Impatient Radicals: The Anabaptists
The Reformation of Ulrich Zwingli was scripturally based, one in which the Bible was understood to lie at the basis of the changes being instituted. In the dramatic challenge to the established church which came forth from Zwingli the basis of the reform was self-consciously scriptural.
To the nuns at the Oetenbach cloister in 1522 Zwingli had affirmed most strongly the scriptural principle of authority and asserted that the Bible was basically easy to understand if one but trusted God and depended on his Spirit for enlightenment. He affirmed that the Word of God is “certain and cannot fail.” Furthermore it was clear and could be understood by any who truly remained open to the message contained therein. Thereby Zwingli opened the door to the interpretation of Scripture to the whole church. It was not necessary to depend on the ecclesiastical authorities for truth. It would come directly from God through his Word.
It was this foundation on which the Reformed Church had been formed at the First Zurich Disputation in January, 1523. Preaching in Zurich was to be according to the Word of God. Zwingli himself had concluded in his fourteenth article before the disputation: “Every Christian should use the greatest diligence so that the Gospel of Christ alone is preached everywhere.”
The Reformation in Zurich was not of a monolithic whole. There were some nominal followers of Zwingli who were “evangelical” merely because they opposed the Catholic Church, and a few others because they wanted to be free of the moral restraints that the church sought to maintain. Zwingli had little sympathy with these weak followers.
One group of Zwingli’s devoted early followers was to cause him serious problems. ...