum de ea re nobiscum summum est silentium; tametsi non dubitemus, sic esse conventum inter primores rerumpublicarum Germanię huius nostrę. Reliqua coniice et pronuncia, quid qua occasione interea.” Hęc Capito, in sinum tuum effundi voluit.

Ipse non omnibus nunciis fidit. Cęterum nos hic memores erimus, quid per Christophorum commiseris. Utinam audire nos dignentur nostri. Bernensem tumultum speramus in magnam gloriam Christi cessuram, tametsi a traditoribus illi ecclesię metuamus, ne optimates in periculum, unde vix evadant, introducantur. Versor nunc in “Daniele”. Supputationem LXX hebdomadarum iuxta Eusebii mentem tractabo. Tu si certiorem habes, oro communices; nam omnes alię tam Hebraeorum quam ecclesiasticorum minus quadrant, neque satisfaciunt, quae Bucerus in Mathęum et Capito in Oseam. Certa enim hoc loco expectantur.

Pręterea non te latet, quomodo Benedictus Erasmo nostro in Schaffhusen in materia descensus Christi ad inferos adversetur. Ipse sic definio mecum: animam quidem Christi a corpore solutam, divinam, commigrasse ad patres, quocunque tandem loco illum quieti cum Abraham expectarint, et illos sui revelatione ad maiora introduxisse gaudia, ut ipse primogenitus illis aperuerit paradisum. Scio quidem spiritus locis non circumscribi; definiuntur tamen alicubi esse. Unde et patres mea sententia non impie tradiderunt, Christum ad illos descendisse liberatorem. Si tibi hęc sententia non improbatur, bene; gratię deo, qui ita unamines idem ubique sentire facit. Sin minus, ostende paucis, quid tu sentias, ut, si questio illa vulgo ventilari ceperit curiosius, non dissentias. Facile enim cedo meliora afferentibus.

Vale.
Basileę 8. Novembris 1528. Oecolampadius.
Huldrico Zwinglio, suo charissimo fratri.

And then Bullinger’s ‘tweet’

Gratia et pax a domino. Rogo te plurimum, Zuingli mi, ut paucis mihi mentem tuam adaperias atque edoceas, quid rei sit, quod Christum ad inferna descendisse confitemur. Sunt enim ex doctis hodie non pauci, qui mira hic comminiscuntur, interim ut nihilo minus ipsi sese torqueant et lectores avidos a se dimittant.

Vale.
Heilrijch Bullingerus tuus.
Hulderycho Zuinglio, fratri in domino charissimo.

No response has been found- but Bullinger went on to later include a discussion of the ‘descent’ in his ‘Decades’ – in the Sermon on the Apostle’s Creed (First Decade, Sermon 7).  May we find there something of Zwingli’s thought?  Who knows.  But perhaps.

Was Zwingli Naive?

zwingliDas hat man nun davon. Im Bemühen darum, die Geschichte der Reformation etwas lebendig zu machen, habe ich mich in einem Podiumsgespräch (zu?) weit vorgewagt. Auf die Frage, ob Zwingli nicht auch Fundamentalist gewesen sei, habe ich geantwortet, in dem Sinne, als er sich allein auf die Bibel als Fundament beziehen wollte, ja. Aber das sei nach heutigem Verständnis auch naiv, denn man könne, wie man heute wisse, mit der Bibel ja wirklich alles begründen. Meine Aussage über Zwinglis «Naivität» war also eingeschränkt zu verstehen. Aber natürlich trotzdem irgendwie vermessen, dem Zürcher Reformator in irgendeiner Weise «Naivität» vorzuwerfen, auch wenn wir Reformierten ja keine Heiligen kennen, und gerade Zwingli ja darum bat, ihn aufgrund der Heiligen Schrift eines Besseren zu belehren.

Zwingli hatte wohl unbestritten ein sehr optimistisches Verhältnis zur Bibel. In humanistischer Begeisterung lernte er Altgriechisch, um den vor 500 Jahren durch Erasmus herausgegeben «Urtext» des Neues Testaments zu verstehen. Mit seinem Amtsantritt als Leutpriester am Zürcher Grossmünster begann er, die Bibel öffentlich zu übersetzen und auszulegen. Mit seiner Bibelpredigt begeisterte er Menschen in Zürich und bewegte die Politik, den Stadtstaat Zürich im Sinne der Bibel umzubauen. Dabei kam es gerade nicht zu extremen Erscheinungen der Reformation wie anderswo. Selbst ein «Bildersturm», den man sich, inspiriert von der Tempelaustreibung Jesu, ziemlich heftig vorstellen kann, ging weitgehend anständig organisiert vonstatten. Zwingli mit seinen Leutpriesterkollegen und der Rat reformierten Stadt und Kirche Zürichs zwar innert kürzester Zeit, aber mit grossem politischen und geistlichem Geschick. Also ganz bestimmt nicht «naiv»! Vielmehr optimistisch und mutig: Im alleinigen Vertrauen auf Bibel und Christus verliess man die römisch-katholische Heilsanstalt. Und diese Reformation aufgrund des Wortes Gottes veränderte Kirche und Gesellschaft nachhaltig und mit weltweiter Wirkung.

And the rest.

Today With Zwingli: Good People, Don’t Fall For Eck’s Deceptions

On 6 November, 1524 Zwingli published Antwort an den Rat in Zürich über Johannes Ecks Schrift und betreffend den Anschlag der neun Orte in Frauenfeld. Its thesis is simple- Johannes Eck is a deceiver and what he says in his silly book about Reform is foolhardy falsehood.

Zum andren, so Egg – er habe das uß eigner bewegnus beredt oder versoldet anghebt, welchs nit allein Christen, sonder alle wysen wol und offenlich mögend erkennen – überein hatt wellen mit mir disputieren, hab ich imm christenlich erbott zuogeschriben, und one alles leichen, ableinen oder schühen geoffnet, mit was form ich sölchs mit imm an die hand nemen well, und darinn offenlich ußgetruckt, ob er unsere Eydgnoßen darby welle haben, sye mins gevallen, und den platz genennet: Zürich, da ich gelert hab, da sölle ich ouch bericht werden, ob ich unrecht gelert hab, damit die verfuerten, wo imm also wär, widrumb gebessret wurdind. Ja, so die bede stuck so offenlich beschehen sind, vormal gewert und ietz darwider gestritten, und nütz des minder für und für zuo Abentzel und Basel gewert wirdt, und ich mich mit so glychen waffen dem Eggen ze Zürich uff den plan gestellet hab, so verhoff ich, eim yeden vernüfftigen – ich geschwig gotzförchtigen – sye häll und offenbar, was Egg, oder die inn uffrüstend, für sich genommen habind.

Eck… Don’t believe him, he just makes stuff up!

Today With Zwingli: The Second Disputation with the Re-Baptizers

November 6, 1525 was the date of the conference. The Anabaptists assembled in great numbers from all the villages of the canton, and their cause was defended by Grebel, Manz, and Blaurock. The debate lasted three days and was confined principally to the doctrine of baptism. Once more the victory remained with Zwingli, and this time it was more decided than before. When the disputation was ended the Council published in substance the following decree:

“The Anabaptists and their followers having for three successive days disputed in the Town Hall, in our presence and in the presence of the whole community, and each and every Baptist without any hindrance having spoken his quarrel, dispute, and opinion, it hath from first to last appeared that Master Ulrich Zwingli, with his followers, has completely overcome the Anabaptists, demonstrated the invalidity of Anabaptism, and on the other hand established the validity of infant baptism. Therefore we hereby command and enjoin all persons, man or woman, young man or maiden, to abstain from such Anabaptism, and we authorize infants only to be baptized.”

The three Anabaptist leaders were called upon to publicly confess their errors. This they persistently refused to do, and the Council ordered them to be placed in prison. All this time Zwingli was laboring diligently in his sermons and writings for the extinction of the Anabaptist errors, persuaded that in this course only lay the hope of final success. Gradually the turbulent and insurrectionary spirit ceased. The public disputations had served to expose the error, and the Anabaptists and their cause became more and more unpopular.

The credit of suppressing the uprising is due almost wholly to Zwingli’s untiring efforts. When the movement had been so thoroughly quelled that it no longer attracted public attention, the leaders were released on Zwingli’s petition, with the admonition to watch their ways more carefully in the future. It was not long, however, before they began once more to hold meetings and incite the people. Manz and Blaurock were again imprisoned, and Grebel would have suffered a like fate had he not fled.- Samuel Simpson’s bio of Z.

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) –

An Interview With Professor Bruce Gordon About His New Book on Zwingli

It is my profound pleasure to share this interview with Prof. Gordon regarding his new book on Zwingli, just out in many parts of the world and due out in America at the end of the month. You can pick up a copy from the publisher here. While you’re at it, you should also pick up his work on Calvin. It is brilliant.

JW– Thank you, Professor for talking about your new book with us. I’ve not had the chance to read it, so what follows comes from the point of view of a person interested in the book, but not familiar with its contents. The title is intriguing. Why call Zwingli an ‘Armed Prophet’?

BG– The title is a reference to Machiavelli’s The Prince, where he refers to the Florentine Girolamo Savonarola as “an unarmed prophet” because he did not grasp the relationship between religion and politics. Much of the biography is about the consequences of Zwingli’s alliance with the political authorities in Zurich and beyond and the nature of a religious reform movement so dependent on power. I wanted to catch the ambiguity of a man who saw himself in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets but was willing to use contemporary forms of power to bring about the Reformation. For Zwingli, being a prophet meant interpreting scripture correctly, and even for his friends there were last questions about whether he had.

JW– What about Zwingli intrigues you most?

BG– He was a person of enormous energy and imagination. He was a brilliant scholar and writer, perhaps one of the greatest of his age, and he was able to win over a large number of people to his vision of a changed church and society. Zwingli was the most significant person in creating what become the Reformed tradition of Christianity, the form of the faith inherited and developed by Heinrich Bullinger, John Calvin and others. They built on what he created. Zwingli did not do it alone, and many of the key ideas were not his, but he had the ability to draw together theological, institutional, social, and political possibilities into a coherent program of change. The church that emerged in the 1520s had no earlier model. It was a form of Christianity that had never existed before. I was fascinated by a man who loved poetry, music and nature was also such a charismatic – and often divisive – leader.

JW– What about Zwingli disappoints you most?

BG– Like many prophetic leaders, he was absolutely convinced of his cause and of himself. That was crucial given the world in which he lived, but he was so persuaded that once exposed to the Word of God that the people would convert that he could not see how that might not be the case. He could never understand why people took positions different from his. Why would they remain Catholics or support the recruitment of mercenaries? He saw the world around him in binaries ways that resulted in some very bad decisions. He embraced political and military power as crucial to his cause and that immediately led to the violent nature of the Reformation: Anabaptists were imprisoned, banished and later drowned, and there was no room for those who disagreed, dissented, or thought otherwise. It is dangerous to impose modern standards on a sixteenth-century person, but without doubt his zeal led to terrible consequences, including his own death on a battlefield in a war that should never have happened.

JW– What one main idea about Zwingli do most Americans who do know of him get wrong?

BG– The most obvious mistake is that he simply stands for some form of bare memorialist position on the Lord’s Supper. That is, that the bread and wine are nothing more than symbols. The truth is much more complex. Certainly, Zwingli sought to separate the material and the spiritual, and held that as God is Spirit, God should be worshipped in Spirit. Memory for him, however, was not simply some mental act of recalling, but a spiritually transformed state in which the community gathered around the table becomes, through the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ. Whatever one makes of his view of the sacraments, he did not see them as mere, empty rituals. They were expressions of the presence of Christ in the Spirit.

JW– What, in your view, is Zwingli’s single most important contribution to Christian theology?

BG– It’s difficult to point to one thing as his thought was so carefully interwoven. It would want to draw attention to his teaching on the church as the whole community gathered together in the Spirit. That church is not dependent on institutional forms or hierarchies (although he had both) but on the profession of faith and obedience to the Word. His emphasis on the working of the Holy Spirit is by no means unique, but foundational for many forms of Protestantism. He conceived of Christians as being in a covenantal relationship with God in which they could have full confidence in God’s providential care. I would draw attention to his focus on the sanctified life: Zwingli placed considerable emphasis on the nature of the Christian life, on everything from care of others to prayer. He was not a mystic, but saw the Christian life as growing into the image of Christ. That was an enduring legacy. Above all, however, I would suggest that his view of God as Good, even as goodness itself, revealed an optimism about creation and salvation. Zwingli loved to write about joy.

JW– Thank you for your time, for your answers, and most of all, for your new book on Zwingli. I hope that it’s widely read because I think Zwingli deserves a lot more attention than he has gotten and his works deserve to be read a lot more than they are.

Zwingli- on the Magistrate

zwingli_study2I declare, quite differently from what our friends hold, that a magistrate cannot even be just and righteous unless he be a Christian. Take away from the magistrate, who is above the fear of man, the fear of God, and you make him a tyrant.

Infuse into the tyrant the fear of God, and of his own accord he will do more freely and faithfully what the law orders than any terror could have caused him to; and out of a tyrant you will make a father on the pattern of Him whom as a result of faith he begins to fear and to serve, namely, God.  — Huldrych Zwingli

When Did Zwingli ‘Become’ A Reformer

9783788730321I have come to the conclusion that Zwingli moved bit by bit away from Rome and towards reform beginning in 1515 after the shocking horror of the Battle of Marignano.  Others date the beginning of his ‘turn’ to 1516.  Still others, wrongly believing that he was influenced by Luther, date it as late as 1520.

Irene Dingel writes

Zu welchem Zeitpunkt Zwingli aber über seine vom Humanismus geprägte Haltung hinausging und typisch reformatorische Grundsätze im Sinne der reformatorischen Rechtfertigungslehre vertrat, bleibt schwierig zu ermitteln. Er selbst äußerte einmal, er habe schon 1516 mit der reformatorischen Predigt begonnen. Nach seinem Selbstzeugnis und der sich davon inspirierenden Forschung hätte Zwingli dann schon vor Luther evangelisch gepredigt. Es bleibt aber fraglich, was Zwingli in diesem Zusammenhang unter »Reformation« bzw. »reformatorisch« verstanden haben mag. Mit der neueren Forschung ist festzuhalten, dass sich Zwingli in den Jahren 1519 bis 1520 allmählich von den humanistischen Grundsätzen löste und stärker reformatorisch geprägte Vorstellungen zu entwickeln begann. Es ist zu vermuten, dass Luther und seine Schriften in jener Zeit, in der sich Zwingli – bis Mitte 1520 – allmählich zum Reformator entwickelte, ein verstärkender, aber kein auslösender Faktor für diese Hinwendung zu reformatorischen Inhalten war.

I stand by the early date, 1515, for a great number of reasons.  Most notably because it is generally the most jarring life events which tend to refocus our lives.

At any rate, Dingel’s book is just super.

Zwingli and I Share The Same Practice in Preaching

Predigtmanuskripte hat Zwingli allerdings nicht hinterlassen und wohl auch nicht angefertigt. Selbst Nachschriften von Predigthörern existieren nicht. – Irene Dingel

Neither do I.  It’s really the only way.  If you stand there and read to me, I would prefer you just printed it out and let me read it at my leisure.

Bruce Gordon Will Be Discussing His New Book on Zwingli on Nov 4

Reformations Conversation Webinar: Bruce Gordon on Huldrych Zwingli

We are delighted to host another Reformation Conversations Webinar this fall, this time focusing on Dr. Bruce Gordon’s upcoming biography of the Swiss Reformer Huldrych Zwingli. The session will take place on Thursday, Nov. 4, from 1 PM to 2:30 PM. Bruce Gordon is the Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale Divinity School, where he has served since 2008. His research focuses on the Reformation and its reception, especially in the Swiss lands. In 2009, he published his biography of John Calvin (Yale University Press), one of the best English-language biographies of the Genevan Reformer. Now he has turned his attention to the leading early Reformer of the city of Zurich in his monograph, Huldrych Zwingli: God’s Armed Prophet, due to be released by Yale University Press on November 30, 2021. Please sign up for this special presentation and discussion at the following link. We will send you the Zoom link in early November. Please review the available slots below and click on the button to sign up. Thank you!

Date: 11/04/2021 (Thu.)

Time: 1:00pm – 2:30pm EDT

Sign up today.  Slots are limited to 95.

And, as a reminder, I’ll be interviewing Bruce about his new book soon.  Stay tuned.

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.

___________
*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.

The Celebration of All Saints Day (and Other Holidays) in Zwingli’s Zurich

The Church services were held on Sundays from seven to eight o’clock in the morning and between three and four in the afternoon. In the Great Minster there was a service for children and servants from eleven to twelve o’clock. During the week there was also a preaching service in the morning at five and at eight, which took the place of the early masses.

On Friday, which was the market day, Zwingli preached especially for the country people. At the end of 1525 certain ministers were set apart for visitation of the sick, inasmuch as this was no part of the duties of the people’s priest.

Of the holy days were retained Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter; also St. Stephen’s, All Saints’, Candlemas, St. John the Baptist’s, Mary Magdalene’s, and more strangely the Annunciation and Ascension of the Virgin Mary, together with the day of the city patron saints, Felix and Regula. On these days, as on Sunday, public business and all work were forbidden, except necessary work, as harvesting.*

The only Holy Days I observe, on the other hand, are Christmas and Good Friday and Easter.  All the rest are just papist vestiges.  Oh, and Zwingli’s birthday (1 January) and the anniversary of his murder at the hands of the papist troops at Kappel am Albis (11 October).

___________
*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), 291–292.

‘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.

From the Life of Zwingli, the Greatest of the Reformers

zwingli_bioAt ten years of age Zwingli was sent to Basel to study and then to Bern and Vienna (at around fifteen years of age) where he earned a Bachelor’s degree. By 1506 he had earned a Master of Arts at Basel’s famous University and then shortly after celebrated his first Mass at his hometown before moving to Glarus to take up his priestly office. It was while he was in that picturesque village that Zwingli poured himself into his studies of the Bible, led by the urgings of Erasmus, who was then the leader of learning in Switzerland and across western Europe. According to his own testimony, it was in 1515 that the ‘reformatory’ spirit began to stir in his heart so that when he moved to Einsiedeln (in 1516) to serve the congregation there, he was already pursuing the beginnings of Reformed thought.*

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*Jim West, “Christ Our Captain”: An Introduction to Huldrych Zwingli (Quartz Hill, CA: Quartz Hill Publishing House, 2011), 12–13.

Glarus Loved Zwingli, For the Most Part…

Except, of course, the lovers of war who despised his anti-mercenary service sentiments.  Accordingly, his biographer notes, that even when he took up residence in Einsiedeln in October of 1516, that technically

… he remained pastor of Glarus till he went to Zurich. He so signs himself on October 30, 1517, when writing to the chief magistrate of Winterthur; his name so appears upon the official records, and he drew the parish income and out of it paid his “vicar” or substitute. His people were anxious to retain him and promised to rebuild his house if he would stay. They were proud of his reputation for scholarship, of his large library, of his musical skill, of the friends he had made, and of his devoted pupils, and of his rise from obscurity to prominence among the Swiss. They knew what an excellent preacher he was, how faithful a pastor, how firm a friend, how enthusiastic a patriot, how generous, how jovial, how self-sacrificing, in short, what a fine man he was. But his enemies, though far less numerous than his friends, were equally determined and compelled his departure.

It only takes one or two obnoxious enemies to drive one out no matter how many loving supporters one has.