Historical Hero – Ulrich Zwingli

Today I am beginning what will be periodic postings focusing on some of my historical heroes. The first installment is a few brief thoughts on Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531). Prior to my departure from ministry, I was doing PhD work at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with my major department being Church History and my secondary department being Theology. I was beginning the work on my dissertation on Zwingli.

I’m not sure when I first learned of Zwingli, but have always been fascinated and appreciative of his life and work. Not as famous as his German counterpart, Martin Luther or the Swiss John Calvin, Zwingli was responsible for the Protestant Reformation taking root in Switzerland. Perhaps my trips to Switzerland had something to do with it. I have worshipped at The Grossmunster, the church pastored by Zwingli. His biblical ecclessiology was a great inspiration for a 20th century pastor. Even today, I find great encouragement in that God mightily used him even though he admitted guilt as a adulterer in his early days of ministry. 10 years after my own ministry ended due to the same sin, I am more than curious about how God might choose to use me.

I don’t know the answer to that yet. I currently find myself in the business world as the general manager of a hotel. I am trying to be more and more Christian in my duties in this realm. If I demonstrate faithfulness to God here, will he open other opportunities?

Another example set by Zwingli was his love for the role played by those that had gone before him. He was devoted to the early reformation principle of “returning to the sources.” Erasmus was a great influence on Zwingli learning the biblical languages so as to correctly read and interpret the Bible. At the same time, he rejected traditional aspects that were not in agreement with the Bible. He led the Zurich folks to remove the images from the church and also to forego the mass.

The lesson is vital – learn from without being a slave of tradition. The ultimate source of authority is the Bible.

Zwingli and Zurich – studies that will benefit us today.