Our next foray into theology class will be to explore another of our most influential statements of faith, the Second Helvetic Confession. “Helvetic” means “Swiss” (it’s from Helvetia, the Latin word for Switzerland), and this confession was written by Heinrich Bullinger. Bullinger was a student and friend of Ulrich Zwingli—who was like the Luther of Switzerland, only even more stringent in his reforming—and, after Zwingli’s death in 1531, Bullinger became the pastor of the cathedral church in Zurich. He was the pastor of this major church for 44 years—from before John Calvin began his work until well after Calvin’s death—so he had ample time to put his faith into practice as he lived in this new religious reality. He wrote a confession for use in the church, preaching and teaching. This second confession was to be his gift to Zurich, but he published it in 1566 as a way of hopefully bringing together the Lutheran and Reformed churches in Germany—unity of the church was important to Bullinger.
Bullinger’s main concern was to relate Scripture and Christian faith to everyday life, and to connect all these things together through the church. Of course, like any statement of faith or any other piece of writing, it reflects Bullinger’s context—16th century Zurich, a town not always exactly in step with the rest of Switzerland or with Europe. There are many things we can learn for the 21st century, but there are also things (no women in leadership, monarchy as the norm, etc) that will grate on us at first. When we read it keeping this context in mind, of course, we’ll get more out of the experience!
This is the longest confession in our book of confessions, so we won’t be going through it section by section. Instead we’ll follow the broad movements of the confession through 9 areas. We’ll have one blog post for each of these areas. For those who like to read along, I’ll link the relevant sections. And, of course, I’ll post excerpts for discussion.
SO: beginning next week, we’ll have 9 weeks on the Second Helvetic Confession. This is your pastors’ favorite, for so many reasons, among them its sheer practicality and reality, and also its pastoral tone (and, we admit, a few little zingers here and there!). We hope you’ll enjoy reading along with us!
January 16: Chapters 1-2—Scripture and Preaching
January 23: Chapters 3-5—God and the True Worship of God
January 30: Chapters 6-7—Providence and Creation
February 6: Chapters 8-9—Sin and Free Will
February 13: Chapters 10-11—Predestination/Election and Salvation
February 20: Chapters 12-16—Reception of Salvation and New Life in Christ
February 27: Chapters 17-21—Church, Ministry, and Sacraments
March 5: Chapters 22-28—Life and Work of the Church
March 12: Chapters 29-30—Family and State
March 19: wrap up