Monday, August 01, 2005

Lesson 25: Zwingli

Ulrich Zwingli was born at Wildhaus in Switzerland, January 1, 1484, the same year as Martin Luther.

He died on October 11 1531. Luther lived fifteen years longer.

While Luther, in many ways, had a medieval upbringing and education, Zwingli was in a product of the renaissance. He received his early education at Wesen under the guidance of an uncle. For his advanced studies he went to Berne. He matriculated at the University in 1500. Two years later he returned to Basle where he devoted himself to the study of theology. In 1506 he completed his studies and a Master of Theology. Shortly before his graduation the parish of Glarus had selected him as its pastor.

As pastor of Glarus from 1506 to 1516, the continuation of his humanistic studies was one of Zwingli's chief occupations. He studied Greek, read the Classics and the Fathers of the Church, and entered into discussions with the Humanists of the time, most notably Erasmus, the almost-reformer who would also dialog with Luther. He also taught, though his public life he was most notable for his political activity. In the Italian campaigns of 1513 and 1515 he served as army chaplain. His earliest writings are all concerned with politics, with his first book being a biblical criticisms of Swiss social conditions. These works, which reveal Zwingli as the devoted adherent and champion of the papal party, won him the friendship of the powerful Swiss cardinal Matthew Schinner and an annual pension of fifty gulden from the pope. In fact, his papal support was so strong that his position in Glarus became untenable when the French party became predominant there in 1516, and so Zwingli left Galrus for Einsiedeln. 1

Towards the end of 1518, when the post of preacher at Münster became vacant, Zwingli, at the invitation of a friend, applied. Like many other clerics, Zwingli was suspected of violating celibacy. These reports made his position there difficult. When his friend questioned him on this point Zwingli wrote from Einsiedeln that it was not, as had been asserted, a respectable girl, but a common strumpet with whom he had been intimate. His friends in Zurich succeeded in suppressing these reports, and on 11 Dec., 1518, the chapter elected Zwingli by a great majority. He was then thirty-five years old. 2

At this point, it is doubtful that Zwingli was even converted. It is clear that with a record of personal conduct that was far from unimpeachable, Zwingli preferred to engage in secular and political debates rather than pursuing new doctrine. That was about to change. The year was 1519; Luther had already nailed his 95 theses to the castle church.

Many men are converted after they are ordained. Luther himself seems to be such an example, as was John Wesley. In addition, it would seem to be through reading the word that these men were finally drawn to God in a saving manner. For Augustine and Luther it was the book of Romans. For Jonathan Edwards it was 1 Tim. 1:17,
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim. 1:17)
For Zwingli, it appears to be when he began a systematic, verse by verse study of the gospel of Matthew.

Difficulties with the Roman Catholic Church Begin

Zwingli’s fame spread through German Switzerland and southern Germany. He was admired not only for his sermons but for his patriotism, having opposed the practice of hiring the Swiss army to any one other than the pope as mercenaries. When an indulgence salesman named Bernhardin Samson appeared in the canton (1519), Zwingli successfully opposed him, and Rome recalled Samson. When the plague broke out in Zurich in 1520, Zwingli labored so tirelessly among his people that he fell sick himself and almost died. He used the position won by his devotion and independence to advance reform, but very cautiously and by attacking externals first.

Zwingli quickly attracted large audiences to the cathedral by expounding the original Greek and Hebrew Scriptures chapter by chapter. These oral translations of the original Scriptures broke sharply with church tradition. Previously priests had based their sermons on interpretations of the Vulgate and on the writings of the Fathers of the Church. In 1519 an admirer placed a printing press at the reformer's disposal, and his bold new ideas spread far beyond the confines of Zürich.

During the same year Zwingli read for the first time the writings of his contemporary, Luther. Heartened by Luther's stand against the Church, Zwingli in 1520 persuaded the Zürich council to forbid all religious teachings without foundation in the Scriptures. Among these teachings was the church stricture against eating meat during Lent. In 1522 a group of his followers deliberately broke the rule and were arrested. Zwingli vigorously defended the lawbreakers, who were released with token punishment.

Proceeding step by step, with the assent of the Zürich magistracy, he nevertheless alarmed the local hierarchy, who appealed to their bishop at Constance. The bishop sent to Zürich an investigation committee which sat Apr. 7-9, 1522, but was powerless against the manifest satisfaction of the citizens with Zwingli's position.

The Bishop of Constance’s concern is hardly surprising. The Catholic Church was always quick to respond when signs of spiritual life appear. Warnings were issued, but Zwingli’s unique claim as a reformer and a patriot made him untouchable.

Next came a bolder step. Zwingli he prepared 65 theses, or articles of faith (nothing like the 95 theses of Luther, which were almost entirely on a single topic: indulgences). Zwingli's theses covered all the points of the gospel. In accordance with the Swiss custom of public debate, a meeting was held in the town hall of Zürich on January 29, 1523. All the clergy were invited. However, there was no real debate, only a dialogue between Zwingli and the vicar-general of Constance. The decision of the magistracy was that the doctrines Zwingli had preached were enjoined on all priests in the canton. This was real schism. 3

A second discussion, which was held during Oct. 26-28, 1523. The decisions of the magistracy after this discussion were radical. They removed the images and pictures out of the churches, made the vernacular the language of the religious services and simplified the Lord’s Supper.

Pope Adrian VI, angered by Zwingli's behavior, forbade him the pulpit and asked the Zürich council to repudiate him as a heretic. In January 1523, Zwingli appeared before the council. He asserted the supremacy of scripture over church dogma, attacked the worship of images, relics, and saints, and denounced the sacramental view of the Eucharist and enforced celibacy as well. After deliberation, the council upheld Zwingli by withdrawing the Zürich canton from the jurisdiction of the bishop of Constance; it also affirmed its previous ban against preaching not founded on the Scriptures. By taking these steps the council officially adopted the Reformation. Zwingli in 1524 marked his new status by marrying Anna Reinhard, a widow with whom he had lived openly.

By the end of 1524 church life in Zürich was quite different in many of its outward manifestations from that in any other Swiss city. The convents for men and women had been abolished, and music had been silenced in the churches, a strange initiative for one so fond of music as Zwingli. (Sadly he trashed the great organ in Zurich’s cathedral.)

The Mass alone remained, and that was so wrapped up with the life of the people that he hesitated to destroy it before the people were fully prepared to accept a substitute. At last it was decreed that on Thursday of Holy Week, Apr. 13, 1525, the Lord's Supper would be for the first time observed according to the liturgy Zwingli had composed. On that eventful day men and women sat on opposite sides of the table which extended down the middle aisle, and were served with bread upon wooden platters and wine out of wooden beakers. The contrast to the former custom was shocking to many, yet the new way was accepted. With this radical break with the past the Reformation in Zurich may be said to have been completed.

Under the Reformation, Zürich became a theocracy ruled by Zwingli and a Christian magistrate. Sweeping reforms were instituted, among them the conversion of monasteries into hospitals, the removal of religious images, and the elimination of Mass and confession. Eventually Zwingli taught that devout Christians have need of neither pope nor church.

It must be stressed that Zwingli’s reformation was independent of Luther’s. That is, Zwingli did not ride Luther’s coattails.

Zwingli and the Anabaptists

Among Zwingli’s followers in Zürich were Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz. Both agreed with the reforms proposed by Zwingli and Luther, but soon became convinced that neither Zwingli or Luther went far enough. What they wished for was a return to the simpler ways of the earliest first-century believers as depicted in the New Testament. The modern church had strayed far from this ideal, they felt, and needed much more than reform—it needed a complete rethinking of its basic tenets.

Grebel and Manz believed that church membership should be voluntary, and to this end proposed the shocking notion of the separation of church and state, i.e. not “state” church. The government, they felt, served one purpose and the church, another.

Grebel and Manz also held that the New Testament teaches pacifism, which ruled out believers participating in any sort of military service or condoning capital punishment. This was in opposition to Zwingli, who was a politician and a supporter of the Swiss military. Grebel and Mainz viewed the state as evil, while Zwingli saw that his military was a necessary form of protection against the forces of the Catholic Church.

But the issue that caused the greatest stir was that of infant baptism. The Roman Church, in its state-sponsored mandate to assimilate all citizens, received newborns into church membership by way of baptism. Grebel and Manz, however, found no precedent for infant baptism in scripture. Instead, they argued, baptism was a symbolic act that should be undertaken voluntarily by adult believers as a sign of their faith. Since infants could not decide to believe, it was meaningless to baptize them. Accordingly, in 1525, Grebel took the daring step of rebaptizing an adult believer in his group, and others quickly followed. They were dubbed Anabaptists, or “rebaptizers”, a term that was meant to be derogatory. We will discuss the Anabaptists more in a later class.

Zwingli and Luther

In 1529 friends of Martin Luther and Zwingli, concerned over doctrinal and political differences that had developed between the two Protestant leaders, arranged a meeting between them. At this meeting, held in Marburg an der Lahn and known since as the Marburg Colloquy, Luther and Zwingli clashed over the Lord's Supper; Zwingli denied any real connection between the bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ. (Recall Luther’s consubstantiation view.) He believed that at the celebration of the Supper, which recalls to worshipers the words and deeds of the Lord, Christ is with them by the power of the Holy Spirit. According to Zwingli, the bread and wine recall the Last Supper, but no metaphysical change takes place in them. The conference failed to reconcile the two leaders.

Meanwhile, Zwingli carried his crusade to cantons other than Zürich. In all, six cantons were converted to the Reformation. The remaining five, known as the Forest Cantons, remained staunchly Catholic. The antagonisms between Catholic and Protestant cantons created a serious split within the Swiss confederation.

In 1529 the hostility between the cantons flared into open civil war. On October 10, 1531, Zwingli, acting as chaplain and standard-bearer for the Protestant forces, was wounded at Kappel am Albis and later put to death by the victorious troops of the Forest Cantons. After Zwingli's death the Reformation made no further headway in Switzerland; the country is still half Catholic, half Protestant.

A Brief Discourse on Predestination

Both Luther and Zwingli were strong teachers of predestination. Predestination is a foundational plank in Reformed theology. It is not the only plank, but one cannot really be said to be of a reformed theology without affirming the doctrine.

Interestingly, Zwingli and Luther came to the doctrine by different paths. Luther was convicted of it, at least at first, in an emotional manner: his deep awareness of his own sinfulness pushed him into it. He realized that he was too corrupt to do anything to contribute to his own salvation.

Zwingli, on the other hand, arrived at the doctrine in a scholarly manner. His habit of verse-by-verse preaching opened his eyes to the doctrine as he encountered passage after passage that seemed to support that view.

Since predestination is so identified with “being reformed,” it is worthwhile to revisit the doctrine at this time. In short, it can be stated this way:
Before the foundation of time, God chose certain (future) men (and women) to be saved. Not for anything that he foresaw that these particular individuals (the “elect”) would do that was meritorious, but solely for His own pleasure in fulfillment of His perfect will. He decided to show mercy on some. The rest receive justice, i.e., the eternal damnation that all sinners deserve.
The reformed view is that many will receive the Gospel call, but only the elect will respond positively. (That is, only the elect receive an efficacious call). This call cannot be rejected. Everything is by grace.

The Arminian view is that God will make an offer, through presentation of the Gospel, but the receiver of the offer must, at least at some minimal level, accept the offer of his own volition—which means the offer can be rejected as well.

The reformed view is that if God knocks you will open the door. The Arminian view is you must choose to open the door.

The reformed view is that you are dead to sins, without a pulse, and can do nothing to please God, and are in such a depraved state you do not have the ability to accept him (apart from grace). The Arminian view is that the sinner is gravely ill but has enough reserve strength to choose whether to consume or spit out the medicine that God places in his mouth.

The reformed view is that, without election, no one would be saved because no one would make the choice to follow Christ.

Reformed still witness because Christ commands them to and because it is a privilege to be an agent of the efficacious call to another believer. Arminians witness because Christ commands them to and because they feel a responsibility to give as many as possible the chance to accept, and to lead them to make the proper choice (while giving the credit and Glory to God). Calvinists do not feel as much personal responsibility as Arminians when someone doesn’t respond positively. Arminians, to their great credit, are generally more zealous in their witnessing.

Calvinists who say “why bother to witness” are guilty of ignoring the Great Commission and in fact are not really Calvinists, they are practicing one form of Hyper-Calvinism.

It is important to note that election does not mean that you have necessarily received salvation, only that it is inevitable that you will at some point, and that process is almost always carried out through evangelism.
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. (2 Tim. 2:10, NASB)

That’s not Fair!

There are almost always one of two responses from someone the first time they hear about Calvinistic predestination. One response is something like “cool, I can do whatever I want since I am either one of the elect or not. Might as well eat, drink, and be merry.” This is a serious heresy called antinomianism. Paul handles that in no uncertain terms in several places, for example in Romans:
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Rom. 6:15-16, NASB)
The second, and more common criticism is that it’s not fair.

You have to remember that everyone deserves hell, and God would be perfectly just and fair to send us all there. Those who are saved receive mercy, and mercy is a free gift, and gifts can be given to anyone at the giver’s pleasure.

Even if we look at “fairness” in the sense that people want to apply it, well then Calvinism is unfairly singled out as being unfair. Both Calvinism and Arminianism are “unfair”. In Calvinism, only some are of the elect, the rest are damned; it would have been better if they had not been born.

In Arminianism, some hear the Gospel and have a chance to respond, but millions die without hearing it and are damned. It would have better if they had not been born.

Calvinism says that God has guaranteed the salvation of some and the rest don’t have a chance. Arminianism says that God has guaranteed the salvation of nobody, but anyone hearing the Gospel has a chance.

In Calvinism, it is not possible that Christ died in vain. In Arminianism, in principle everyone could reject the offer leaving Christ with no people to call His own. His death would have been for naught.

Calvinism can be viewed as a covenant among the three members of the Godhead, each of which then plays a critical role in salvation. The Father chose some to be saved and given to the Son. The Son did what was necessary to redeem the chosen. The Spirit works within the elect to bring about sanctification.

Scriptural Support

And the Lord said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord , in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Ex. 33:19, NASB) )

How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple. (Ps. 65:4, NASB)

"For many are called, but few are chosen." (Mat. 22:14, NASB)

"And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Mat. 24:31, NASB)

now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? (Luke 18:7, NASB)

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. ( John 6:44, NASB)

You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. (John 15:16, NASB)

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Rom. 8:28-30, NASB)

Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; (Rom. 8:33, NASB)

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." (Rom 9:11-13, NASB)

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy (Rom 9:16, NASB)


just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love (Eph. 1:4, NASB)

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Th. 5:9, NASB)

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Th. 2:13-14 1:1, NASB)

Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,
(Titus 1:1, NASB)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, … who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be (sprinkled with His blood: …. (1 Pet. 1:1-2)

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Rev. 13:8, NASB)

… And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. (Rev. 17:8, NASB)

1 The Catholic Encyclopedia.
2 Ibid.
3 Teacher’s Paradise

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