Luther and Zwingli

The first codified Lutheran doctrine was drawn up by Philippe Melanchthon (1497-1560 in the Augsburg Confession of 1530. Luther, the abrasive peasant, the courageous die-hard, the ardent pastor and supporter of the poor was complemented in conservatism by Melanchthon, the timid scholar, the moderate seeker after truth, the man of courteous manners but internal tensions began to appear after Luther's death in 1546.

Much theology flowed from the ecclesiological denial of Papal authority although the causality varied; a reformed church should: not sell offices nor services; divert endowments to pastors and the poor; free monks and nuns from burdensome vows; turn clergy into Bible teachers; simplify the Mass; and, above all, remove 'recent doctrinal aberrations'. More profound, however, was the impact of the doctrine of Justification which: shifted the emphasis from the external to the internal; from ritual to the heart. This, in turn, subtly shifted Eucharistic doctrine from external priestly effect to internal worship. Luther, as a gradualist, introduced Communion in both kinds but preserved the Elevation; he believed in the real presence but not transubstantiation; he wanted the Mass in German for the people but did not object to Latin for the educated. However, he reduced the number of Sacraments - on Scriptural grounds - from the 7 of the Fourth Lateran Council (12215) to Baptism, the Eucharist and private Confession.

In administrative terms, the denial of Papal authority meant denial of Episcopal authority, a vacuum that secular rulers were well placed to fill, given their growing ecclesiastical power over the past two centuries. Usually a consistory, consisting of lawyers and clergy, was chosen by the ruler to run church affairs, acting in matters of discipline. Luther rejected lay participation except in the person of the ruler. He denied secular interference in doctrine but clearly (vide Henry VII of England) personal princely preferences were critical. Basing doctrine on Scripture or on tradition warranted by Scripture only worked where there was voluntarist unanimity. This inevitably broke down when there were disagreements about what Scripture warranted.

This dilemma is clearly illustrated by the career of Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531). Between 1522-5 Zurich denounced the authority of the Bishop of Constance and handed power to the Council which put through a broadly Lutheran settlement. Zwingli, Erasmian by temperament, was less conservative than Luther. Whereas Luther held that nothing need change unless it was forbidden by Scripture, Zwingli held that nothing could be sanctioned without it. Accordingly, he considered the Eucharist to be a remembrance (Memorial is a somewhat ambiguous term) rather than an enactment. It followed from this that church buildings should be stripped bare, vestments not worn, bread should be ordinary and the elevation abolished. The next generation would have to handle Lutheran/Zwinglian differences.

KC X/06

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