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Medieval Christians

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Patrick of Ireland

~389-461 AD.

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Today we will look at someone who lived just before the Medieval Period, a contemporary of Augustine of Hippo, who nevertheless had a great effect on Christianity in the British Isles. There are a large number of legends about Patrick, but this paper will stick with what is known with some degree of confidence.


Patrick was born to a third generation Christian family with servants. He father was a deacon, and his grandfather was a presbyter. He lived in either England, Scotland, or Wales. Wherever he lived, it must have been on the West Coast, for when he was sixteen, Irish pirates kidnapped and enslaved him. Instead of getting the education of a wealthy teenager, he herded sheep, which he hated. When he was twenty, he had a vision. In this vision God told him that the ship he was to escape on was ready. He escaped and went to either England or France.


Later he had another vision, in which he received a letter with the title, "The Voice of the Irish." This sounds almost reminiscent of Paul's vision of the man from Macedonia in Acts 16:6-10. Patrick was rather reluctant to go, because he was very conscious of his limited education. One writer says he studied under the famous Martin of Tours, but that is probably not true. Centuries later many miracles were attributed to Patrick, but Patrick never claimed he worked any miracles. On at least two occasions he talked of God specifically answering his prayers though. He learned his Bible (including Apocrypha) well, and when he was ~47 he and a group of monks went to the land of his captivity and brought freedom through Christ to many.


Not only did most of the Irish become Christians, but the Irish sent missionaries to Scotland and England. The English in turn sent missionaries even back to the continent. Rather than Christianity in the West spreading out from Rome, it rather spread from three centers, Rome, Tours, and Ireland.


Patrick's vision was after the time of the early church, and after the time the Bible was canonized. Do you believe God really gave Patrick these two visions?


Some people say that since the Bible reveals God's will for human beings, and the Bible is complete, we need no further communication from God. Saying there is further communication is tantamount to saying that Scripture was not complete. What would you say to that?







Patrick's Methods


Patrick preached to the Irish Chieftains and to the crowds in open fields. He apparently had a source of funds we do not know about, perhaps his family. He often gave presents of large sums of money to Irish Chieftains to obtain their favor. He apparently still had opposition, for he was chained once after coming to Ireland as a missionary. He also used great sums of money to buy the freedom of many slaves. (Slavery was so prevalent in Ireland that "one woman" was a monetary unit of measurement.)


One thing Patrick is famous for, that is probably true, is his explanation of the Trinity to an Irish Chieftain. He pulled a Shamrock and asked how many leaves there were. The point was that just as the Shamrock's three lobes are distinct but not separate, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct but not separate.


There were Christians in Ireland before Patrick, and Palladius (fl. 431) was apparently a bishop in Ireland prior to Patrick. God working through Patrick and those under him planted 200 churches and converted 100,000 people (another account 200,000) to Christianity.



Patrick's Limited Writing


Patrick wrote an autobiographical confession, somewhat like Augustine of Hippo wrote his confession. Patrick's writing was most unusual. One might say it was without any rhetorical merit whatsoever. In other words, he wrote in Latin somewhat like a person with the education of an Medieval sixteen year old to whom Latin was not his native language. In the English translation, for some parts the translator wrote, "the Latin here is indecipherable." Patrick knew his God and his Bible, but if you think you cannot be of much service to God because you do not write or express yourself well, you should have great encouragement from Patrick. Even Paul in 1 Cor 10:10 admitted that people said about him, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." It is better that people criticize your speaking and writing about the Gospel than for them to have nothing to criticize because you are not doing anything.


Many writers of that time prefaced their works modestly, by saying how unworthy their writing was. Patrick almost went overboard. It is almost as though he knew that he was going to make many writing errors he made, but he wrote anyway to say what had to be said. He wrote in Latin, because there was no other written language. Would you still do something if you knew people would laugh at your lack of skill, if you knew that God wanted you to do it?








Look at the other side. If someone came to you with good Biblical teaching, and the delivery of their message was not up to your standards, would you reject the teaching just because of how it was delivered?









One source calls Patrick's writing "totally artless." It is almost as if he wrote what he was thinking, and never looked back or edited it. In his letter rebuking Corticus, usually a person does not begin a rebuke by telling the guy they personally dislike him as Patrick did. People might accuse Patrick of flunking the "Dale Carnagie Course of Selling Christianity", but nobody accused Patrick of flattery or lack of honesty. Paul said in 2 Cor 4:2, "...we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."


In 1 Cor 2:1-5 Paul says, "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that you faith might no rest on man's wisdom, but on God's power." Many of us can say, "We can do that. Our proclaiming can be with fear and trembling, without eloquence or superior wisdom. We have no fear people's faith will rest on our eloquence or great wisdom." If that can describe you, then you are not lacking any skill to share the life of God that dwells in you.




The Letter to Corticus


Being a missionary converting 100,000 people might seem a joyful thing, but Patrick had an extremely unpleasant task to do also, as shown by his letter to Corticus. After beginning the letter saying how unworthy he was to write, and after writing that he personally dislikes Corticus, he writes a rather lengthy letter to Corticus and his soldiers. An example of the tone is

"They are heading towards Hell; they cannot any longer be called Christians nor Romans [i.e. civilized] but outcasts. They must show signs of genuine and bitter repentance and try to make amends for their terrible crime."

How would you like to read a lengthy letter like that? Don't you agree that it sounds like Patrick went overboard here?


Now fill in below the rest of the story.


[Corticus was a slave trader. His raiders would come to Ireland, slaughter the men, even while still in their baptismal gowns, and take the womena nd children as slaves back to England.]














Take a Stand for Righteousness


To make someone immune to a virus, one immunizes them with a sreuem of the weakened or dead virus. Many today seem almost immune to the "life-saving virus" of Christianity, perhaps through a similar means. Sometimes it is not the Non-Christians that keep a seeker from investigating Christianity, but sometimes the worldly and dead Christians. Patrick, for all his limited abilities, was an example of a heart that was on fire, risking all for God. Patrick was so simple, so transparent, that Christ could be seen clearly through him. We should be so transparent.


People may criticize you for being outspoken against evil, for minding things that are not your business. That is better than Jesus rebuking you for not minding God's business and standing for righteousness. If so many people could be converted after seeing the testimony of one truly dedicated man, will people be drawn to Christ if they saw your life and heard your testimony, however articulate you may be?



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Medieval Christians

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Medieval Missionaries

Until 1040 AD.

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On can get the impression that a person has to come up with new, deeper teachings, or be at the very center of church power, to be a great man or woman of God. Perhaps in God's eyes the ones that leave the comfort and security of Christian lands to set out into unknown pagan lands are just as great. This paper will briefly chronicle the fervent Christian witness that existed between until the Norman invasion in 1040 AD.


The Medieval Period is remembered as a time of great ignorance, barbarism, and evil. It is not well remembered that godly people were very busy during this period, as the listings below show. Our knowledge of ambassadors of light in the dark and bloody period is limited by the lack of writings and civilization. It is inspirational to see how active these Christians were, but one wonders how many other dedicated saints labored as sacrificially, unknown to all but God and the few around them.



Pre-Medieval Missionaries to the West


Martin of Tours ~315-370/371-~397 to France and Western Europe A disciple of Hillary, who was a disciple of Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John the Apostle. Martin disciple many included Ninian.


Alban 3rd Century to England. A Roman born in England, Alban was the first martyr of England, killed by the Romans.


Ninian 360-432/463 to British. Son of a British Chieftain. He spent 15 years in Rome and worked with Martin of Tours before returning to Britain.


Germanius 378-448 A noble-born monk sent by Pope Celestine I to Britain to combat Pelagianism and evangelize.


Patrick ~389-~461 to Ireland. -discussed later.


Prosper of Aquitaine 390-463 Prosper was a French Augustinian monk who confuted Pelagianism and wrote an inspiring pamphlet entitled "The Call of All Nations" chronicling the early missionary efforts.


Medieval Missionaries to the West


Benedict of Nursia ~480-~547 Founder of Western Monasticism. When Benedict traveled to Rome, he was shocked by the moral degeneracy there. He retired to a cave, where he founded a monastery and the Benedictine order. Later, over 50 Popes were Benedictines.


David 520-589 to Wales. He was born in Wales, visited Palestine, and on his return founded many churches and stood against Pelagianism.


Columba 521-597 to Ireland and Scotland. Born in Ireland, Columba studied under Finnian. Columba founded many monasteries in Ireland before he and twelve disciples founded the monastery at Iona in Scotland. He and later Egbert of Iona (?639-729) were wildly successful.


Columban 543-615 to NE France and Lombardy Italy. Columban disproves the myth that Christianity only spread from Italy outwards. Columban, born in Ireland, founded monasteries in NE France, and even in Lombardy, which is only a couple of hundred miles from Rome.


Augustine of Canterbury ?-604/613 to England. In 596 Pope Gregory I commissioned Augustine and forty monks to England. While in France they were so terrified of reports of fierce English natives that Augustine went back to Rome to get Gregory the cancel the commission. Gregory refused and the monks went. Unknown to Augustine, the Bertha, the Frankish wife of the Saxon King of Kent, Ethelbert, had already become a Christian. Ethelbert was baptized.


Paulinus of York ?-644 was a co-worker with Augustine. He baptized King Edwin of Northumbria in 627. Felix (?-647) converted King Sigebert and the East Anglians.


Aiden ?-651 to Scotland at Iona. He preached to crowds, had a great concern for the poor, and like Patrick and Martin of Tours used money to buy back Christians who were enslaved.


Adamnan ~624-707 A relative of Columba. He had a novel idea to try to rewrite the rules of wars so that women and children were no longer taken prisoner, -sort of a Medieval Geneva Convention. Few warriors and slave-traders paid much attention to it though.


Hilda 614-Christian 627 - Abbess 649 - 680 in England. Hilda founded a "double monastery" where both monks and nuns lived in adjacent parts. She was involved in the 664 Synod of Whitby to settle the date of Easter.


Wilfrid 634-661-709/710 to England. Born in England (I think) Wilfrid was an influential English priest who was at the Synod of Whitby along with John of Beverly (?-721)


Willibrod 658-678-739 to Frisians and Danes. Willibrod converted most of the Frisians and a few Danes. His work was continued by Boniface.


Boniface 675-754 to Germans. Boniface was an English Benedictine monk, who with the blessing of King Clovis reformed the Frankish church and preached to Germans. He destroyed pagan objects of worship. He started a missionary school. His life on earth ended when he was martyred by non-Christians. Walburga (~710-777), sister of Willibald was one of many who worked under Boniface.


Gregory of Utrecht ?707-755/780 to Germans. A disciple of and co-worker with Boniface.


Alcuin 735-804 from York; initiated "Frankish Age of Learning". Among his disciples was Amalcuin of Metz (?-850), Rabanus Maurus, and Liudgar (744-807?-868). He was the spiritual advisor to Charlemagne at Aachen. He struggled to rid the Frankish church of the heresy of Adoptionism and image worship. He wrote commentaries on the Bible, Early Church Fathers, and the Trinity.


Ansgar 801-865 to Vikings. Ansgar was a Frank who founded a missions and schools for boys. Later he became apparently an utterly fearless missionary to Vikings. For example, the Swedes had a law punishing those who senselessly killed foreigners INSIDE of Stockholm. Many Vikings were converted ~100 years later.


Paschasius Radbertus ~786-865. Not a missionary, but mentioned because he is claimed by some as the author of the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, that is, that the bread and wine actually become the physical body of Christ


Ratremus (744-868) and Rabanus Maurus ~776-856. Not missionaries, but famous disciples of Alcuin who stood up against Radbertus and transubstantiation. Both were "Calvinists before Calvin."


Queen Olga of the Russians ?-969 She traveled to Constantinople, where she became a Christian and brought Christianity to her homeland.


Adalbert of Prague 937-997 to Bohemians. - He baptized Stephen I of Hungary and was killed by a pagan priest while in Poland. He had few converts; it must have been the Bohemians' lifestyle. (joke).


Adaldag 937-988. He converted the Dane Harold Bluetooth, Haakon, and many Vikings.


Kind Harold Bluetooth of Denmark and his brother King Haakon of Norway. These kings and Adeldag converted (both voluntarily and forcibly) their subjects. In 983 a Danish anti-Christian revolt drove Harold into exile among the Slavs.


The Militant Germans to NE Europe. The Sword Brothers, and the later Teutonic Knights conquered and Christianized large areas of the future Prussia, Poland, and the Baltic states. They were somewhat reminiscent of the Spanish in the New World.



Missionaries to the South and East


Mark evangelized much of Egypt. The Eunuch in Acts 8:26-39 likely first brought the gospel to Ethiopia.


Frumentarius and Aedesius ?-380 to Ethiopia - Their story is somewhat like Patrick's. Brothers born in Tyre, they were bound for India on business. Ethiopian pirates captured and enslaved them. They converted their master, King Ezana of Ethiopia.


Nicetus of Remesians (early 500's) - Greek bishop and missionary to the Serbs. He first coined the phrase "the communion of the saints" to describe the union of all Christians on earth and in heaven.


Nestorian Missionaries - Nestorians were in Persia, India, in 12 sites in China, and 9 sites on the Asian Steppe. For comparison there were 6 Jewish sites in China. Abelon was the name of the first Nestorian missionary to China. The Nestorians had a schism from 521-537, and they were persecuted by Persians from 540-545. They were a major part of Christianity until about the tenth century when Tamerlane wiped most of them out. At their height some Tartars were Nestorians, and Nestorian Christianity went to Lake Baikal, Siberia, to the Malabar Coast in India, to Damascus, Syria. There are ~170K Nestorians today.


Nicholas B??? ~1360 - Was a Catholic emissary to Kublai Khan.



Church Tradition


FIrst known instance of numbering and naming the wiseman was a picture of the "three" wise men in the 6th century in a churcn in Ravenna, Italy.



Two Examples


Jesus said in Matt 28:19, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." A veritable army of missionaries was active in the early Medieval Period. Some are to be like Early Church Fathers, whose deep writings are often studied 1600 years later. Others are to be like Patrick and the early Medieval missionaries. Through Patrick over 100,000 people were saved. What example do you think God wants you to be most like? What examples should you instill in your disciples?



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Medieval Christians

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The Iconoclasts

726-843 AD.

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Icons are pictures, statues, or relics that are venerated or worshipped. Iconoclasts were Christians who believed the religious use of images was wrong. Today we will study the valiant stand, and some possible mistakes, the Iconoclasts made to try to keep images out of Christian worship. As we study Iconoclasts we should ask ourselves three questions: 1) what we would do if we were in their place and 2) what should we be iconoclasts about today, and 3) to what extent should Christianity be institutionalized.


The Bible and Images


We will first see what the Bible says about idolatrous images, and then about images in general.

The Bible is crystal clear about idols. See Lev 26:1; De 4:15-25; 9:12; 16:22; 27:15 Job 4:16; Ps 73:20; 106:19;; Is 40:19,20; 44:99,19,15,17; Jer 10:14; 51:!7. In the ten commandments (Ex 20:3-4; Deut 5:7-10) there are two commandments. The first is no other gods, and the second is no idols. Why do you think there are two instead of just one?


The bronze snake on the pole in Num 21:8-9 was an image God commanded Moses to make. Jesus mentioned it in John 3:14. However, the godly King Hezekiah destroyed the bronze serpent in 2 Ki 18:4 because Israelites had been burning incense to it.


The Early and Later Christians


Early Christians left no evidence of venerating icons. In the early church there was a tendency of veneration of Mary, and Eusebius tells the story of Perpetua, a Christian martyr who after death visited a Roman soldier in a dream to encourage him to follow God. After Constantine legalized and institutionalized Christianity, some of the vigor of Christianity was lost, and two dangerous trends emerged, especially in the West. First, single-minded devotion to God was often replaced by devotion to saints as well as God. Second, when people took time out from praying to and venerating saints, images were used not to "pray to" but to "pray through" to God.


The Muslims and Jews


Both Judaism and Islam influenced the practice of Christianity in the eastern part of the Empire. Both religions abhorred idols and the use of images. Easter Christians generally shared this view with Muslims and Jews.


Leo the III (680-717-741 AD.)


Emperor Leo the III, also called Leo the Iconoclast, was born in (modern) Maras, Turkey, in the eastern part of the Byzantine Empire. He was a brilliant general, and a complex man. He was "ruthless for righteousness", somewhat like the later Oliver Cromwell, or a little like Jehu in 2 Ki 9-10.


Leo III was a general who defeated the Muslims many times. He saw that he must not only win on fields of battle, but he must win the hearts of people away from Islam. Leo saw that images were a key "selling point" in the spread of Islam, and that removing the images would, at least in theory, strengthen the position of the Byzantine Empire and Christianity. In reality, the Icon debate nearly tore the Empire apart.


In 717 AD. he deposed Theodosius III and became Emperor. The Muslims besieged Constantinople for a year, but he held out. After a volcano created a new Island near Thera in 726, Leo ordered all icons in churches removed and destroyed. Only simple crosses and artwork without saints was allowed to survive. The army, predominantly from the East supported him. The government officials, who wanted to curb the power of the church, supported him too. Most priests, monks and nuns, and people of the Western part of the Empire considered this sacrilege and iconoclasm as heresy. John of Damascus, living under the protection of the Muslims, wrote tirelessly against Iconoclasm. John agreed that worshippinig images was wrong, However, borrowing Plato's ideas of reality vs. earthly expression, and using examples of the bronze snake, the lions on Solomon's Temple, and transubstantiation, he justified icons. The Cyclades Islands unsuccessfully rebelled from Leo in 727. Pope Gregory III excommunicated Leo in 731. Leo forcibly baptized Jews and Montanists.


There were riots, on both sides, and Leo persecuted with beatings and imprisonment many icon-loving monks. After Leothe III's death in 780, Constantine V (718-741-775) continued his father's policies and called the Council of Constance in 754, which condemned icons. His son, Leo IV (749-775-780) vacillated, and after Leo IV's death his western-born wife Irene became regent. In 787 she called a Council at Nicea, where 350 bishops restored the images. Irene also nixed an alliance with the Franks.


Iconoclasm's Effect on Catholicism


Byzantine Iconoclasm was another force that helped split the East and Western Europe. In both 599 and 705 Popes appealed to Constantinople in vain for help against the Lombards. The Popes were turning to the Franks for help, and Iconoclasm was another wedge between the East and the West.



Leo V (-813-12/25/820 assassinated)

In 813, Leo V, also born in the east, usurped the throne. In 815 he convoked a Synod which deposed the Patriarch and removed the icons. There was less public support than before though. When the Empress Theodora became regent icons were once again restored in 843 AD.



Questions for Icon Lovers Today


A French priest taught, "If you pray to Mary, your prayers will be answered more quickly than if you pray to Jesus? Would others in your church tolerate that? Would you tolerate that?


Of all the time you spend in worship and veneration, what percent is time spent with God as the object?


Of all the time spent with God as the object of worship, what percent is without an image?



Icons Today


Both Orthodox and Catholic Churches use icons today. Are there any other icons people have?



How would you define an icon?



The Iconoclasts' idea to rid the church of icons was commendable, but their tactics were not too good. What do you believe they should not have done?


Do you see any key things they failed to do?



Do we make any of those mistakes today?



Institutionalizing Religion


Islam is institutionalized in Muslim countries. All, even non-Muslims, are under Muslim law. Mosques are not only state supported, but non-Muslims have to pay an additional tax to support the mosques. Jews and Christians are (supposed to be) free to practice their religion privately, but they are not supposed to convert Muslims.


Christianity is also institutionalized in many countries, though to a lesser extent. State churches are state supported, paid for by taxes of Christian and non-Christian alike. Laws are patterned after church law. On the other hand, in America, there is a trend to fear mixing government and religion, and many want no part of even mention of any morality in government or schools.


The question "What about prayer in public schools" is not well-phrased, because the issue is really "what kind of prayer in public school." Nobody can stop a pupil or teacher secretly and silently praying. However, should there be a time of silence, for prayer or meditation?


The most key question is, "What about public, corporate prayer in school by teachers, students, ministers, or others?" What do you think?



What if your child's teacher was a New-Ager who wanted to teach your child about worship of Rama and Yoga? What if the valedictorian led a prayer to his God, Krishna, "the Cosmic lecher."


Here are four options for answers to religion in public schools.


1) The True God should be worshipped in public schools, and other religions discriminated against.


2) The public schools are, like life in general, to be a battleground for religion. Both Christian and New Age teachers should have equal opportunity to influence students, regardless of parent consent.


3) Schools are off-limits for institutionalized religion, and by default only a non-religious atmosphere is allowed.


4) Many non-Christians seem to believe that schools are off-limits for any mention of religion, even when it is important for an understanding of history. Any kind of morality is deemed religious, but since immorality is usually non-religious, that is OK.


Which view do you have, or do you have a fifth view?


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Medieval Christians

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Easter Dates & the Rise of Rome

3rd - 7th Centuries AD.

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When should Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus? Should Christians all celebrate it at the same time? This question was the one factor that caused people to ask, "What is our authority on spiritual matters which the Bible does not speak." Jesus's words to Peter were used to give an answer half of all Christians accepted. Does our church not have any authority except what is in the Bible or not? Is that authority on the same level as the Bible or not?



The Origin of "Easter"


Where did the name and traditions of Easter come from anyway? Jehovah's Witnesses say the word "Easter" came from the Mideast goddess of love, "Ishtar", or "Ashtarte". That is a lie without a shred of historical evidence. There are two differing recorded versions of the origin of the name Easter.


The church historian the venerable Bede records that Easter came from "Eôstre", the Germanic goddess of daylight and spring. The problem with this account is that there is no other mention of this anywhere else. Besides Bede's account, there is no mention anywhere of any Germanic goddess named Eôstre.


The second account is that early Christians celebrated a sunrise services on Easter. The Old High German word for dawn is eostanum. So the Old German word for Easter is Ostern, and from that came the Anglo-Saxon eâster.


Easter means rabbits bringing eggs to most of the secular world. Why rabbits, and not foxes, cows, or squirrels? Rabbits, as well as eggs were symbols of fertility for many religions, including the Germanic ones. Pagan religions used colored eggs too.


Another pre-Christian tradition at the Spring equinox was lighting fires to "drive away the dark." "Easter fires" were banned from Christian Easter celebrations by the 742 Council of Germanicum and the 743 Council of Lestines. However today some Catholic churches have special Easter candles.


We can point the finger at many uneducated Catholics in Central and South America for parading their Indian idols alongside the virgin Mary and mixing their native religion with Catholicism, but let's make sure we are above reproach.


The Date of Easter and the Synod of Whitby


In 664 King Oswy of Northumbria had an irritating problem. He was raised in the Celtic Christian tradition as were which Patrick and Columba, which celebrated Easter when the Eastern Christians did. His South English wife, Eanfled, followed the Roman Christian tradition, which celebrated Easter as the Church of Rome dictated. (The Vatican began the (modern) method under Pope Hilarius ~465 AD.) Thus while Oswy's wife was still fasting for Lent Oswy was breaking his fast to celebrate Easter. How could this problem for him and his subjects be resolved?


Oswy called a Synod at Whitby in 664 for a friendly debate to resolve this problem. On the Celtic side were Bishop Colman of Lindisfarne, Bishop Chad of the East Saxons, the Abbess Hilda of Lindisfarne, and King Oswy himself. On the Roman side were Bishop Wilfrid of Rippon, Bishop Agilbert of Wessex, Eanfled, and Oswy's son Alchfrid.


Bede's Ecclesiastical History (3:25-26) only records that Colman, speaking first, appealed to the apostle John, Anatolius of Laodicea, and Columba of Iona. Anatolius of Laodicea (d. ~282) authored a book on the dating of Easter and ten books on arithmetic. Like eastern Christians, celtic Christians celebrated Easter as John the Apostle apparently taught.


Wilfrid then spoke, belittling Columba and Anatolius, and mentioning Peter and Nicea. According to Wilfrid, Peter was the head of the apostles, with the keys of heaven. Also, the Council of Nicea (325 AD.) said that all churches should celebrate Easter as the Church of Rome.


Colman admitted that Peter was the chief apostle and had the keys of heaven. Then Oswy concluded, "I dare not longer contradict the decrees of him who keeps the doors of the Kingdom of heaven, lest he should refuse me admission." Thus the issue was settled for Northumbria, and later for all the British Isles. Colman resigned his bishopric and returned to being a monk at Iona. Note that Oswy was concerned that Peter would make the decision to refuse him heaven. The issue of "what did God want", nor the fact that Peter would only do what God commanded were apparently never considered.


Other councils, such as Brefi (590), Caerleon (569) Hereford (662), and Hatford (679) also discusssed this, but Whitby was really the deciding council.


So a small, but vexing controversy, "that Christians were not celebrating Easter all at the same time", was the focal point of a much broader issue, "was the bishop of Rome the earthly head of Christ's church or not." Knowing everything you know of 2,000 years of church history, pretend you spoke to King Oswy at Whitby. How would you answer the dating of Easter and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome?


Upon This Rock...


Was Peter the "Rock" on which Christ built his church or not? And if he was, did the Pope's of Rome inherit that authority. We will only address the first question here; the second is postponed until the next issue.


Jesus asked what Peter believed about Jesus. Mt 16:16 says, "And answering, Simon Peter said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. In Mt 16:18 Jesus said, "And I also say to you (sing.) that you (sing.) are Petros (masculine), and on this petra (feminine) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against her. And I will give to you (sing.) the keys..."


Catholics say the verse means Peter was the rock upon which Christ would build his church. Protestants point out that Peter is Petros, "boulder" (masculine) in Greek, and rock is Petra "massive rocky point", (feminine) so the rock of the church is not Peter, but the confession that Jesus is the Christ. Catholics point out that Jesus probably spoke in Aramaic, not Greek, and according to a Catholic seminary professor (Pacwa), there is no distinction in Aramaic. Protestants point out that the inspired writers distinguished between the two when they wrote the Bible. Catholics point out that Papias and Hippolytus state Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, not Greek. Protestants can reply that if the Catholic interpretation was true, how come no other gospel writer mentions this and Eph 2:20, 1 Cor 3:11, and Heb 3:5-6 argue against this by their silence.


According to the Roman Catholic scholar Launoy, 17 Church fathers interpreted Peter as the rock, 44 interpreted Peter's confession as the rock, 16 interpreted Christ as the rock, and 8 interpreted all the apostles as the rock. As for keys, Jesus even said the scribes and Pharisees had the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Lk 11:52, Mt 23:2-4,13) So keys are the ability to proclaim the Word of God.


At the Vatican Council, even Catholic Archbishop Kenrick admitted that Peter's role in the church can not be definitively answered by looking at this verse. Against Catholic claims, Mt 18:18 gives the authority to bind and loose to all apostles. Eph 2:20 says that Jesus is the cornerstone, and 1 Cor 3:11 says Jesus is the Church's foundation. So it is Jesus who is the ultimate rock. However, Eph 2:20 and Rev 21:14 say that the church is built on the foundation (which is usually rock) of the apostles and prophets. So Peter, along with the other apostles and prophets, are "foundation rocks" built not separate from, but on top of the "Cornerstone Rock".


Though Petros and Petra are of a different gender, one cannot ignore the issue of keys, and binding and loosing in Mt 16:19. It is undeniable that Peter (and other apostles later) were given special authority.



What is Your Authority?


What is our authority on religious answers. The Protestant answer is "sola scriptura", only the scriptures. The Catholic answer is that there are three pillars: scripture, church tradition, and the decrees of the Popes and Church Councils. (Catholics debate among themselves over whether the Popes or Councils have greater authority.)


Let's split the question into two parts: matters on which the Bible clearly speaks, and matters on which the Bible is does not. For matters on which the bible speaks, our authority must be the Bible; that is the teachings of Jesus, the Apostles, and the prophets (Eph 2:20). What about matters on which the bible is not definitive? One choice is the Pope and church councils. Another answer is simply to follow the tradition of what Christians have done. A third answer is that it must not be important, so do as you please, or follow the crowd. Can you think of a better answer?






What "authoritative rules" do we have in our church that are extra-scriptural, i.e. the Bible does not support or refute them? By the way, why do we celebrate Easter when we do?








Two Conclusions


There is an important lesson we can learrn about church tradition. Do not ever say another church is a bad church because they have tradition; we are a great church because we have follow tradition, we just follow the Bible. Everybody has tradition, and tradition is not bad. Tradition becomes bad though, as in Mt 15:1-9, when tradition nullifies the Word of God and teachings are but rules taught by men.


A second conclusion is that while Catholics and Protestants may differ on the interpretation of Mt 16:18-19, all should be able to agree that

- Peter and the apostles were in fact given special authority. (Mt 16:16-18, Mt 18:18, Eph 2:20.)

- The Bible is silent on Peter exercising any authority apart from the other apostles,

- The Bible is silent on if this authority is passed on.

The last point is the subject of the next issue.


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Medieval Christians

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The Decretals and Rise of the Papacy

10th-16th Centuries A.D.

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The Middle Ages in Western Europe are inexplicable without an understanding of the authority of the Popes. Few know how influential the false Decretals were in establishing that authority. Before looking at the true and false Decretals, let's review some history.


Early Christian Patriarchies


The first known reference to a "governing center" is in Acts 15 where the Council of Jerusalem made decisions that were governing all churches. Eventually there were four Christian "patriarchies" whose bishops appointed other bishops, organized missions and exposed heresies. The Council of Nicea in 325 recognized that the bishops of four cities, Alexandria, Rome, Antioch and Jerusalem have jurisdiction over neighboring churches. In 381 A.D., the Council of Constantinople stated, "the bishop of Constantinople, however, shall have the prerogative of honor after the bishop of Rome; because Constantinople is New Rome." The Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) said that Constantinople "should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she [Rome] is, and rank next after her [Rome];..." Thus, most western Christians from 381 A.D. on viewed the bishop of Rome as the church's earthly head.


Early Bishops Made No Claims


Clement, mentioned in Php 4:3, may be the same Clement who was the Bishop of Rome, and who is probably the same Clement who wrote the 1 Clement to the Corinthians in 97 A.D.. If he believed he had authority over other churches he never mentioned it.


When Victor the Pope threatened to excommunicate the entire Eastern church because they celebrated Easter on a different day, Hippolytus came to Rome to rebuke him ~200 A.D.


According the Catholic Encyclopedia IV p.614, Damasus (366-384 A.D.) was the very first to call himself Pope and appeal to Mt 16:18. Leo I (the Great) (440-461) asserted the primacy of the Pope at Rome.

Gregory I (pope 590-604) said, "St. Peter is not called Universal Apostle; the whole church falls from its place when he [Christ] who is called Universal falls. But far from Christian hearts be that blasphemous name [of Universal Apostle]. I confidently affirm that who so calls himself, or desires to be called Universal Priest, in his pride goes before Antichrist (To the Emperor Maurice, Epistla 5:20-7:33).




Things changed drastically around 850 A.D. with the false decretals. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines a decretal as, "... used very generally to describe a letter containing a papal ruling, more specifically one relating to matters of canonical discipline, and most precisely a papal rescript in response to an appeal." The earliest known authentic Papal letters were from Damasus (died 384 AD.), Siricius (died 399 AD.), and a reference to one by Liberius (died 366 AD.) They have similarities to decrees from Roman Emperors. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there are over 1,000 authentic decretals from then to 1198.


The False Decretals


The false decretals are 100 letters establishing the authority of the Popes. In them, Peter says that he was given authority to head Christ's church on earth. Peter passed this authority to the next Pope, etc..


Most false decretals are "Pseudo-Isidorian" Decretals, named after a man describing himself as "Isidore Mercator" who apparently wrote them in France and brought them to Metz, Germany between 847-859 A.D. They purport to be letters of Popes and church councils from 78-731 A.D. There are many plagiarized quotes, but overall the style is of one person.


Apparently the main motive behind the Decretals was to establish more independence for the local bishops by saying they were responsible not to the metropolitans, synods, or the state, but only the pope. The false Decretals had the profound effect of elevating the popes to a position greater than anybody else on this earth.


The Decretals were used at the Synods of Worms (868), Cologne (887), Metz (893), and Tribur (895). The Orthodox church never accepted them, and they were rejected as forgeries in the west ~1100 A.D. Two insurmountable problems are that nobody ever heard of them before 850 A.D., and they have many historical anachronisms, i.e. "how come Popes quoted people born after their death?". Nevertheless, even in 1580 the Catholic Corpus Juris used the false decretals to prove Catholicism was correct. In 1628 it was still necessary for the Protestant David Blondel to refute the forgeries.


Are the Popes Apostles or Not?


The key question is not whether Peter and the Apostles were authorities in the church -they were. Rather, it is whether 1) apostles were only in New Testament times, or 2) there are apostles today too. Are the Popes apostles or not? Since the popes' claim to be apostles rests solely on apostolic succession, either all the popes are apostles, or else they are all not apostles. Let's look Gregory the Great's claims, and then look at a few Popes.


Decrees of Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085)


In Dictatus Papae, Pope Gregory VII said, "The Roman Church was founded by God alone; the Roman pope alone can with right be called universal; he alone may use the imperial insignia; his feet only shall be kissed by all princes; he alone may depose the emperors; he himself may be judged by no one; the Roman Church has never erred, nor will it err in all eternity." (Austin's Topical History of Christianity p.165.)


From Roman Catholicism Issues & Evidences by Richard Knolls Ankerberg Press, Gregory VII said,

2. Only the Roman Pontiff is rightly called universal.

3. he alone can depose or absolve bishops.

9. The pope is the only man to whom all princes bend the knee.

12. He is allowed to depose emperors.

16. No general synod can be convened without an order.

18. His sentence cannot be repealed by anyone and he alone can repeal all other sentences.

19. He must not be judged by anyone.

22. The Roman church has never erred; and according to the testimony of scripture it never will err.

27. The pope can absolve subjects from oaths of fidelity made to unjust rulers.


It is incorrect to say the Catholic church teaches popes never speak wrongly. Rather, the church teaches that when a pope speaks "ex Cathedra", then what he says is infallible. If the Pope and the Bible disagreed, which would you believe? When Pope Boniface VII spoke ex Cathedra in the Unam Sanctam in 1302, he said, "For every human creature it is altogether necessary to salvation that he be subject to the Roman Pontiff [Pope]." Even Vatican II contradicts this.


The Ungodly Popes


In Matt 7:15-20 Jesus said to watch out for wolves in sheep's clothing. In 1 Cor 5:1-2,9-10 it says that the (unrepentant) immoral people should be kicked out of the church, not be made Pope. In 2 Tim 3:1-5 challenges the belief that there were no really bad teachings then. For example, if we lived back then, should we obey the Pope and burn people at the stake for possessing Bibles? Should we join Pope Julius II, (The Warring Pope, 1504-1513) in his army, capturing, murdering, and looting in Italian cities to add to "God's Kingdom", i.e. the Papal States?


How bad were some Popes? According to Austin's Topical History of Christianity, p.148,

"Then [after 904] began the so-called "pornocracy," during which Theodora and her two daughters, Theodora the Younger and Marozia, virtually controlled Rome and the church itself. Enticing harlots, these women had sold their bodies for positions, titles, and land, giving them widespread power. Marozia had an illicit affair with Pope Serius III, from which was born a son who later became Pope John XI. When Marozia sought to have herself crowned empress, her younger son Alberic kidnapped and imprisoned his mother, incarcerated his half brother, the pope, and became emperor himself. He reigned from 932 to 954, exercising absolute control over the papacy. After Alberic's death, his son Octavian was elected as Pope John XII, and proved to be the most odious member of this depraved family.


b. The Otto Regimes. In 962, the wicked John XII crowned the German king Otto I as emperor of the Holy Roman Emipire. Thinking he had an ally in depravity, John soon found the new emperor to be a man of character and devoted to restoring the papacy to deceny and honor. When Otto assembled a synod to discuss deposing John, the pope threatened them all with excommunication, but they deposed him anyway. Three months later John called another synod which rescinded what Otto's synod had done. Therefore Otto decided upon force to rid the papacy of its evil ruler. [i.e. his army kicked the pope out.]


... The next forty-two years [after 1004] of papal history were filled with intense rivalry, expedient mediocrity, spiritual impotence, vice, and corruption. It seemed to reach its lowest depth with the election of a degenerate twelve-year-old boy, Pope Benedict IX (1032-1045) who after shameful debauchery and erratic administration, sold the holy tiara (i.e. office of the Pope) to the highest bidder. He was known as Gregory VI (1045-1046)....


Would You Obey Apostles From Hell?


The Catholic seminary professor Pacwa and other Catholics have an answer that stuns many Protestants. They agree with Protestants that many Popes were ungodly men, and probably went to hell. Since they were Popes though, we are to obey them anyway.


If a Pope is forcibly deposed and imprisoned, and makes another Pope, then does the new Pope have the authority and right of succession from the old Pope? Should Christians back then feared Gregory's threat of excommunication? Should Christians have supported Otto's preparating for war against the Pope? Exactly how is someone who purchases the title of Pope a successor of St. Peter? Certainly someone who was compared to Simon in Acts 8:13-25 should not be obeyed if he bought the office of Pope???




2 Tim 3:1-9 talks of something that must have been very surprising to the New Testament church, a great apostacy. If there ever was an apostolic succession, it was broken.


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Medieval Christians

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the Waldenses

1000 A.D. -

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Where's Waldo?


On TV, in books, and on boxes of Life Cereal, there are puzzles of where one has to find an out of place guy named Waldo. There have been puzzles of him among the Egyptians, Romans, etc.. Just imagine what it would be like to see Bible-believing Christians in the darkest of the Dark Ages, at 1000 BC onwards.


Well I do not know if he wore a read and white shirt, but a man named Peter Waldo was so prominent a Bible preacher (1170-1176 A.D.) that he gave his name to a movement that ~ 1000 A.D. Luther and Calvin were famous for their reformation cry of "sola scriptura" (scripture only) for authority, but we should remember that Waldo and the Waldenses had the same principle 500 years earlier. Before we look at the Waldenses, one of the brightest points of light in the Dark Ages, let's first look at the man Waldo himself.



Who's Waldo?


Peter Waldo was born to a wealthy family in Lyon (pronounced lay-O), France. He gave away his money to the poor, and lived a life as an itinerant preacher, flourishing between 1170-1176. Authorities disliked his lack of formal church training and his use of a non-Latin Bible. He attended the Third Lateran Council in 1179 (291 bishops) where the Emperor agreed to support one of the two competing Popes. While there, Waldo was officially reminded that he was not permitted to preach without church permission, sort of like Acts 4:17-19. We do not know much about Waldo personally; but we do know a lot about the legacy he left behind, his disciples. Even if our personal lives are forgotten, wouldn't it be great if we left a legacy of disciples that follow Jesus, -for 950 years.



The Poor Men of Lyon and Poor Lombards


In France, Waldo's followers were called the Poor men of Lyon. In Italy they were called the Poor Lombards, after Lombardy, the district of Northern Italy. We do not exactly when Waldo died, but we know that in 1218 a council of 6 Poor men of Lyon and 6 Poor Lombards met at Bergamo to clarify their doctrine. One issue was "should be pray for Peter Waldo or not? More generally, do believers go straight to heaven, or should we pray for dead believers, who are now suffering to be cleansed for their sins in purgatory? It was agreed that both prayers for the dead and purgatory were to be rejected.



"Waldenses" Before Waldo


A strong case can be made that the Waldenses did not begin with Waldo. ~950 A.D., there was a small Iconoclastic movement in northern Italy. One movement that came about was the Humiliati, composed primarily of wool workers of Milan. When the later Italian itinerant Waldensian preachers developed the tradition of all-wool clothes, it was probably because the many Waldensian wool workers could clothe them easier with the products they made themselves. A third source of many who became Waldenses could be Arnold of Brescia's group, the Arnoldists. Arnold of Brescia was terribly grieved about the greediness of the priests and the Catholic church, overreacted and was hanged in 1155 after he led a military revolt and briefly captured Rome.



Relations with the Catholic Church


Most early Waldenses never left the Catholic church. They would go to their Waldensian priest for confession and the Lord's supper, and the Catholic church for other functions. While they believed the Catholic church was wrong on some doctrines and greatly in need of reform, they still remained in Catholic churches. In reaction to the Catholic emphasis on the Lord's Supper, the Waldenses only celebrated it once a year. Can anyone think why it was on a Thursday that they celebrated it?



Catholic Persecution of the Waldenses


In 1184, during the Catholic Synod of Verona the Pope issued a Bull (ab Abolendum) condemning the Waldenses and the Humiliati, a closely related group. In 1197 the Council of Verona condemned Waldenses to be burned to death. However, in 1207 the Council of Pamiens tried to win back the Waldenses. An order of friars with the same disciplines and distinctive dress as the Waldenses had some success.


Things really "heated up" for the Waldenses 80 of them were burned at the stake in Strasbourg. In 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council, under "Innocent" III, was convened. This was a large council, with 400 bishops and 800 abbots and priests. This was the council that made Transubstantiation the official doctrine of the Catholic church. Since the Waldenses and the (truly heretical) Cathari did not accept transubstantiation, you might say they were destined to taste the cup of the wine of the Catholic church's wrath.


The Waldenses stopped wearing their distinctive clothes because of the danger, and many moved to the remote mountainous areas between Italy and France, now called the Waldensian valleys. In 1487-1488 Pope Innocent VIII called a Crusade to try to exterminate the Waldenses in modern France. The Italian Waldenses were also persecuted in 1545, and 1550-1560. There are stories of Catholic armies getting lost in fog in the mountains so that Waldenses could escape. The original Waldenses were strict pacifists, but after enough dead Waldenses, they changed and did believe in fighting for self-defense. In 1655, after many Waldenses were killed, the Waldenses in northern Italy revolted. (I suppose we would think the Catholic church's treatment of these Bible-believing Christians was "revolting" too!)


By the time of the reformation, Waldenses had spread from France and North Italy to South Italy, Spain, the Low Countries, Germany, Poland, and Hungary. The Waldenses merged with the Huguenots in France, Calvinists, in Germany, and the Bohemian Brethren in Hungary and Poland.


The Waldense - Calvinist Merger


~1526 there were conferences called between the Waldenses and the Calvinists. The Calvinists shared their well-developed theology with the Waldenses, and their was complete agreement except for two sticking points. The first point was that Waldenses refused to swear oaths or recognize secular law courts. The second point was that the Waldensian perfects were similar to monks and priests. While there were a small number of holdouts, most of the Waldenses accepted the Calvinists' on these two points.


Thus in 1526 began the "second phase" of the Waldense movement. From this time Waldenses emphasized predestination more like Calvinists. The Waldenses also officially adopted two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, just like the Calvinists.


Waldenses Today


Because of religious persecution, many Waldenses in the 19th century emigrated to Uruguay and Argentina in South America. In the 17th and 19 centuries, many others came to New York, Chicago, Missouri, and Valdese, North Carolina. The American Waldenses merged with the Presbyterian church in the 1970's. 50,000 Waldenses outside of America still have an annual conference in Torre Pellice, Turin, Italy.


(Minor) Shortcomings of the Waldenses


While we should greatly respect our brothers in Christ, the Waldenses, nobody is perfect. Most Waldenses thought in terms of two classes of Christians, "perfects" who were poor, celibate preachers of the gospel who (materially) subsisted on faith offerings, and "friends", who supported the preachers. This system, likely borrowed from earlier concepts of clergy (monks and priests) vs. laity, stressed that the laity supported the clergy who did the work of the Lord, vs. everybody was to be doing the work of the Lord. Among some, but not all, Waldenses, men would leave their families, even without their wife's consent, to become preachers.


The Waldenses were often ridiculed for being primarily from the lower classes (kind of like Jesus' disciples and early Christians in Acts 4:13 and 1 Cor 1:20-31). Perhaps the Waldenses did not excel in wisdom or theological acumen in this age of ignorance, but they knew the Lord. In a time when the authority and obedience to the Pope was greater than that to God, Waldenses were martyred for preaching and studying the Word of God for themselves. Would that our faults were no greater than theirs.


Primary and Secondary Truth


Paul speaks about matters of first importance in 1 Cor 15:1-5, and disputable matters in Rom 14:1. Perhaps there may also be secondary matters that are important, but not or primary importance. What Christian doctrines do you think are of primary importance?


Waldo and the Waldenses were originally Catholic believers who believed God's word to be the highest authority. Though poor, persecuted, and in error on a few points, God's hand was with them. They knew God and were later a major factor in the spread of Protestantism. It is interesting to observe how God dealt with them. Their giving up of extra-Biblical doctrines was not instantaneous but gradual, as they were following Him. True Christians must believe the primary doctrines about God, God's word, man's sinfulness and choice of destiny, Christ's atoning death and resurrection, repenting and accepting God's gracious gift, and being born anew as obedient spirit-indwelt believers, to be true Christians. One cannot know God apart from knowing the truth, and God's truth is essential for a healthy Christian life. However, apparently God values a living relationship with Him as more important than complete doctrinal correctness on secondary doctrines.




Paul said in Philippians 3:15-16 "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained." Since the Holy Spirit want to "guide us into all truth" (John 16:13), obedient Christians should never cease pursuing ALL truth. However, let us not pass off the essential truths of Christianity as mere secondary matters, nor elevate secondary matters to the level of primary things.


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Scholastics vs. Rationalists

1100-today A.D.

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Throughout all ages some great Christians have concentrated on learning, and knowing God and His word. For others, learning itself can become a god. We will also see the ontological argument and the importance of the cross.


What's a Scholastic?


"Scholastic" is a term for Orthodox Christians who

Πemphasize God's truth more than experience,

 recognizing that the Bible, and not reason, is the highest authority,

Ž believe that both non-Christians and Christians can know a lot about God by reason alone.


Scholastics differ from

· rationalists, who hold human reason as a higher authority from than God's word,

· mystics, who emphasize experience over truth,

· many liberals, who emphasize love over all else.

By the way, what is it you emphasize? Before discussing the roles of reason, let's look at a godly, though imperfect scholastic named Anselm, a rationalist named Abelard, and a debate between them.


Anselm (1033-4/21/1109)


Anselm was born in Aosta, Italy of a Lombard father and a Burgundian mother. He joined a Benedictine monastery under the famous teacher Lanfranc. Lanfranc accompanied the Normans when they conquered England, and Lanfranc was influential in having his pupil, the despot William Rufus, succeeded his father William the Conquer in England. Lanfranc also introduced the false Decretals to England.


Because of Anselm's great learning, some monks asked him to write and prove the God's existence by reason alone. Anselm answered them with two works, the Monologion (1077) and the Proslogion (1078), using what is now called the ontological argument.


In 1093 Anselm succeeded Lanfranc as the archbishop of Canterbury, frequently contending with William Rufus over the independence of the English church. Anselm had many periods of exile in Italy. While exiled, he wrote Cur Deus Homo, which even today is an important work on the atonement.

The Ontological Argument


1. Define God as that of which nothing greater can be conceived in your mind.

2. A being that does not really exist is less than a being that does exist.

3. Since your mind can conceive of this greatest being, and He would not be the greatest if He did not exist, therefore, God exists.


What's wrong with this? Here is a counter example.

1. Define "B" as that of which nothing more blue can be conceived in your mind.

2. A being that does not really exist is less blue than a being that does exist.

3. Since your mind can conceive of this bluest being, and he would not be the most blue if he did not exist, therefore "B" exists.


In Anselm's own time Gaunilo of Marmoutier disagreed with this. Even today people still debate this. There are two main problems.

Our p__________________ of greatness can be flawed and has no need to match r____________.

The r____________ of greatness in no way depends on our p__________________.


Abelard (1079-1142)


Abelard was born in the region of Brittany, France, and studied under the rationalists Jean Roscelin and William of Champeaux. Abelard was a brilliant debater, very critical of his teachers, and he thoroughly trounced William of Champeaux in a public debate.


In 1117, when Abelard was 38, he was hired to tutor Heloise, (1098-1164) the niece of Fulbert, a wealthy churchman. I am not sure of what all Abelard taught her, but they had a son, whom Abelard whimsically named Astrolabe. Afterwards they married secretly, so that Abelard could still be ordained as a monk. Fulbert had first acquiesced to the marriage, but after Abelard had Heloise enter an abbey, Fulbert felt Abelard had abandoned her. So Fulbert, had Abelard castrated.


Like his teacher Roscelin, whom Anselm opposed, Abelard's teachings of tritheism as the Trinity were condemned by the Church. After Abelard became an abbot and Heloise became an Abbess, they wrote a famous series of love letters to each other.


Abelard's work Sic et Non, (without which none), emphasized that truth must attained by weighing all sides. While many thought the early church fathers as "almost scriptural", Abelard made a list of >150 issues where they disagreed. Abelard wrote Historia Calamitatum (The Story of My Troubles) in 1132. Through the influence of the famous Bernard of Clairvaux, Abelard was condemned by the Council of Sens in 1140. Abelard died while appealing.


Paul and Learning


Paul quoted Greek poets as well as the Old Testament in his preaching and teaching. If Paul was ever tempted to rely on his learning, he recognized and conquered that temptation well after Athens. In 1 Cor 2:1-5 Paul says,

"When I came to you brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom but on God's power."

Does your faith rest more on man's wisdom or God?


Cur Deus Homo? (Why God Man?)


Anselm may have earned "an E for effort" for his ontological argument, but Anselm's Cur Deus Homo, (Why God Man) is still an important work on the atonement, 900 years later. By the way, which one is the key reason why God became man?

Fulfill scripture-Mt26:54-6;Mk14:49;Jn13:18;19:24-37

Because God loved us -John 3:16, 1 John 4:19

Demonstrate God's love for us -Rom 5:8, John 3:16

Learn obedience from what He suffered-Hb 5:8;10:7,9

Glorify God on earth & declare His name-Jn 17:4,6,26

Destroy the devil and his work -Heb 2:14, 1 Jn 3:8

Triumph, destroy death and bring eternal life through the gospel -Rev5:5;2Tim1:10;Jn 3:16;17:2;1Jn5:11

Taste death for everyone -Heb 2:9,16

Gain victory and give us victory -1 Cor 15:54-57

Overcome, that we may do so -Rev 3:21;12:11;1Jn5:4

Give us eternal life -John 3:16, 1 John 5:11

Give understanding & God's words-Jn17:8,14;1Jn 5:20

Be the author and perfecter of our faith -Heb 12:2

Provide purification for sins as high priest -Heb1:3;3-9

Be like a priest as Melchizedek -Heb 5:6,10;6:10;7

Redeem us from wickedness & purify us -Titus2:14

Purge our conscience -Heb 9:14

Be the light of the world -John 9:5;1:4-9

Free us, take away our sins & save sinners -John 5:36; Heb 2:15; 9:28, 1 Tim 1:15, 1 Pet 2:24; 3:18

Be our Savior -many verses

Reconcile us... -Eph2:14-17, Col1:20-22; Rom5:10-11


One could look at any one of these reasons, neglecting being blind to everything else, and have a seriously wrong view of Christ's mission. The underlying reason is not found in just one verse, but rather what the entire Old Testament taught the Jews for 1400 years. What were the two most holy times and why?



What would a Jew with 1400 years of history understand when John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God in John 1:36?


The Purchase of Blood


Fill in the thought for the scriptures.

_____________ Rev 5:9;2 Pet 2:1;Heb9:18;1Cor6:20

_____________ Heb 2:17;1Jn4:10

_____________ Mt20:28;Mk10:45;1Tim 2:6


_____________ Hb10:10,20;1Pt2:24;Ep2:15-16;R7:4

_____________ Eph 2:16;Php 3:18;Col1:20


The Great Transaction


Liberals accuse all true Christians of "Crude Transactionalism" for the doctrine of purchasing men for God by Christ's blood. Based on the verses above, we must plead "guilty as charged," except we can call it the "great transaction."


Christ did not come to show the love of a capricious, unfair God, whose word means little. Christ came to satisfy God's justice as well as God's love. If God is fair, the debt to God's righteousness had to be paid. Only a true man could pay man's debt to God. Yet only God had the riches to pay. The debt had to be paid by true man and true God.


The Lord's Supper


Jesus said in the Lord's Supper, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matt 236:28. If someone who claims to be a Christian says this every month, and they do not believe in the atonement, ask them what their words mean when they say this. As Hebrews + 1 Cor 15:1-4 show, a bloodless gospel is no gospel.


True or False?


True or false: "While it is neither inerrant or Biblically authoritative, the wisdom of this world is often helpful to have walk with God." Answer first, and then read 1 Cor 1:17-20,22-24 and 1 Cor 2:5-6,12-13. What do you think is wisdom of this world?


One might conclude Christians are not to learn at all. Rather Paul, a very learned man, says to avoid the specific "wisdom of this world." Signs of this are:

1. 1 Cor 1:17, that which _______________________

2. 1 Cor 1:19, based on human ______ & _________

3. 1 Cor 1:20 based on human s____________s

4. 1 Cor 1:20 based on human p_________________s


A curious piece of trivia is that during the 16th and 17th centuries, the Puritans had a disproportionately high number of members in the British Royal Academy of Sciences. All truth is God's truth, but we must ask if we are studying not truth, but the "wisdom of the world" in 1 Cor 1-2.




Doctrine alone leads to rationalism, experience alone leads to emotionalism, and ethics alone leads to legalism. Rather than trying to be 1/3 scholastic, 1/3 mystic, and 1/3 Pharisee, let's be like Paul. Rather than focusing on our philosophical proofs, knowledge, experience, action, or love "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ..." Gal 6:14.


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Medieval Christians

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The Mystics

1090-today A.D.

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What is a genuine mystical experience? Paul gave one example in 2 Cor 12:1-4, "I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell."


When you read a Christian book or study a Bible commentary book, why do you do it? When you read your Bible, what is you main reason, besides the fact that you are supposed to?





One reason the mystic Bernard of Clairvaux gave was, "... a clear, warm exposition of truth, such as will serve to dispose the soul to prayer and contemplation." (New Catholic Encyclopedia vol 1. p.337.)


The mystics were not identical, but a rather diverse group of orthodox, heretical, winsome and attractive in spirit, and just plain weird people. There are very different ideas of what a mystic is. For some a mystic is one who has a mystical experience like Paul. For others, nearly every Christian poet who writes devotionally is a mystic writer and therefore a mystic. For our purposes, we will define a mystic, in a positive way, as a Christian who is in love with God; their forte is prayer. In a negative way, a mystic can be a person stresses emotion over knowledge and experience over scripture. Mystics have been heretics, and mystics have been behind all but four of the profound church reforms that preceded the Reformation.


Early Mystics


In early church times Dionysius the Areopagite and many monks in Egypt were mystics. John Climacus, who lived at Mt. Sinai just before the Medieval period, wrote The Ladder of Ascent. The warmth and closeness to God which overflows from his writings, combined with the practical wisdom on how to mortify the flesh (die to self and live for Christ), were a powerful stimulus to Medieval Monasticism and mysticism.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-8/20/1193)


Bernard was in near Dijon, France. His father and mother, Tescelin and Aleth, were Burgundians. He had 6 brothers and sisters. He was sickly as a child, and close to his godly mother, but when he was 17 his mother died. Bernard said his mother's death was the beginning of his road to complete conversion. Some see this as a reason Bernard was so devoted to the virgin Mary. Bernard's parents took great care with his education, because before he was born a monk prophesied that Bernard had a great destiny. As the confidant of five Popes and the discipler of one Pope, Bernard did have an important destiny.


As a Cistercian monk Bernard suffered from many health problems. At Clairvaux, as his health worsened, his spirituality deepened. Bernard knew the scriptures well, and he wrote over 300 letters and sermons. He studied the doctrines and dogmas of Mary, and he believed in the mediation of Mary. He did not believe in the immaculate conception, and he probably did believe in the ascension of Mary. It was said of Bernard that "no one speaks more sublimely of the Queen of Heaven." Bernard believed baptized infants were justified due to the faith of their parents. Bernard developed a doctrine of 3 degrees of humility and 12 degrees of pride. He preached many sermons on the Song of Solomon. Perhaps you have never heard an entire five page sermon on "the kiss" in "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth."


Bernard also wrote on the Steps of Humility and Pride. He had some points that were not too good, but his contrast of the last 5 steps of humility and pride are interesting.

8. Self-justification 5. Confession of one's sin

9. Insincere confession 4. Patience under accusation

3. Rebellion from authority 3. Submission to superiors

11. Feeling free to sin 2. Not wanting freedom for your will

12. Habitual sinning 1. Constant watchfulness against sin.



Bernard turned his back on his earlier secular learning. He said, "Believe me, for I know, you will find something far greater in the woods than in the books. Stones and trees will teach you that which you cannot learn from the masters." (Students with poor study habits should not read this too closely.)


Bernard took part in the 1128 Council of Troyes that deposed a bishop of Verdun. Bernard was criticized for that as a "monk who meddled with matters that did not concern him." Another said of him, "It is not fitting that noisy and troublesome frogs should come out of their marches to trouble the Holy See and Cardinals."


Bernard and Abelard's "Debate"


Bernard was opposed to scholasticism, though William of Champeaux, a teacher of Abelard, was Bernard's friend and admirer. Abelard the famous rationalist came to the 1140/1 Council at Sens to debate Bernard. After Bernard spoke first, some said Abelard said nothing. Actually the authorities did not permit Abelard to speak. The writer Ratisbonne said, "...the refutation of [Abelard's doctrine by St. Bernard form the greatest episode of the Twelfth Century."


Here is what Bernard thought of Abelard and rationalism. Bernard criticized Abelard as a judge of Christianity rather than a disciple. Bernard said, "One seeks God by learning to live in a school of charity and not through scandalous curiosity." We search in a worthier manner, we discern with greater facility through prayer than through disputation."


Bernard was a part of the 1145 Council that condemned Gilbert de la Porree. Gilbert taught that Christ's divine nature was just a human concept. From 1144-1145 Bernard was against Arnold of Brescia.


Bernard (Letter 256) said there were two swords (spiritual and material) that belong to the church, drawn respectively by the priest and by the knight. In 1146-1147 Bernard was in charge of preaching to stir up support for the Second Crusade. During this preaching many miracles were attributed to him. Many men, too poor to go on the Crusades, just killed whatever Jews they could find in the area. When Bernard preached at Vézelay and Spire in 1146, he preached to stop this evil massacre.


Bernard's Exegesis Isogesis


Christians can unintentionally "adjust" the Bible to suit their teaching. Here is an example from Bernard. Humility is the way to God, because Jesus said He was meek and humble (Mt 11:29) and Jesus also said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Can you think of any examples where people have used Isogesis (reading into the Bible) in place of exegesis (getting the meaning from the Bible)?


Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)


Catherine of Siena was a twin and the 23rd of 25 children. After she received a vision, at seven she dedicated herself to a celibate life. Catherine had three main goals: conversion of sinners, restarting the crusades, and the Pope returning from Avignon to Rome. Catherine is a saint according to the Roman Catholic church. Catherine also had a vision where Mary appeared to her and said she was NOT immaculately conceived. This directly contradicts the dogmas of Pope Pius IX in 1854 and first championed by the theologian Duns Scotus (~1266-1308).


This presents an interesting dilemma for Catholics. Either the immaculate conception is a false doctrine, or else this Catholic saint and woman of God received a vision she thought was from God but was actually a deceiving vision that revealed false doctrine.


Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510)


Caterinietta Fieshi Adorna had many revelations and wrote a meditative discussion on heaven, hell, and purgatory. From 1479 on she helped the sick in Genoa in a hospital. During the 1493 plague epidemic in Genoa, one account says 80% of the city died. Catherine also served the poor and converted sinners. Many times she was in great physical pain, and sometimes for periods she lost her appetite and ate nothing except the Lord's supper. She was involved in political affairs as an ambassador to the Pope to persuade cities against the Pope to be neutral in the Popes wars. Because of this she was almost assassinated in 1378. In 1375 she received the stigmata, but as she requested in prayer, it did not appear outwardly until her death.


Catherine prayed to Christ to let her bear the punishment for the sins of the world. A later mystic, Padre Pia, likewise prayed that he could suffer and die for the unity. This can sound like a person thinks they can do atoning work like Christ. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, it may rather have been that their suffering would be an example to the world and sort of a prayer to God to heal these evils. What do you think Paul meant in Col 1:24?


Catherine de Ricci (1522-1591)


Some mystics were rather peculiar. From 1542-1554 Catherine would go through the stages of passion every week from Thursday at 12:00 to Friday at 4:00, showing what Jesus' mother suffered in witnessing her son's death. This ceased when Catherine and others prayed that it would stop.


Mystical Heretics


One of the more influential German mystics was the heretic Miester Eckhart (1260-1327). His favorite verse was Rom 11:36, for he believed that people could be deified such that the creature could be assimilated to the Creator through contemplation. This false doctrine is similar to Witness Lee's teaching of the mingling of God and man. Miester Eckhart also "denied goodness to God." Eckhart said that since God being good was higher than our idea of goodness than white was different than black, it was not right to call God good. He was apparently taught his own mysticism more than he taught Lam 3:25 and Mark 10:18..


Henry Susu (~1295-1366) was Eckhart's disciple and also accused of heresy. The Cloud of Unknowing, Privy Counsel, John Ruysbroeck, and Jean Gerson emphasize unity with God to such an extent that they approached Eckhart's "deification of man." We have to test mystical experience by the test of Acts 17:11.


The Offspring of Mystics?


The Catholic Encyclopedia has a startling observation. It claims that Protestantism is a logical outcome of mysticism. Protestants do emphasize a personal relationship with God, and individual quiet times of prayer and Bible study, but it is more on the Bible than experience. How much of a mystic are you?


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Medieval Christians

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The Franciscans

1181/2-1274 AD.

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You believe God and you serve God, but do you enjoy God? Here is what David said in Ps 42:1-2,

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Today we will study Francis and his followers. He had his faults, but it wouldn't you like to enjoy God as much as he did?



Francis of Assisi (1181/2-10/1226)


Francesco Pietro di Bernardone was one of the three most influential mystics in the middle ages. He was a carefree child, who according to his later admirer G.K. Chesterton, wasted his life until he was 24. He always wanted to be a soldier, but in 1206 he was wounded, captured, imprisoned, and became ill during the petty conflict between Assisi are Perugia. After a year he was released. In 1205 he journeyed to join the Papal forces fighting the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in Apulia. At Spoleto God gave him a message to return home to be called to a new kind of knighthood.


Back in Assisi, Francis had another vision to repair the church. The vision said, "Go, Francis, and repair my house which, as you see, is well-nigh in ruins. He did so, paying for the repairs by selling almost all the cloth in his father's dying business, as well as his father's horse, without his father's knowledge. His father was furious and kept Francis locked in the house. Then he called Francis to appear before the Civil court, but Francis refused to come. Finally his father called him to come before the bishop. Right before the proceedings began, Francis stripped off all his clothing except his undergarments, gave them to his father, and said, "Until now I have called you father on earth. But henceforth I can truly say: Our father who art in heaven." The surprised bishop gave Francis a cloak, and Francis left to live in the woods.


We would all like our children to completely imitate saints of God, right? Seriously, this illustrates a shortcoming of some mystics. They had a heart for God and the right goals, but sometimes their action and doctrine were a poor example when they ignored God's teaching. David in 2 Sam 24:24 talks disparagingly of a sacrifice that costs him nothing. The command to honor your parents, in Eph 6:1-3, Ex 20:12, Dt 5:16, certainly does not include unnecessarily publicly humiliating your father as Francis did.


After Francis had gathered a band of eleven other friars around him, they successfully petitioned the Pope to start an order. to preach, live in poverty, and help the poor. Francis had the gift of healing. He quoted the Bible (including apocrypha) often.


Francis' heart was such that he considered himself no friend of Christ if he did not cherish those for whom Christ died. Francis had a fear of lepers, but he overcame his fear and worked among them.


Francis did much to popularize manger scenes at Christmas, and he wrote many hymns. In Canticle of Brother Sun he emphasized how inanimate creation praised God, somewhat like David did in Psalm 19. Later in his life, Francis emphasized that all creation, both inanimate and animate, praised God. There are stories of him even preaching the gospel to animals. Some errors are soul perishing heresies, and others are not but just strange.


Francis had a passion to preach to Muslims. He tried to go to Syria in 1212 but was shipwrecked. He tried to go to Morocco in 1213-1214 but he became ill in Spain. He could have given up, rationalizing that it was not God's will, but he did not. In 1219, during the middle of the fifth Crusade, Francis landed at Damietta, Egypt, where the Crusaders were besieging the castle. That does not appear too opportune a time to go preach the gospel to the Muslims inside, but that is what Francis did. when he preached to Sultan Malik-al-Kamil. The Sultan brought out a Muslim cleric and asked Francis how he was to know which of the two taught the right way. Francis said the answer was simple. Just burn both of them at the stake, and the one who is miraculously saved is the messenger of truth. The Muslim cleric immediately withdrew. The Sultan was impressed, but unconverted.


In 1224 Francis prepared for a forty day fast to know how best to please God. He opened the gospels three times and each time saw Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection. On 12/14 he saw a vision of apparently a Seraph. Francis received the Stigmata at that time. Francis did not ask for it, and he tried to hide it.


After the Stigmata, Francis became blind and only lived two more years. Apparently he contracted an eye disease while preaching and ministering to lepers in the east. When his bones were dug up, it was found that he had suffered from malnutrition.


"Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Always do something good so that the devil will find you occupied."


Francis founded three orders, the Franciscans, an order of friars, the Poor Clares, of nuns, and "The Brothers and Sisters of Penance", a lay fraternity of those who could not leave their homes.



The aim of the first Franciscan friars was "to follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps. By 1219, there were over 5,000 friars, and it was the fastest growing monastic order to date.


What do you do with "weird" Christians, that is, genuine Christians who are unbiblical in strange ways?



Clare of Assisi (1193-1253)


When Clare was 16, she ran away from home because she did not want to marry. She met up with Francis, and started a "sister" organization to the Franciscan monks, the poor Clares. Later her mother and sister joined her as nuns. Clare was said to have performed miracles too.


Francis and Clare were very close friends, but to get an idea of their relationship, Francis often spoke of his "lady." Francis' "lady" was poverty, and he never spoke of Clare as his lady. A later famous Poor Clare was Catherine of Bologna.



Bonaventure (1217/1221-1274)


Bonaventure was born as Giovanni di Fidanca to well-off parents. According to tradition, when Bonaventure was an infant he had a very serious illness which was miraculously cured by Francis. Growing up, Bonaventure studied received an good education at Paris, where he was noted for a keen memory and intelligence. He studied Aristotle, but especially liked Augustine. He lectured from the standard theological work of the time, Peter Lombard's Sentences.


Bonaventure believed Christ's incarnation would not have taken place if Adam had not sinned. He believed that Mary had original sin, so like Catherine of Siena taught, Mary was not immaculately conceived.


~1263 Bonaventure wrote The Life of St. Francis of Assisi. Once when Thomas came to visit Bonaventure he was in an ecstatic trance while writing of Francis. Thomas left, telling the other people "Let us leave a saint to work for a saint." His next most famous work is The Soul's Journey Into God


Bonaventure was at the conference in 5/1274 that worked for unity between the Catholic and Greek churches. He became a cardinal in 1273.



Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas


There were many similarities between Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas. Both were highly educated, at Paris. Both were among the few that studied the "new" teaching of Aristotle. Both are called doctors of the church, and they were friends.

The Catholic Encyclopedia's contrast of Bonaventure and his friend Thomas Aquinas is interesting. Thomas philosophically followed Aristotle, was very analytical, enlightened the mind, and had a love of theology. Bonaventure followed after Augustine, excelled at synthesis, inflamed the heart, and had a theology of love. Thomas and Bonaventure are both labeled as scholastics. Bonaventure is also called the "Prince of Mystics." Only a small part of Bonaventure's writings are mystical. Bonaventure preached often, and he wrote commentaries on Ecclesiastes, Luke, and John.



Other Mystics


There were probably more Medieval mystics than there were Medieval missionaries. A few of these are Joan of Arc, Amaury de Bène, Joachim de Floris, David of Dinant, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Johann Tauler (-~1361), Hugh and Richard of Saint Victor, Denys the Carthusian, the Flemish poetess Hadewijch, and the French author of Mirror of the Holy Church. The Orthodox church had many "Hesychist" mystics, including Stethatos Nicetas (~1000-~1080), and Symeon the New Theologian. Spanish mystics only appeared after 1493. Two of the most famous were John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila.


England was a center of mysticism, particularly after the Normans conquered it in 1066. Famous English mystics include, Godric of Finchale, Caedmon, Christina of Markyate, Richard Rolle, Hugh Walter, Walter Hilton (14th cent.), Julian of Norwich, and the authors of the Riwle, the Chastizing of God's Children, the Poor Caitiff, and The Cloud of Unknowing. The mystical Dream of the Rood is said by the Catholic Encyclopedia to the "beyond question the finest contribution of Old English literature to Christian devotional writing."


Characteristics of Many Mystics


What kind of person is a mystic? Most mystics came from noble or wealthy families that were large (Catherine of Genoa is an exception with only 3 siblings). They often had an illness of physical infirmity. More women seemed to be mystics than men. Some were very learned, others not. Some were active in the affairs of the church and the world, and others more reclusive.


Almost all mystics interpreted the Song of Solomon allegorically as the ideal for the relationship between the believer and Jesus. A few had the stigmata.




One Christian writer said, "If you have doctrine without the Spirit you dry up, if you have the Spirit without doctrine you blow up, and if you have both you grow up."


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Medieval Christians

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Thomas Aquinas

A "Good" Theologian

~1224-1274 AD.

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Thomas Aquinas is easily the most important theologian between Augustine and John Calvin. In his time, Thomas' greatest accomplishment was seen as successfully integrating the fashionable philosophy of the age (Aristotle) with Holy Scripture.


Thomas spent nine years writing his ninety volume Summa Theologiae, which was still unfinished at his death. Timothy McDermott has brilliantly condensed Thomas' verbose, question and answer style into a mere fifteen chapters and 673 pages. This sheet cannot hope to do justice to all Thomas' teaching, but we will content ourselves with just the preface and the first two chapters. The few areas we will discuss are Aristotle, theology vs. science, Biblical interpretation, the goodness of God, and the origin of evil.


Thomas Aquinas' Early Life


Thomas grew up in Aquino, near Naples, where from about the age of six he was left in a monastery to do manual labor, pray, and study. Due to the political turmoil, when he was 17 he attended a secular school in Naples. At this time this was the only school in all of Europe that studied Aristotelian logic. When Thomas was 20, he decided against becoming a monk, instead becoming a friar. He attended the University of Paris, where the famous German master of Aristotelian logic, Albert Magnus was his teacher.


Plato vs. Aristotle


Before we study about Aquinas we have to first understand a great dichotomy in philosophy: Plato vs. his student Aristotle. There is a lot of hot air taught about this; namely that Protestants are primarily Platonists and Catholics are primarily Aristotelians. That is only true if you define a Platonist or an Aristotelian as someone who as 10% in common with one and less than 7% in common with the other.

The grouping of Platonists and Aristotelians has a little validity however. Ignoring the vast amount of non-relevant teaching of these men, "Platonists" stress two realities: a higher reality of ideas (forms, definitions), and a lower reality of objects of the physical universe. The things in the lower reality are shadows of the higher reality. We see the higher reality about as clearly as people in a cave see the sun by looking at the brightness on the cave walls.


Early Christian fathers who were strongly influenced by Platonic ideas were Justin Martyr, the other apologists, Irenaeus, and especially Augustine. There apparently were no early Christian fathers who were influenced by Aristotle. In the Bible, parts that have some resemblance to ideas of Plato are John 1:1, 1 Cor 13:9-12, Heb 8:5; 9:11,23; 10:1, John 8:32, and other verses stressing truth and error. Taken to the extreme, Neo-Platonism plus parts of the Bible became Gnosticism. Parts that could be construed to stress Aristotle are Matt 5:3-12 and other verses that stress being happy and useful.


The Problem


Through contact with the Arabs during the Crusades, Aristotle and other Greek thinkers were rediscovered. This method of thinking (teaching by questions, the scientific method, definition, classification, composition, emphasis on happiness as a goal) was sweeping Europe. Did these new ideas make theology outdated, or could the "truth of scripture" and the "truth of reason" all be true?


Theology and Science


Thomas believed theology was a higher science, somewhat like optics was a higher science based on the lower science of geometry. Science uses reason to prove things about causes from their effects; theology uses reason to prove things about God from his effects, revealed in scripture and nature. Proving things about God was Thomas' preoccupation, and his theology was based on scripture plus logic.


Thomas was no rationalist. He believed greatly in reason, but He did not believe reason without revelation could find God. This is a departure from Anselm, who Thomas disagreed with over Anselm's trying to prove the existence of God merely from the definition of God.

The Bible has many poetic parts that do not sound too scientific. Thomas explains away all the beautiful imagery of the Bible by saying, "...it is natural for us to arrive at an understanding of immaterial things by way of things we sense. For this reason the scriptures use imagery to present spiritual truths to people otherwise unable to grasp them. Poets use imagery for the sake of representation itself in which men take a natural delight; this teaching uses it as a necessary means towards something else." (p.3-4) I was very disappointed in Thomas when I read of his "logic only" approach to scripture.


God is Good


In Mark 10:18 Jesus said that no one is good except God alone. Yet in Genesis all of creation was originally pronounced good. In what sense is God good? In what sense is anything anything. For example, a healthy organism, a healthy diet, and a healthy complexion are all healthy in a different way. Healthy organism is the primary meaning of healthy. The other two uses are secondary meanings of healthy, as diet is a contributing cause of health, and complexion is a symptom, or effect of a healthy organism.


Many say God is good because God is the source of all goodness. Thomas says that is wrong because God is also the source of all bodies, but that does not make Him a physical body. Thomas tells us the Jewish Medieval philosopher Maimonides says that goodness and wisdom are "negations masked as affirmations." In other words, God is good simply means that God has no evil. If you remember, among the mystics, Meister Eckhert denied God was good because he said since goodness was a property of God's creatures it did not belong to God.


Thomas' view is that the goodness of things we call good on earth is present in a a higher way in God. When Jesus said that only God is good, that means that the primary quality of goodness is present only in God. All goodness we see in God's creatures and creation is good in a secondary sense. Thomas points out that due to our limitations of language, many terms, such as goodness and wisdom, originally and primarily applied to creatures but have been applied to God. However, the reality of the perfections of goodness, wisdom, etc. apply primarily to God and only secondarily to his creatures.


What is Goodness?


The previous discussion begs the question, "What is goodness" and Thomas has an interesting answer. Remember that Mark 10:18 says no one is good except God alone. Yet 1 Tim 6:18 commands the rich "to do good, to be rich in good deeds", so we can do good. In Gen 1 all Creation was declared good. So what is goodness?


The later philosopher Kant claimed that good is what is done out of a sense of duty. What is wrong with that definition? (hint: Heil Hitler)


Thomas' definition of good was:



The Origin of Evil


James 1:13 says that God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself tempts no one. If Mark 10:18 says God is good, where did evil come from? Some false answers are that evil is a thing that always existed, so that God created everything except evil. A second answer is that God created evil. Since He did, God is both good and evil. A third answer is that God created Satan, and that Satan created evil. Thus is a lesser sense, Satan in a creator too.


The implicit false assumption in all the previous answers is that evil is a "thing" like goodness, light, or knowledge. For example, in modern physics scientists have found photons, "things" or light particles that carry (or are) light. Nobody has found any dark particles. People can acquire knowledge, but nobody acquires a lack of knowledge. In the same way, evil is not a thing, but rather a lack, like darkness, ignorance, or emptiness. Satan does not create, but can only twist what is good to make it evil.


Thomas on the Atonement


"Christ's sufferings, considered as something done by God, can be said to effect our salvation , but as willed by Christ with his human soul are said to earn it; and as something undergone in the flesh are variously said to be amends made for us if thought of as freeing us from liability to punishment, our ransom if thought of as freeing us from slavery to sin, and our sacrificial offering if thought of as reconciling us to God (ch.14 p.529 of McDermott's Concise Translation.)


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Medieval Christians

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Thomas Aquinas

Three "Proofs" of God

~1224-1274 AD.

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Thomas Aquinas is best remembered today for his three proofs of God. While they are not rigorous proofs, they are very useful to study not as proofs, but as "evidences" of God. Before we learn the three proofs though, we have to check how Thomas took scripture and ask "what is God."



Taking the Bible Literally


Thomas believed in the literal interpretation of the Bible. In p.4 of McDermott's translation Thomas says, "We must not forget that the literal meaning of a parable or figure of speech is not the figure of speech itself but what it is used to say. When scripture talks of God's arm it is not literally attributing a bodily limb to God but that which an arm represents: power to act. With this proviso we can say that the literal meaning of scripture is never in error."




What is God?


Timothy McDermott, the editor of Summa Theologiae : A Concise Translation, remarks that early Church Fathers dealt with the question "Who is God." Medieval theologians (Anselm and Thomas) dealt with the question "What is God" and modern theologians often deal with "Where is God." You may be asked by someone you are discipling, "what is God." What is your answer?






God's Existence Within the Universe


Thomas was not a heretical pantheist; he did not believe the universe was a part of God. Thomas was not a deist, he did not believe that God stood back apart from the universe like a watchmaker. Thomas did not believe God was wholly other, totally separate from the universe. Paul said in Acts 17:28 "'For in him [God] we live and move and have our being.'"


Thomas said God exists in everything by substance, presence, and power. A king exists in power everywhere in his kingdom, presence in what he sees, and substance wherever he happens to sit. God exists in all three everywhere (p.22).



Arguments for the Existence of God


As you remember, Anselm defined God as what which nothing greater can be imagined. Against Anselm's ontological argument Thomas said it proves that God exists - in people's minds. However Anselm assumed but did not prove that what exists in people's minds exists in reality.


Thomas himself presented five proofs for the existence of God. The first three are together called (today) the Cosmological argument, the fourth is another ontological argument, and the last is a teleological argument. Each of these arguments falls short of a rigorous proof of God, but each is an "indication" in support of God and a good technique for us to begin with in evangelism.


The cosmological argument is:







Two people who have used this line of reasoning in the Twentieth century are _________________ and ___________.


Thomas' ontological argument is:







Someone who extensively used this line of reasoning in the Twentieth century is _____________________.


Thomas' teleological argument is:





Miraculous vs. Supernatural


A small point Thomas illuminates, that many liberals miss, is the difference between the natural, supernatural, and miraculous. Nature running its God-given course is the primary cause of many things. God causes many things: sometimes the means is by using (i.e. adjusting the course of) nature, and sometimes the means is directly, without the use of nature. Every human birth is natural; the birth of a prophet especially chosen by God, such as Jeremiah, is supernatural. The virgin birth of Jesus is miraculous. By Thomas'' definition, all miraculous is supernatural, but all supernatural is not miraculous.



Predestination and Free Will


If God is the first cause, and everything changes from actual states at a time to one of its potential states because of causes, then is would appear there is no chance or free will; God's universe is deterministic. Calvinists would say that is actually the case. Thomas did not disagree with this "bond of determinism", but he saw a place for man's free will too. While God causes some things directly, (apart from nature), He causes some things indirectly through nature. One of his indirect methods is through our free will. There is no logical proof a person can give for the following statement: "The fact that God knows in advance what we are going to choose, and even uses our choices, does not mean we did not freely (i.e. without compulsion) choose."



Eternity and Time


Boethius defined eternity as "the instantaneously whole and complete possession of endless life. Aristotle says "time measures before and after in changes. After quoting Boethius and Aristotle, Thomas took a moment to preserve a few of his own timely remarks.


Time is a moment that passes, eternity is a moment that abides forever. It is not correct to define eternity as that which has no beginning or end, for heaven could have a time that cycles forever. Thomas did not really distinguish between relative, or "sequence" time (first, second, before, after, etc.) and absolute, or "clock" time (1:00, 12:00, etc.) Thomas has an interesting description of God as the "doer of time."


By the way, what verses in the Bible suggest that there is not absolute time in heaven, and that God is outside of time.




What Bible verses suggest that there is relative time in heaven, and that God is inside of both relative and absolute time?



Shortcomings of Thomas


Many Protestants like Thomas Aquinas, especially R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Norm Geisler. He is probably the foremost influence on Catholic theology after Augustine and the Bible. He had his "quaint" points, such as his discussion of the embryology of animals. Thomas had a very "sacramental view" of God dispensing His grace. He made no distinction between absolute proof and evidence towards something. A superficial reading finds that everything is proved, but actually perhaps most of his arguments are strictly speaking invalid. He was not too good at examining his assumptions. As Timothy McDermott put it well, Thomas was a man of his time, but he was a giant in his time.



Why the Summa Theologiae is Unfinished


Thomas' work, the Summa Theologiae, was 90 volumes long, but it was never finished. On 12/6/1273 Thomas said he had a vision. Afterwards Thomas said all he had written was like wheat chaff. On the Summa Theologiae he never wrote another word. Three months later, while riding to the Council of Lyon, he was injured in an accident. Two weeks later Thomas left his logical human reasonings behind and went to enjoy being in the presence of the One who is good.




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Medieval Christians

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Richard RitzRalph

- Dominion Doctrine

1299-1360 AD.

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FitzRalph started writing around 1328, became archbishop of Armagh in Ireland, and died in 1360. In his lifetime he was considered one of the eighteen most influential theologians in Europe; he is considered to be one of the six most influential bishops of Ireland.


Forgetting all about Calvin, Arminius, Luther, and other Protestant Reformers for a bit, theologians were discussing predestination and free will, and the need for radical church reform a couple of centuries before the Protestant Reformation. The famous English theologian and mathematician Thomas Bradwardine (c.1290-1349) was an Augustinian bishop who taught a rather extreme form of predestination. Richard FitzRalph, while not attacking Bradwardine personally, said that predestination was "diabolical knowledge". Some would see FitzRalph's views as almost Pelagian.


Despite their great differences, both served a good purpose, as John Wycliffe (1363-1382), famous Bible translator, said that Richard FitzRalph and Thomas Bradwardine were people of his time who had the most influence on his life. Wycliffe seemed a bit closer to Bradwardine's view than FitzRalph's view though.


FitzRalph had some interesting views on other doctrines. You can see both the good and the bad as he held to the authority of scripture, but he put the authority of Augustine, church tradition, and philosophical thinking close to the almost as high as scripture. FitzRalph quotes extensively from Augustine, but he was more of an Aristotelian who followed in the footsteps of Thomas Aquinas. He also esteemed the Muslim philosopher Averroes. According to some, FitzRalph translated the New Testament into Gaelic.


FitzRalph's Fame as a Reformer


In FitzRalph's time there were two types of clergy: "mendicants", four types of friars who travelled from place to place begging, and so-called "secular clergy" who were priests, bishops, archbishops, etc. at a fixed, local church or cathedral. The friars could go anywhere, in any church and beg for money, give the Eucharist (i.e. communion) and hear confessions. The church members would pay money when they received communion or gave confessions. Like priests and monks, they could never marry. Unlike monks, who lived in monasteries and had almost no possessions, friars often did very well financially. Chaucer said they would have stones, pig bones, and other things that they passed off as holy relics. It is not clear what they contributed to the church or to society, except that they might give a portion of their proceeds to their order. Also, an Irish surname is "MacBrayer", which means "son of the friar".


FitzRalph taught that the whole notion of begging friars was unscriptural. Any person, excommunicated by a local church for his wicked behavior, could still participate if he gave a friar money. FitzRalph said that while Jesus was always poor, it was not because He loved poverty, and Jesus did not beg; rather that people ought not to have the necessity to beg, for there was neither wisdom nor holiness in choosing to become a beggar instead of working. Friars who were wicked andsomewhat prosperous should not be given money just because they are friars.


FitzRalph campaigned against begging friars most of his life, but as he was doing so, it is easy for us to see how he could have come up with three teachings, radical for his time.


FitzRalph's Three Radical Contributions to Theology - Dominion Doctrine


FitzRalph started what is termed a "doctrine of dominion." It had three radical points.


1) What benefit or position do we have because we are entitled, because we deserve it? - None: every good thing we have is due to God's grace. In the same way, FitzRalph said that it is only by God's grace that any person has lordship over things on earth. This was radical for his time. This meant the kings and queens, or popes and bishops, were NOT rulers by virtue of being superior human beings to other people. They were not rulers because they did anything or had anything about them that earned them the right to rule, versus someone else ruling instead. Their family heredity likewise gave them no "merit" that they deserved to rule. Rather, when a person ruled, whether because of heredity, conquest, or some other reason it was solely because of God's grace that God allowed them to rule.


2) When begging monks or friars, or even popes, or bishops, are ungodly, you should not give them a penny. If they lead people to do wicked things, giving them money helped in their wickedness. The wicked spiritual leaders had no intrinsic right to those things; they were in a position to receive benefit due to God's grace. But if they were not living in God's grace, then they should not receive the benefit. Of course long before FitzRalph lived this was taught in Ezekiel 34:10.


3) If a king, queen, or other secular leader commanded things against God, should you follow them, or follow God first? Of course you should follow God. If they are using their power and position to stand against God, it is unlawful for them to have that power or position. You should not aid them, fight in their army, or even support them. They only rule by God's grace, and if they reject God's grace you should reject their rule.


These were radical views for his time, but as a bishop of Armagh in Ireland, he was far enough removed from the continent of Europe that he had the freedom to teach these things. However, the friars wrote against him, and he was summoned to Avignon to appear before the Pope (who also sold offices) to defend his views. Once he was in Avignon, unfortunately other English clergy who were going to pay money to bribe the pope on FitzRalph's behalf backed out of their promises. Then, while in Avignon, FitzRalph died under mysterious circumstances. It was suspected that he was poisoned, but that was never proven conclusively.


FitzRalph's Weirdness


FitzRalph's philosophy and reliance on tradition as much as God's word got off-base on some issues.


First, because the Almighty is unchanging, God was no more or less powerful at any point in time. He was never more or less a creator. Therefore FitzRalph concluded that God created the world before time began. So while FitzRalph would agree that God created the earth, and later in time the things on it, he disagreed that the earth was created in time. However, John 17:24 and 1 Peter 1:20 speak of "before the creation of the world".


Second, FitzRalph held that the soul had three distinct parts: intellect, memory, and will. He did not think that emotions were a distinct part, and he thought Thomas Aquinas was incorrect to group intellect and memory together. Ockham in contrast, was against any unnecessary distinctions, and held that the soul was one, with no distinct parts. While scripture does not map out the nature of a soul, believers generally see emotions, both good and bad, as a part of our soul.


Third, because of his dominion doctrine, FitzRalph taught that no infidel, heretic, or wicked person has a right to be a lawful king. FitzRalph forgot that even though Saul tried to kill David, David still recognized Saul as the lawful king. In John 18:36 "Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but no My kingdom is not from here.'" (NKJV)


It is good to learn from others, whether they be Christian teachers from the current or earlier times, history in general, or science. Be careful with some philosophy though, because if the core of a philosophy is without God, then the rest of the philosophy is at best a subtle mixture of truth and error.


The Dark Side of Dominion Doctrine


Since no infidel was rightfully a king, it was fine to rebel against anyone you judged was an infidel or a heretic. In later times, if a country (or Indian tribe) was ruled by someone who was not accepted as a Christian, then there would be no moral issue in invading that country to depose that king and rule in its place.




Richard FitzRalph preached using the authority of Scripture. He campaigned for decades against begging friars, who in the name of Christ went around from place to place collecting money. With his doctrine of dominion, FitzRalph taught that ungodly leaders should not have our loyalty, our service, or our money. He was a good Christian shepherd; but unfortunately some bad was in there too. He held in too high esteem philosophy, and held unbiblical notions of the earth existing forever in the past, and that we should never be under a non-Christian political leader. People paid little attention to the first error, but his second error lent justification for much bloodshed and exploitation in later times.


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Medieval Christians

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John Wycliffe & the Lollards

~1330-1382 & 1400 AD.

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John Wycliffe was born around 1330 in Yorkshire, England. He could be described as a "housecleaner" to clean out corruption in God's house. His stand for holiness caused him question the basis of authority of Christian teaching, and he was influential in returning many people back to reading and obeying God's word. Interestingly, some Catholic references say he was an unoriginal, proud, and politically naive heretic who "barked against the church." I wish "unoriginally" obeying the Jesus' words, and standing firm against error regardless of consequences were our worst vices!



Influences on Wycliffe


John Wycliffe lived in tumultuous times, where the black death, secular war, clerical greed predominated. He had a combination of high education (Oxford Th.D.) and a single-minded zeal for God's church. He wrote some sermons in English, but most of his writing was in Latin. He often wondered about the material riches and spiritual poverty of the church. Augustine was one of his favorite post-Biblical writers, and his views of predestination echoed later reformers. He supported John of Gaunt, a regent for the English throne, in his drive to lessen the church's and Rome's influence over England. Wycliffe was against indulgences, a key income source for Rome. An important contemporary theological influence on Wycliffe was the Irish archbishop Richard Fitzralph and his idea of "dominion comes from God."


Dominion Comes From God


This concept is that human power and authority come from God and are sustained by God. Disobedient and ungodly leaders should not be supported or paid. If the entire Church is corrupt, then why should England be supplying Rome with money? -- These were dangerous teachings from a papal perspective.

The Basis of Authority


Since a corrupt church has only feigned authority, then what is the true basis of authority? Wycliffe found only one answer: God's word. This may seem obvious to us today, but imagine the shock of being raised to trust the organization as infallible, incorruptible, and above all, trustable. Imagine the disillusionment at seeing that basis of your religion slowly erode away with each greedy, wealthy priest in a self-indulgent church.



Wycliffe's "Translation"


There was an acute problem with saying the Bible was the basis of authority though; few could read it. It was forbidden for non-clergy to even have a Bible. The only copies even around were in Latin. Something had to be done.


Thus Wycliffe commissioned scholars translate the Bible from the Latin Vulgate to English. He directed two translations; one was more precise, and the other a simple to understand paraphrase. Wycliffe himself probably did not do any translating. That was probably just as well, for his erudite writing style, was arcane, obtuse, and even hard to understand too. Sometimes we may be the one to initiate and organize, but others with different skills are to carry it out.


One of the translators was the Lollard Nicholas of Hereford (died ~1420); it is believed he translated much of the Old Testament. In 1391 Nicholas recanted his beliefs; after that heatedly disputed his former Lollard colleagues. Sometimes it is depressing when someone who formerly did a great work for God turns back to his old ways.



Wycliffe's Theology


Wycliffe accepted scripture as the ultimate authority. He rejected the catholic doctrines of sacraments as conduits for grace, confession, intercession of saints, adoration of images, works, and purgatory. Concerning the doctrine that the communion bread and wine become Jesus' actual body and blood, Wycliffe said, "the real presence is more impious and more contrary to common sense than any belief into which man had at any time fallen."


Wycliffe wrote vigorously against corrupt priests: "But worldly clerks have foully broke the good testament of Jesus Christ. For they seek the peace and prosperity of this world; peace with the fiend and with the flesh, and will endure no labour in keeping or teaching the truth of God, but rather persecute good men who would teach it..."


Wycliffe's Later Life


Wycliffe had a strong political ally in the regent, John of Gaunt. On one hand John of Gaunt seemed very religious; on the other hand, two years after his wife Constance died in 1394, John of Gaunt married his long time mistress. John was an able soldier, taking part in the 100 years war with France, and unsuccessfully trying to gain the crown of Leon and Castille. He was also a very good peacemaker among the English nobles, but he was not a good administrator. Wycliffe lost Gaunt's support when Wycliffe denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. In 1382 England experienced a Peasant's revolt. While Wycliffe was not involved, many of the reasons for the revolt, church and state taxes, and rebellion from authority, could be derived from Wycliffe's teaching, and Wycliffe's popularity waned further. The church tried to burn all his writings.


In 1382 Wycliffe suffered his second stroke while at mass, and three days later he died. If he had lived longer he probably would have been executed. As it was, his body was later dug up and thrown out.


The Lollards


There was widespread support of Bible-centered Christianity both among the highly educated at Oxford and among the common people. These people were contemptuously called "Lollards" either because they supposedly lazily "lolled about" or because they always "lollered" or mumbled as they recited and preached the Scriptures. At one time an enemy claimed that every other man in England was a Lollard. While this was exaggerated, their influence was only somewhat less than the Puritans later.


The Catholic Church responded to the Lollard "threat" by commanding that Lollards should be publicly burned alive. All laity with Bibles were suspect, but if they gave up their Bibles and recanted, they were spared. The persecution went on for around 20 years, but on average less than three people per year were burned to death. Eventually, Erasmus wrote that in his time the Lollards were conquered but not exterminated. Wycliffe and the Lollards greatly influenced Jan Huss (or Hus).


What is The Basis of Your Authority?


If you claim to really follow Christ, what is the basis for saying you are really following him? Jesus himself said: "If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching....He who does not love me will not obey my teaching." John 14:23-24. John the apostle said, "We know that we have come to know him [Jesus] if we obey his commands." (1 John 2:3)


Do know that Lutherans do not go to heaven? Neither do Catholics, Baptists, or any other denominations. Now people who follow Christ and are members of Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, or other Christian churches go to heaven, but they go because of their identity as children of God and not because of their identity in an organization.


Do you ever give the impression that God's true religion is mainly belonging to the right organization? While affirming that unity in Christ and organization of believers is important, how would you ensure people saw Christ through you vs. just another organization?

Take a Stand for Righteousness


All clergy were not greedy; many friars renounced their possessions to simply and quietly follow Christ. Wycliffe wrote approvingly of them, but there was a key difference between him and them. Wycliffe was jealous for God's Name. He not only stood for what was right, he stood against what was wrong in the name of Christ. What stand do we take against famous self-indulgent preachers today, or do we just simply and quietly follow Christ?


Central in Reality or Just in Name?


Lollards died rather than give up their Bibles and their convictions about the Bible. If these people opposed one of the most powerful organizations of that time and died for the right to read that book, how much time do you take to read it? If you went to college, how much is it to read through the entire Bible compared to the reading that professors assign?


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Medieval Christians

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Jan Huss &

the Hussites

1369/72-1415 AD.

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Jan Huss was born between 1369 and 1372 in Husinec, South Bohemia. Huss received a good education at the University of Prague, and five years later became the dean of philosophy. Huss admits that he first became a priest because it was an easy career that had the respect of men. Huss studied Aristotle. and spread the teaching of John Wycliffe.


Czech Revivalists Before Huss


Before Huss sermons were already being preached in Czech. The spiritual life of Bohemians was so low that one quarter of the major city, Prague was devoted to brothels. It was so bad, that quarter was called "Little Venice." Anyway, one Czech preacher prior to Huss succeeded even in closing the brothels and turning little Venice into a place where people feared and worshipped God. The populace was eager for revival, but had poor examples in the majority of priests and monks.


Huss on Sin and the Church


Huss later wrote that he repented of his great sins. One of his greatest sins he mentions is chess playing. Now anything, including chess playing, can be evil if it consumes a great amount of time and detracts from our serving God. Obviously, Huss later took sin very seriously. How seriously do we take sin?


There were three simultaneous Popes in Huss' time, not just one. Huss believed that a Pope, who is truly following Christ, is the rightful head of the earthly church under its arch-head, Jesus Christ. Popes who are not following Christ are not the rightful head, but thieves and robbers.


One famous statement Huss made was, "For nothing is more certain than that the pope and all the Curia can be deceived as to the truth as in their customs." Actually that was probably not nearly as radical sounding then as one might expect. Throughout most of Huss' adult life there was a struggle between at first two and later three simultaneous popes. Various church councils supported various contenders, so Huss was merely putting into words what was obvious then.


Was Huss a Catholic or a Protestant?


Some would say Huss was a godly, reform-minded Catholic like Savanarola and others. Huss always said he was loyal to the true church. Unlike Wycliffe, Huss never denied the Catholic doctrines of transubstantiation, purgatory, intercession of saints, adoration of images, and the sacraments. Thus some can call Huss a godly Catholic, falsely accused by a corrupt church.


Some would say Huss was a pre-reformation Protestant, because like Wycliffe and the Waldenses, he asserted the Bible, and not church tradition, councils, or the Pope, were the authority on earth over the believer. Huss translated (and even plagiarized) many of Wycliffe's works. An English Lollard wrote an encouraging letter to Huss, which Huss displayed in the church. Huss would view his agreement with Wycliffe on the authority of scripture as greater than his disagreement with him on the sacraments and other issues. So what do you think? Was Huss more a Protestant or more a Catholic?



Huss' Trial and Death


The Council of Constance was called to end the schism of the three Popes. Sigismund asked that Huss attend to answer to charges of heresy, but Huss declined. Sigismund promised Huss safe conduct to the council, at the council, and to return. Huss then went, even before receiving the official paperwork. Commenting on Sigismund's promise, the Pope said, "even if Huss murdered his own brother he would still have safe conduct. The return portion of the safe conduct pass was later forgotten by the Council, but well remembered by the Bohemians.


The famous mystic Peter d'Ailly was influential in the latter part of the Council of Constance that condemned Hus. His disciple, the famous mystic Jean Gerson (1363-1429) was also there. Huss was given a choice to recant the articles drawn against him or die. Many of the articles dealt with Wycliffe's (not Huss') denial of transubstantiation and other Catholic doctrines. Huss could not "recant" those denials because he never ceased believing in transubstantiation. Other articles were statements Huss made about church corruption and responses to that corruption that many others also said. Indeed Gerson was also accused of heresy, but was aquitted of those things. It was Gerson who said that if Huss had had certain advocates he would have been acquitted. Huss was forcibly prevented from speaking in his defense, and since he did not recant, he was burned to death just outside of Constance. He was speaking and praying until the flames suffocated him.


One movie about Huss' life says he was martyred primarily because he wanted the Bible in the Czech language. That is actually not true, because at least sermons were regularly preached in Czech by others before Huss. Rather Huss was an irritant because he disseminated Wycliffe's teaching and preached against the corruption of the church. He was not allowed to live because he taught that the authority of scripture was greater than the power of the church.



Huss' Last Words


Huss was burned at the stake in 1415. He did not lose his composure, praying that "while in Constance, ... God would give him constancy." He asked that a friend repay a debt of his, which shows that he was not wealthy as some Catholics charge. He asked that his persecutors be forgiven. Huss' last words were, "God is my witness that I have never taught nor preached what is attributed to me on the testimony of false witnesses. My prime intention in my preaching and all my actions has been to extricate men from sin. I am ready to die with joy in the truth of the gospel, which I have written, taught and preached in accordance with the tradition of the holy doctors." Among the many people Huss later influenced was Martin Luther.


By the way, we read of Huss' prime intention in his preaching and actions. In your discipleship of others, what would you say your prime intention was?



Huss' Legacy


At first the Hussites enjoyed the protection of the Emperor of Hungary, King Wenceslas IV. After he died though, his half-brother, Sigismund became first king of Hungary and then in 1411 king of the Holy Roman Empire. Sigismund was enemy of the Hussites. He is known for his struggle against the Turks and the Hussites. After Huss' death his followers split into two main groups. The Taborites, under Václav Koranda, were very uncompromising, and the Ultraquists (or Calixtenes), under Jan Zelivský and Jakoubek of Stríbro (d~1429), were called by Taborites "limping Hussites" in simply wanting to be free from the power of the Catholic priests. Jakoubek created the Four Demands of Prague:

1) Freedom of preaching.

2) Communion must include the cup as well as bread.

3) State confiscation of church property and poverty of all clergy.

4) Punishment of notorious sinners without protection of the church.


In 1420 Pope Martin V declared a crusade against the Hussites. The Taborite general Ziska was brilliant both on the battlefield and in uniting all Bohemians with a zeal against "the Antichrist" and Sigismund as the "red-horseman." Ziska has been compared with the later Oliver Cromwell. In his time, he was known as "Ziska of the Cup" because the communion cup, (which our Lord gave to His people and the church denied to them) was his rallying cry. The Hussites, and even many non-Hussite Catholics, united militarily against the Crusade, and in 1431 the Catholic Crusade was finally defeated.


The foreign (primarily German) Catholics were severe in persecuting Hussites, but the Taborites were severe too. Besides launching their own offensive against southern Germany, the Taborites boiled in oil a priest they thought was heretical for denying transubstantiation. Ziska once said about Calixtene Prague, twice I saved Prague, and now I will prove that I can destroy it. Finally in 1434 at Lipany, Bohemian Catholics and Ultraquists combined to defeat the Taborites (20K Taborites died). Around 1620, the Ultraquists were re-absorbed into the Catholic church. A group of Hussites formed the Unity of Brethren organization in 1467. They were in contact with Lutherans and Calvinists but never merged with them. They were an underground group, and in 1722 a group of them fled to the estate of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf in Saxony (Germany). From this group the Moravian Brethren developed. Jumping ahead, the Moravian Brethren influenced John Wesley as he was coming to America.

Alcuin's Epitaph


Alcuin was one of the greatest educators in the time of the Emperor Charlemagne. The following is the epitaph Alcuin wrote for his tombstone. Amid Alcuin's persevering faith, can you see any theological errors here?


Busy as you are, do not go yet. Please. Stay with me a moment.

Study these lines I wrote you when my blood beat.

Learn what life holds for men in these words set in order.

Looks go. They go. Yours will go as mine did.

What you are now, hurrying past this gravestone,

I was; and my name was known in every country.

And what I am now, you yourself must come to.

I looked for the world to be sweet with my heart like a spoiled child's.

Now frail as paper ash and spotted with wet dust,

My blind skull hangs from the spine which is all that the worms left

Of the nerves my imagination made such demands on.

Worry about your soul, not about your body,

For the will to love remains when the starved nerves stiffen.

Why clear yourself new fields? You can see as I do

How I must rest content with this pocket of clay here.

Why do you long, moist-eyed, for the day when your body

Will cuddle in silks died by snails' guts the color of sunset

When the vermin mangles tough skin as months do soft damask?

Flowers blacken with cold when the wind turns ugly;

And the flesh on your bones will bruise when death blows the will out.

Will you do me a good turn for this song I have made you?

Will you please say, "Christ, be good to your dead servant?"

No man break into this tomb God ceded me to lie in,

Waiting for it to explode, that bugle beyond where the stars end,

Reveille rousing the dead, and that shout from the mustering angels:

"No matter how deep you may lie, get up from the dirt now;

Your great Judge is at hand amidst troops without number."

Alcuin was my name. I was always in love with wisdom.

Say a prayer for me that you mean when you read this writing.


Copyright and Copying Instructions


All of the issues in this series Copyright © 1992-2006 Steve Morrison, all rights reserved except as specified in the next paragraph.


This series was written by Steve Morrison. Bible-believing Christians are free to copy and distribute this document as they wish, in electronic or paper form, without any payments of royalties, subject to the following restrictions. Do not modify this document, except that you may choose to copy or distribute only a subsection of this document. You can append to this document, as long as you differentiate the appended material from the original material. The only other modifications allowed are formatting changes or correction of typos.


My prayer is that God's people would benefit from this and others' writings on church history to deepen their roots in the faith, be better able to discern truth from error, and to see more clearly what is soul-perishing heresy versus small doctrinal errors fellow Christians may hold.


For more info contact www.BibleQuery.org.


For Further Reading


This series was written by Steve Morrison.


Early Church History


Coxe, A. Cleveland, D.D. The Ante-Nicene Fathers Hendrickson Publishers 1994 (10 volumes)


Robinson, James M. ed. The Nag Hammadi Library Harper & Row Publishers 1977.


Schaff, D.D., L.L.D. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers First Series Hendrickson Publishers 1994(14 volumes)


Schaff, D.D., L.L.D. and Henry Wace, D.D. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Hendrickson Publishers 1994 (14 volumes)


Cyril C. Richardson, Th.D, D.D. et al. Early Christian Fathers Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. 1970.


Church History in the Middle Ages


Comby, Jean How to Read Church History Volume 1 Crossroad Books 1992.


McDermott, Timothy (ed) Summa Theologiae : A Concise Translation Christian Classics 1989.


Church History During the Reformation


Beveridge, Henry (translator) Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1989 (1 volume)


Cole, Henry (translator) The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther Baker Book House 1976.


Dillinberger, John. Martin Luther : Selections from His Writings. Anchor Press 1961.


Madam Guyon : Autobiography. Moody Press


The First London Confession of Faith : 1646 Edition with an Appendix by Benjamin Cox . Backus Book Publishers P.O. Box 17274 Rochester, New York 14617


Church History In General


A good introductory level book is

Anders, Max E. and Judith A. Lunsford 30 Days to Understanding Church History Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers 1991.


Austin, Bill. R. Austin's Topical History of Christianity Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 1987.


Brenton, Sir Lancelot C.L. The Septuagint: Greek and English Regency Reference Library (Zondervan) 1970.


Catholic Encyclopedia


Christian History Magazine published by Christianity Today, Inc. 4765 Gundresen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188. (This church history series was done without referring to this magazine, though.)


Catechism of the Catholic Church Liguori Publications (Vatican) 1994.


New Catholic Encyclopedia.


Ryrie, Charles. Basic Theology.


Schaff, Philip and David S. Shaff. The Creeds of Christendom 3 volumes Baker Books. 1983 from 1931 edition.


Tucker, Ruth A. and Walter Liefeld. Daughters of the Church : Women and Ministry from New Testament times to the Present. Academie Books (Zondervan) 1987.


I understand that R.C. Sproul also has some excellent material on church history.


Secular Sources


Biblical Archaeology Review various issues


Blunden, Caroline and Mark Elvin. The Cultural Atlas of the World : China Stonehenge Press 1990.


Chamberlin, E.R. The Bad Popes Barnes & Noble 1969.


Charlesworth, James H. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Vol. One Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1983.


Cornell, Tim and John Matthews. The Cultural Atlas of the World : The Roman World Stonehenge Press 1990.


Durant, Will. The Reformation MJF Books 1957.


Encyclopedia Britannica, various years


Franklin, Fay. History's Timeline Crescent Books 1981.


Gottfried, Robert S. The Black Death The Free Press 1983.


Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Doctrines Harper & Row Publishers 1960.


Knolls, Richard. Roman Catholicism : Issues & Evidences The John Ankerberg Show P.O. Box 8977 Chattanooga, Tenn. 37411


Severy, Merle and James L. Amos "The World of Martin Luther" National Geographic vol.164 no.4 October 1983.


Wallace, Robert et al.. Great Ages of Man : Rise of Russia Time-Life Books 1967.


Sherrard, Philip et al.. Great Ages of Man : Byzantium Time-Life Books 1966.


Simon, Edith. Great Ages of Man : The Reformation Time-Life Books 1966.


For more info please contact Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714 www.BibleQuery.org. by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.