Zwingli: Zealous Reformer, Faithful Pastor.

On October 11, 1531, Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531) died on the battlefield after his Zurich battery was routed by Catholic forces at Kappel. He went into battle believing that God would sustain them—a devastating miscalculation. The accounts of his death vary dramatically. According to one report, the Catholics who found his lifeless body staged a posthumous mock trial, hurling insults at him and condemning him for various offenses. He was then beheaded, quartered, and burned, an unsanctimonious ending to one of the magisterial reformers.

Other reports give different accounts of the events—some fantastical. One suggests he lived long enough to make a dramatic defense of his views under interrogation, while another tale describes how his heart was salvaged from the ashes of his burning body, symbolizing the passion and purity of his message. Discerning truth from somewhat murky history exemplifies the challenge of recounting the complex and fascinating story not only of Zwingli’s death but also of his life.

In his book Zwingli the Pastor: A Life in Conflict, Stephen Brett Eccher includes the many “paradoxes and ironies” that make Zwingli a complex and controversial figure (2). Eccher is honest about the Swiss reformer’s successes and failures and finds lessons in them all. Zwingli’s life is often misunderstood and overshadowed by the other enormous figures of the Reformation, but alongside them, Eccher reminds us that Zwingli labored to see the same kinds of reforms that began from the milieu of Renaissance humanism.

Click Here to Read More ( Originally Published at the Gospel Coalition

Stephen O. Presley (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is senior fellow for religion and public life at the Center for Religion, Culture, and Democracy and associate professor of church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Cultural Sanctification: Engaging the World like the Early Church. He is married to Haley and they have four children.