|"A GREAT RETURN TO THE BIBLE" |
by Dr Pence Dacus
(Church History Correspondence Course)
HISTORY OF CATHOLICISM LEADING TO THE REFORMATION
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
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