Not Traditional, Original

14.1 Jan Huss, Fiery Reform Preacher, before Martin Luther

As stated in the previous post, Martin Luther is credited with starting the Reformation, but in truth he had predecessors. John Huss was one of these. As we saw in the article about John Wyclif people were already talking about the abuses of the church and a desire to find a simpler, more scriptural church and way of life.

Bohemia in the 14th century was a center of church and political power. The Holy Roman Emperor was also the king of Bohemia. “In no country of Europe was the church more largely a landholder, or the clergy more worldly than in Bohemia.”[i] It’s interesting that the author notes that Bohemia had previously not associated much with England, but was brought into connection with that country by the marriage of a Bohemian princess to the King of England in 1383. All of a sudden Bohemian students are going to Oxford and bringing back Wyclif’s doctrines and writings

Wyclif’s doctrines were front and center at the University of Prague where in 1394 Jan Huss got his first degree, a bachelor of theology with a Master of arts following a couple years later. In the process Huss became an ardent disciple of Wyclif.

One of the things that separated John Huss apart was his ability to give fiery sermons. “It was this combination of religious and patriotic zeal that gave us his remarkable power of leadership.”[ii]

Today we live in a time where religion and politics are not the bedfellows they were in the Middle Ages. In the United States implications of politicians being influenced by religious hierarchy are grounds for a court case. And even in Europe where there are national religions with ties between archbishops and political masters they are not of the intensity they were in the Middle Ages.

In Bohemia in the early 15th century a schism in the papacy allowed for the elevation of Jan Huss to be the newly minted rector of the newly minted University of Leipzig.  And now we see John Huss, a peasant graduate of the University of Prague, elevated to the stature to be able to mix among the aristocracy spreading his passionate views as a disciple of Wyclif.

Remember I mentioned that Huss received his promotion because of a papal schism, well that schism worked against him because in 1410 he was excommunicated for his fiery promotion of Wyclif’s views.  John Huss was a staunch hero who had preached that the pope had no right to use physical force, that you couldn’t buy indulgences, and that indulgences were really of no use. At the center of the fiery sermons and debate was the push to rely on Scripture alone as the authority. It all came to a head as John Huss,  a man of true conviction, refused to yield and was burned to death for his convictions.  His martyrdom was powerful.

There were certainly other elements involved in the development towards the steps Luther took in the Reformation movement but I have only brought up John Wyclif previously and now Jan Huss as key points to show how this growing controversy stirred the European landscape.   The Reformation was actually a development that built up over centuries over a continent mired in heavy controversy and grew to the point where we will soon see Martin Luther breaking through with radical change.

[i] A HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, Williston Walker, Scribners, New York, 1959, p. 270

[ii] Ibid, p.271

August 26th, 2018 Posted by | Movements | no comments

13.7 John Wyclif, Pre- Luther Reformer, Wrote of Early Christianity

While Martin Luther is credited with starting the Reformation, the truth is that he had predecessors. About a century and a half before Luther posted his 95 theses there was a man named John Wyclif. Wyclif rose to become a master at Oxford, Balliol College. He was considered the “ablest theologian of its faculty”.[i] The description of Wyclif in the citation below starts with this philosophical outlook. “Philosophically he was a realist, in contrast to the prevailing nominalism of his age. He was deeply influenced by Augustine and through Augustine by Platonic conceptions.”[ii]  I bring that up to show how intrinsically involved philosophy is with theology, i.e., despite Paul’s warning against the dangers of philosophy, by the time of the reformers, philosophy is part and parcel of Christianity.  To understand how the simple Christianity of original Christianity evolved into the power-hungry, death wielding at times monstrosity that it had become by the Middle Ages absolutely requires some understanding of philosophy.

While nowhere near the notoriety that Martin Luther achieved, Wyclif was known for his opposition to the power and maneuverings of the Roman Catholic Church. Specifically, he saw the dramatic difference between the wealth and splendor of the church, and the problems maintaining that wealth and splendor caused on the average Christian in the parishes around Europe.  Pope Gregory the 11th issued five the papal bulls in 1377 in ordering the arrest an examination of Wyclif for his teaching and publishing of treaties against what he called abuses of the Catholic Church.  Nevertheless he had some support among the aristocrats, and was able to start some movement towards Reformation.

“The Scriptures, he taught, are the only law of the church,” [iii]  He taught that the common man might believe that the church is centered around the Pope and the Cardinals, but in truth it is centered around Christ as head of his body, the elect in Christ. He argued that the church may have an earthly leader, thus allowing for a Pope. But his argument was that leader would survive in the simple conditions of early Christianity as opposed to the unimaginable wealth and power exhibited by the church in his day and time. I read one place where the Catholic Church owned one third of the land in England at that time. Wyclif presented a dramatically different view of what the church should be in directing people’s attention to the Scriptures and early Christianity.

Wyclif saw that his mission was to bring the English language Scriptures to the people and spread the gospel. Wyclif worked with others to bring about a translation of the Scripture in English to the people. He also sent out what were termed his “poor priests” to distribute the word and spread it. This movement was called the Lollard movement.

Wyclif also preached against the the Churches’ practice of indulgences. As an Augustinian he believed human works were powerless to earn merit before God.  In other words, indulgences had no basis.  The selling of indulgences is a popular theme in the reformation and one near to Luther’s heart later on.[iv]

Wyclif was considered an intellectual giant, and as such was able to continue in his pastorate until his death despite heavy opposition. His priests whom he had sent out were not as lucky, and many were arrested.  The Lollard movement stopped openly with his death, but continued covertly until the Reformation.

Isn’t it interesting that whenever people want change in the church they compare what exists today with original Christianity? That’s what Wyclif did.  Praise the Lord for him.

[i] A History Of The Christian Church, Williston Walker, Scribner, New York, 1959, P. 268

[ii] ibid

[iii] Ibid p. 269

[iv] THE STORY OF CHRISTIANITY, David Bentley Hart, Quercus, London, 2007, p. 186

August 26th, 2018 Posted by | Movements | no comments

01.5.0 Tertullian’s Writings’ Impact on Modern Theology

If you’re a modern-day Orthodox Christian, whether you know it or not, Tertullian has had a powerful influence on what you believe. So it might be worth your while to take a look at who this character was. Major foundational pieces of the Orthodox Christian church such as the use of the word Trinity and the concept of sacraments are traced to this man.

Most of what we know about Tertullian comes from authors a century or more after Tertullian’s life. You might be surprised to know that not only was he not only not a prophet or apostle, but there is a dispute as to whether or not he was ever ordained even as a priest. According to Britannica, the encyclopedia, he was born 155 A.D. most probably to a family of position and wealth. “Tertullian received an exceptional education in grammar, rhetoric, literature, philosophy, and law. Little is known of his early life.”i

He most probably was born a pagan as Britannica lists his parents as pagan.

“During the next 20 to 25 years—i.e., from his early 40s to mid-60s—Tertullian devoted himself almost entirely to literary pursuits. Developing an original Latin style, the fiery and tempestuous Tertullian became a lively and pungent propagandist though not the most profound writer in Christian antiquity. His works abound with arresting and memorable phrases, ingenious aphorisms, bold and ironic puns, wit, sarcasm, countless words of his own coinage, and a constant stream of invective against his opponents. Yet, he could be gentle and sensitive, as in a treatise to his wife (Ad uxorem), and he could be self-critical and reflective, as in his treatise on patience (De patientia), a virtue that he admitted was conspicuously absent from his life.”ii

So basically what we have here is an intelligent, well-educated man with good writing skills in the late second and early third century A.D. Somewhere along the line he became a committed believer. But just as interestingly, sometime before 210 A.D. this man stopped adhering to the Orthodox Christian faith and began following a view of Christianity called Montanism. So Orthodox writers who cite his references to the great “truths” that he presented are careful to point out that they follow him in his days before his conversion to Montanism!

If he is anything, Tertullian is a theologian, someone who studies God, and presents the conclusions of that study. So it must be emphasized that when Tertullian writes it is as a man who has had varying viewpoints of Christianity, He is not a prophet, one who speaks for God, or an apostle, one who is sent forth by God. He may have achieved the status of a pastor, we don’t know, but his importance in history is definitely his theological writings. But the theological writings that are cited as useful to Orthodox theologians today are those of him when younger, not the writings from his perspectives as an older man, which is usually when one is usually considered to be wiser.

The Tertullian Project is a website that’s devoted to this man. THE THEOLOGY OF TERTULLIAN by Robert E. Roberts is in this site and explains Tertullian’s positions in good detail.

Rather than give you a theological synopsis of Tertullian’s writing I am going to let you see his actual written ideas so you can form your own opinion. Here are some snippets of Tertullian’s writing. This following citation “is sometimes designated the only pre-Nicene treatise on any of the sacraments;…”iii

“A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous.… [2] vipers and asps, as it is true of serpents in general, are found in dry and waterless places. [3] but we, little fishes, are born in water after the manner of our [?????], Jesus Christ; nor can we be otherwise saved, except by abiding prominently in the water.”

This was written between 200 and 206 AD. Notice that it is purely the authors logic and reasoning that he is presenting here.  The analogy seems to be that those baptized in the water are fish and as such, must stay in the water (Christ is the living water) and if you are not in the water you live in the desert which is the world, home of vipers and asps.

Next, let’s look a little at the context of Tertullian’s use of the word “Trinity”:

“As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. How they are susceptible of number without division, will be shown as our treatise proceeds.”iv

This bit of writing, I think, shows how intricate the thinking is in Tertullian’s writing. Intricate, yes, but definitely hard to follow. Yet Tertullian is cited for these and other references as if he is a prophet of some kind, a revealer of “progressive revelation”.  Even though the concept of the Trinity stated here is not the concept it became, this reference is given as proof as to the universality of the concept.

In fact, Tertullian’s explanation of the Trinity is not the orthodox definition of later Roman decree.  Tertullian writes “not in substance, but in form” which clearly is not “of one substance” with the father which is critical to later definitions of the Trinity.

So, in pointing to Tertullian as the first mention of this critical doctrine, the church is pointing to what they label as a heretical view of the Trinity!

However, it is never that simple; the Catholic Church does not call this process “progressive revelation,” rather it calls it the development of doctrine. A post on this process will be published in the near future.

Still, Tertullian’s writings appear to have an incredible amount of status on scriptural things for someone interjecting personal opinions into the understanding of Christian concepts.

Some say the Apostle Paul is hard to follow at times. To me, Paul has nothing on Tertullian.

Tertullian might be called a prude, He advocated against the circus, the theater, and other worldly entertainments:

“Are we not, in like manner, enjoined to put away from us all immodesty? On this ground, again, we are excluded from the theatre, which is immodesty’s own peculiar abode, where nothing is in repute but what elsewhere is disreputable. [2] So the best path to the highest favour of its god is the vileness which the Atellan gesticulates, which the buffoon in woman’s clothes exhibits, destroying all natural modesty, so that they blush more readily at home than at the play, which finally is done from his childhood on the person of the pantomime, that he may become an actor. [3] The very harlots, too, victims of the public lust, are brought upon the stage, their misery increased as being there in the presence of their own sex, from whom alone they are wont to hide themselves: they are paraded publicly before every age and every rank–their abode, their gains, their praises, are set forth, and that even in the hearing of those who should not hear such things. I say nothing about other matters, which it were good to hide away in their own darkness and their own gloomy caves, lest they should stain the light of day. [4] Let the Senate, let all ranks, blush for very shame! Why, even these miserable women, who by their own gestures destroy their modesty, dreading the light of day, and the people’s gaze, know something of shame at least once a year. “ v

Tertullian really takes a strong stance here, a puritan, if you will.  All worldly entertainment, including plays and the circus, is to be avoided.

Next let’s look at Tertullian’s reference to baptism as a sacrament, Sacramentum in Latin, which he used as a reference to a mystery of the church, which is how he described what happens in baptism, and more precisely in the rite of water baptism.

“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A treatise on this matter will not be superfluous; instructing not only such as are just becoming formed (in the faith), but them who, content with having simply believed, without full examination of the grounds of the traditions, carry (in mind), through ignorance, an untried though probable faith. The consequence is, that a viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism. Which is quite in accordance with nature; for vipers and asps and basilisks themselves generally do affect arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes, after the example of our IXq,s204>S Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water; so that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes, by taking them away from the water! ”vi

In the above passage Tertullian refers to the Cainite heresy which evidently has carried away a not insignificant number of Christians:

“the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism”

Tertullian appears to be arguing here that the power of baptism is somehow in the water, i.e. holy water!  The water somehow causes the forgiveness of sins making the performance of the ritual to be what causes the cleansing.   This is the fundamental definition of a sacrament, a ritual that imparts grace or power.

The sacrament model limits the power of God directly into a believer’s life. You are not washed of sin when you believe, you are washed of sin when baptized in water in the ritual ceremony.  You are not forgiven when you confess to God directly, you are forgiven when the priest gives absolution in the sacrament of penance in that ritual ceremony.

Tertullian certainly is writing against the Cainite heresy, a form of Gnosticism that was pervasive at the time of the early church, but in his attempt to help he basically is writing new doctrine, IE, sacraments.

It is apparent that Tertullian’s writings form the basis of the rise of Roman Catholicism with the Trinity, sacraments, and so forth. Yet he was a man educated in the finest worldly traditions who applied that education to form reasoning to explain the basis of faith. To me, that implies bias to explain Christianity in terms of his worldly education. This is certainly admirable as it appears he is seeking God and to explain God’s business in terms of the education of the day. But to raise this effort to the level apostleship or prophecy, ie, bring new light or speaking for God in these matters is beyond the credit anyone should give Tertullian.

It needs to be proclaimed that Tertullian was a prolific writer by trade, and he wrote thought-provoking essays on Christianity to be sure. But I haven’t found anything where even Tertullian believed he was acting as an Apostle or Prophet. Yet he is sometimes referred to as an early part of the “development of doctrine” of Christianity. And his writings are certainly treated as such. As such Tertullian is part of the fork in the river where traditional Christianity diverts from original Christianity.



iiiThe FAITH of the EARLY FATHERS, volume 1, William a Jurgens, liturgical press, Collegeville Minnesota copyright 1970, P. 126

ivNew Advent, Against Praxeas, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0317.htm


viOn Baptism by Tertullian, http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian21.html

Revised 2019

December 6th, 2017 Posted by | Movements | no comments

Communion’s Deep Meaning – Christ’s Sacrifice Has Freed Us From The Power of Sin

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
(1Co 11:23-25 ESV)

Those are oft quoted verses in many churches before the start of the communion service.  I would like to look at what Paul wrote about Communion in the entire context. The larger context in First Corinthians shows multiple issues with communion in the time of Paul:

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.  (1Co 11:17 ESV)
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,  (1Co 11:18 ESV)
for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.  (1Co 11:19 ESV)
When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  (1Co 11:20 ESV)
For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.  (1Co 11:21 ESV)
What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.  (1Co 11:22 ESV)
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,  (1Co 11:23 ESV)
and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  (1Co 11:24 ESV)
In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  (1Co 11:25 ESV)
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  (1Co 11:26 ESV)
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  (1Co 11:27 ESV)
Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  (1Co 11:28 ESV)
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  (1Co 11:29 ESV)
That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  (1Co 11:30 ESV)
But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  (1Co 11:31 ESV)
But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.  (1Co 11:32 ESV)
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—  (1Co 11:33 ESV)
if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.  (1Co 11:34 ESV)

There are numerous points made in this section and I would like to touch on some of them,

In verses 20-21 Paul writes “ When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat – For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal”. Paul also says that at these meals some people go hungry while others get drunk. Paul makes a distinction here between just eating a meal together with other believers and the Lord’s Supper. He is saying that just getting together with other believers for a meal is not the Lord’s supper. He goes on in the next verses to ask things like don’t you have your own houses to live in, and don’t you see the you’re humiliating the people who come to these gatherings and don’t get to eat?

In verses 23 through 25 Paul lays out the pattern of service for holy Communion. In verse 23 he specified that this is the instruction that he received. Jesus started with the bread, and announced, “This is my body”.  At this point he gives the directive, “Do this in remembrance of me”. In the next verse he specifies the next step in the procedure, which is the same way Jesus did it! Paul then quotes the words of Jesus, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

In verse 26 he then states the spiritual significance of what is going on – that as often as you do this you are declaring the importance of Jesus’s death in our lives. Jesus’ broken body became our sin. Jesus’ blood washed away those sins, and this became The New Covenant with God!

This, then, is the point. Jesus’ death frees us from the power of sin.  Because he died for us Jesus is life giving.  Because of his death Jesus is healing. Because he gave his body Jesus is resurrecting. That is why his body is the bread of life.   Remembering these things is breath and life, bread and wine, and  eternal power to us.

Further on in the verses, verse 27 does specify that people who receive communion without this frame of mind are unworthy and are actually part of the problem that Jesus had to go to the cross for. In verse 30 says that if you partake of the Last Supper without this frame of mind you bring judgment on yourself. He even goes on to say that this lack of believing in what Christ’s body and blood accomplished is at the cause of why so many are weak, ill, and dying. And that is because weakness, sickness and yes, death, are with us because of the power of sin in the world.

In my own head I see a vision of holy Communion with a neon sign flashing, “Jesus Christ Became Sin For You” – “His Death Washed Away Your Sin” “Sin Has No Power Over You”- “Walk In Deliverance”. Or how about this:

provided by: www.criticallayouts.com
Praise the Lord for the Last Supper. Praise the Lord he gave us this service to be done as often as we get together to have this supremely powerful thought in our head of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross!



August 23rd, 2017 Posted by | Basic Christianity | no comments

Almost All Christian Churches Practice Communion

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  (1Co 11:23-25 ESV)

The above verses, among others, are commonly read before the practice known as Holy Communion in many churches. (Like Baptism there are a couple exceptions – see Neither Baptism Nor Communion Services for Quakers and the Salvation Army)  The setting for these verses is known as the Last Supper. Luke, chapter 22: 1-38, tells us that the Passover feast was drawing near, and Jesus gave instructions to prepare for the Passover meal to his disciples, who then made the preparations, and we see in the verses that Jesus ate a final meal with his disciples at that time, and he taught a number of things.  It was the first Communion service.

There are a number of truths in the above verses:

  1. Communion is a practice commanded by Jesus Christ himself. (Jesus said the words.)
  2. We are to practice communion to remember Jesus and what he has done. (“Do this in remembrance of me.”)
  3. Jesus Christ’s shedding of blood – literally giving his life for us – brings us a new covenant with God. ( “This cup is the new covenant in my blood”)
  4. It is to be done as a practice. (“Do this, as often as you drink it.”)

Lets look at what Jesus was referring to above in speaking about a new covenant. Jeremiah prophesied about a new covenant:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”  (Jer 31:31-34 ESV)

If Jesus’ death brought a new covenant what was the old covenant? It was the agreement God made with Israel in the time before Christ. It included the law of the old Testament. The law was a system where people knew what do by the system of rules and regulations about life. It was the 10 commandments, but also so much more. There were feasts to be observed, sacrifices to be made, tithes to be paid, rules on what to eat and what not to eat, how to treat different individuals and so much more.

Jeremiah says that the new covenant will no longer be a written law ouside the body but an inner knowing of the Lord. That is what Jesus brought. Communion remembers Jesus’ sacrifice and celebrates that his death allows us the internal access to the Father that we receive when we accept Jesus as Lord.

August 14th, 2017 Posted by | Basic Christianity | no comments