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H. Henry Meeter Center: Specializing in John Calvin, Calvinism, the Reformation, and Early Modern Studies

 

"Heinrich Bullinger and Reformed Protestantism"

Emidio Campi, Director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History

Given on October 19, 2006

Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) is not as well known as Luther, Zwingli or Calvin, in part because he was less radiant and lived a less vibrant life. In his own time, however, Bullinger was a significant leader. Not only was he elected as the head (antistes) of the Swiss church in 1531, he also used his worldwide contacts to promote the Zürich theology. The latter can be seen in his incredible correspondance of over 12,000 letters, which is more than that of Luther, Zwingli and Calvin combined! On top of that, his Decades, an 800-folio collection of sermons, rivaled Calvin’s Institutes and Peter Martyr Vermigli’s Loci communes in influence.

After briefly describing Bullinger’s life and influence, Dr. Campi turned to his contribution in theology. Bullinger did not, he emphasized, construct a system around a single doctrine or idea; rather, he was mainly a biblical theologian. His work appears to have been motivated by the desire to reformulate Zwingli’s thought in a way that would not alienate those who admired Luther and Calvin. This tendency could be seen as Dr. Campi briefly traced Bullinger’s contribution to the doctrines of the Lord’s Supper, covenant, predestination, and justification by faith.

In concluding his address, Dr. Campi noted that there has been a recent resurgence in Bullinger studies, but added that more work needs to be done. The relevance of this remark became evident immediately, when a question was raised concerning Bullinger’s ethics. Dr. Campi remarked that this subject has received only spotty attention, and needs a comprehensive study. Is someone ready to take up the challenge?

Albert Gootjes
Ph.D Student at Calvin Theological Seminary