22 July 2004

bucer on apostolic tradition

In his treatise, What Should Be Believed about the Baptism of Infants, Martin Bucer appeals of the practice and faith of the church catholic among his defences of infant baptism against the Radicals. He writes:

...what the universal church holds, and has always been retains without having been instituted by councils, is most assuredly believed to have been handed down not without apostolic authority.

It should be recalled in this regard that the Reformers thought of themselves as returning to "the catholic consensus of the churches" (see, e.g., Bucer's Lectures on Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, 47-50) while it was their opponents--both Radical and Papal--who had departed from it. One might question that historical judgment at various points, but it nonetheless was the ideal in terms of which the Reformers conceived their own movement.

Thus, in the words of a later Scottish divine, "I am first a Christian; secondly, a Catholic; thirdly, a Calvinist; fourthly, a paedobaptist; and finally, a Presbyterian."