Ulrich Zwingli


In December 1518 Zwingli became the people's priest at Zurich and launched the Swiss Reformation.  His view of the sacraments was a more radical break with past traditions than was Luther's view.  He is sometimes counted as the first of the "Reformed" theologians.  Some of his early followers, Conrad Grebel and Felix Mantz, left him in a dispute over infant baptism and became leaders of the "Radical" reformation.

Zwingli's defense of infant baptism was based on inferences from statements of the early Church Fathers that it was practiced in the early church and that it took the place of circumcision.

Zwingli's understanding of Communion was that the Lord's Supper is a sign or seal of divine grace already bestowed on a believer.  The bread and wine were symbols of the body and blood of Christ, who was locally present in His own body in heaven and not on earth.

In 1529 Zwingli debated Luther about the meaning of Communion in a conference at Marburg.  Luther insisted that Christ's words, "This is my body" (1 Cor. 11:24) refers to Christ's real presence and must be interpreted literally rather than metaphorically.  

The result of this minor theological difference meant that the political forces supporting Luther's reform would not lend support to the reforms in Southern Germany (Switzerland).  The progress of the Swiss Reformation was halted when Zwingli was killed and the Swiss Protestants were defeated by Catholic forces at the battle of Kappel in 1531.



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