Wednesday Aug 10, 2022
Wednesday Aug 10, 2022
Wednesday Aug 10, 2022
The Church at the start of the Age of Reason
The 18th century is widely regarded as the ‘Age of Reason’ – the age of scientific discovery. Science was discovering the natural laws that governed the earth. With the advent of the theory of evolution, the idea of a supernatural world was dispensed with. Quickly God had become merely at best an impersonal observer and the supernatural, spiritual worlds and the divine inspiration of Scriptures were being denied.
Within general society, the 'need for God' disappeared as science and philosophy felt they could explain everything without the need of a God or gods. For the church, this was a century of stagnation and decay. In the USA, the original evangelical fervour had faded into commerce and prosperity.
However, there were glimpses of the Church being empowered. Not all was lost! There were still glimmers of the church still being alive! In the mid-18th century there was a spiritual revival throughout the USA and Britain.
America – In America, there was the Great Awakening! Revival started in 1730 under the passionate and spiritual preaching of Jonathon Edwards. He was followed by George Whitfield, an Englishman who waited for 6 weeks in 1740 and preached to crowds of thousands. Many thousands turned to the church and became Christians during this time of revival.
Jonathon Edwards (1703 – 1758) – Edwards’ conversion took place when one day he was reading 1 Timothy 1:17 “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Later in life he looked back and wrote "As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before… I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up to him in heaven; and be as it were swallowed up in him for ever!" You can see the reference in it's context by clicking here
As regards to his approach to science, rather than scurrying away from it as many church leaders did, Edwards like some others, embraced it! As he went on in life, while many in the church found that science was pushing them to an impersonal view of God, Edwards went the other way. He embraced the natural world as evidence of God’s craftsmanship and design. He went on to become perhaps America’s finest philosopher and thinking as well as a mighty preacher and church leader.
Wales – In Wales, revival broke out in the Church of England in 1738-1742 under the divinely inspired preaching of Howell Harris and Griffith Jones. It was during this time that George Whitefield was converted before he went to the USA to preach the same gospel there!
England – Perhaps the greatest names in England were the Wesley brothers - John (1703 - 1791) and Charles (1707 - 1788)! Together they revitalised a church quickly stagnating! Open air preaching, vibrant songs and zealous sermons were their hallmarks. At the heart of their preaching and hymnody were these thoughts “Justifying faith implies, not only a divine evidence or conviction that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins, that He loved me and gave Himself for me.” You can see the reference in it's context by clicking here.
Many came to faith because of them, and these people were discipled methodically. Together they founded the Methodist movement which gave birth to the Methodist denomination.
The church is almost 1800 years old now. The Holy Spirit is still at work, empowering the church despite the Age of Reasoning and the ignorance of the spiritual aspects of life.
That’s it for this time! That is the conclusion of our series HAHA! I hope you have enjoyed this speedy journey in the life of the Church! The story of the Church continues, and will continue until the object and source of the Church’s faith, Jesus Christ returns in glory just as He has promised to do!
Tuesday Aug 09, 2022
Tuesday Aug 09, 2022
Tuesday Aug 09, 2022
The Church in the Stuart Period
Last time we looked at the Protestant Reformation gathering apace in 16th century England. The main issue in the 16th century, as we saw together was “None but Christ saves” - that the Gospel is good news for all of humanity, that nobody can earn their salvation, but rather salvation is a free gift from God for all those who choose to receive it.
The main issue in the 17th century however, was 'None but Christ reigns'. The Stuart monarchy promoted the 'Divine Right of Kings', the God given authority to rule country and church. James VI of Scotland became king in 1567, and tried to re-establish the Episcopalian system, undermining the Presbyterian system. In 1603, he became the King of England as well and became James I of England.
The Scots never accepted his authority over the church and fought to maintain religious freedom. James and his son Charles harassed the Puritans and drove many out of the country to Holland. King James I however did authorise a new translation of the Bible – what we today know as the King James Version or Authorised Version.
National Covenant - The Archbishop of Canterbury tried to impose a new system of Church Government (Episcopalian) on Scotland, but the Scots rejected this and many signed a national covenant to maintain the freedom of the Presbyterian Church.
1638 - The General Assembly of the Church to establish who was head. The people led by Henderson accepted the king as king, but not as the head of the church. War broke out and the Scots, under General Alexander Leslie, defeated Charles in 1640.
1643 - Both the English and Scottish Parliaments signed a Covenant binding themselves to seek the reformation of religion along Reformed lines.
1643-49 - The Westminster Assembly of divines met to establish a basis for a united church in Britain. The Westminster Confession of Faith became the statement of faith for the Presbyterian Church.
The Puritans - Many Christians wanted greater reformation in the Church, following Calvin's model of Church Government and worship. Some separated from the Church of England altogether because they were considered still to be too closely attached with the Roman Catholic Church. . They formed distinctive groups embracing a greater purity of worship, doctrine and personal piety. Some went so far as to totally separate themselves from all other Christians and started autonomous local gatherings of believers. These independent churches were the beginning of the Congregational Church.
The Separatists - These Separatists were persecuted by both the Roman Catholic & Protestant churches, and many were driven out of England to Holland were there was great religious freedom. They were hounded out of England by King James I and then by King Charles. Many left for Holland. However in 1620, some returned to England and left for America (New England) on the Mayflower. They wanted a new land where they could worship God with total freedom and virtually establish His kingdom on earth. By 1643 some 20,000 had arrived resulting in America's origins being deeply religious.
The Baptists - Some of these Puritans maintained believers baptism by immersion was also essential. This started John Smyth in an independent church in Holland. A remnant of this church returned to England, and established the first Baptist Church, resulting in over 300 churches in England by 1660.
That’s it for this time! Next time in our series HAHA, we will look at the last of this series - the church in the 18th century confronted by the Age of Reason and scientific materialism! Thanks for listening! Come back to Partakers where every day there is something new to encourage your walk as a Christian in the 21st century.
Monday Aug 08, 2022
Monday Aug 08, 2022
Monday Aug 08, 2022
Reformation 3 - England Here We Come!
We are now in England in the early 16th century! However Protestantism had commenced earlier in the 14th century with John Wyclif who we looked at back in episode 22. Wyclif was the 'Morning Star of the English Reformation', who had a great desire to ensure that the Bible was made available to everyone in their own language. So a strong evangelical protest started with Wyclif.
King Henry VIII In the late 1520s King Henry 8th as head of the Roman Catholic Church in England, broke away from the Church in Rome. He broke away because he wanted a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, which Pope Clement VII refused to accept. Earlier, in the year 1521, Clement had recognised Henry as the 'Defender of the Faith' for his writings against Martin Luther. Pope Clement VII was known for his intolerance of Protestants and his main method of evangelisation was through coercion and force if necessary. In 1531 Henry prevented the English clergy from dealing with Rome under an Act of Parliament labelling this as treason. In 1534 Henry was made the 'Supreme Head of the Church of England' by the parliament. However he remained Roman Catholic in practice and doctrine. In 1532 made Thomas Cranmer the Archbishop of Canterbury – the clerical head of the Church of England.
Reformation in England however continued unabated. Thomas Cranmer was a reformer and was helped by many of the Reformers driven from Europe by the Roman Catholic attacks on the Protestants. William Tyndale translated the New Testament into English and this made a significant impact. Edward VI (1547-1553) became the king at the age of 10, and ruled for 6 years. He was well trained by Cranmer. He allowed religious freedom, and he published with the help of Cranmer, the 1st and 2nd Prayer Books. Then there was a change back again!
Mary Tudor "Queen Bloody Mary" (1553-1558). Mary was a fanatical Roman Catholic and set out to re-establish the Roman Catholic Church. She put to death many bishops including Cranmer. She marred Charles V son (Spain) to bring all of Christendom under Spanish power. In 1554, she resubmitted England to Papal authority.
Queen Elizabeth (1559-1603). As a daughter of Henry VIII second wife, Anne Boleyn, she was not recognised by the Pope. She was not in full agreement with the Reforming Protestants, but maintained Protestant leanings. She influenced preparation of the 39 Articles of Communion, largely prepared by Cranmer, which were less reformed as a result. In 1559, she became 'Governor of the Church of England'. She defeated the Spanish Armada, with the help of Sir Francis Drake, who were attacking in order to bring England back under Spanish and Roman Catholic control. This strengthened the Protestant cause in England.
The main issue in the 14th to 16th centuries, as we have seen was 'None but Christ saves'. That is, that the Gospel is good news for all of humanity. Nobody can earn their salvation, but rather salvation is a free gift from God for all those who choose to receive it. This is a far cry from the excesses of Church dogma to date and closer to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the early church.
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Sunday Aug 07, 2022
Sunday Aug 07, 2022
Sunday Aug 07, 2022
Reformation 2 - Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and Persecution
Today we continue with the Protestant Reformation by looking briefly at two other giants of that time – the Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli and the French Reformer, John Calvin.
Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531)
Zwingli was a Swiss reformer independent of Luther who was greatly influenced strongly by the teachings of Erasmus. He was born during a period of time when Swiss national patriotism was emerging. After studying humanities before taking on the role of pastor in a church in Glarus and later in Einsiedeln.
It was in 1518 that Zwingli became pastor of Grossmunster in Zurich. Here he preached about reforming the Roman Catholic church. He was particularly critical of fasting during Lent, church hierarchy, clerical celibacy and the use of image in worship. In 1525, he produced a new liturgy to replace the Roman Catholic liturgy.
These ideas soon came to the attention of Martin Luther and other reformers. When they met, they did agree on many things but differed on several y matters. Zwingli taught that the Lord's Supper was purely symbolic and the elements of bread and wine did not change literally into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ and nor did they at any point contain the real presence of Jesus Christ.
His reforms went from Switzerland to France, Scotland, Hungary, Holland, Germany, England, Puritans). Zwingli was killed in 1531 during an attack by his enemies within the Roman Catholic church on a food blockade supported by him.
Zwingli’s theology held the supremacy of the Bible, being the inspired word of God, over the teachings of humans such as the Church Councils and Church Fathers.
Concerning baptism, Zwingli differed from the Anabaptists who promote adult baptism only. Zwingli taught that the baptism of children was valid, describing that it was symbolic of God’s covenant with the Christian, much the same as it was when God made His covenant with Abraham.
He also promoted a non-Roman Catholic view of Church Government and Worship. Zwingli thought that the government was instituted by God and that they governed with divine approval. He taught that Christians were obliged to be obedient to their governments but to be disobedient only when the government acted in a manner to God’s will.
Our next giant is John Calvin! He was French and greatly influenced by Martin Luther. Trained as a lawyer, he broke away from the Roman Catholic church in 1530. During persecution by the Roman Catholic church on the reformation movement, Protestants, Calvin fled to Switzerland. There, in 1536, Calvin published the first edition of his now famous “Institutes of the Christian Religion.”
Calvin went onto introduce new forms of church government and worship liturgy despite opposition from secular authorities and people of power. In his final years, Calvin continued unabatedly to promote the Reformation of the church throughout Europe. During this time he also kept busy writing commentaries and regularly preached in churches. Prime to his thinking was Augustinian teaching, leading him to propose the doctrine of predestination and the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation and damnation.
While the Reformation was only in its infancy, there was intense persecution of the Reformation Protestants by the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in Spain, France and the Netherlands. Thousands of Protestants died in battle and through persecution. It was during this time that the printing press was invented and was the catalyst for the rapid promotion and distribution of these new ideas of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and others.
During this time also, we have noted that there was intense theological debate between the Reforming Protestants over such things as worship, predestination, the Lord's Supper and style of Church government. During this period, the Roman Catholic Church evangelised and rapidly gained new ground and more than made up for the losses to Protestantism. The Roman Catholic church did respond with a Counter Reformation. Commencing with the Council of Trent and the beginning of the Jesuits, these were designed to counter the Reformation movement. The majority of Northern Europe became Protestant, while Central Europe sank into deep conflict.
In the mid-1500's many Protestant Christians rejected both the Roman Catholic Church, and Lutheranism for not having gone far enough. They stressed personal discipleship; a daily walk with God; a principle of love and pacifism; the Church as a family not an organisation; adult baptism; congregational Church government; and the separation of Church and State, The spread through Europe and were intensely persecuted by both the Roman Catholic Church and other Protestants resulting in many deaths. One of their leaders was Menno Simons (1496-1561), whose group the Mennonites, are still functioning today.
That’s it for this time! Next time in our series HAHA, we will look at the Reformation gathering pace - this time in England!
Saturday Aug 06, 2022
Saturday Aug 06, 2022
Saturday Aug 06, 2022
Reformation 1 - Martin Luther
You may remember that in our series we looked briefly a the split between the Eastern and Western churches. Today we come to a greater split! A split within the Roman Catholic church – the beginnings of the Protestant church! The main person who will look at today is Martin Luther – one of the very giants of church history! .
Martin Luther (1483-1546) - Professor of Biblical Studies at Wittenburg University in Germany. Luther tried to find god as an Augustinian monk but he was unable to come to terms with God's righteous demands. He eventually realised that in order to satisfy God’s righteous demands, that he could do nothing of his own to fulfil them. He came to see that justification before Almighty God was by faith alone, through grace alone, which was a gift of God.
Included in the aftermath of this discovery, were these events! .
- 95 Theses - statements against indulgences nailed to the castle church door at Wittenburg on 31st October 1517. He rapidly gained a following in Germany, and was aided by the printing press.
- 1519 - denied the supremacy and infallibility of the Pope and Church.
- 1520 - excommunicated by Pope Leo X
- 1521 - Diet of Worms. Luther was outlawed by Emperor Charles V of Spain. He was hidden by friends for 8 months, during which he translated the N.T. into German.
- 1528 - Diet of Spruger. Each German state allowed to follow the religion of its reigning prince.
- 1529 - Diet of Speyer. Lutheran states to remain Lutheran and Catholic states to remain Catholic, not allowed to change. Evangelical princes protested at restriction and the Protestant was given to this movement.
- 1530 - Diet of Augsburg. Protestants submitted statement of belief witch was rejected, but became the basis of Lutheran doctrine.
- 1547 - War broke out between Catholic and Protestant. This war was won by the Catholics, but Protestantism was finally recognised legally in 1552.
Three main truths to come out of the Reformation.
- Final authority of God's Word.
- Justification by faith, a gift of God's grace.
- The priesthood of all believers. .
However it should be noted that, wrongly or rightly, Luther still accepted as truth
- Infant baptism as necessary for salvation.
- Consubstantiation - a 'real presence' of Christ's body with bread and wine. .
Lutheranism quickly spread from Germany to Denmark, Norway and Sweden. .
That’s it for this time! Next time in our series HAHA, we will continue looking at the great Reformers of the church!
Friday Aug 05, 2022
Friday Aug 05, 2022
Friday Aug 05, 2022
The Renaissance - Rebirth
In the 14th and 15th centuries there was a great European revival of interest in the values of classical Greek and Roman literature, art, philosophy and politics. It started in Italy and spread throughout Europe. Scholars were called humanists as they moulded their life on the teachings of the great Greek and Roman classical literature. There was also an increase in other areas of life: scholastic freedom grew exponentially, Roman morality, paganism, the Greek New Testament and the study thereof, and many new universities throughout Europe were started.
1. Leading Spokesmen
In amidst all this was the Church, which was continuing to change - and to the dismay of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, to the detriment of the established Church. Here are but 3 men – all of whom spoke brave words and lived brave lives!
Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498) - Italian preacher of reform and the hero of many early Protestants. He became a Dominican monk after studying humanism and medicine. He affected the masses by his preaching and transformed the lives of many intellectuals through his thinking. He showed the impurities and corruption of the Roman Catholic system and spoke against the exploitation of the poor. Savonarola was well known for speaking prophecies about civic glory and called for Christian renewal. Eventually Savonarola was excommunicated and executed for denouncing the Pope and the corrupt papal court.
Here is one thing that Savonarola wrote:
The Pope may err, and that in two ways, either because he is erroneously informed, or from malice. As to the latter cause we leave that to the judgment of God, and believe rather that he has been misinformed. In our own case I can prove that he has been falsely persuaded. Therefore any one who obstinately upholds the excommunication and affirms that I ought not to preach these doctrines is fighting against the kingdom of Christ, and supporting the kingdom of Satan, and is himself a heretic, and deserves to be excluded from the Christian community.
John Colet (1466-1519) - a brilliant humanist at Oxford, and influenced Savonarola. He was enlightened and caused the epistles of Paul to live again in message. In 1512, as Dean of St. Paul's, he declared vicious and depraved lives of the church the worst heresy of all times which led to first reforming the bishops and it would spread to all. The church laws could not be enforced until the bishops became new men. Colet taught his students to keep the Bible and the Apostle's Creed.
Here is a quote from his convocation sermon of 1512:
“You are come together today, fathers and right wise men, to hold a council. In which what you will do and what matters you will handle, I do not yet know, but I wish that, at length, mindful of your name and profession, you would consider of the reformation of ecclesiastical affairs; for never was there more necessity and never did the state of the Church more need endeavors. For the Church – the spouse of Christ – which He wished to be without spot or wrinkle, is become foul and deformed.” Colet went on to conclude: “If, by chance, I should seem to have gone too far in this sermon—if I have said anything with too much warmth—forgive it me, and pardon a man speaking out of zeal, a man sorrowing for the ruin of the Church; and passing, by any foolishness of mine, consider the thing itself.”
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1467-1536) He was a student of John Colet and the greatest of all humanists. Professor of Divinity and Greek at Cambridge Uni. He aimed to reform Roman Catholic Church, from within and so didn't leave the church. As a result he was attacked by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestants. The Roman Catholic Church for heretical teaching, and by the Protestants for lacking courage. In 1516, he produced the Greek version of the New Testament because he wanted to make it understood by everyone. He was educated by Brethren of the Common Life, was ordained as a Priest in 1492 and laid the egg which Martin Luther later hatched.
2. Modern devotional movement.
In Holland and Northern Europe, during this period, there was a renewed interest in a personal devotional life with God. One such group was the 'Brethren of the Common Life', who emphasised personal devotion, poverty, chastity and obedience in a semi-monastic lifestyle.
Thomas a'Kempis (1380-1471). Thomas a’ Kempis was born in Germany in 1380 to a blacksmith and a schoolmistress. In 1392, he started at school and while there encountered the devotional group, Brethren of the Common Life. From there, Thomas joined a monastery and became a prolific copyist and writer – copying by hand the Bible four times. His most noted work today though, .is the 'Imitation of Christ', still one of the most widely read devotional books, even though it is distinctly Roman Catholic in doctrine it is both scriptural and Christ-centred.
The "Imitation of Christ" a devotional book divided into 4 parts.
- Part 1 - "Helpful Counsels of the Spiritual Life."
- Part 2 - "Directives for the Interior Life."
- Part 3 - "On Interior Consolation"
- Part 4 - "On the Blessed Sacrament"
Here are some quotes from that book – ahead of its time in many ways!
- "At the Day of Judgement we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done." — The Imitation of Christ, Book I, Chapter 3
- "For man proposes, but God disposes" — The Imitation of Christ, Book I, Chapter 19
- "If, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Him. " — The Imitation of Christ, Book 2, Chapter 7
You can download a copy of this book for free from CCEL:
Thursday Aug 04, 2022
Thursday Aug 04, 2022
Thursday Aug 04, 2022
Unrest Leading To Renaissance
Today we see the influence of the Church wane amidst both religious and societal turmoil and a brief look at two men rising in opposition to the Church.
We are now in the 14th & 15th Century! The church has grown exponentially from the original 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. It has spread far and wide in the known world. However, this period in history shows that the Church is now declining rapidly – both numerically and in its influence. We look briefly today at the reasons for this.
1. Rapid Decline
a. Avignon Popes (1309-1378)
Firstly we look at that Agivnon Popes or as some term it “Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy.” Pressure from the French monarchy in conflict with the Papacy, caused the Papacy to move to Avignon, France from Rome in Italy. This was due to the elected Pope, Clement V refusing to move to Rome and remained in France, finally moving the whole of his court to Avignon in 1309. From here there were 7 successive Popes, elected by the French rather than Italians as before.
b. Great Schism
Now we have the ‘Great Schism’ or the ‘Western Schism’ occurred with the Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417. The Pope returned to Rome from France in 1377, after a riot in Rome to ensure that the next Pope was Italian in 1378. The French then elected a Pope of their own. There was much disputation and at one stage there were 3 Popes - the Avignon Pope: Benedict XIII; the Roman Pope: Gregory XII; the Pisa Pope: John XXIII. A Council was called by the Pisa Pope John XXIII in 1414 and agreement was reached as to the procedure of the election of a new Pope.
All these events though caused a great loss of confidence in the Church. Wealth, corruption, immorality and the scandalous indulgences were rife throughout the Church, which led to much discontent and uncertainty. In the year 1453, Turkish Muslims attacked the Eastern Empire and the great Christian city of Constantinople fell.
c. Bubonic Plague
Bubonic Plague broke out in 1347 and killed one third of the Catholic west in 3 years. The Rise of national consciousness and strong monarchies developed in England, France & Spain resisting pressure from Rome.
d. Rise in Personal Devotion
There was in Northern Europe a growing movement around personal devotion to God, and therefore less reliance on the Church for spiritual insight. But more about that next week! It was also an area of global exploration with the likes of exploring greats of Magellan and Columbus.
2. Outspoken Critics of the Church
There was also growing criticism of the church, particularly from within!
John Wycliffe (1320-1384) - Wycliffe was a Priest in the Roman Catholic Church and a leading philosopher at Oxford University. He spoke out against church corruption, transubstantiation, confession to the priest and infallibility of the church & Pope. Many travelling bands of teachers and preachers were organised and sent out by him.
Wycliffe is commonly described as the 'Morning Star of the English Reformation', who had a great desire to ensure that the Bible was made available to everyone in their own language. Therefore he initiated the translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible into English, and it was completed by his followers. He was protected by the English monarchy from Church persecution and inquisition. If you read your Bible in any language but Latin and the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek - you have much to be thankful to God for the life and work of John Wycliffe! They still do great work today and you can find out more by visiting their website: http://wycliffe.org.uk/
To get a hint of the disturbance to the Church caused by Wyclif, here are some of the things he said.
- Private confession... was not ordered by Christ and was not used by the apostles.
- Englishmen learn Christ's law best in English. Moses heard God's law in his own tongue; so did Christ's apostles.
- It is plain to me that our prelates in granting indulgences do commonly blaspheme the wisdom of God. Our clerics neither evangelize like the apostles, nor go to war like the secular lords, nor toil like labourers.
- The bread while becoming by virtue of Christ’s words the body of Christ does not cease to be bread. The gospel alone is sufficient to rule the lives of Christians everywhere. Any additional rules made to govern men’s conduct added nothing to the perfection already found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jan Hus (1374-1415) - The other main critic was the Bohemian man, Jan Hus. Hus was a priest in the Catholic Church and Rector of Prague University. Hus was strongly influenced by Wycliffe, and much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church hierarchy, he promoted personal devotion and piety; the supreme authority of the Bible; taught that the Church is the body of Christ and the head is Jesus Christ - not the Pope; and that only God can forgive sin, not the Church.
Again, Hus was another man ahead of his time and one of the pioneers of the protestant church to come. Hus, because of his condemnation of much Church teaching and practise was imprisoned, tried, condemned and executed in 1415 following the Council of Constance.
Again some quotes from this protesting pioneer:
- "Has not God himself instituted marriage, as a means to satisfy the craving for love in all men. ... For those are speaking lies in hypocrisy, who have a seared conscience, who forbid a life in marriage and abstain from foods which God has created (1 Timothy 4:1-5). I hold this to be the seed of iniquity and the root of all evil."
- “Many centuries have passed since the foundation of Christianity and bishops and priests have wedded and permitted themselves to be wed in honour and decency, until some Primates, Gregory VII (also called Hildebrand) and Innocent III, thousand years after the death of Jesus the Nazarene, conceived the thought to forbid marriage to priests, so that they would not love their families, would not honour their home and would be compelled to seek salvation under the wing of Rome only, remembering the protection which was to come from there against worldly powers.”
Wednesday Aug 03, 2022
Wednesday Aug 03, 2022
Wednesday Aug 03, 2022
Last time we looked at the man Thomas Aquinas before going on to see the Eastern and Western Churches separate spectacularly! Today we see rising opposition to the Roman Catholic Church – from outside it and from within!
Persecution & Inquisition.
In the 12th century, a number of groups started questioning important Church doctrines. Itinerant and wandering monks preached to the imagination and consciences of people. People were starting to read the Bible for themselves and also pray to God without relying on the prayers of the Clergy. Which Jesus are people to follow was in a lot of people’s minds. “Do we look to – the all-conquering ascended Christ who is ruling earth through his vicar, the Pope or do we look to the opposite of this image – the Jesus who said “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to sleep.” (Matthew 8:20)
Asking questions as to why the church hierarchy feast while the common people starved? Where is the church people started questioning – is it in the sacramental institution or is it in the people? People such as Robert Grosseteste, the Bishop of Lincoln, who decried the laziness, greed and immorality of the Roman Catholic clergy. To question the Pope and the Roman Catholic church was regarded then as heresy. These people, baptized members of the church, who were questioning the Church, were seen to be turning their back on the Church. What was the church to do?
The Church responded by means to purify the Church of heresy. This was conducted through trials and the Inquisition. There was some conflict within the Church itself. How can the Church, employ violence to ensure peace within society and maintain a heresy-free Church? A pure church was the Will of God – reigning through His representative on earth, the Pope. Innocent III labelled heresy, as treason in 1199. He made the Dominicans the main order to search out heresy.
At the time, faith was not a private matter but a public faith upon which the whole of society was built. To commit any heresy was therefore also to commit treason against the State. Disobedience therefore against the State, was therefore also heresy. Hence a dark time in Church history with the Inquisition, which involved the deliberate and prolonged torture of both heretics and infidels. This was as a means to eliminate the heretics and maintain strict doctrine, teaching and practise.
In 1224, execution by secular authorities became papal policy. Innocent IV condoned torture (1252) to 'help people find the truth'. A court went from town to town searching for heretics. An opportunity was given for confession and recantation, but the resistant were often burned at the stake. The Inquisition was extensive in Italy, Spain & France for several centuries.
However, questions were starting to be raised about how far the Church had strayed from the clear Apostolic teachings of the Bible – particularly in regard to non-violence and poverty. Arnold, an Italian churchman urged the Church to sell its riches and give the proceeds to the poor – helping return the Church to its New Testament roots.
He was also at the forefront of movements to overthrow the Pope. When Pope Innocent II was on tour for the Second Crusade, Arnold seized his chance and with the help of the Romans took power. Romans dreaming of a return to the glories of the Roman Empire! Arnold decreed that clergy were to live in poverty. This lasted about 10 years until Pope Hadrian IV overthrew Arnold and Arnold was executed for heresy. But his voice wasn’t alone! There were more to come.
Peter Waldo of Lyons, France, was a rich merchant and converted to Christianity in 1175-1176. Soon after he gave away his wealth in order to follow Christ with a lifestyle of simplicity, poverty and preaching. He gained a large following and was approved by the Pope in 1179. A group we now call the Waldensians grew from this with a mission to the poor. Waldo sent out Christians, two by two, in order to teach and explain the Scriptures to people.
Once when ordered to stop, Waldo quoted the Apostle Peter in rebuttal “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). These were laymen – not trained by the Church and therefore not allowed to go about preaching and speaking without invitation by Bishops and church hierarchy.
They were a living condemnation of the Church and in 1181 they were condemned. In the year 1184 they were excommunicated. Pope Lucius III ordered their elimination by inquisition and secular punishment. They formed their 'own true' church which spread throughout most of Europe except Britain.
The main objections of the Church to the Waldensians, was that they engaged in unauthorised preaching of the Bible; rejection of the intermediary role of the clergy; and the rejection of purgatory. Reformation had not yet come to the Church, particularly in matters of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. The Waldensians didn’t teach this but reformation of the Church and of Church teaching was coming. But not yet…
Tuesday Aug 02, 2022
Tuesday Aug 02, 2022
Tuesday Aug 02, 2022
Church in the Middle Ages 3
Today we continue looking there by looking at the man Thomas Aquinas before going on to see the Eastern and Western Churches fall apart spectacularly.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
Thomas Aquinas was born in Italy in 1225. Starting his clerical career with the Dominicans, he quickly established himself as a theologian and philosopher of note. Indeed, he is perhaps the greatest theologian of this period. Aquinas was well noted for being an orator and debater, renowned for having a keen and quick intellect. With his intellect, he continued to attempt to reconcile faith with reason and the Scriptures. He also sought to prove the existence of God and developed the 'Five Ways', a system of natural theology.
Here is a very crude summary of the “Five Ways” taken from his work “Summa Theologica”.
1. The first way is an argument from motion. It is certain, and in accordance with sense experience, that some things in this world are moved. He concludes with this section with: We are therefore bound to arrive at a first mover which is not moved by anything, and all men understand that this is God.
2. The second way is from the nature of an efficient cause. We find that there is a sequence of efficient causes in sensible things. He concludes this section with: We are therefore bound to suppose that there is a first efficient cause. And all men call this God.
3. The third way is from the nature of possibility and necessity. There are some things which may either exist or not exist, since some things come to be and pass away, and may therefore be or not be. He concludes this section with: We are therefore bound to suppose something necessary in itself, which does not owe its necessity to anything else, but which is the cause of the necessity of other things. And all men call this God.
4. The fourth way is from the degrees that occur in things, which are found to be more and less good, true, noble, and so on. He concludes this section with: There is therefore something which is the cause of the being of all things that are, as well as of their goodness and their every perfection. This we call God.
5. The fifth way is from the governance of things. We see how some things, like natural bodies, work for an end even though they have no knowledge. He concludes this section with: There is therefore an intelligent being by whom all natural things are directed to their end. This we call God.
Thomism (Aquinas theology) was declared eternally valid by the Pope in 1879. You can download a copy of perhaps Aquinas’ greatest work, 'Summa Theologica' freely at Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Here is one of his prayers. You will see the richness of his theology and faith – much of which formed our theology today! Perhaps you can pray it, even now!
A prayer of Thomas Aquinas
O Almighty and all-knowing God,
Who is without beginning or end!
Who is the giver, preserver, and rewarder of all virtue!
Grant me to stand firm on the solid foundation of faith,
be protected by the invincible shield of hope,
and be adorned by the nuptial garment of charity.
Grant me by justice to obey you,
by prudence to resist the crafts of the Devil,
by temperance to hold to moderation,
by fortitude to bear adversity with patience.
Grant that the goods I have I may share liberally
with those who have not,
and the goods which I do not have I may seek with
humility from those who have.
Grant that I may truly recognise the guilt of the evil I have done,
and bear with equanimity the punishments I have deserved;
that I may never lust after the goods of my neighbour,
but always give thanks to you for all thy good gifts.
Plant in me, O Lord, all thy virtues,
that in divine matters I might be devout,
in human affairs wise,
and in the proper needs of the flesh onerous to no one.
And grant that I may never rush to do things hastily,
nor balk to do things demanding,
so that I neither yearn for things too soon,
nor desert things before they are finished.
Eastern Orthodox Church
During this time there was also upheaval coming in the Eastern church. The Slavic nations of Eastern Europe were Christianised during the 10th & 12th centuries. Christianity spread to Russia in the 10th century. According to legend, the prince Vladimir sent envoys to investigate Islam, Judaism & Christianity. They were so impressed with Christianity in Constantinople, that Vladimir ordered a mass baptism of Russians.
We saw earlier in this series, how the Eastern and Western churches were moving apart. Now we approach the official parting of ways. In the year 1054, papal representatives of Pope Leo XV entered the Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople. Cardinal Humbert was sent initially to work out a conciliatory agreement with the Eastern Orthodox leadership.
However, while the Russian emperor was willing, the Patriarch Michael Cerularius was intractable. With similar personalities and intolerance, Ceralarius and Humbert clashed. The clash provoked Humber to issue an official document which excommunicated the Eastern Church from the Roman Catholic Church. Humber and his colleagues marched into Constantinople’s Church of Holy Wisdom and issued a Papal document excommunicating the Eastern Church. The impact of this is still felt even today.
But a greater chasm was to come to the Roman Catholic church, and we will see that later in our series.
Monday Aug 01, 2022
Monday Aug 01, 2022
Monday Aug 01, 2022
Church History Part 19
Church in the Middle Ages 2
During this time, there was a growing restlessness. Some people were starting to think about separating the church from institutional monarchies – particularly with England.
The Scholastics - The papal reforms in the 11th - 13th centuries saw a rise in interest in education. The Cathedral schools surpassed the monastic schools by the 12th century. The universities rose from the Cathedral schools. Oxford, Cambridge & Paris Universities date back to this period. All education was in the hands of the Church. The great thinkers were monks or clergy. There was great debate over theology & philosophy with many attempts to harmonise the thinking of Greek philosophers such as Aristotle with theology.
Anselm (1033-1109) – Anselm was born in Italy and raised in Normandy. Prior to becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093, he was a Benedictine monk, teacher, and abbot before continuing his church career in England. He is renowned as a great philosopher and theologian and during his time as Archbishop saw that the church was at least partly independent from the civil government. This was very radical for its time! Such a reformer, even before the reformation to come and worked to suppress the slave trade.
One of the things, amongst many, which we as 21st century church remember Anselm for is the satisfaction theory of the atonement, where God becoming man in the birth of Jesus Christ, the incarnation, guaranteed relief from God’s demands for strict divine justice.
He is also renowned for being the first to use the Ontological argument for the existence of God through philosophy, rationality and logic, in the book Proslogion. He did this on the basis of "that than which nothing greater can be conceived", or if it could exist in the mind, it could therefore exist in reality. If it only existed in the mind, then something or someone greater is possible – one which exists in both mind and reality. You can read more about it here as well as download some of his writings freely by visiting the CCEL website.
Thomas Beckett – Thomas Beckett was born in 1118 to a middle class family, was well educated including a time at the University of Paris. He was integrated into the household of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald and completed several missions for him. In 1154 he was ordained as a deacon and appointed archdeacon of Canterbury. With this ordination by Theobold and the king, Henry II, Beckett would have been expected to represent their interests vocally.
Following the death of Theobald in 1161, King Henry II was hoping to stunt the demand for separation of church and state as well as cutting back on the power of the church. Beckett was quickly ordained a priest in 1162 before shortly after becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.
Despite opposition from King Henry II and others, Thomas Beckett endeavoured to make the church independent of the government. He took a form of ascetism upon himself, resigned from working for the King and put all his efforts and work tion the interests of the church alone. This led to frequent clashes with the English monarchy and under Henry II.
It subsequently led to his exile in 1164. Upon his return to England in 1170, he excommunicated several bishops who had opposed him. Later that year, he was killed in the cathedral by four knights under he orders of King Henry II.
That’s it for this time! Next time in our series HAHA, we will finalise our look at the Middle Ages, with a look at one of the supreme thinkers of the historical Church, Thomas Aquinas, as well as looking briefly to the East and the Orthodox church.