"Summum Bonum" in the Zurich Reformation: Zwingli and Bullinger
Huldrych Zwingli has been rashly criticized for his philosophical theology, manifest in works such as "De Providentia Dei", by those whose measure of what constituted the true Reformation was a strict Biblicism, and who viewed philosophical theology as a corrupt remnant from medieval scholasticism. Yet Zwingli deftly uses the concept with its doctrinal baggage in order to support a doctrine of God’s Providence and grace towards humanity. Ultimately the Reformer derives providence and predestination, indeed the whole salvific economy, from a philosophical concept of God as supreme power and as highest good. In his own time Zwingli’s successor, Heinrich Bullinger, had to defend Zwingli’s openness to classical philosophy and his acceptance of the pagan quest for truth. This concept of "Summum bonum" also occurs in Bullinger at key points, being not only understood as all-sufficiency but also related to the names of God and thus to the Divine self-revelation, indeed as a source of covenant history. This paper explores the roots of this concept and how it evolves into a salvation-historical and therefore biblical motif in the Zurich Reformation and thus its import for the understanding of God’s relation to the created order.
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