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Trail Blazers – Ulrich Zwingli – Shepherd Warrior

By William Boekestein
April 2017 | Review by Gladys Nash
  • Publisher: Christian Focus Publications
  • ISBN: 978-1-78191-803-6
  • Pages: 160
  • Price: 5.99
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Book Review

‘They can kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul’. So exclaimed Ulrich Zwingli, as he was dying on the battlefield, fighting for the Protestant cause.

Born a few weeks after Luther and 25 years before Calvin, he was a diligent student, whose books were his friends. He became an accomplished musician, poet and songwriter, a powerful preacher and leading Protestant reformer in Switzerland.

Shepherd warrior is a biography, in the Trailblazers series, written in the style of a novel for 9-14 year olds, but it could be enjoyed by any age group. Together with an accurate account of political and church life in Switzerland at the time, it traces the life of Zwingli through his childhood and education, to his ministry in three locations, ending with 15 years as pastor of the Great Minster in Zurich, and finally his violent death.

He was an energetic priest, whose preaching gradually changed as he studied the Scriptures. He began to base everything he taught on God’s Word. Many came to true faith in Christ through his preaching. When he was 40, he married a widow and was a devoted husband and father.

Through his early study of the classics and his correspondence with Erasmus, he became a great debater and took part in several public disputations, defending the truths he taught. One debate with Luther, taking place over three days, concerned their disagreement over the true meaning of our Lord’s words, ‘This is my body’.

Wanting a faster pace of change, the Anabaptists (or ‘re-baptisers’) could not accept baptism of children and insisted their view should be held. Zwingli, meanwhile, firmly held to the practice of covenant baptism. There was violence, and the authorities — who decided what was permitted in the church — declared re-baptising to be a capital crime.

The author shows the ambiguity of Zwingli’s view here, as, though a peaceful man who earlier opposed mercenary soldiering, he did not appear to oppose the drowning of three Anabaptists caught re-baptising. When war was declared on the Protestant cantons, he joined the fight in defence of Scripture and died on the battlefield.

The book deals with many errors and issues clearly, honestly and in context. In a helpful index, children are encouraged to engage in further discussion. An exciting, informative and true story for children.

Gladys Nash


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