Martin Bucer Biography
Our presbytery is named after the great Reformation theologian, Martin Bucer (1491–1551). Martin Bucer was a rare genius theologian who combined theological orthodoxy with a gracious catholicity in his attempts to reconcile various divisions during the Protestant Reformation. While others were given to entrenching theological divisions during heated political and social change, Bucer’s desire was to make sure that orthodoxy was protected and preached while maintaining historical broad consensus around Protestant distinctives. Our presbytery’s desire is to embody this balance of precision and catholicity of Word and Spirit set in the example of our father in the faith, Martin Bucer.
Martin Bucer was born in 1491 in Schlettstadt, Alsace and died in 1551 in England. He was educated in the university of a Dominican monastery from his teenage years. He took vows at sixteen to become a Dominican monk and remained one for roughly fifteen years. However, Bucer was changed upon hearing the famous Heidelberg Disputation in 1518 delivered by Martin Luther. Through further study and prayer, he aligned himself with the Protestant Reformation. He would eventually marry, have children, and go to England where he instructed in theology at the university until his death in 1551.
Most famously, Bucer is known for helping write the Tetrapolitan Confession of 1530 and his work on Christian political theology in his book, De Regno Christi (On the Reign of Christ). Bucer’s theology was to change over the years spanning the Lutheran, Zwinglian, and Reformed branches of controversy. His admiration of the theologians involved led him to personal affinity with them while offering critiques and disagreements over various theological positions. His attempts at unity led to great personal sacrifice as the political and religious tensions burned across Europe. Nevertheless, his spirit toward unifying the divisions still remained while he had difficulty identifying with various factions. He worked tirelessly in trying to heal the division over the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper between the Zwinglians and Lutherans while rejecting the errors of the Anabaptists and Rome. Although his sympathies for Luther and Zwingli would continue to shift, his primary goal was see if these views could be reconciled for the sake of the church unity. Eventually, his view shaped and influenced a younger theologian, John Calvin, whom he mentored.
Our presbytery honors our father in the faith for his contribution to fighting for truth and unity in the Christian church.
1. McKim, Donald K. and West, Jim. Martin Bucer: An Introduction to His Life and Theology, p.6. Much of the overview of this short synopsis is from this book.
2. Wedgeworth, Steven. Martin Bucer: The Ecumenical Reformer (unpublished paper. This paper offered a fine overview of the major theological controversies that involved Bucer and his theology.