Zwingli, religion, politics, and war

J.V. Fesko writes about some of the historical context that encircled the formation of the Westminster Standards (see the article, The Wicked Westminster Confession for further information about those standards).  Fesko states that during this early period,

a consequence of the irrefragable bond between politics and religion was that religion and war were also inextricably linked.  A microcosm of this reality appears in the life of one of the Reformation’s first-generation leaders, Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531)” (J.V. Fesko, The Theology of the Westminster Standards, p. 38; underlining mine).

Fesko recounts the Christ-hater Zwingli’s forming of a political alliance, called the Christian Civic Union (1529) and how Zwingli and certain

“Reformed cities fought a brief war in the summer of 1529, which was followed by the Peace of Kappel;  he was somewhat successful and able to expand the influence of the Reformation among other Swiss communities” (J.V. Fesko, The Theology of the Westminster Standards, p. 38).

Fesko further writes that

“Zwingli and the leaders in Zurich became overconfident  and overextended themselves by imposing an economic blockade against the Catholic Inner States of Switzerland.  In response, the Roman Catholic cantons raised an army and marched on Zurich, routing the Protestant army.  Zwingli, wearing a full suit of armor, was with the Protestant army and was killed in battle. 14  Some have claimed that he was merely a chaplain who accompanied the army into battle;  however, if he were merely a chaplain, then why would he dress in armor, wear a helmet, and carry a sword and a battle axe? 15″ (J.V. Fesko, The Theology of the Westminster Standards, pp. 38-39; underlining mine).

14  Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700 (London: Penguin, 2003), 175-76.

15  J.J. D’Aubigne, History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century, vol. 4 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1872), 450.

Did not Jesus say something about His servants not advancing His kingdom with a literal sword (cf. Matthew 26:52; John 18:36)?  Of course, the Reformation was an attempt to “reform” the Great Whore (rather than to COME OUT of the Great Whore as Scripture commands).  This appears to be an extremely bloody situation where various groups of God-haters are striking with the swords of wickedness and drinking the wine of violence.  When politics, religion, and war are so interconnected like this with wicked people, what does one expect to happen?

Fesko continues:

Was Zwingli a minister or a soldier?  Was the Reformation a theological or a political movement?  Was the Reformation a theological or military phenomenon?  The answer to these questions is yes.  The Reformation was all of these things, and Zwingli’s death is but one example of how interconnected and messy the events of early modernity were.  As military strategist Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) has argued, stripped to its essence, war is simply the exercise of force in order to bring about a political goal — it is merely the implementation of political policy. 17  In this case, given the symbiotic relationship between church and state, war was a natural instrument for advancing or defending theological causes.  And this principle generally colored Protestant and Roman Catholic interaction during early modernity.

As has been noted above, under the Marian persecutions nearly three hundred martyrs died for their faith.  However, this is not to say that Protestants were innocent of bloodshed.  Roman Catholics suffered under Protestant rule, which was an accelerant to the already burning fires of conflict between the two parties” (J.V. Fesko, The Theology of the Westminster Standards, pp. 39-40; underlining mine).

17  Carl von Clausewitz, On War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), 1.1.24 (p. 99).