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The Ten Theses of Berne (1528)

The Ten Theses of Berne is one of the earliest formulations of the basics of the Reformed faith.  The document resulted from a dispute that began at St Vincent Church in the Swiss city.  In the 1520s, the German reformer Berthold (Berchtold) Haller, influenced by fellow German reformers Philip Melanchthon and Huldrych Zwingli, replaced the Roman Catholic Mass with biblical sermons.

In January of 1528, the city council convened an assembly of clergy and laymen to discuss the disputes.  The conference would last nineteen days, during which the ten theses that Zwingli had revised and published at the request of Haller were discussed.  The Roman Catholic delegation was headed by Johann Eck, who had opposed Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521.  The famous church historian, Phillip Schaff proclaimed “complete victory” for the reformers in Volume 1 of his Creeds of Christendom (1876).  Thus the council at Berne became a major turning point in the Swiss Reformation that also spread into parts of Germany and other countries.

Ten Theses of Berne

  1. The holy Christian Church, whose only Head is Christ, is born of the Word of God, and abides in the same, and does not listen to the voice of a stranger.
  2. The Church of Christ makes no laws and commandments without the Word of God.  Hence human traditions are no more binding on us than they are founded in the Word of God.
  3. Christ is the only wisdom, righteousness, redemption, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.  Hence it is a denial of Christ when we confess another ground of salvation and satisfaction.
  4. The essential and corporeal presence of the body and blood of Christ [in the mass] cannot be demonstrated from the Holy Scripture.
  5. The mass as now in use, in which Christ is offered to God the Father for the sins of the living and the dead, is contrary to Scripture, a blasphemy against the most holy sacrifice, passion, and death of Christ, and on account of its abuses an abomination before God.
  6. As Christ alone died for us, so he is also to be adored as the only Mediator and Advocate between God the Father and the believers.  Therefore it is contrary to the Word of God to propose and invoke other mediators.
  7. Scripture knows nothing of a purgatory after this life.  Hence all masses and other offices for the dead are useless.
  8. The worship of images is contrary to the Scripture.  Therefore images should be abolished when they are set up as objects of adoration.
  9. Matrimony is not forbidden in the Scripture to any class of men, but permitted to all.
  10. Since, according to Scripture, an open fornicator must be excommunicated, it follows that unchastity and impure celibacy are more pernicious to the clergy than to any other class.

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