After spending several years researching and writing about Martin Luther, I knew a few things about Ulrich Zwingli: he was important to the Reformation in Switzerland, he was diplomatic, he was willing to wield a sword for the sake of the gospel, and Martin Luther felt no affection for him. In fact, Luther refused to recognize Zwingli as a fellow Christian brother. I was eager to learn more about Zwingli as a result.
William Boekestein has written a unique biography of Ulrich Zwingli (EP Books, 2015). The work is unique because it is one of the few biographies of the Reformer published in English, and by far the most contemporary. Like all of EP Books’ Bitesize Biographies, Ulrich Zwingli is concise (coming in at 163 pages), which makes it a good consideration for older students.
Ulrich Zwingli was an interesting figure. Rather than coming to an understanding of the Reformed faith in a moment, he was a slow convert. A humanist, Zwingli came to a full understanding of the true gospel of Jesus Christ through his reading of Scripture, and his preaching and writing reflected that. Zwingli was increasingly at odds with the Roman Catholic Church as he taught in an expository manner, using only Scripture as his reference. He began to preach against human religious tradition in favor of true, heart-felt worship.
As Anabaptism spread, iconoclasm broke out, and the Reformation advanced, Catholic states in Switzerland banded together to form an alliance. There were martyrdoms, threats, and–eventually–war. Zwingli fought in both state-related issues and in religious conflicts. He died on the battlefield defending his city of Zurich during the Second Kappel War from attacking Catholic states.
Prior to his marriage (for which he petitioned Rome for the Scriptural right for priests to marry and was denied), Zwingli repeatedly broke his vows of chastity. While he had boundaries for the sin he committed (no virgins, married women, or nuns), Zwingli was a philanderer. This was actually common and accepted within the Catholic priesthood, and even in the papacy (a number of Renaissance popes had children). However, Zwingli was preaching and also sinning in this manner, and was aware of his sinfulness. The sexual sin appears to stop with his marriage.
The issue of Christian violence is an interesting one (and something I’ve been considering lately). While Zwingli chose the way of the sword, his choice was abhorrent to some Reformers. (John Knox also chose to fight for the Reformed fellowship.) This is an issue where perhaps the American church falls hard on the side of Zwingli, but the Church throughout history has not taken the same stance on the whole.
Ulrich Zwingli is an excellent resource to address Zwingli in high school studies. Zwingli is an important figure in Christian history, and William Boekestein’s short volume is invaluable in addressing his life.
William Boekestein is a pastor and author. His works include several important books on the Reformation for children: Faithfulness Under Fire: The Story of Guido de Bres, The Glory of Grace: the Story of the Canons of Dort, and The Quest For Comfort: The Story of the Heidelberg Catechism.
Ulrich Zwingli would coordinate well with studies involving
- The 15th and 16th Centuries
- The Reformation
- Scripture and the Gospel
- Warfare and the Christian
- Progressive Sanctification
I’d like to thank EP Books for giving me a copy of Ulrich Zwingli by William Boekestein in return for my honest review.
You can find Ulrich Zwingli at
- Amazon: Ulrich Zwingli
Bitesize Biographies from EP Books
Additional Bitesize Biographies reviewed at Thinking Kids:
- George Whitefield
- Samuel Rutherford
- Zachary Macaulay
- Festo Kivengere
- George Smeaton
- Thomas Chalmers
- Girolamo Savonarola
- George Muller
Other books for older students reviewed on Thinking Kids:
- God’s Story: A Student’s Guide to Church History by Brian Cosby
- Water the Earth: A Student’s Guide to Missions by Aaron Little
- Rebels Rescued: A Student’s Guide to Reformed Theology by Brian Cosby
- Bitesize Theology: An ABC of Christian Faith by Peter Jeffrey
- Questions God Asks by Israel Wayne
- Grace Works! (And Ways We Think It Doesn’t) by Douglas Bond
Thinking Kids Book Review Indexes
Thinking Kids Pinterest Book Boards
- Christian Books for Preschoolers
- Christian Books for 4-7 Year Olds
- Christian Books for the Middle Grades
- Christian Books for Middle School
- Christian Books for High School
- Christian Books for Kids’ Devotions
- Christian Books about Parenting
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