Augustine’s Influence on Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli

by | Dec 15, 2023 | Bible & Theology | 0 comments

Augustine’s Influence on Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli

Dec 15, 2023Bible & Theology0 comments

Augustine was the most important patristic source for the Reformation. In the centuries prior to the Reformation there was an “Augustinian Renaissance”. Here I reflect on the impact Augustine had on Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli, in the areas of grace and salvation, the church and the sacraments, and predestination and freewill.

The wide dissemination of the Scriptures and the Church Fathers, due to the extraordinary success of the printing press, was a powerful contributor to the religious renewal of the sixteenth century. Remarkable among these Church Fathers, Augustine of Hippo (354-430) has been regarded as the most consequential patristic source for the Reformation. In the centuries prior to the Reformation interest in the study of Augustinian theology dramatically increased. There was an “Augustinian Renaissance”.[1]

Augustine was a North African theologian who was a prolific author. His wrote theological and exegetical works such as On Faith and Symbol (393), and On the Trinity (400-416); ecclesiastical works such as On Baptism (400), and On the Unity of the Church (405); anti-Pelagian works such as On Grace and Free Will (426), On Rebuke and Grace (426), On Predestination of the Saints (428-429), and On the Gift of Perseverance (428-429); and other famous works such as The City of God (413-426), and Confessions (398-399).

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Here I look systematically at Augustine’s views on grace and salvation, the church and the sacraments, predestination and freewill. I also consider the impact his theological stances had on these sixteenth century reformers: Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli.

Grace and Salvation

‘If only you had recognised the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord! If only you had been able to see his incarnation… as the supreme instance of grace!’[2]

The anti-Pelagian writings of Augustine allow us significant insight into his theological stance on grace and salvation. Pelagianism was initiated in the fourth century by a British, ascetic, theologian monk named Pelagius. Essentially Pelagianism emphasised man’s ability to undertake the initial movements toward salvation through personal effort, apart from special grace. God offers grace equally to all people, and therefore through personal merit alone we progress in holiness.[3] Pelagius was shocked at the rampant immorality in Rome when he arrived there in 400, and was distressed by Augustine’s prayer in the Confessions,[4] viewing it as quietism.

Human action involves three ingredients, according to Pelagius: power (posse), which comes directly from God; and will (velle) and realization (esse), which people produce themselves.[5] Therefore, for Pelagius, the human nature is fundamentally good and can achieve the Divine ideal without supernatural strength imparted through grace.

Augustine opposed this teaching during the last sixteen years of his life (414-430), stressing the absolute necessity of the grace of God for salvation.[6] According to Augustine, human nature tends toward evil and has no ability to achieve the Divine ideal unaided. People’s will is predominantly weak, and is ‘tanto liberior quanto sanior‘. Humanity is corrupted and debased through the Fall, and sin is a condition or state rather than mere actions or behaviour. The corruption of the sinful nature makes the will of man so weak.[7] The Pelagians in Augustine’s opinion are not defenders of free will. They are its ‘inflatores et praecipitatores‘.[8] Therefore, the doctrine of Grace is predominant in Augustine’s theology. Grace commences and accompanies all human striving toward salvation, and it is God who throughout the process takes the initiative. Salvation is the free work of God, who through divinely appointed means infuses supernatural life into fallen human nature through the efficacy of grace. Augustine developed the doctrine of Grace to such an extent that the conclusions of predestination naturally occurred. The dominance of grace was so accentuated that man became seen as completely helpless in the hands of Almighty God.

The theology of Augustine greatly impacted Calvin.[9] Constant study of Augustine’s writings allowed Calvin to liberally quote him, openly appropriate his expressions, and studiously use him for support during controversies.[10] Although steering away from Augustine’s extensive allegorism, Calvin regarded him as a faithful exegete and interpreter of the Scriptures.[11] Dr. W. Cunningham goes so far as to write that, ‘this combination of Lutheranism and Augustinianism is just Calvinism, which is thus the fullest, most complete, and most comprehensive exposition of the whole scheme of Christian doctrine.’[12]

The Augustinian theories on grace and predestination are intensively used by Calvin also.[13] For Calvin the love of God, as expressed through grace, and the wrath of God are held in juxtaposition.

In this assertion he quotes Augustine when he writes, ‘therefore, God loved us even when we practised enmity toward him and committed wickedness. Thus in a marvellous and divine way he loved us even when he hated us. For he hated us for what we were that he had not made; yet because our wickedness had not entirely consumed his handiwork, he knew how, at the same time, to hate in each one of us what we had made, and to love what he had made.’[14] Calvin regularly appeals to Augustine, as in the Institutes, p. 795, (III, 15, 7)[15], when he asserts the unaided grace of God in salvation.

The 1889 and 1890 discoveries in the Ratschul Library in Zwickau allow us to estimate that as a young monk Luther[16] began studying Augustine as early as 1509.[17] Luther quickly became enthralled by the writings of Augustine, ‘devouring’[18] them eagerly, not merely because he was of an Augustinian order, but rather because of the intrinsic value and truth he found in them. Later he wrote, ‘I do not defend Augustine because I am an Augustinian; before I began reading his works he meant nothing to me.’[19] The theological stance of Augustine on grace and salvation was largely adopted by Luther. He accepted operative grace,[20] and agreed that God initiates the first grace toward passive man, just as a woman is passive when she conceives.[21]

With Augustine he described the human and divine roles in justification.[22] Luther developed the doctrine of Grace as a major theme in his writings, and he was largely indebted to Augustine in this respect.

Luther consequently buried himself in Augustine’s writings while at the monastery, and became thoroughly acquainted with his works.[23] Augustine’s theology was held in great esteem by Luther, and promoted widely while he was at Wittenberg.[24] Luther even appealed to Augustine as a leading proponent of church reform.[25]

Zwingli[26] diligently studied the Church Fathers before going to Zurich, especially Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, and Origen. Once arriving in Zurich, Zwingli elevated Augustine to a pre-eminent position among the fathers in his theological development. Gradually Zwingli progressed to a theocentric understanding of Augustine with the doctrine of Grace as central.

Agreeing on all the major areas of Augustine’s theology regarding grace and salvation, Zwingli’s universalism is related to God’s free election and the redemption of Christ.[27] He used Augustine in arguing that those Gentiles who uphold the law do so by grace, faith, and the Holy Spirit, and are therefore justified by the grace of God.[28]

It is hard to over-estimate the consequences of Augustine’s theological influence on Zwingli’s doctrinal position. According to Stephens, an author named Kohler asserted that, ‘one could construct Zwingli’s whole theology from the marginal notes in the nine volumes of Augustine that Zwingli had in his library’.[29]

The Church and the Sacraments

Augustine eloquently described the relationship between the visible church and the invisible church.[30] ‘We, then, call people elected, and Christ’s disciples, and God’s children, because they are to be so called whom, being regenerated, we see to live piously; but they are then truly what they are called if they shall abide in that on account of which they are so called. But if they have not perseverance… they are not truly called what they are called and are not; for they are not this in the sight of Him to whom it is known what they are going to be…’[31]

Regenerated, pious, and persevering Christians are identified by Augustine as the true and invisible church, because not all those who are in the present, visible, earthly institution are the true church. The membership of the invisible church are the whole company of the predestined. The church remains a visible organisation, characterised by the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments, however the true church is essentially invisible. While Augustine recognises the primacy of Scripture in the visible and invisible church, he understands the church to have an authority to direct true members to the fullness of these Scriptures. ‘…I would not believe the Gospel, unless the authority of the Catholic Church moved me (commovit me).’[32]

The sacramental theology of Augustine is largely deduced from his responses to schisms within the church. Augustine regarded the sacraments as designed to promote and create Christian unity. ‘He has bound together the new Community of His people by Sacraments in number very few, in observance very easy, and in meaning very excellent; such as Baptism solemnised in the name of the Trinity, the Communication of His Body and Blood, and whatever else is enjoined in the Canonical Scriptures…’[33] The Sacraments initiate an intimate union between outward and inward in Augustinian theology. Therefore, in the Sacrament of Baptism, there is an external manifestation of the Sacrament of Grace in the water, while there is an internal working of the benefit of Grace through the Spirit.

All external sacrifices are symbolical according to Augustine, as they are signs of inward realities. Sparrow-Simpson points out that, ‘in the ancient mind Signs were not regarded as suggestions of absent realities but indications of their presence.’[34] Augustine’s famous definition of a sacrifice is that, ‘the true sacrifice is offered in every act which is designed to unite us to God in a holy fellowship, every act, that is, which is directed to that final Good which makes possible our true felicity.’[35]

‘We must believe, therefore, that the former church, invisible to us, is visible to the eyes of God alone, so we are commanded to revere and keep communion with the latter, which is called “church” in respect to people.’[36]

Calvin elucidates the concept of the visible and invisible church which was proposed by Augustine, however he does not intend to detract from the validity of the visible church in the Christian’s experience. The mystery and enormity of the invisible church is not easily grasped in this lifetime, because to it belong numerous people who have gone before us, and multitudes who will come after us,[37] that is, a congregation of elect people (universus numerus electorum). Many who are members of the visible church on earth do not belong to the invisible church of God, however only God himself can make judgements about this. To Calvin there could be no assurance of salvation without the church, even the visible church, which is our Mother.[38]

The theology of the Sacraments adhered to by Calvin is a mixture of elements to be found in Luther, Bucer, and the early church Fathers, particularly Augustine. When presenting a definition of the Sacraments, Calvin clearly states his agreement with Augustine.[39] The imprint of Augustinian sacramental theology is extremely noticeable in Calvin’s writings on the sacraments, and indeed Calvin does not hesitate to avow his dependence upon Augustine.Commenting on Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of John 19:34, Calvin writes, ‘this high mystery was indeed shown to us when from the sacred side of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross there came forth blood and water: the side which, for that reason, was very well said by St. Augustine to be the source and spring from whence our sacraments issued.’[40]

Augustine’s theology of the visible and invisible church had great repercussions on the development of Luther’s thought.[41] He readily accepted this theology, and it enabled him to come to terms with the discrepancies between the ideal church as presented in Scripture and the tainted empirical church as it exists on earth. The invisible and true church is indeed comprised by the whole company of the predestined, and because faith is invisible and unable to be measured, the logical conclusion for Luther was that the genuine church is invisible.

Luther continued this line of thought by describing the church as hidden from the world, and hidden in regards to holiness. Although she is the Bride of Christ the world pictures her as a helpless maid surrounded by aggressive and powerful foes,[42] and although she is made holy in heaven the world understands her as made up of sinners and saints, hypocrites and pious believers, tares and wheat on this earth. The true church, which is the community of believers and the elect of God, is hidden in the visible church. This is the concept of communio sanctorum, which Luther largely adopted from his study of Augustine.

Luther agreed and disagreed with Augustine on various aspects of Sacramental theology. Whereas Augustine taught that Sacraments are efficacious signs of grace in their mere observance, Luther taught that they are effectual due to the faith which is connected to the Word of God hidden in those visible signs.[43] Confession, Sacraments, and contrition do not justify, only faith has the power to justify.[44] Luther sums up this theology with the aphorism: ‘Not the sacrament of faith but the faith of the sacrament justifies’[45] (non sacramentum fidei sed fides sacramenti iustificat), and by referring to one of Augustine’s quotes on sacramental efficacy, ‘not because (the sacrament) is carried out, but because it is believed’ (non quia fit, sed quia creditur).[46]

The community (communio) of the church is expressed in the Lord’s Supper, according to Luther, and in this he remains very close to Augustinian theology.[47]

As noted previously, Zwingli elevated Augustine to a pre-eminent position among the Church Fathers in his theological development and stance on various issues. Zwingli’s gradual theocentric understanding of Augustine made an impression on his comprehension of the Church and the Sacraments. He described the genuine Church as a communion of all elect believers,[48] and true unity in this communion of the elect is through the Word of God.[49] Immensely influenced by Augustine, Zwingli declared that the universal (catholic) Church is scattered throughout time, history and place, and only comes together at the end of the ages. Only God knows who comprises this invisible Church. It is invisible to us, but visible to God. God distinguishes between those who claim to be followers of Christ, and those who are truly followers.

Augustine’s tractates on John particularly inspired Zwingli’s sacramental theology, and the copy of the tractates in his personal library are extensively annotated. Zwingli was not afraid to criticise Augustine, however, on issues regarding the Sacraments.[50]

Like Erasmus, Zwingli stands largely in the Franciscan tradition, distinguishing between the sign and what it signifies in sacramental theology. Saturated in Augustine and Erasmus, Zwingli emphasises unity as a major function of the Sacraments.[51] The scholastic summary of Augustine’s view is readily adhered to by Zwingli also.[52]

Predestination and Free Will

Augustine’s doctrine of Predestination is significantly based on the doctrine of Original Sin. The final four words of the Latin translation of Romans 5:12 read ‘in quo omnes peccaverunt‘, and Augustine interpreted them as ‘(in Adam) all people sinned’. Augustine not only attributed original sin to all mankind, but also original guilt, using the term ‘originalis reatus‘.[53] This guilt is combined with concupiscence, making inheritance of Adam’s guilt hereditary. Only through Christ are the elect freed from original sin and guilt.

Augustine follows this logic as he develops his theology of double Predestination. God is both a deity of supreme mercy, and of divine justice, exhibiting his mercy in the elect, and his justice in the reprobate (God wills the salvation of the elect, and he wills that many will not be saved – ‘tam multos nolit salvos fieri‘). He declares that if all were damned God would not be able to display his mercy, and if all were saved God could not exhibit his justice.[54]

Although such a concept appears difficult to fathom, Augustine declares that God’s wisdom and will shall be revealed in eternity.[55] In Augustinian theology grace provides the solution to original and actual sin, through the forgiveness which is offered in the second Adam, who is Christ. People have free will to choose between most alternatives, however they cannot choose God without the Divine assistance of Grace. This grace involves God revealing himself to people, and persuading people’s will to enable them to turn to God for salvation.[56]

As mentioned previously, Augustine’s doctrine of Predestination is significantly based on the doctrine of Original Sin. Calvin enthusiastically agreed with Augustine, defining original sin as, ‘a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God’s wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls works of the flesh.’[57] The corruption in Adam, according to Calvin, was such that ‘it was conveyed in a perpetual stream from the ancestors into their descendants,[58] and consequently ‘a contagion imparted by him resides in us, which justly deserves punishment.’[59] Original sin, and original guilt, are dilemmas for the human race, only solved through Christ. Calvin identifies concupiscence with this whole process, as did Augustine.

Calvin’s famous definition of predestination follows: ‘We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he determined with himself what he willed to become of each person. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any person has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of her or him as predestined to life or to death.’[60] Calvin heartily accepted Augustine’s proposal of double predestination, claiming some have been predestined for life and some for death. Whereas Augustine significantly infers double predestination, Calvin actually affirms double predestination. Calvin writes that God did not choose between Jacob and Esau on the basis of physical appearance (quand Dieu elit, ce n’est pas pour nos beaux yeux), and that the two were indistinguishable in merit. God’s unmerited mercy and justice display themselves where He wills, therefore ‘the predestination of God is truly a labyrinth from which the mind of people is wholly incapable of extricating itself.’[61]

Augustine declared that humans have free will to choose between most alternatives, however they cannot choose God without the Divine assistance of Grace. This grace involves God revealing himself to people, and persuading their will to enable them to turn to God for salvation. Calvin concurred, announcing that since the Fall ‘it is certain that people have no free will to do good without the help of the grace of God.’[62]

The work of Luchesius Smits entitled Saint Augustin dans l’oeuvre de Jean Calvin is probably the most thorough study on the degree to which Calvin depended on Augustine for his doctrine of Predestination, and indeed his entire theological stance, as well as the doctrinal dissimilarities between the two theologians. Smits statistically shows that Calvin’s entire works contain 4,119 references to Augustine.[63]

Augustine’s theological stance regarding predestination had a dramatic influence on Luther’s doctrinal position. Luther wrote that human pursuits after salvation and righteousness are unable to cause election,[64] and therefore people receive no merit.[65] The human will has no ability to thwart God’s sovereign purposes. For the elect, proclaims Luther, predestination is ‘the sweetest of all doctrines’, however to the carnal it is ‘the bitterest and hardest of all.’ Consequently, ‘God proves through all these things, not our will, but his inflexible and sure will of predestination. For how would it be possible for a person to break through all these in which a thousand times over he would despair, unless the eternal and fixed love of God led him or her through them and the Spirit himself by his presence led us and made intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered?’[66] With Luther predestination and original sin[67] were essential theological tenets, ensuring comfort and hope for the believer who had been rescued by the Sovereign God.

On the principle of sola gratia, Calvin, Zwingli and Luther agreed whole-heartedly with Augustine, and it has been stated that the mainline Protestant Reformation can be considered an ‘acute Augustinianization of Christianity.’[68]

Luther’s position on the concept of free will was that, ‘the human will is like a beast of burden. If God rides it, it wills and goes as God wills; if Satan rides it, it wills and goes as Satan wills. Nor can it choose its rider, nor betake itself to him it would prefer, but it is the riders who contend for the possession.’ This analogy used by Luther has its source in Augustine, who probably wrote the work Libri III Hypomnesticum contra Pelagium, although his authorship is disputed among scholars. Luther, however, would have credited Augustine with the work and the analogy.

Like Augustine, Zwingli’s theology includes the total corruption of human beings, and their inability to contribute to their own salvation.[69] Augustinian theology is prominent in Zwingli’s conviction on predestination, and following Augustine he asserts that everything depends eventually on God’s election of us before the creation of the world.[70] Therefore human beings have no free will apart from God. Zwingli refers to John, Augustine, and Paul for support in S. V. 713.2-714.2, when affirming that everything a person is comes ultimately from God,[71] for God is the first moving cause and the highest good (summa bonum).[72]

Augustine may be regarded as the most consequential patristic source for the Reformation. As previously mentioned, in the centuries prior to the Reformation, interest in the study of Augustinian theology dramatically increased, to the extent that there was what may be termed an “Augustinian Renaissance”.[73] The stance that Augustine took on the issues of grace and salvation, the church and the sacraments, predestination and freewill, powerfully impacted Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli.


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Graham Hill

Dr Graham Hill is the Founding Director of The GlobalChurch Project – He’s the author of “GlobalChurch: Reshaping Our Conversations, Renewing Our Mission, Revitalizing Our Churches” (IVP, 2016), and 3 other books.

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[1] George, T. Theology of the Reformers, Nashville, Broadman Press, 1988, p. 48.

[2] Augustine, City of God, p. 414, (X, 29).

[3] Pelagius advocated an ethical perfectionism, and opposed Augustine’s understanding of grace, viewing it as passivity.

[4] ‘My entire hope is exclusively in your very great mercy. Grant what you command, and command what you will. You require continence. A certain writer has said (Wisd. 8:21): ‘As I knew that no one can be continent except God grants it, and this very thing is part of wisdom, to know whose gift this is.’ y continence we are collected together and brought to the unity from which we disintegrated into multiplicity. He loves you less who together with you loves something which he does not love for your sake. O love, you ever burn and are never extinguished. O charity, my God, set me on fire. You command continence; grant what you command, and command what you will’. Augustine, Confessions, p. 202, (X, xxix, 40).

[5] ‘We distinguish three things and arrange them in a definite order. We put in the first place ‘posse‘ (ability, possibility); in the second, ‘velle‘ (volition); in the third, ‘esse‘ (existence, actuality). The posse we assign to nature, the velle to will, the esse to actual realization. The first of these, posse, is properly ascribed to God, who conferred it on his creatures; while the other two, velle and esse, are to be referred to the human agent, since they have their source in his will. Therefore man’s praise lies in his willing and doing a good work; or rather this praise belongs both to man and to God…’

Pelagius, Pro libero arbitrio, ap. Augustine, De gratia Christi (418). Bettenson, H. (ed) Documents of the Christian Church, (London, Oxford University Press, 1963), pp. 74-75.

[6] Elwell, W. (ed) The Concise Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, (London, Harper Collins Publishers, 1993), p. 375.

[7] ‘I inquired what wickedness is; and I did not find a substance but a perversity of will twisted away from the highest substance, you O God, towards inferior things, rejecting its own inner life (Ecclus. 10:10) and swelling with external matter.’ Augustine, Confessions, p. 126, (VII, xvi, 22).

‘I sighed after such freedom, but was bound not by an iron imposed by anyone else but by the iron of my own choice. The enemy had a grip on my will and so made a chain for me to hold me a prisoner. The consequences of a distorted will is passion. By servitude to passion, habit is formed, and habit to which there is no resistance becomes necessity. By these links, as it were, connected one to another (hence my term a chain), a harsh bondage held me under restraint.’ Augustine, Confessions, p. 140, (VIII, v, 10).

[8] (De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, 27) quoted in Sparrow-Simpson, W.J. The Letters of St. Augustine, (New York, The Macmillan Company, 1919), p. 134.

[9] John Calvin (1509-1564) is often regarded as ‘the systematiser of the Reformation.’ He wrote the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536 (the Institutes eventually went through five editions, and was extremely comprehensive, containing 79 chapters).

[10] Wendel, F. Calvin: The Origins and Development of his Religious Thought, (London, Collins, 1963), p. 124.

[11] Calvin, Institutes, p. 583, (III, 2, 35).

[12] William Cunningham is quoted in Warfield, B.B. “The Literary History of Calvin’s Institutes”, in Gamble, R.C. (ed) Articles on Calvin and Calvinism: A Fourteen-Volume Anthology of Scholarly Articles, (New York, Garland Publishing, 1992), p. 184.

[13] Calvin, Institutes, pp. 941-943, (III, 22, 8).

[14] Compare: Calvin Institutes, pp. 941-943, (II, 16, 4) and Augustine, John’s Gospel, (cx, 6).

[15] Compare: Augustine, Enchiridion, (ix, 32; xxviii, 106; xxxi, 117).

[16] Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German theologian who became a catalyst for the Reformation when in 1517 he wrote his Ninety-Five Thesis, protesting the abuse by the Roman Church in the sale of indulgences. These were translated into contemporary German, sent to the printing press, and circulated throughout Germany.

[17] In the Ratschul Library in Zwickau a number of books were discovered which were filled with Luther’s marginal notes and underlinings.

[18] Luther, WAT 1. no. 347; 140, 5; 1532.

[19] Luther, WABr 1.70, 19-21; to Spalatin, 19 October 1516.

[20] Luther, WA 56. 379. 13-15.

[21] Luther, WA 56. 379. 1-2: ‘Ad primam gratiam sicut et ad gloriam semper nos habemus passive sicut mulier ad conceptum.’

[22] Luther, WA 56. 379. 2-6. According to Luther, the doctrine of justification by faith alone was the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae, meaning ‘the article by which the church stands or falls.’ McGrath, A.E. Reformation Thought: An Introduction, (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1988), p. 130.

[23] Oberman, H.A. Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, (London, Yale University Press, 1989), 259.

[24] ‘Our theology and St. Augustine prosper and, by the work of God, reign in our university. Aristotle is in continual decline, perhaps to his future permanent ruin. Lectures on the Sentences are treated with distain, and nobody can hope for an audience unless he puts forward this theology, that is, the Bible or St. Augustine, or some other doctor of authority in the Church.’ Luther, WABr 1. 99, 8-13.

‘The Wittenberg theology faculty as a whole regarded Augustine as pre-eminent among the fathers on the basis of the nature of his theology, which they regarded, at least initially, as the most faithful to scripture. The thoroughly Augustinian cast of the vera theologia at Wittenberg is one of its most characteristic features in the years 1517-1519.’ McGrath, A.E. Luther’s Theology of the Cross, (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1985), p. 51.

[25]Luther, BS 36, 8-29.

[26] Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) was a Swiss Reformer, who could be considered the most important early reformer after Calvin and Luther.

[27] ‘In short there has not lived a single good man, there has not been a single pious heart or believing soul from the beginning of the world to the end, which you will not see there in the presence of God. Can we conceive of any spectacle more joyful or agreeable or indeed sublime?’ Zwingli, S. IV. 65.26-41.

[28] Zwingli, S. VI. i. 242.6-243.1.

[29] Stephens, W.P. The Theology of Huldrych Zwingli, (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1986), p.19.

[30] Augustine, On Christian Doctrine (3. 31-34.).

[31] Augustine, On Rebuke and Grace (Chap. 22).

[32] Augustine, quoted in Oberman, H.A. Forerunners of the Reformation: The Shape of Late Medieval Thought Illustrated by Key Documents, Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1966, p. 56, without any reference to which of Augustine’s works this comes from.

[33] Augustine, Letter 54. 1. Augustine also recognised some observances which were based on the authority of tradition (non scripta sed tradita). ‘My opinion therefore is, that, wherever possible, all those things should be abolished without hesitation which neither have warrant in Holy Scriptures, nor are found to have been appointed by councils of bishops, nor are confirmed by the practice of the Universal Church…’ Augustine, Letter 55. 35.

[34] Sparrow-Simpson, W.J. The Letters of St. Augustine, (New York, The Macmillan Company), 1919, 294.

[35] Augustine, City of God, (X, 6).

[36] Calvin, Institutes, p. 1022, (IV, 1, 7).

[37] Calvin, Institutes, p. 1020-1022, (IV, 1, 2, 7).

[38] ‘There is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast… and keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like angels… Away from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation’ (echoing St. Cyprian), and furthermore, ‘What God has joined together it is not lawful to put asunder, so that, for those to whom he is a Father, the church may also be Mother.’ Calvin, Institutes, (IV, 1, 4; IV, 1, 1.).

[39] ‘I think this definition will be right and simple, if we say that the sacrament is an outward sign by which God seals upon our consciences the promises of his good will towards us, to confirm our feeble faith, and we give mutual testimony before him and the angels no less than before men, that we hold him to be God. One can still more briefly define what a sacrament is, by saying that it is a testimony of the grace of God towards us, confirmed by an external sign, with mutual attestation of the honour we bear him. Whichever of these two definitions one may choose, its meaning will be in accord with what is said by St. Augustine, that a sacrament is a visible sign of a sacred thing, or a visible form of the invisible grace.’ Calvin, Institutes, (IV, 14, 1). Compare: Augustine, De Catechizandis rudibus, (26, 50).

[40] Calvin, Institutes, (IV, 14, 22). Compare: Augustine, In Iohannem tract, (120, 2).

[41] Luther, Preface to Revelation.

[42] ‘If, then, a person desires to draw the church as he sees her, he will picture her as a deformed and poor girl sitting in an unsafe forest in the midst of hungry lions, bears, wolves, and boars, nay, deadly serpents; in the midst of infuriated men who set sword, fire, and water in motion in order to kill her and wipe her from the face of the earth.’ Luther, WA. 40/3.

[43] Luther, WA 1.594.40-595.7.

At a conference in Marburg in 1529 Luther and Zwingli disagreed on one particular aspect of sacramental theology. Luther believed in Consubstantiation, whereas Zwingli believed that the bread and the wine are only signs which are a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice.

[44] Luther, WA 1.286.15-19; 1.596.7-9; 1.631.7-8; 57.170.1-10; 57.206.2-5.

[45] Luther, WA 1.631.7-8.

[46] Wicks, J. Luther’s Reform: Studies on Conversion and the Church, Mainz, Verlag Philipp Von Zabern, 1992, p. 126.

[47] In the Lord’s Supper, from the viewpoint of Luther, we receive ‘a sure sign of community and incorporation into Christ and all the saints’ WA 2.743; LW 35.51. ‘The significance of or effect of this sacrament is the community (Gemeinschaft) of all the saints’ WA 2.743; LW 35.50. When I receive the Holy Body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, ‘whether I am worthy of it or not, I am still a member of Christendom; this is what the sacrament says and demonstrates’ WA 2.694; WA 6.63; PE 2.39.

Luther frequently quotes Augustine’s rule: ‘When the Word is added to the element it becomes a sacrament’ (Accedat verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum). eg: WA 30.124; BC 438.

[48] Zwingli, Z. II. 56.29-30.

[49] Zwingli, Z. II. 61.22 – 62.13.

[50] Zwingli, Z. I. 293.24-28; IV. 321.1-3.

[51] Zwingli,Z. III. 226.16 – 228.28.

[52] It is referred to in various forms, for example: ‘Credo igitur, o Caesar, sacramentum esse sacrae rei, hoc est: factae gratiae signum.’ Zwingli, Z. VI. ii. 805.6-7.

[53] Augustine, De diversis Quaest. ad Simplicianum, i, q. 2, 20.

[54] Augustine, De Civ. Dei, XXI, xii.

[55] ‘Two little children are born. If you ask me what is due, they both cleave to the lump of perdition. But why does its mother carry one to grace, while the other is suffocated by its mother in its sleep?… Both have deserved nothing of good, but the potter hath power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour.’ Augustine, Serm, 26, xii.

[56] Augustine’s most clear discussion on the doctrine of Predestination can be found in Epistle 186, section 7.

[57] Calvin, Institutes, p. 251, (II, 1, 8).

[58] Calvin, Institutes, p. 250, (II, 1, 7).

[59] Calvin, Institutes, p. 251, (II, 1, 8).

[60] Calvin, Institutes, p. 926, (III, 21, 5).

[61] Calvin, Comm. on Rom., (49.180).

[62] Calvin, Institutes, (II, 6).

[63] According to Smits there are 1,175 references in the Institutes, 2,214 in other theological treatise, 504 in commentaries, 47 in his Letters, 33 in his Sermons, and 146 in the letters of authors cited by Augustine that Calvin used. Smits, L. Saint Augustin dans l’oeuvre de Jean Calvin, (Assen, 1957), pp. 271ff.

[64] WA, LVI 89, 15.

[65] WA, LVI, 83, 27.

[66] WA, LVI, 382, 4.

[67] WA, 17II, 282. WA, 40II, 379ff.; LW, 12, 347-351. ‘This is original sin born in us after Adam’s fall, and not only something personal but also natural.’ WA, 39I, 84; LW, 34, 154.

[68] George, T. Theology of the Reformers, (Nashville, Broadman Press, 1988), p. 74.

[69] Stephens, W.P. The Theology of Huldrych Zwingli, (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1986), p. 153.

[70] Zwingli, S. IV. 62.21-44.

[71] ‘Denn wie kan der mensch im selbs et was zuschryben, so er alles, das er ist, von got ist?’

[72] ‘It is evident, therefore that God not only is a sort of stuff, as it were, from which all things have being and motion and life, but is at the same time such wisdom, knowledge, and foresight, that nothing is hidden from him, nothing unknown to him, nothing beyond his reach, nothing disobedient to him. Hence not even the mosquito has its sharp sting and musical hum without God’s wisdom, knowledge, and foresight. His wisdom, then, knows all things even before they exist, his knowledge comprehends all things, his foresight regulates all things. For that which is God would not be the supreme good unless it were at the same time supreme wisdom and foresight.’ Zwingli, Z. III. 647.7-16; Works. III. 66. Cf. Z. IX. 30.15-28.

[73] George, T. Theology of the Reformers, Nashville, Broadman Press, 1988, p. 48.

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Graham Joseph Hill

Rev. Dr. Graham Joseph Hill serves as Mission Catalyst for Church Planting and Missional Renewal with the Uniting Church in NSW and ACT, Australia. Previously, he was the Principal of Stirling Theological College (Melbourne), the Vice-Principal of Morling Theological College (Sydney), and an Associate Professor at the University of Divinity, Australia. Graham is an ordained and accredited minister with the Baptist Churches of Australia. He has planted and pastored churches and been in ministry since 1988. Graham is the author or editor of 13 books. Graham writes at

Graham's qualifications include: Honours Diploma of Ministry (SCD), Bachelor of Theology (SCD), Master of Theology (Notre Dame), and Doctor of Philosophy (Flinders).

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