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July 18

Heinrich Bullinger

Thanks to the crooked Bishop of Constance, who accepted bribes in exchange for waving the rules of clerical celibacy, Heinrich Bullinger Junior was born to Heinrich Bullinger Senior and his virtual wife, Anna Wiederkehr, on this date in 1504. His father was the dean of the capitular church in the Swiss city of Bremgarten in the canton of Aargau. Heinrich Junior was the fifth son of this couple. During his late teens young Heinrich was exposed to the teachings of Martin Luther, and determined to make up his own mind about protestant convictions. After careful study, he found himself in agreement with Luther on many things. He also came into contact with Zwingli and spent some time studying in Zurich. The authorities in Zurich were significantly impressed with this young scholar, and he was part of their delegation to the Bern Disputation in 1528. Shortly after this, Bullinger was convinced to enter the ministry as a parish minister. Around the same time, Heinrich’s father became convinced that he himself had been teaching false doctrine. When he renounced Roman Catholicism and joined the Protestant cause, his congregation removed him as their priest. Among the candidates to be the new minister was Heinrich Junior, who was given the position to become his father’s replacement. About two years later, Bullinger was elected and installed as successor to Zwingli, who had died in battle. From the Grossmunster Church in Zurich, Bullinger became one of the most influential Reformed theologians of the Protestant world. His strong intellectual gifts were paired with a sympathetic personality that tended to unify rather than divide. He effectively advanced the cause of the Reformation without unnecessary drama or controversy. Among his writings are the duly famous The Decades. These were fifty sermons on the chief points of the Christian religion, organized into five “decades” of sermons. He was preaching through the main doctrines of Christianity, much like a systematic theology in sermonic form. Between 1550 and 1560, there were 77 editions of Bullinger’s The Decades published in England. By comparison, there were just 2 editions of Calvin’s Institutes published in England during that time period. Of The Decades, Richard Muller has said, “Both in their content and in their homiletical tone, The Decades offered the mid-sixteenth century a basic text from which Christian readers could learn both the content of the faith and the life of Christian obedience.” In addition to preaching, writing and correspondence, Bullinger was highly influential in the drafting of the Second Helvetic Confession, an important statement of Reformed doctrine over against Lutheranism. Bullinger died in 1575, after a forty-four year ministry in Zurich.

Picture: Heinrich Bullinger

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