by Dr Pence Dacus
(Church History Correspondence Course)


  • Introduction
  • Opposition Outside the Catholic Church
  • Opposition from Within the Catholic Church
  • Student Instructions

  • Introduction

    In our last lesson we followed the development of the Roman hierarchy as it grew into a powerful political machine with a vast army only to have that army destroyed in 1859 and its secular power reduced. We will now go back and trace the steps leading up to the Protestant Reformation. Catholic persecution and intolerance brought rising opposition. We noticed in the fourth century under Theodosius that the church launched its first persecutions. Later, popes became even more intolerant. Consider the statement of Pope Boniface: "Both swords, the spiritual and the material, therefore are in the power of the church, the one indeed to be wielded for the church and the other by the church." This was the strategy of the Roman Catholic Church, and one can easily see how the papacy could gain great power through the use of these exclusive privileges -- even though they were assumptive. THIS IS NOT THE DOCTRINE OF GOD -- "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword," Jesus told Peter (Matt. 26:52).

    Observation: It should be noted that the characterization of the Roman church presented in this course, as well as the many references by other authorities in the field will not necessarily be agreeable to them. They will defend the Roman church as the true church based on a vast array of secular documentation and occasional references from the Bible which they insist was given to the world by them. This data was derived from what they consider to be authorized agents of God (priests and popes) they insist were the successors of the apostles. For this study, this is the key point: None of this was authorized by Jesus or the apostles in the New Testament, so we differ on the issue of authority. Recall that Jesus gave grave warnings to the Pharisees about following "the traditions of men", Matt. 1-20. Our Catholic friends are challenged by Jesus warning.

    Our procedure in this study will be to trace the individuals and groups which set themselves against Catholic domination and point out some things to which they objected Tenets of opposition can be traced all the way back to the 7th century A.D., but it was not until the 11th and 12th century that any serious opposition was mounted. And, it was not until the 16th century that enough power was generated to begin the Protestant Reformation. Just as Catholicism did not develop in a few years, neither did the efforts to reform it evolve quickly.

    Opposition Outside the Catholic Church

    The Paulicians, in the 7th century A.D., a Christian sect which appeared in the region of the Euphrates - known as the Protestants of the East.

    Claudius of Turin, Spanish bishop of Turin, Italy. in the 9th century A.D., struggled against Roman church doctrine.

    Bogomils, a Bulgarian group, in the 10th century A.D. persecuted as the "Friends of God".

    Cathari in the 11th century A.D., known as the "Pure", spread westward from the Balkans.

    Beghards, in the 12th century, a monastic brotherhood in the Netherlands.

    Albigeneses, in the 12th century A.D., had huge followings in Italy and France. Suffered persecutions.

    Peter of Bruys, in the 12th century A.D., preached in southern France. He rejected most Catholic doctrine, and believed the New Testament to be the highest authority.

    Waldenses, in the 13th century A.D., believed the Bible to be the sole authority. He and his followers were terribly persecuted.

    Consider: These sects and movements as well as many others, provide strong evidence of Catholic opposition. And, although they stood for different things, they represented a common trend to organize life and worship independently of the Roman Catholic clergy.
    Furthermore, this tendency came on the basis of the Bible in the language of the common man. They wanted a simple, devout life. Not all the popes condemned them, but many did, and Catholic opposition was brutal in many cases.

    Opposition from Within the Catholic Church

    Marsilius of Padua, in the 13th Century A.D., declared that the Bible was the supreme standard.

    William of Accam, a Franciscan schoolman and scholar in the 14th century A.D., opposed papal superiority and infallibility.

    John Wyclif translated the entire Bible into English in 1382 and claimed the Bible as supreme authority while opposing most papal claims. He was detested by the Roman church.

    Lollards, in the 14th century A.D., were sympathetic to Wyclif's teaching and paid a terrible price.

    John Huss, a Bohemian preacher in the 14th century A.D., became Rector of Prague University, a very important school at the time. He opposed most of the doctrines, and especially the corruption in the papacy. He and his many followers paid dearly.

    Jerome Savonarola was a 15th century A.D. Catholic monk and reform preacher from Florence, Italy. Crowds of 10,000 would wait hours to hear him speak. He opposed the papal system and its vices. He died in an unspeakable fashion.

    John Reuchlin, in the 15th century A.D., was a great German scholar who helped pave the way for the Reformation.

    Erasmus, in the 16th century A.D., was one of the most profound scholars of all time. He opposed the Roman church on the basis of the Scriptures. He was viciously attacked and accused of lack of courage.

    William Tyndale, in the 16th century A.D., was a great translator of the Bible. He opposed the Roman church and was strangled and burned at the stake as a heretic.

    Conclusion: Thus, the stage is set: With
    1. Widespread discontent over the corruption in the church and clergy.
    2. Bitterness from the cruelties of persecution.
    3. Civil rulers tired of papal interference in government affairs.
    4. A desire to return to the Scriptures.

    It remains for some person (or some people) to lead the way. The Reformation is not far away.

    Cox, John D., Church History
    Halley, H.H., Bible Handbook
    Howard, V.E., Gospel Radio Sermons
    Maynard, Zeke, The Church of Christ
    Miller, Waymon H., A Survey of Church History
    Newman, A.H., A Manual of Church History, Vol. I
    Renwick, A.M., The Story of the Church

    Student Instructions
    1. Study the lesson text carefully till you understand its meaning. Then answer the Questions to this lesson.
    2. Submit your answers to us through the Internet. Your graded answers will be returned to you through your e-mail address.
    3. Make sure that you save each lesson [including your answers] you completed or simply print a copy for future reference.
    4. "Bookmark" our web site or "add to favourites" so that you may readily return for future lessons.

    Please answer the following questions by typing your answers into the spaces provided or, where a choice of answers is given, click against the button for the correct answer.

    You will find answers to the questions in the lesson material as well as the Scripture references that are cited.

    When you have completed all the required answers and information, simply click "Submit Form" and your answers will automatically be sent to us.

    I. Put TRUE or FALSE before each of the following statements. (Example: False -- Efforts to reform Roman Catholicism came quickly.)

    1. The Catholic Church first began to persecute those who opposed her because they were a threat to her power.

    2. Early efforts to oppose Catholicism were not successful because she was too powerful.

    3. Tyndale was the first man to translate the entire Bible into English.

    4. Wyclif was strangled and burned at the stake because he bitterly opposed Catholicism.

    5. The existence of many sects and movements in the 7th to the 15th centuries shows that many protested against Catholicism.

    6. Many sects wanted to study their Bible themselves, and be independent of the Catholics.

    II. Complete the following statements by choosing the proper word or phrase. Example: Pope (Boniface) declared that the church could take both the spiritual and material swords to defeat evil.)

    7. There were (9; 12; 4; 20) persons, and groups that took a stand for the Scriptures -- count the ones specifically mentioned in the lesson.

    8. The doctrine of "power by the sword" is from:
    Catholic church
    none of these

    9. The people who followed Wyclif were called:

    10. The first serious opposition to the Catholic Church came in:
    14th and 15th centuries
    6th and 7th centuries
    11th and 12th centuries
    none of these

    11. The Protestant Reformation began in:
    15th century
    16th century
    17th century
    none of these

    III. Match the persons below with the correct facts about them by placing the proper letter in the blank to the left.
    A. William of Accam
    B. Savanorola
    C. Reuchlin
    D. Pope
    E. Peter of Bruys

    12. Franciscan scholar who rejected papal infallibility

    13. Vicar of Christ on earth

    14. Believed the New Testament to be the highest authority

    15. Great German scholar

    16. Probably the most powerful and popular preacher mentioned

    IV. Match the groups below with the correct facts about them by placing the proper letter in the blank to the left.
    A. Paulicians
    B. Cathari
    C. Bogomils
    D. Waldenses

    17. Fought the Catholic church in the first part of the 13th century

    18. The "Pure" -- loved the Scriptures

    19. "Friends of God" - many were massacred

    20. Protestants of the East -- opposed Catholic church corruption

    V. List the five most common objections against the Catholic Church as given by the witnesses in this lesson.
    21. First objection:
    22. Second objection:
    23. Third objection:
    24. Fourth objection:
    25. Fifth objection:

    VI. List four things which indicates that the stage was set for the Reformation.
    26. First thing:
    27. Second thing:
    28. Third thing:
    29. Fourth thing:

    Your full name
    Your e-mail address
    (type carefully)
    Your street address
    City and State
    Your question or comment,
    if any
    Your answers will be graded and returned to you through your e-mail address. Thank you for your interest in God's Book. May He bless you in the study of His Word.

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