Saturday, May 9, 2015

A review of Bitesize Biographies; Ulrich Zwingli by William Boekestein

A review of Bitesize Biographies; Ulrich Zwingli by William Boekestein

Ulrich Zwingli (Jan 1484 - Oct 1531) was a leader of the Protestant reformation in Switzerland.  Not as well known as other reformers like Luther and Calvin, he nevertheless played a huge role in advancing reformation in the church.

Zwingli is someone I knew very little about, even though I have studied church history and the reformers fairly extensively over the last few years, so I was excited to read this book.  I wasn't sure what to expect considering the title of this series.  After all, even though reading a larger biography can be daunting (and boring), I wondered how anyone could write a biography as short as this one and still be able to bring Zwingli to life.

I'm pleased to say that Pastor Boekestein pulled it off.  I thought this book was a fascinating look into the early days of the Swiss Reformation and the life and times of Zwingli.  I almost read this book through in one sitting, that's how interesting it was.

One highlight for me as I read this book was that I was able to see Zwingli's influence on later reformed practice.  Though for various reasons layed out in the book, Zwingli wasn't a systematic theologian like Calvin, he certainly had a huge influence on the reformers who came after him

Another section I found fascinating was the chapter on the Anabaptists and Zwingli's struggles against them.  It amazes me that so much of the thinking and practice of the Anabaptists lives on in the thoughts and practices of American evangelicalism.  The teachings Zwingli fought against in his day are still around in ours.

The author brings Zwingli to life, showing us his unwavering commitment to the gospel and sola scriptura, but also shows us his failings.  Perhaps, as Boekestein surmises, Zwingli's confusion regarding the separation between church and state, (or what Augustine called the city of God, city of man distinction), strengthened Calvin's later insistence against a state church.

Lastly, the author also includes Zwingli's sixty seven articles at the end of the book which not only gives us an outline of Zwingli's theology, it shows that theology fitting squarely within historic, confessional reformed theology.

I was reminded once more as I read this book, that as a child of the reformation I stand in a long line of godly men.  We stand on the shoulders of giants.  Thank you Pastor Boekenstein for bringing this giant of the reformation to life!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

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