Before Martin Luther

As we come up on this year’s 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I want to highlight 2 “pre-reformers” and their impacts.

This two people would be John Wyclif and Jan Hus.

John Wyclif (there is some variant use of spelling on his last name) – his name is still known to this day in the Christian community in large part because of his last name, Wyclif. An organization of Bible translators is named after him.

He was born before 1330 near Richmond (Yorkshire) and later came to Oxford where he began to be an influence. He questioned some of the excesses of the Catholic Church at the time and found others who agreed with him. It was his stance on the sacraments (particularly Communion) that became the last straw for the Church. What’s more, he wrote in Latin and English making his works all the more available.

Nevertheless, when looking at John’s work it is clear Martin wasn’t the first to make the same claims about the authority of Scripture and God. What’s more John Wyclif translated the Bible into English. What isn’t widely known is that he put forth two translation, one being more idiomatic than the other. Translating the Bible was a no-no according to the Church.

John Wyclif, despite being declared a heretic, was not killed by the Catholic Church in the end but died of a second stroke in 1384.  Even so, he was already under fire before he passed.

Jan Hus (or Huss) – he was born about 1370 in what is now the Czech Republic. Jans paid the ultimate price and died at the stake but not before making his own impact.

Jan was influenced by John Wyclif works which was easy as Jan was also working in academia in philosophy.

Jan became embroiled in the Czech Reform Movement and took to preaching in the local tongue (Czech) rather than Latin (the Church’s typical m.o.).

An interesting element that flavored the environment of Jan’s time was the Western Schism in which there were two popes trying to lead the Roman Catholic Church (which lead to some reforms in attempt to prevent this from recurring).  It was a messy time that ultimately proved to catch Jan Hus leading to his eventual death.

Some of the things leveled at him included his refusal to stop preaching (when one of the popes tried to have preaching in chapels stop), his public denouncing of indulgences (Martin was no the first the refute these), and his writings that directly refuted his enemies.

He was arrested and tried as a “Wycliffe heretic” (despite not being in 100% agreement with Wyclif’s works) before the Council of Constance after being promised safe-conduct. After refusing to recant, he was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.

 

Sources & additional information:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wyclif/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Wycliffe

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jan-Hus

https://www.britannica.com/event/Western-Schism

Reformation

This year I will be posting a series of articles on the Protestant Reformation as we lead up to Reformation Sunday and Reformation Day of 2017.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation tied to the posting of Martin Luther’s famed 95 theses that sparked change in Europe that continues to spill over, impacting Christians to this day.

Some nay-sayers over-simplify the time period as a time of religious upheaval and conflict. Yes, these things did happen but there are reasons for them and one key item in all of this was the printing press.

The printing press? Yup. It was a very important invention from this time period – without which the Reformation would have had a much harder time growing as it did.

Why is this? Well, among other works, Martin Luther – the one we like to credit as being the key figure in the Reformation – had written his 95 theses that challenged various beliefs and practices of the time under Roman Catholic rule. The printing press made it possible for people to print his work (copy it) and make it more available than what would have happened with just sending a letter or posting them on a church door.

With the spread of Martin’s writings went the spread of what he had found while actually reading the Scriptures. You see, at this time, the common person didn’t read the Bible but had to depend upon the Catholic Church to dispense what it had to say.

Throw in their effective monopoly on salvation and you had an authority who could claim power over your very soul and experience after death.

Martin Luther’s works – made much more available by the printing press – challenged the Church’s authority on the basis of what the Bible actually said. Things would never be the same!

In the coming weeks, I will write more about these things – bringing more details.

I plan to end it all on Oct. 31st which is Reformation Day (a Tuesday this year) with a posting of Martin Luther’s 95 theses – just as it has become legend that he did some 500 years ago! I will be making some word adjustments to modernize the English as well.

I’m looking forward to it! Stay tuned!

Submission

Biblical submission is not the same in every use of the term you see. What do I mean?

I mean that submission we see described in the Scriptures, while it may look like the same English word, can actually be entirely different words in the Greek our English translations come from.

Why didn’t translators choose an English equivalent? Simple – because English lacks the word. Instead, we’d have to write out the meaning.

An area some get touchy about when it comes to submission is on the topic of marriage. People read the term “submit” in regards to a wife submitting to her husband and suddenly think that women/wives are being called to be subservient to their husbands.

Wrong! Let’s look at this more closely and with what it is related:

First of all – this is a submission calling for wives and wives only. Not married? Well, then you have absolutely ZERO calling to submit to a man! This calling we find in Ephesians 5 is for the wife.

Second – this does not mean that the wife is being called to be some sort of unquestioning servant. The Greek verb here (hu-po-ta’s-so) carries the meaning, “to submit to; to put under, or to relinquish one’s rights, or to arrange yourself in rank under.” Now, some will say – now that looks like slavery! Don’t be dim! Look again! This is a verb directed toward the wife to carry out. This isn’t meant as a heavy-handed command from her husband. “to arrange yourself in rank under” – the wife is called to choose to do this. This is in stark contrast to the submission described of children which is a different Greek term that describes a call to obey their parents’ commands. So, a wife is called to willingly submit to her husband’s lead (not unquestioning) and the kids are commanded to an intense “servitude” to submit to both of their parents (more or less unquestioning).

Third – both wife and husband have equal worth before God as image bearers and are both called to submit to the authority of God. Submitting to God is where they can find their greatest joy and fulfillment in Him.

Fourth – much of the marriage layout goes back to the fall in the Garden of Eden. As a result of the curse upon humanity, wives would now become inclined to usurp and dominate their husbands. Husbands, again because of the curse, would be inclined to retaliate with force and what we would call today as an oppressive, heavy-handed, chauvinistic manner. The calls to submit we see in Ephesians are designed to counteract these sin-cursed tendencies within men and women who enter into marriage.

Fifth – husbands are called to also submit! They are called to submit to God (as are all) but they are also called to submit to God’s direction in leading their families. How is this done? In love! A husband is not ever meant to respond to his wife with neglect, verbal/physical abuse, &/or abandonment of his family. He is called to lovingly direct his family in a self-sacrificing manner that seeks the well-being of his wife and children. A husband should be the exemplary image of what it means to be a servant-leader.

Sixth – I realize these points may seem like they’re going well beyond the original questions; however, they are all interrelated and one particular element helps to unite much of the submission described – service. All those in Christ are called to be servant-leaders. Husbands are supposed to be the prime example but each believer is still called to lead by example and to outdo each other in serving one another. Romans 12:10 is an example that shows this calling. Couple this with the unique roles found within marriage and you are left with an image that parallels Christ and the Church. Christ – lovingly leading & the Church – respectively submitting to that lead.

Entire books can be (and have been) written on this subject (though I’ll admit most are sermons). I don’t intend on getting into every use of submission there is in the Scriptures in this article. However, I do want to leave off with a few points that all too commonly get overlooked when people open their Bibles and sadly have been neglected on this very topic:

  1. Read carefully. Too often people simply go off of what their first impression is after reading a passage. This too easily leads to errant thinking and belief.
  2. Read in context. All portions of Scripture are part of a larger whole. If you try to derive meaning from one piece without reading it in its context (the surrounding text), you become quite capable of making it say something that it, in actuality, does not say. Such an error can occur with any text read.
  3. If a particular word is proving troubling to you and your understanding, look up the word from which it was translated and its meaning. New Testament books will be in Greek originally and those of the Old Testament will be in Hebrew.
  4. Cultivate a desire for the truth. Don’t simply settle for a quick explanation; seek to understand the explanation and why that explanation is correct.

 

“On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.”  – Psalm 145:5