The robber wasp...

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Here is a taste of the abuse Zwingli suffers at the keyboards of the Covenant Renewal Worship, Federal Vision men, these excerpts from that self-styled "Reformed theologian," Peter Leithart:

...the most obvious sleight of hand here is to make Zwingli stand in for the Reformers as a whole. How many readers will realize that Luther vociferously battled Zwingli (and hence stood on the side of “sacramentality”), and that Calvin was equally opposed to Zwinglianism? Gregory makes it sound as if Zwingli’s admittedly dualist eucharistic theology was the most logical outcome of Protestant metaphysics. In fact, many of the Reformers rejected Zwingli.


I was using “Zwingli” as a stand-in for “Zwinglianism,” that is, the view of sacrament and symbol associated with the name of Zwingli. That view may not match up in every respect with Zwingli’s own views, but it is the view that is widely known as “Zwinglianism.”

And, from my reading of Zwingli ...and about Zwingli, Zwingli himself is not blameless for the development of Zwinglianism. There’s a reason why this view of symbol bears his name, and the reason has to do with the dualism of spirit and matter, and in turn of sign and reality, which he inherited from Erasmus and which is a fundamental structure of Zwingli’s Humanist thought.

A tweet from Peter:

Zwingli: John 6 will break your neck! Luther: Necks don't break so easily here. You're in Germany, not Switzerland. -Marburg, 1529

Also from Peter:

J. P. Singh Uberoi claimed that "Spirit, word and sign had finally parted company at Marburg in 1529. For centuries, Christian sacramental theology had held symbol and reality together in an unsteady tension, but that alliance was ruptured by the Zwinglian view of the real presence. For Zwingli, "myth or ritual . . . was no longer literally and symbolically real and true." In short, "Zwingli was the chief architect of the new schism and . . . Europe and the world followed Zwingli in the event."

For many post-Marburg Protestants, literal truth is over here, while symbols drift off in another direction. At best, they live in adjoining rooms; at worst, in widely separated neighborhoods, and they definitely inhabit different academic departments.

And finally, Peter writes:

Here is a thesis, which I offer in a gleeful fit of reductionism: Modern Protestants can't write because we have no sacramental theology. Protestants will learn to write when we have reckoned with the tragic results of Marburg, and have exorcised the ghost of Zwingli from our poetics. Protestants need not give up our Protestantism to do this, as there are abundant sacramental resources within our own tradition. But contemporary Protestants do need to give up the instinctive anti-sacramentalism that infects so much of Protestantism, especially American Protestantism.

So how is it that Peter can be defended as pro-Zwingli? The same way the man can be quoted as a "Reformed theologian" while he complains that the Roman Catholics don't allow him to break bread with them in their idolatrous Mass.

Even his supporters give him hoots and catcalls over his everlasting claims to be a faithful representative of Reformed Protestantism:

The above position would be unproblematic if Leithart had not spent his entire article trying to argue that ‘reformational catholicism’ is the most authentic to historic protestantism. Whatever our views on theology, we should all be able to recognize on purely historical grounds that Leithart’s position is a departure from historic Protestant roots. This does not render his position false, to be sure, but it does suggest that his reformational catholicism is ...not the highly traditionalist option that he represents it as being.

Believing that the Catholic church had fallen into apostasy, Luther, Calvin and Zwingli were all quick to point out that Rome could no longer be called a legitimate church. What is ‘blindingly obvious’ to Leithart, namely that “there’s a billion-member Church of Jesus Christ centered in Rome” was obviously false to Calvin and Luther. Indeed, the magisterial reformers taught that the Catholic church of their day was not only lacking in the essential marks of the church, but represented Babylon and the system of the anti-Christ.

* * *

...Calvin believed that God’s church could not be identified with the Roman communion... 

...while Calvin believed that the Roman church could not be considered a legitimate church, he taught that it contained within itself the true church hidden from view. Similar notions can be found in both Luther and Zwingli, as well as the second generation Protestant reformers.

This does not even include the reformed creeds and confessions, which are unanimous in stating that there is no church centered at Rome.

Those of us who read our Reformed Protestant fathers find it difficult to take anything Peter writes seriously. He strikes us as a robber wasp in a beehive who has perfected the ability to steal the honey without the bees realizing what he's doing and becoming angry, expelling him from the hive.

So, for myself, I have serious problems with Peter Leithart both in what he writes and how he sells himself as a "Reformed theologian" as he writes those things. And I grieve over how many Reformed men, especially pastors and elders, snuggle up to him as he steals the Protestant Reformation's honey.

Count me one of "Leithart’s sacramental enemies" that some men find it to be "so funny watching." 

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!