The current fashion today, not only among the convertskii, but also among the Reformed, is to treat Huldrych Zwingli (pronounced Zv-ingli) as a gnostic whipping boy. Supposedly, he gutted the sacraments of any “enchanted” meaning (I was going to link to Orthodox Bridge, but I couldn’t establish a connection; I wonder if it is just down or they blocked my IP address). While Zwingli could be criticized as having too intellectual an approach to the sacraments, I do not think people seriously interact with what he is saying. As William Cunningham notes with much force,
Zwingle (sic) was deeply persuaded, that the right mode of investigating this subject was not to follow the example of the Fathers, in straining the imagination to devise unwarranted, extravagant, and unintelligible notions of the nature and effects of the sacraments, for the purpose of making them more awful and more influential, but to trace out plainly and simply what is taught and indicated in Scripture regarding them (229).
I can hear the responses, “But that’s just biblicism! How do you know the Scripture is plainly teaching this?” A short reply is twofold: which is easier to understand: Romans 4:11, teaching that circumcision was a sign and seal of righteousness by faith, or that in the Eucharist we participate in the Sophianic descent upon the world (I am not criticizing Bulgakov. I really do enjoy reading him. I understand he does not represent Orthodoxy, but simply asserting that does not equal a refutation of his concerns)? And before someone tells me how wonderful Schmemann is, let me point out that many conservative Russo-Orthodox suspected him of Protestant sympathies.
But back to Zwingli. There are shortcomings in his theology. That is true. What I have found interesting, though, and I am certainly open to correction on this, is that one can affirm Zwingli’s sacramental views and be in 100% accord with Westminster (though I grant that WCF probably went deeper than Zwingli). This is an important point and one of which Federal Visionists are routinely guilty. As wonderful as Calvin and the others are, and noting truly the broad array of peripheral differences among the Reformers, it is the Westminster Confession (if you are Anglo-American) and not the peripheral differences which are binding on the church. This is where Doug Wilson errs. I freely grant that men at Westminster did not believe in the imputation of active obedience. It is simply bad hermeneutics to interpret what was agreed upon as the norm and representative view by what was considered the fringe.
Cunningham, William. The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, reprint 1979.