Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Well, there he goes again...

Surely you have run across, on occasion, someone who is indisputably moderately clever, yet who thinks of himself as an intellectual giant among men; a person who makes at most a marginal effort to hide his sneering contempt for those whom he considers his inferiors, a group which includes, in his mind, nearly everyone.

Such a person is difficult to stomach.

The National Review's John Derbyshire is such a person.

Now, I have met a few bona fide intellectual giants. Some were arrogant, some were not. (Hans Bethe was one of the humblest men I have ever met.) Arrogance among geniuses is (a) not universal and (b) tolerable (though barely) when encountered. Arrogance among the ordinary—such as John Derbyshire's arrogance, is repulsive.

Derbyshire has penned an essay on the teaching controversy swirling about the (biological) intelligent design (ID) movement.

Here are four things you can safely say about Derbyshire's essay:
  1. It is not very good.
  2. It has all been said before, and more eloquently.
  3. It is wrong.
  4. It is bizarrely narcissistic.
Derbyshire’s argument against ID, parroted from countless others, goes like this:
Why stop with Intelligent Design (the theory that life on earth has developed by a series of supernatural miracles performed by the God of the Christian Bible, for which it is pointless to seek any naturalistic explanation)? Why not teach the little ones astrology? Lysenkoism? Orgonomy? Dianetics? Reflexology? Dowsing and radiesthesia? Forteanism? Velikovskianism? Lawsonomy? Secrets of the Great Pyramid? ESP and psychokinesis? Atlantis and Lemuria? The hollow-earth theory?
Leaving aside the fact that it is also the God of Judaism to whom many in the ID movement attribute the I in ID, we see that Derbyshire has nothing more to offer than a rehashed (actually reproduced) argument ad absurdum.

ID is nothing like any of the crackpot beliefs that Derbyshire lists. None of those can make a statement of equal footing with this one:
Some scientists believe that the fundamental building blocks of life are too complex to have arisen from purely naturalistic processes. Some models indicate a lack of sufficient time (between the cooling of the earth and the appearance of single celled organisms) to accommodate a naturalistic explanation. Furthermore, this situation is exacerbated by an ever increasing awareness of the complex biochemistry of cells and new fossilized evidence pushing the onset of life to earlier dates. Presently the theory of evolution has no testable model for the development of certain complex micro bio-machines; at best it offers plausibility arguments. This deficiency in evolution and the related field of abiogenesis has led some scientists to postulate that the building blocks for life on earth are the result of design—the handiwork of an unspecified intelligence. In the same sense that evolution circumvents the problem of the origin of life by abdicating responsibility to another field (abiogenesis), ID circumvents it by assigning it to an unspecified intelligence. In that sense the origin of life is moot (in this debate.) The question at hand is whether there has been sufficient time for life's micro complexity to evolve from the spark of life (which both camps assume rather than explain), or whether it, as far as we know at the moment, is inexplicable.
Such a statement is the essence of biological ID. And while it may not be science per se, until such time as evolution can answer questions, on firm scientific footing, about the development of early life forms, it is a perfectly reasonable topic of conversation in a biology class.

Derbyshire, alas, cannot see the truth through his own smugness, and his obvious desire and pleasure for the role of National Review's shrew. (One gets the impression he sits about wondering which new way he should disagree with the majority of his colleagues.) Though not a scientist, he wants you to think he is almost one, and that's good enough. Nay, he is actually better than a scientist, for he understands all the big picture issues while bringing to bear the journalist's sharp pen and British wit. He tells us:
I never have formally studied quantum mechanics, though I flatter myself I understand it well enough.
We can agree that Derbyshire does flatter himself.

Derbyshire also spews the dogma of the misnamed National Center for Science Education by telling us, with a straight face (or, more likely, a face oozing condescension) that:

And Darwinism ought to be taught conservatively, without skepticism or equivocation, which will only confuse young minds. Darwinism is the essential foundation for all of modern biology and genomics, and offers a convincing explanation for all the phenomena we can observe in the life sciences.

The statement speaks for itself, in many ways. Never in my years of teaching physics, much more of a science than evolution, was I advised to teach it without skepticism or equivocation—the mere thought makes the mind reel. (The fact that evolution accepts no dissent or criticism is a sure sign of its inferiority complex.) Furthermore, Derbyshire misses the boat (or he outright fabricates) with the assertion that evolution offers a "convincing explanation for all the phenomena we can observe in the life sciences." Far from it. In the infamous case of the bacterial flagellum, evolution may yet provide a convincing argument. But the state of the art at the present is that it does no better than a "might-have, could-have" unlikely chain of events.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


My friend Tom R asks, in a comment below:
David, you seem to be a de facto Presbyterian on most of Calvin's beliefs -- eucharist, predestination, and even baptism? Or am I misrepresenting you?
You are not misrepresenting me. I am a Presbyterian attending a reformed-leaning Baptist church.

I get to drink like a Presbyterian and eat like a Baptist! Nirvana!

This years Sunday School will follow Primitive Theology, The Collected Primers of John H. Gerstner, Soli Deo Gloria, 1996. (Hey Josh S, aren’t you a big fan of Gerstner?) The topics are:
  • Apologetics
  • Biblical Inerrancy
  • The Deity of Christ
  • Predestination
  • Free Will
  • Justification
  • Roman Catholicism
  • The Atonement
  • Reconciliation
  • The Problem of Pleasure
  • Dispensationalism

The last topic may require equal time be given to the substantive pro-dispensationalist camp within the church.

I’ll be posting the notes, as usual.

I am also going to give a (probably) multipart series on Cosmological Intelligent Design. This will be at the church but will be advertised through the community—an outreach type thing. I’ll post that material as well.

WARNING: possibly offensive joke to follow!

My son told me this. As always, I don't know if it's old; I always suspect that I am among the last to hear a joke. It's a Helen Keller joke, but not in the usual mean-spirited sense. Still, you are forewarned.

Q: Why was Helen Keller a terrible driver?

A: Because she was a woman.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Lesson 26 Colloquy of Marburg (1529)

The Colloquy of Marburg is the name given to a conference of divines held in 1529 in the interests of the unity of Protestant Germany. Differences of opinion concerning the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper had arisen among the Protestants. Prince Philip of Hesse, recognized the political importance of achieving unity among all German Protestants. At one point it seemed that there was a basis for a provisional alliance in the shape of a formula drawn up by Bucer (who greatly influenced Calvin, and had an ecumenical spirit) in dealing with the Lord’s Supper. But it was obvious that a permanent coalition could not be expected unless some definite understanding on the debated point could be attained between the Swiss and German arms of the Reformation, so Philip dispatched to Zwingli an invitation to a colloquy, and received his prompt acquiescence.

The Colloquy of Marburg is no doubt the saddest event of the Reformation. If one views the Reformation as the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church since Pentecost, then it is hard to see the ultimate failure of The Colloquy of Marburg as anything less than the work of Satan. Normally we should think of Satan, against the church, as on the defensive. We are told by Jesus that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church—and gates are defensive in nature. Still, Satan does go on the offensive, especially one can safely assume at a time of revival.

The proceedings opened on October 1, 1529. It seemed wise, at first, to prevent direct debates between Luther and Zwingli, as both seemed to be too fiery. Thus the colloquy opened with conferences between Luther and Zwingli’s lieutenant, John Oecolampadius, and between Luther’s second in command, Philip Melancthon and Zwingli.

The Lutherans and Zwinglians agreed on everything, across the board, except one. The interpretation of Christ’s words “this is my body,” (Matt. 26:26) when instituting the Lord’s Supper. On all other aspects of the sacrament (ordinance) they agreed: That Christ commanded it, that it was of profound significance and importance to the spiritual life of the believer, and that is must be approached with great reverence. They agreed the Rome was in grave error in its policy of withholding the cup from the laity. But on the details of the interpretation, they could not agree. Luther held to consubstantiation and Zwingli to a memorial view.

Summarizing these views:

  • Transubstantiation (Rome): the elements actually change into the body of blood of Christ.
  • Consubstantiation (Luther): There is a corporeal presence of Christ in the elements, although the elements themselves do not change.
  • Memorial (Zwingli): Nothing happens to the elements; the Eucharist memorializes Christ’s sacrifice.

As regards this main point of contention, no agreement was reached. The Articles of Marburg, which summarize the results of the colloquy, contain the doctrine of the Trinity, of the personality of Christ, of faith and justification, of the Scriptures, of good works, of confession, of government, of tradition, and of infant baptism. The fifteenth article, treating of the Lords Supper, defines the ground common to both parties even in this debatable region, recognizing the necessity of participation in both kinds (bread and wine), and rejecting the sacrifice of the Mass. It then proceeds to fix the point of difference in the fact that no agreement had been reached on the question whether the true body and blood of Christ are corporeally present in the bread and wine. Nevertheless, the adherents of each doctrine are recommended to display Christian charity to those of the other. These articles were signed by the ten official members of the colloquy: Luther, Jonas, Melancthon, Osiander, Agricola, Brenz, Oecolampadius, Bucer. Hedio and Zwingli. The personal contact between Luther and Zwingli led to no mental rapprochement between the two; but in the following year the Articles of Marburg did good service as one of the preliminaries to the Augsburg Confession (1530), and remain a valuable document for the fundamental principles common to the Lutheran and Reformed Churches.

The sad part was, that while Luther signed, he actual spirit was of this mind: to Luther, his view on the Lord’s Supper, which maintained that the Christ was present corporeally, was non negotiable. He would agree that while Christ is the true vine (John 15:1), you did not pick grapes from him. And he would agree that while Christ is the door, he did not contain hinges. He insisted, however, that “this is my body,” was meant to be taken literally. Any other view, according to Luther, was heresy. There was to be no unity between the Swiss and German Reformations.

So we see, in spite of his signature, that the Augsburg confession of 1530, the first of the great Reformed confessions, contains these two articles (the first I include only because of its interest to Baptists)

Article IX: Of Baptism

Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God's grace.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.

Article X: Of the Lord’s Supper

Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise.

It is not easy to understand why Luther took such a stand. Even assuming his view is correct, it seems that his reaction indicated that Zwingli deliberately distorted Christ’s message concerning the Lord’s Supper. After all, as Baptists we may think the Presbyterians are wrong in baptizing children, but I think most would view the mistake as an innocent mistake, and we would not claim that fellowship is precluded, or that the Presbyterians are heretical. If our pastor ever became persuaded that infant baptism was biblical, then I suspect he’d be baptizing infants by the following week. Similarly with the manner in which Presbyterians view Baptists.

Luther, however, did not see Zwingli as in “innocent error.” His words were quite harsh. At one point, Zwingli argued, "Jesus also said I am the vine," and "I am the door," but we understand what He was saying. Luther replied, "I don’t know, but if Christ told me to eat dung I would do it knowing that it was good for me."

Although Zwingli declared with tears in His eyes that there were none with whom he should like better to make common cause than the men of Wittenburg (Luther and his followers), Luther was hard and unyielding. “You are of another spirit than we,” he said. The story goes that Luther refused to shake Zwingli’s hand; but instead wrote the words: ‘This is My Body’ (hoc est corpus meum), on the velvet of table before him and stormed out.

Later we see an ironic postscript to this debate. It comes in the form of Calvin’s view of the Lord’s supper, which we’ll call the dynamic view. John Calvin taught that Jesus’ presence in the bread and wine was real, but only spiritual, not corporeally. According to Calvin, the Lord’s Supper is far from memorial. Ironically, later, Luther (definitely) and Zwingli (possibly) later read Calvin’s writings on the Lord’s Supper and seemed to agree with Calvin’s views.

Some have speculated that it was Philip Melancthon who pressured Luther. The reason is that Luther, to a small extent, and Melancthon, to a much greater extent, held some hope of reconciliation with Rome. If so, Melancthon might have reasoned that compromise with Zwingli’s view on the Lord’s Supper would have squashed any hope of a reunification.

Philip Melancthon (1497-1560)

The German scholar and humanist Philip Melancthon (1497-1560) was the chief systematic theologian of the early Reformation and principal author of the famous Augsburg Confession of 1530.

Philip Melancthon was born Philip Schwartzerd at Bretten in Swabia, the son of George and Barbara Schwartzerd. His earliest education was supervised by his father and grandfather and, after their deaths in 1508, was directed by his grandmother's brother, the famous jurist and Hebrew scholar Johann Reuchlin. Schwartzerd means "black earth," and Reuchlin is said to have been so impressed with his grandnephew's scholarly talents that he insisted that Philip use the Greek form of "black earth," hence the name Melancthon. The young Melancthon studied at Pforzheim and Heidelberg, receiving a bachelor of arts degree from the latter in 1511. He took his master's degree at Tübingen in 1514 and began to lecture there on Latin and Greek literature.

Melancthon was already present at the first serious dispute between Luther and Rome, the 1519 Debates in Leipzig. During the debate with Johannes Eck, the astute Papal theologian, Melancthon wrote little notes to Luther citing Bible passages contradicting the preeminent position of the Pope--the contended issue in the debate.

Luther, the prophet among the Reformers, worked tirelessly on his new theology, but he often lacked a systemized approach. In 1521 Melancthon took over this task, writing the first valid summary of reformed theology (fifteen years before Calvin would pen his) the "Loci Communes" (Common Places). Luther felt so enthusiastic about this book that he even wanted to include it in the Bible.

The Diet of Augsburg

In 1530 the emperor Charles V convened the Diet of Augsburg. The threat of the Turks was great and the situation between Rome and those seeking reform was bringing disunity and weakness to Europe. Melancthon and the German princes wanted Charles and the Diet to grant them freedom to preach biblical doctrines and to worship with legal status. Melancthon drew up the famous Augsburg confession, and on June 25, 1530, the document was read aloud at the Diet. Many were astonished when they heard the graceful way Melancthon presented the propositions (most of the statements were positive affirmations of faith rather than attacks on the papacy).

Although the reformers did not receive what they had desired from Charles, they did have biblical articles of faith that remain the standard confession for conservative Lutheran Churches to this day. The events at Augsburg laid the groundwork for Protestant victories in the future.

While Luther was alive, it seemed to be the case that Melancthon regarded him with such awe that he never would disagree with him, at least in public. Melancthon once stated: "I would rather die than be separated from this man." Nevertheless, Melancthon had considerable influence, and probably was the power behind the failure, at Marburg, to achieve unification between the Swiss and German Reformations.

Melancthon never agreed with Luther’s strong predestinarianism, but he never argued with his hero. Melancthon, as it turned out, was more of a clone of Erasmus (the renaissance near-reformer) than of Luther. But on this matter he refrained from engaging in debate with Luther. Still, in hindsight it is clear that while Luther was teaching predestination as a central verity, Melancthon viewed the doctrine as a threat to evangelism and an unacceptable form of fatalism.

Luther died in 1546, after which Melancthon openly broke with Luther and began inching the church back to a semi-Pelagian position.

A drift from Luther is denied by the Orthodox Lutheran Church—which still venerates Martin Luther to a degree that far exceeds how Calvinistic churches view John Calvin. Indeed, in many ways the conservative Lutherans are among the most conservative Christians anywhere. For example, there has been more of a move in Calvinistic churches toward liberalization, for example in the roles of women, than in conservative Lutheran churches.

This paradoxical shift—away from Luther on a doctrine that he felt so vital—the doctrine of predestination—while at the same time steadfastly standing by Luther on virtually everything else (even where Luther erred) is the legacy of Philip Melancthon.

Actually, Melancthon tried to shift the Lutherans away from Luther in two areas. In the less important area, he met violent opposition and failed. In the more important area, he succeeded.

Melancthon attempted to inch the Lutheran view of the Eucharist, the consubstantiation view, closer to Calvin’s dynamic view. That is, from the idea of a real corporeal presence during the Lord’s Supper to a real, spiritual presence that was a means of grace—i.e. it was far from Zwingli’s memorial view (in which the believer did everything) to a supernatural view (in which God dispensed grace, as it were.) In a way, this was probably a radical change in Melancthon’s view—for he always seemed to have an eye toward reconciliation with Rome.

At any rate, on this effort he failed. His views on the Lord’s Supper made the Lutheran faithful suspicious, and he was accused of being a crypto-Calvinist.
To this day, although the term consubstantiation is not used, Lutherans proclaim essentially the same doctrine, and still teach of a corporeal presence of the Lord during the Eucharist.

Luther was Monergistic, Melancthon was Synergistic

In regeneration (monergism), the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ independent of any cooperation from our unregenerate human nature. He quickens us through the outward call cast forth by the preaching of His Word, disarms our innate hostility, removes our blindness, illumines our mind, creates understanding, turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh -- giving rise to a delight in His Word -- all that we might, with our renewed affections, willingly & gladly embrace Christ.

The Century Dictionary defines it as follows:
"In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration - that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration."
It means that the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly comes to through regeneration -- and if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, he/she ignore the teaching of the Apostles, for Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

It is in contrast to synergism which the Century Dictionary defines as
"...the doctrine that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate. This theory accordingly holds that the soul has not lost in the fall all inclination toward holiness, nor all power to seek for it under the influence of ordinary motives."
Luther, like Calvin to follow, was monergistic to the core. In his catechism, Luther wrote:
I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true.
Now, to be sure, the Lutheran version of synergism is not the same as the typical, semi-Pelagianism of most modern evangelicals. It can be put this way:
  • Reformed View: Regeneration, which is irresistible, precedes faith.
  • Evangelical View: Faith precedes regeneration
  • Lutheran View: Regeneration precedes faith, but that regeneration is resistible
Luther never, ever would have accepted the “Lutheran” view, because his own sense of sinfulness compelled to believe the biblical truth: if he could resist his own salvation, he would resist his own salvation.

The Lutherans Disagree

The Lutherans claim they are faithful to Martin Luther in all aspects. How is it that done? It is done by claiming that late in his life Luther changed his position. They will concede that when Luther wrote his greatest book, Bondage of the Will, in 1525, he was a stout predestinarian. It’s hardly an arguable point, since the book speaks for itself as one of the great works proclaiming the doctrine in clarity.

So what evidence to the Lutherans present? It is fairly weak, and it is entirely circumstantial. There are no writings to which they can point in which Luther retracts or softens his view on predestination. Indeed, he wrote such a definitive tome on the subject that had he changed his view he surely would have made a great deal of noise in doing so.

The evidence that the Lutheran Church proclaims is that, in the last years of his life, Luther stopped writing about predestination, and preaching about it, and instead focused his energy on the sacraments. Given that the sacraments involve human activity it is reasonable, according the Lutherans, to suppose that Luther softened his view on monergism.

However, the truth is simply that the lay of the land was such for Luther, during his latter years, that the issues he dealt with were with the commands rather than the decrees of God. What was man’s obligation and responsibility to God, and how should man approach the sacraments in a worthy manner. There simply was Lutheran controversy, during his lifetime, on the doctrine of predestination, other that what was apparently brewing in Melancthon’s heart.

For Calvin, it will be just the opposite. In his later years, he faced stern opposition to predestination, and so had a need to address the topic more and more as time marched on. This is part of the reason why the doctrine is erroneously associated much more with Calvin than with Luther.

The bottom line is that the Lutheran Church made two serious errors in following (or not) Martin Luther. They chose to stay with Luther where he erred, on the doctrine of consubstantiation, and chose to deviate from him in a far more important matter relating to the nature of our salvation.

In choosing between Luther and Melancthon, they followed Luther in his Eucharistic error, and followed Melancthon in his sotierlogical error.

I'm Back

Blogging will resume. I have been bogged down with work and burnt out. But I am ready to get back. I'll be teaching a Sunday School entitled "Primitive Theology." More on that in a bit, but I promise it will involve some interesting posts. Oh, I have a few more posts on church history history as well.

I'll be seeing you soon,

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