Ulrich Zwingli’s inclusivism

Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) has been called the Luther of Switzerland. One Reformed scholar writes:

“Broke with Luther at the Colloquy of Marburg (1529) over Communion, taught that Communion is mainly if not entirely a memorial meal. Prolific writer: Commentary on True and False Religion; On Providence, etc. Influenced the early Anabaptists, fell out with them, approved the drowning of some of them in Lake Zurich in 1527” (Dr. Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism; underlining mine–CD).

Here are some quotes from Zwingli’s “Exposition of the Christian Faith”:

“I believe, then, that the souls of the faithful fly to heaven as soon as they leave the body, come into the presence of God, and rejoice forever. Here, most pious King, if you govern the state entrusted to you by God as David, Hezekiah, and Josiah did, you may hope to see first God Himself in His very substance, in His nature and with all His endowments and powers, and to enjoy all these, not sparingly but in full measure, not with the cloying effect that generally accompanies satiety, but with that agreeable completeness which involves no surfeiting, just as the rivers, that flow unceasingly into the sea and flow back through the depths of the earth, bring no loathing to mankind, but rather gain and joy, ever watering, gladdening and fostering new germs of life. The good which we shall enjoy is infinite and the infinite cannot be exhausted; therefore no one can become surfeited with it, for it is ever new and yet the same. Then you may hope to see the whole company and assemblage of all the saints, the wise, the faithful, brave, and good who have lived since the world began. Here you will see the two Adams, the redeemed and the redeemer, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Phineas, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and the Virgin Mother of God of whom he prophesied, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, the Baptist, Peter, Paul; here too, Hercules, Theseus, Socrates, Aristides, Antigonus, Numa, Camillus, the Catos and Scipios; here Louis the Pious, and your predecessors, the Louis, Philips, Pepins, and all your ancestors who have gone hence in faith. In short there has not been a good man and will not be a holy heart or faithful soul from the beginning of the world to the end thereof that you will not see in heaven with God. And what can be imagined more glad, what more delightful, what, finally, more honorable than such a sight? To what can all our souls more justly bend all their strength than to the attainment of such a life?

So it is with the damnation of the unbelievers. Those only are understood who have heard and not believed. About the others we cannot pronounce an opinion, because we do not know about the election of any, partly because Paul promises that, if uncircumcision [the heathen] do the works of the law, it shall become circumcision (for they show the law of God written upon their heart), and because Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Virgin Mother of God, Peter and Paul were elected of God when they were still infants and had not faith, nay before the world was made. It is not, therefore, a universal rule that he who has not faith is damned, but him who has heard the doctrine of faith expounded and remains and dies in unbelief, we can perhaps count among the wretched. For many have not believed immediately upon hearing, but only when laid hold on by the Spirit and drawn to belief, like Paul. Therefore we may pass judgment only on those who remain in unbelief to their death. Although some give plain signs by their cruelty or lust that they are rejected of God, yet, since so often the worst men have returned to the right way, we ought not to condemn any one before his end, or his passing away, as the poet says.  And in this way are reconciled these two statements, ‘He that believeth not is damned’ and ‘If the uncircumcision doeth the righteous works of the law, its uncircumcision is turned to circumcision,’ etc., or ‘For when the heathen who have not the law do by nature what is in accordance with the law, they are a law unto themselves, though they have not the law; for they show the work of the law written upon their hearts,’ etc. [Rom. 2: 14,15]. For nothing prevents God from choosing from among the heathen men to revere Him, to honor Him, and after death to be united to Him. For His election is free.

I certainly, if the choice were given me, should prefer to choose the lot of Socrates or Seneca, who, though they knew not the one Deity, yet busied themselves with serving Him in purity of heart, than that of the Roman pontiff who would offer himself as God if there were only a bidder at hand, or the lot of any king, emperor or prince, who serves as defender of such a little tin god. For though those heathen knew not religion in the letter of it and in what pertains to the sacraments, yet as far as the real thing is concerned, I say, they were holier and more religious than all the little Dominicans and Franciscans that ever lived. These for a long time have been so far from humbling themselves and giving God the glory for their holiness that there is no need of the touchstone of the Word of God to detect their hypocrisy. Their boldness, luxury, unrestrained recklessness, unbelief and cruelty show that their hearts are without God so completely that no one is so ignorant and boorish as to fail to see it clearly.” (Zwingli)

Ulrich Zwingli (in effect) takes his scissors and removes Romans 1:16 and 10:1-4 from his Bible (and many more must needs be excised by Zwingli).  Louis Berkhof writes concerning Zwingli in his section on “Common Grace” (cf. http://www.outsidethecamp.org/commongrace.htm):

“Zwingli conceived of sin as pollution rather than as guilt, and consequently regarded the grace of God as sanctifying, rather than as pardoning, grace.  This sanctifying influence, which penetrated in a measure even into the Gentile world, accounts for the true, the good, and the beautiful that is in the world.” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 434)

According to Schaff:

“His [Zwingli’s–CD] charitable hope of the salvation of infants dying in infancy and of an indefinite number of heathen is a renewal and enlargement of the view held by the ancient Greek Fathers (Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa). It was adopted by the Baptists, Armenians [sic], Quakers, and Methodists, and is now held by the great majority of Protestant divines of all denominations.” (Schaff)

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