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Master-builders of Utopia

March 1, 2010
While doing some political theology research, I came across this fantastic passage in Heinrich Bullinger's Sermonum Decades on church unity, vigorously endorsing the principle extra ecclesiam nulla salus.  We might well debate whether or not Bullinger and his colleagues's Protestant principles and the actions they took in the Reformation can be strictly reconciled with this viewpoint, but it is certainly worth appreciating that they still had this viewpoint, and set it forth in terms that roundly condemn their modern Protestant (and particularly Reformed) descendants: 
“The unity and united society of this church of God is so great, that out of her fellowship is there no people found acceptable unto God, any true salvation or safety, any light or truth; for without the pale of God’s church are no wholesome pastures found, all are infected with poison.  No religion pleaseth God out of the church of God.  If of old any man had sacrificed to God himself without the tabernacle or temple, in the high places, he was accounted to have sacrificed to devils, and esteemed to have shed innocent blood.  Rightly therefore the blessed martyr and bishop of Carthage, Cyprian, hath left in writing: ‘Whosoever separated from the church is joined to an adulterous church, the same man is separated from the promises of the church: neither pertaineth he to Christ’s merits, which hath left the church of Christ.  He is a stranger, he is unclean, he is an enemy.  He cannot now have God his father, who hath not the church his mother.  If he might scape that was out of the ark of Noah, he may also escape that is abroad out of the church.  He must needs be a most wicked man, whoseover he be, that leaveth his own country and the fellowship of very good men, and falleth away to the enemies....Wherefore I cannot marvel enough at the corrupt and schismatical manners of certain men, who separate themselves for every light cause from the most wholesome and pleasant company or society of the church.  For you shall find in these days captious and fantastical men not a few, which of many years have had fellowship with no church, nor as yet have fellowship with any; for in every man that is they find some kind of fault, in themselves only they find nothing worthy reprehension.  Therefore they conceive with themselves a wonderful fashion of the church, which except they see somewhere established after that fashion which they themselves have devised, they contend (with shame enough) that there is as yet no true church of Christ in the world.  They are worthy surely to be master-builders in Utopia...where they might set up a building fit for themselves.”


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