In May 1509, two years earlier than usual, Bullinger started attending to his town's Latin school. After that, he went to the German town of Emmerich to continue his education. His parents had him beg for food (even though they provided for his clothes and shelter) so he could understand poverty. He was considering becoming a Carthusian monk during this time. When Bullinger was 15, he went to the University of Cologne. Bullinger earned his Bachelor degree on November 15, 1520 at the age of 16 (the same day that Martin Luther's works were burned in the city) and his MA at the age of 17. He returned to Switzerland in 1523.
Salvation and early work for the Reformation
While attending the University of Cologne, Bullinger bought a New Testament and studied it. Seeing that the Roman Catholic Church frequently appealed to the Church Fathers, he also studied their works. He found that the Church Fathers actually were much more in line with the Protestant Reformers on theological issues than with the Roman Catholic Church. Also, they based their views off the Bible and they rejected many Roman Catholic doctrines. Bullinger saw that salvation (justification) is by grace through faith and not by works and was saved.
When he returned to Switzerland, Bullinger's family favorably received the news that he accepted Protestantism. He also became a teacher and superintendent at the Cistercian monastery at Kappel. Bullinger reformed the monastery and got to know Ulrich Zwingli. He helped Zwingli at the Bern convocation in 1528.
In 1531, shortly after Zwingli was killed in the Second War of Kappel, Roman Catholic forces expelled all Protestants from Bremgarten. Bullinger went to Zürich. Because Bullinger already was well-known and highly regarded among Protestants, he received requests from the churches in Bern, Basel, and Zürich. Bullinger chose Zürich, and on December 31, 1531, he was elected the leader of the Zürich church, succeeding Zwingli.
Leader in Zürich
Bullinger was an influential leader in Zürich, preaching 2-3 times a week. He taught very biblically sound sermons, despite the somewhat difficult relations with the secular authorities in regards to church teaching. Although his relationship with John Calvin was not the strongest, Bullinger understood the value of cooperation between Christians. Bullinger ad a very influential role in bringing Calvin back to Geneva, and he drafted the Consensus Tigurinus, which concerned the Lord's Supper, with Calvin in 1549.
Bullinger worked very hard "to building the wider European community of the Reformed churches," and he was very influential on the international scene. Although attempts at agreement with the Lutherans were unsuccessful, Bullinger had good relations with Philipp Melanchthon, and he cooperated with other Protestants. Bullinger supported Reform movements in numerous European countries, such as Eastern Europe, England, France, and Italy. He was very influential in some of these European countries, and he had contact with Henry VIII and Edward VI, even though he himself physically stayed in Zürich.
Bullinger was influential in drafting the First Helvetic Confession with the Lutherans in 1536 and the Second Helvetic Confession in 1566, the latter of which was more aligned with Calvinist thought. During Bullinger's tenure, Calvinism and Zwinglianism joined together into the Reformed tradition.
Bullinger, who was also a historian, helped make Zürich a center for European refugees escaping religious persecution, as well as a center for intellectual matters pertaining to the Reformation.
Later life and death
Bullinger went ill during the Black Death of 1564-65. Much of his family and friends died within a year. Bullinger died on September 17, 1575 in Zürich, and Rudolf Gualter succeeded him as the leader of the church there.