Tuesday, June 10, 2008

First there was Zwingli

Here in Zurich I was where I could witness for myself the places where Anabaptism had its origins. Anabaptism is the common background of both Amish and Mennonites, as well as the Hutterites, a communitarian group. In my introductory blog I wrote about a "Where in the world is Carmen San Diego" show that incorrectly identified the Amish as the origins of the Mennonites, when in fact it is the reverse, the Amish come from Mennonites. But I wondered exactly who the Mennonites come from. Increasingly I am convinced as I read and ponder, that Mennonites come under the Zwinglian Reformed. I mention Zwingli because eventually John Calvin became the leading voice of the Reformed church. But first there was Zwingli.
Zwingli was the main pastor of the Grossmuenster, or cathedral, of Zurich. Based on the humanism of Erasmus of Rotterdam, who for many of these years was a teacher in nearby Basel Switzerland, Zwingli was with Luther preaching for the reform of the church. Humanism was a rediscovery of classic literature, especially Greek. This meant educated people were able to read the New Testament in its original language.
Zwingli formed a sodality, or study group of ancient literature. The group included the promising young student Conrad Grebel and Felix Mantz. This was to inform his teaching of the Scriptures. But Bible study groups were also set up for studying the Bible in the new German versions of the Bible.
Eventually Zwingli broke with the Roman Catholic Church, believing that following the Bible was more important than following church hierarchy. He believed in faith alone and Scripture alone. But if the pope and the bishops were no longer the final authorities on matters of faith, than who was? Zwingli turned to the city council of Zurich.
This is what eventually led to the break between Zwingli and Grebel and Mantz, considered the founders of Anabaptism. It was another member of the group, Simon Stumpf, who told Zwingli, "You have no authority to place the decision in Milords' hands, for the decision is already made: the Spirit of God decides."
Of course other differences that flowed with this one was the idea of believers' baptism, that someone expresses faith before they are baptized, something a baby cannot do, and the idea of Christians not participating in war and other forms of governmental authority. That is all outside the perfection of Christ.
I have here a picture of Zwingli found in a prominent place in Zurich, he is after all a major figure in Zurich history, perhaps the most famous. The statue has him with the Bible in one hand and the sword in the other, symbolizing his bringing together of church and state. And actually Zwingli died at a relatively young age in battle.
I show all the paraphernalia around his statue from the night of partying before. It was an odd scene to see drunken revelry. The beer manufacturer at that spot had obviously paid several young women to dance provocatively at that spot, I assume to keep men buying beer there. I wondered what Zwingli would think about the goings-on around him and whether anyone there knew who he was or what he stood for.
The second photo is an illustration of the Zurich disputation on baptism, which the Anabaptists lost. It was after this disputation that refusing to have your child baptized, or being re-baptized, were considered offenses for banishment. The illustration comes from the Zurich Chronicle of the time.

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