The Reformation Beyond Luther
So what did Zwingli Teach?
Zwingli affirmed the core doctrines of the Reformation.
Salvation by grace alone through faith alone, in Christ alone, based on Scripture alone, and to the glory of God alone.
But Zwingli also focused on the fundamental distinction, even the great divide, that separates the Creator from His creation, that separates God from man.
It follows that Zwingli thought idolatry was the fundamental and most heinous sin committed by humanity.
What is idolatry? It is ascribing to creatures that which is due the Creator! At the core of Rome’s errors, corruptions, and excesses, Zwingli sniffed the stench of idolatry. Appalled at the rampant superstition of his day, Zwingli sought to expunge all relics, icons, and other manner of idols from his churches and the lives of his people, and turn their worship to God in heaven alone.
In the words of one scholar,
“Thoughtless prayers, prescribed fasts, the bleached cowls and carefully shaved heads of the monks, holy days, incense, the burning of candles, the sprinkling of holy water, nun’s prayers, priest’s chatter, vigils, masses, and matins – this “whole rubbish heap of ceremonials” amounted to nothing but “tomfoolery.” To depend upon them at all for salvation was like “placing iceblocks upon iceblocks.”
Zwingli did more than preach against these rituals and objects – he purged them.
One distraught Catholic wrote to the Emperor in 1530 and described the condition of Zurich’s churches after Zwingli’s reforms:
“The altars are destroyed and overthrown, the images of the saints and the paintings are burned or broken up and defaced…They no longer have churches but rather stables.”
Zwingli wanted Christian worship to focus on the transcendent, living God in heaven – not on human creations or pale images.