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Bullinger, Heinrich (1504–1575)

BULLINGER, HEINRICH (15041575)

BULLINGER, HEINRICH (15041575), Swiss reformer, theologian, and church leader. Born in Bremgarten, the son of a priest, Bullinger was educated at Emmerich, where he came under the lasting influence of the Brethren of the Common Life. His move, at age fifteen, to the university at Cologne exposed him more fully to humanism and the study of the church fathers. He returned to his native land in 1523 to become a teacher at the Cistercian monastery at Kappel, southwest of Zurich. Education and its provision were to be lifelong concerns for Bullinger, and in the 1520s he sought to reform the monastery along humanist lines. During this period he became acquainted with the Swiss theologian and reformer Huldrych Zwingli. From 1529 to 1531, during the height of Zwingli's influence in Zurich, Bullinger was the preacher in his native Bremgarten. A military force from Zurich, accompanied by Zwingli as chaplain, was surprised and defeated at Kappel by an army from the central cantons of the Swiss Confederation, also known as the Five Forest Cantons. Zwingli was killed in the battle (11 October 1531). Following the defeat at Kappel and Zwingli's death, Catholic forces expelled the evangelicals from Bremgarten, and Bullinger arrived in Zurich as a refugee. His teaching, writing, and preaching had already earned him a formidable reputation, and in 1531 he received separate calls to head the churches of Berne, Basle, and Zurich. Out of loyalty to Zurich, he accepted a call from the Council was elected head of the church on 13 December 1531.

After Zwingli's death Bullinger had to reconstruct the institutional basis of the Zurich church. This required him to balance conflicting principles. First, the Zurich magistrates and population were no longer prepared to tolerate an independent clergy who used sola scriptura ('Scripture alone', that is, the authority of the Bible as superior to all other authorities), to force political agendas contrary to will of the peoplesuch as Zwingli's war against the Catholics in 1531. Yet Bullinger was not prepared to lead a church in which the clergy were not free to preach God's Word. The compromise, which shaped Bullinger's tenure as leader of the Zurich church, was built around an agreement that the council would give Bullinger a relatively free hand in running the church as long as he controlled the clergy and prevented them from either preaching on political matters or causing scandal through their sermons or in their personal lives. The agreement worked because Bullinger was trusted by the political leaders, with whom he had strong personal contacts, and, with few exceptions, contentious issues were hammered out behind closed doors.

Bullinger was a prodigious theologian, preacher, and historian. He regularly preached two or three times a week, and many of his sermons were printed. As a theologian, his central concern was to demonstrate that the Reformed Church stood in line with the teachings of the early church. In the Zurich tradition, his theology was directed toward pastoral application, emphasized the clarity of Scripture and the role of the Spirit, and drew heavily from the Old Testament. He stressed the practical nature of Christianity and the doing of good works, although he did not accord them a salvific role. Bullinger saw himself primarily as an expositor of Scripture, and most of his major works took the form of sermons or biblical commentaries (The Decades, Sermons on Revelation). On the matter of the Eucharist he remained close to Zwingli, but the influence of Johannes Oecolampadius (14821531) and Philipp Melanchthon (14971560) is now recognized in his writings. He worked closely with John Calvin (15091564) and played a crucial role in the latter's return to Geneva. Their relationship was not especially warm, but they understood the necessity of cooperation, as evidenced by their statement on the Lord's Supper of 1549 (Consensus Tigurinus).

Bullinger was committed to building the wider European community of the Reformed churches. The word "Reformed" was crucial as he had little faith that there would be reconciliation with Luther or Lutheran theology. The seismic split between Luther and Zwingli dominated Bullinger's life as head of the Zurich church. There were sporadic attempts at reconciliation, and Bullinger did have good relations with men such as Melanchthon, but he felt honor bound to defend his predecessor. In contrast, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Reform movements in Eastern Europe, France, Italy, and, most famously, England. His surviving correspondence of around twelve thousand letters bears witness to his work on behalf of the international Reformationall the more remarkable for a man who almost never ventured outside the walls of Zurich.

As leader of the Zurich church, Bullinger gathered in the city a group of humanists (Konrad Pellikan, Theodor Bibliander, Conrad Gessner) whose work on Scripture, history, education, and natural science made Zurich an intellectual center for Reformed Protestantism. Bullinger's own contribution, not sufficiently recognized, was as a historian. In addition, Bullinger's Zurich was also a center for religious refugees from Italy, France, Netherlands, and England. Bullinger stood at the center of this international communication system and was in his day a leading figure of the European Reformation.

See also Calvin, John ; Luther, Martin ; Melanchthon, Philipp ; Reformation, Protestant ; Zurich ; Zwingli, Huldrych.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bächtold, Hans Ulrich. Heinrich Bullinger vor dem Rat: Zur Gestaltung und Vewaltung des Zürcher Staatswesens in den Jahren 1531 bis 1575. Berne, 1982.

Baker, Wayne J. Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenant; The Other Reformed Tradition. Athens, Ohio, 1980.

Biel, Pamela. Doorkeepers at the House of Righteousness: Heinrich Bullinger and the Zurich Clergy, 15351575. Berne, 1991.

Gordon, Bruce. "Heinrich Bullinger." In The Reformation Theologians, edited by Carter Lindberg, pp. 170183. Oxford, 2002.

Gordon, Bruce, and Emidio Campi, eds. Heinrich Bullinger (15041575) and the Formation of the Reformed Tradition. Grand Rapids, Mich., 2004.

Bruce Gordon

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Bullinger, Heinrich

Heinrich Bullinger (hīn´rĬkh bŏŏ´lĬng-ər), 1504–75, Swiss Protestant reformer. After the death of Ulrich Zwingli in 1531, Bullinger became pastor of the principal church in Zürich and a leader of the reformed party in Switzerland. He played an important part in compiling the first Helvetic Confession (1536), a creed based largely on Zwingli's theological views as distinct from Lutheran doctrine. In 1549 the Consensus Tigurinus, drawn up by Bullinger and Calvin, marked the departure of Swiss theology from Zwinglian to Calvinist theory. His later views were embodied in the second Helvetic Confession (1566), which was accepted in Switzerland, France, Scotland, and Hungary and became one of the most generally accepted confessions of the reformed churches. He wrote a life of Zwingli and edited his complete works.

See J. W. Baker, Bullinger and the Covenant (1981); P. Biel, Doorkeepers at the House of Righteousness: Henrich Bullinger and the Zürich Clergy (1990).

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Bullinger, Heinrich

Bullinger, Heinrich (1504–57). Swiss Reformer. Biblical and patristic study, the reading of Luther's and Melanchthon's writings, and Zwingli's preaching, led Bullinger to support the Reformation movement. He succeeded Zwingli as Chief Minister in Zürich, devoting his energies to educational reform, participation in the eucharistic debate amongst Protestants, and voluminous literary activities including influential correspondence with the English Reformers.

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"Bullinger, Heinrich." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bullinger-heinrich