Luther Vs. Zwingli: Faith vs. Reason

For those theologians who do not understand the mystery of the sacraments – baptism and communion – seem to me to be those who would rather accept human reason than the faith once for all delivered to the Apostles and the traditions which they handed down. The sacraments weren’t discarded by Christianity until the time of Christianity’s archfoe, Zwingli, decided that human reasoning was enough to read the biblical texts. Followed by other heretics, Zwingli’s view on the sacraments has permeated Western low-church, Protestantism attempting to rewrite history to fit what is little more than the 16th century’s Todd Bentley (Zwingli) and his human reasoning.

Trevon Wax, an author of a wonderful little book, has a series of posts on the subject of Luther who fought to correct abuses and Zwingli who fought desperately to destroy Christianity:

In one excellent post, Wax writes,

Zwingli believed, based on logic and human reason, that a human body could not be present in more than one place; Luther challenged him to take Christ at his word. If Jesus said he was physically present, then logic and human reason should be forced to correspond to the everlasting words of Christ – not the other way around. In Luther’s eyes, Zwingli was seeking to modify the natural reading of Christ’s words in order to make it compatible with human reason.

“I do not ask how Christ can be God and man and how His natures could be united. For God is able to act far beyond our imagination. To the Word of God one must yield. It is up to you to prove that the body of Christ is not there when Christ Himself says, ‘This is my body.’ I do not want to hear what reason says. I completely reject carnal or geometrical arguments…”

Luther did not understand Zwingli’s reticence to accept a physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He believed that just as the body of Christ was necessary for salvation, so a physical presence of Christ was important for the Lord’s Supper. Luther saw Zwingli’s attempt to “spiritualize” the presence of Christ as a backhanded way of denying Christ’s true humanity.

I note that in one of those quotes about this infamous meeting, Zwingli goes on to contribute salvation to the Greek sages based on their consciences. His salvation was one of human reasoning and could very well have done without the Cross of Christ, it seems.

You can find more posts from Trevon, here:

1. Luther versus Zwingli at Marburg: Why the Fuss?

2. Luther on the Lord’s Supper

3. Zwingli on the Lord’s Supper

4. Humanity and Physicality

5. Humanity and Omnipresence

6. Flesh and Spirit

7. Marburg’s Conclusion

Related Articles:

Book Review: Understanding 4 Views on the Lord’s Supper
The Case for Open Communion
Spurgeon on the Lord’s Supper


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22 Replies to “Luther Vs. Zwingli: Faith vs. Reason”

  1. Are you serious? Luther’s consubstantiation is more scriptural than Zwingli’s view? Zwingli’s refusal to impart medieval superstition to the meaning of the text is an act of rescue not destruction. Tell me, what scriptural basis can you find for deciding between transubstantiation and consubstantiation? You have got it backwards, it was Luther and the Catholics whose bizarre logic distorted the sacraments.

    1. Jeremiah,
      I would agree somewhat with you, as to Rome. And Luther tried to simply save the literal presence “in” the bread & wine. But it is not ever literal, but the spiritual power and presence of the sacrament itself in the memorial of the death & resurrection of Christ, before our mind and senses – Luke 24:30-32!

    2. Not sure I was talking about the Eucharist in particular, Jeremiah, but if memory serves, Luther and Rome was a bit far from each other. Luther took a different stance – to keep in mind, without becoming cannibalistic, the Incarnation and the literal words of Christ, in the Supper.

  2. “The 16th century Todd Bentley..?”

    “Good sir, I needs must knee thee in thy pantaloons! Thus!”

    Naah, don’t think so.


    1. I would agree, Bentley is not even close to the 16th century, save as the heretic he was and is! Why is it we judge our Reformers by the 20th and 21st century standards? They, like us, have feet of clay! But they unlike us, were staring at a much different Roman Church. Now Rome simply does not have the power it once did thank God! Let’s remember it was a “Reformation”, and not a reestablisment of the Church top to bottom. Sadly this is what the radical reformation became. And I think Joel’s major point?

      1. Uh, humor was my main point with the Bentley-Zwingli connection was humor, mostly.

        I think Zwingli when too, too, too far in his Reformation, however.

        1. It was not Zwingli so much, as the Anabapists! Re-reading what I can of Zwingli himself, plus Stephens two major works. I have come to see that Zwingli is just what he was…a Reformer with Luther and Calvin. And his thought of the preacher as something “prophetic” has been lost in the Church today. But we have moderns like both Forsyth and Barth, that have sought to renew this in the Church again. But will the Church listen and renew itself? That is the great question!

  3. Zwingli was no mere ‘humanist’, he was but another example of God’s differential expounding within Protestantism. When one emphasizes human reason, he affirms creation, a creation that must become in-tune with God. Many have a problem with Armenius, and his take on free-will, as if that too was not in need of God’s tempering.

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