Summary: Today, we come to a portion of this series which is obviously very near and dear to my heart as a teacher of Reformed Theology: The Protestant Reformation.
Church History: Examining the Creeds and Confessions of the Church Through the Ages and Why They Matter.
Lesson 9: The Battle Cries of the Reformation
Today, we come to a portion of this series which is obviously very near and dear to my heart as a teacher of Reformed Theology: The Protestant Reformation.
As we have noted in our last lesson, the Middle Ages brought with them a tremendous flood of false teachings into the church.
The Pope had risen to a level of authority wherein he had basically been deified.
The teaching regarding the bread and cup of communion had been perverted to establish the priest as the one who is again performing Christ’s sacrifice.
The church of Rome had risen to a position of almost absolute power and along with that power came severe corruption.
There were dissident groups which had attempted to stand against Rome, such as the Waldensians and the Paulicians, but these were just the early embers of the coming inferno which would be the Reformation.
The Morning Star of the Reformation
150 years before the Reformation would see its birth, there was a man who was opposing the excesses of Rome named John Wycliffe.
Wycliffe was a brilliant student of the Bible.
He had entered Oxford at the age of 16 and spent 12 years studying for his doctorate.
In 1371, he was acknowledged as their leading theologian.
Yet, his knowledge of scripture made apparent to him the failures of the Roman Church.
He began teaching against them, in particular the false teachings of transubstantiation which, by his time was a relatively new doctrine.
This would eventually lead to him being forced out of his teaching position at Oxford and moving to Lutterworth, where he would undertake the most important work of his life: translating the Bible into the common english tongue.
This was a difficult time in history, wherein many priests did not know their Latin, and yet Scripture was only allowed to be printed in Latin.
Because of this there was widespread ignorance in the church.
Wycliffe desired to see the people know the Scriptures, so he went about translating the Scripture into English.
This translation was not from the original language, but was from Latin, so it was a translation of a translation.
Yet, it was a masterful work, and the later translator William Tyndale would refer to it for his own translation.
Wycliffe died in the church during worship on New Years Eve, 1384.
Years later, the Council of Constance would condemn him as a heretic and as a result, his bones were unearthed and burned. His ashes were cast into the river Swift.
A later Chronicler recounted this event:
“They burnt his bones to ashes and cast them into the Swift, a neighboring brook running hard by. Thus the brook conveyed his ashes into the Avon, the Avon into the Severn, the Severn into the narrow seas and they into the main ocean. And so the ashes of Wyclif are symbolic of his doctrine, which is now spread throughout the world.” (http://www.prca.org/books/portraits/wycliffe.htm)
The Goose Was Cooked
John Hus was a rector and preacher at the Church of the Holy Infants of Bethlehem in Prague.
He was heavily influenced by the teachings of John Wycliffe and it lead to him become more and more desirous to see reformation in the church.
Prague was also a center for early reformed thinking.
The chapel where Hus was appointed was raised in 1391 by a rich merchant to be a center for reformed preaching (http://www.prca.org/books/portraits/hus.htm).
Because of his preaching, Prague was put under an interdict of the church, so no religious services could be held there.
This means no weddings, no last rites, nothing.
These were all considered necessary by the people, so they demanded he leave.
Through a series of events, he was finally forced to face the Council of Constance in 1414 (the same where John Wycliffe had been posthumously condemned for his teachings).
He was promised Safe Conduct by the Emperor Sigismund, which means he had legal protection from punishment.
However, the leaders demanded that a heretic was not worthy of safe conduct and they pushed for his execution.
The name Hus means “Goose”, and it was a common nickname for him.
Thus, now when a person says, “Your goose is cooked” they are actually making reference to John Hus.
As it was by fire that he was executed
He died singing, “Christ, Thou Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me.”
Luther, the great Reformation leader, would later be called a Hussite because of his teachings.
The Magisterial Reformers
What do we mean “Magisterial Reformers”?
The term “Magisterial Reformers” refers to movements within the Reformation which were supported by magistrates or ruling authorities.
The three which maintain this title are Luther, Calvin and Zwingli.