Kingdom and Church in the Thought of Martin Butzer


Thomas F. Torrance, "Kingdom and Church in the Thought of Martin Butzer," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 6 (1955): 48-59; #1955-087


Torrance, Thomas F. "Kingdom and Church in the Thought of Martin Butzer." Journal of Ecclesiastical History 6 (1955): 48-59; #1955-087

Publication life cycle / General notes

Revised in Kingdom and Church (1956).


History has not yet taken its full measure of Martin Butzer who must be adjudged as standing within the sphere of Reformed rather than Lutheran theology, not only because of his masterful influence on Calvin or Calvin's considerable influence on him, but because his pioneer work in Biblical hermeneutics and patristic study helped to shape the whole Reformed Church. If Luther's theology is to be interpreted over against the development of Western thought particularly in its medieval form, that of Butzer is to be understood in terms of the Catholic Church and patristic theology of the first six centuries, for here we have a great attempt to get behind medievalism and, as Calvin put it, writing from Strasburg, to restore the face of the ancient Catholic Church. In further contrast to the Lutheran position Butzer's theology is more broadly based on the teaching of Scripture. Ephesians, Galatians and the Johannine writings, for example, are interpreted together, and so the Biblical ideas of election and adoption into the Body of Christ are placed alongside the doctrines of rebirth and justification by faith, and they are thought into each other, while the ministry of the Gospel, as well as the Gospel itself, becomes a de fide matter. It was in line with this that, while Luther laid all the stress upon the Word of God, Butzer (to be followed by Calvin) invariably stressed the Word and Spirit in their inseparable conjunction.

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