The Yoke of Christ: Martin Bucer and Christian Discipline

The Yoke of Christ: Martin Bucer and Christian Discipline

The Yoke of Christ: Martin Bucer and Christian Discipline

The Yoke of Christ: Martin Bucer and Christian Discipline

Excerpt

Near the end of his life, the exiled reformer Martin Bucer expressed his fervent prayer that the Strasbourg church "would willingly accept [the Lord's] most easy yoke, i.e. his discipline, without which the church will certainly not be able to last." The "discipline of Christ," he continued, consisted in this,

that all the members of Christ recognize and embrace each other most intimately and lovingly, and that they build one another up in the knowledge of and obedience to the son of God most zealously and efficaciously, and that the ministers of the churches know, care for and tend the individual sheep of Christ, as the chief pastor Christ set the example. . . . In countless places in Scripture, the Lord described and set forth for us this [discipline] which we also have proclaimed so clearly for so many years in life and writings and sermons.

Bucer had indeed devoted much of his life, writings, and sermons to establishing a system of discipline in Strasbourg and elsewhere which he believed would conform to the teaching of Scripture. The system of Christian discipline which he advocated was much broader than simply the punishment of sinners. As his words imply, discipline was the means by which the entire life of each and every Christian was shaped and guided. It included not only excommunication but contained other elements, such as catechetical instruction and confirmation, which together formed an integrated system for religious instruction, moral oversight, and pastoral care. The goal of this system was the internalization of religious values and moral norms which would ultimately lead to a new, Christian society whose members lived in accordance with evangelical teachings.

Bucer's understanding of Christian discipline, like other aspects of his theology, evolved over the course of his career. It grew out of certain fundamental theological convictions expressed in his earliest writings, but it was also shaped by his long experience as pastor, teacher, and church organizer. From childhood he was exposed to two powerful intellectual currents, humanism and the teachings of Thomas Aquinas . . .

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