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Henry Bullinger

30. September 2017

Columns, Gentle Reformation,

  —Warren Peel

The name of the second-­generation Swiss Reformer Henry Bullinger (Zwingli’s successor in Zurich) is not nearly as well known today as that of Martin Luther or John Calvin. This was not always the case, nor should it be so today. Bullinger was converted 10 years before Calvin and died 12 years after him. He enjoyed an international reputation greater than that of either Luther or Calvin, as the 12,000 letters to and from him testify. He was a personal friend and advisor of many of the leaders of the Reformation. He corresponded with Reformed, Anglican, Lutheran, and Baptist theologians. He corresponded with Henry VIII, Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth I of England, Christian II of Denmark, Philipp I of Hesse, and Frederick III, Elector Palatine. One scholar’s description of him as “a spider at the centre of the web of the Reformation” may sound vaguely unflattering, but it bears witness to the undisputed effect of his influence. He was called in his day “the common shepherd of all the Christian churches,” and, by more recent writers, “the father of the Reformed Church.”

Bullinger’s literary output was prolific; his 127 works amounted to more than Calvin and Luther combined. The quality of his writing was consistently high. He was responsible for the Second Helvetic Confession, the most widely accepted of all the 16th-Century Reformed confessions. In the opinion of George Ella, “Seldom has there been such a great man who made so few ...

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