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Carl Trueman Lecture at SBTS (3) Martin Luther – The Tools of the Trade

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Dr. Carl Trueman: In the first lecture I wanted to make the argument that theology and the practice of ministry are intimately connected. Luther is a great example of this. You see that Luther’s theology really drives his understanding of the shape of pastoral ministry. And I wanted to challenge you to move beyond the merely historical point I’m making there, to reflect longer on how you perceive ministry and how your perception actually reflects something about your theological convictions and to urge you to allow your theological convictions to drive how you think about ministry.

The second lecture I talked about Luther’s understanding of the word of God, how God is fundamentally to us, a God who speaks. And God’s speech essential constitutes reality. And I applied that to the nature of preaching. I think one of Luther’s great insights is the connection he makes between the speech of God and the speech of the preacher. And I hope that those of you who are preachers, or are going to be preachers will be excited by that idea that when the preacher speaks God’s word is powerful.

The final lecture- The Tools of the Trade- I wanna make the point that ordinary people mattered to the shape of Luther’s reformation. These are the people that are not typically featured in the textbooks other than as statistics, because, by and large they were too busy working to put bread on the table than to write books about how they’re feeling. But, yet, Luther’s connection with these people profoundly shaped how he executed his task as pastor.

So, in the third lecture I want to examine the practicality of Luther’s own pastoral ministry. As with all pastors, Luther is of course a flawed human being. And the details of his actual practice do not entirely square with his theology. One obvious example would be his increasingly bitter preoccupation with the Jews, which one finds from the 1530’s onwards. Frustrated by their failure to convert to Christianity, Luther adopted, and, indeed sharpened many of the standard –- of the anti Jewish polemic, which was so common in late medieval Europe. Indeed, his very last sermon, preached in 1546 ended with a bitter harangue against the jews. Thus, I accept at the outset that if you dig deep into Luther’s life, you will find inconsistencies and hypocrisies, here and there. My point here is not to argue for the total consistency of Luther, but rather a general conformity of his practice to his theological commitments.

The reform of worship

The first point to make as we now approach Luther’s pastoral practice, is that the way in which he reformed worship was intimately connected to his care and concern for ordinary people. Many of us are familiar with his treatise on prayer, which was originally a letter to his hairdresser Peter, who had told him while cutting his hair that he struggled with his prayer life. Reflect on that for awhile. Luther had time to write a handbook on prayer for the man who cut his hair.

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ la...

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ lag in Todes Banden, and who, with Johann Walter, also wrote the melody (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even the briefest glance at Luther’s volume of letters reveal a man who was equally comfortable writing to powerful princes and to much lesser individuals with words of encouragement, counsel and occasional letters of rebuke. Yet, Luther’s care for people has significance, not simply for his personal relations, but also for the pace and shape of the Lutheran reformation. Basic to the reformation was the education of the people in the patterns of thought and behavior reformers required by their new theology. This issue raised all manner of pedagogical questions, which in turn raised questions about what we might call now broadly – aesthetics. What was church meant to look like? What was church meant to sound like? What was family piety and individual devotions meant to look like and sound like?

In the early years of the reformation, leadership at Wittenberg was shared by Martin Luther and his academic colleague, one time friend and later nemesis, a man called Andreas Bodenstein, (named Karlstadt after his birthplace). In the years after 1517, these 2 men came to represent 2 different visions of reform and Wittenberg would ultimately prove that it was only big enough to allow only one man to succeed.

Things came to a head in 1522. After the Diet of Worms, Luther was kidnapped by his prince, Frederick the Wise’s men and kept for his own safety in the Wartburg castle, high on the hills of Eisenach where he began his work of producing a German reformation Bible, by translating the New Testament.

As Luther is in the Wartburg castle, the leadership passes to Karlstadt. Luther’s young assistant Philip Melanchthon and  his colleague Conrad Zwilling pushed very hard for radical reformation, which has all of the hallmarks of social revolution. Iconoclasm, violent rhetoric at rapid pace. Luther, later in 1521 travels to Wittenberg incognito to see the chaos first hand. And then in 1522 he’s brought back by Frederick the Wise because the riots are getting out of hand and if the reformation descends into total chaos, Frederick will have to act to crush it because the emperor Charles V will move against Saxony. Luther comes back and I think this is the point in his career where he is actually in most danger because if he can’t quell the riots in Wittenberg, and all he can use to do that is his own force of personality, he will be replaced by Frederick the Wise.

Luther comes back, quells the social revolution in Wittenberg and introduces  a much more conservative vision of reformation. There will be no iconoclasm. If you go to a Lutheran church today, you will find crucifixes. The conservative however of Luther’s intervention in 1522 was not simply a piece of political pragmatism. I think it was also connected to his pastoral sensitivity. Luther knew that lasting change could only be brought about by gentle persuasion. Most people then, as ever since did not like change. And so, Luther demonstrated in 1522 and throughout his subsequent career an aesthetic conservatism, which was designed as much to prevent the disturbance of tender consciences as it was to appease the desire of his political masters.

We tend to romanticize the reformation and we think that everybody is desperate for the reformation to come to town. We see evidence of this in Luther’s liturgical innovations. From as early as 1520, it is clear that Lutheran theology demands vernacular liturgy. How could the mass, for example, be any use if the words of promise are not clearly articulated in a language which the people could understand? Yet, for a man who stands out in history as a volcanic revolutionary, Luther’s move towards liturgical reform are gradual and hesitant. This is how he describes his approach in a pamphlet in 1523(6 yrs. after the crisis of 1517): Until now, I have only used books and sermons to wean the charts of the people from their Godless regard for the ceremonial. For I believed it would be a christian and helpful thing, if I could prompt a peaceful removal of the abomination that Satan sets up in the holy place, through the man of sin. Therefore I’ve used neither authority or pressure, nor did I make any innovations for I have been hesitant and fearful, partly because of the weak in faith who cannot suddenly exchange an accustomed order of worship for a new and unusual one and also because of the fickle  and fastidious spirits who rush in like unclean swine without faith or reason and who delight only in novelty and tires of it as quickly when it is worn off. Such people are a nuisance, even in other affairs. But, in spiritual matters they are absolutely unbearable. Nonetheless, at the risk of bursting with anger, I must bear with them, unless I want to let the Gospel itself be denied to the people.

Here, Luther made it clear that he was concerned to handle the delicate consciences with care and also to give no ground to those who seek novelty or innovation for its own sake. The liturgy he then described in 1523 was itself very conservative. Essentially, a cleaned up version of the traditional mass. Still in Latin, except for the sermon and a few hymns. And later, Luther can hardly be described as being in the vanguard of the application of his own theological principles to liturgical reform.

Indeed, even in 1524, as he wrote against the radicals, Luther rejoiced that the mass was now said in German, but also argued that such a practice should not be made compulsory lest it become a new legalism. And also because he was not yet satisfied that the German liturgy captured the full beauty of what was going on. It was not until October 1525 that a full German mass was celebrated in Wittenberg.  That’s as early as Luther feels able to push forward with the full application of theology that he’s fully articulating in 1517-1518. It’s remarkable sensitivity. (17 min mark)

The Tools of the Trade from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

Carl Trueman at SBTS (2) The Word in Action – Luther’s theology of the preached word

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Dr. Carl Trueman:

In lecture 2 I want to talk about the power in the Word. In the first lecture (click on link above for first lecture)  I sketched out the basics of Luther’s theology, with particular reference to his understanding of God’s revelation of Himself in the incarnate and crucified flesh of Jesus Christ. There, and only there did Luther believe one can find God revealed as being gracious towards sinners. To approach God in any way, outside the flesh of Christ was to approach the God of righteous judgment. A consuming fire, the terrifying God who rides on the wing of  a storm and who is accountable to no one. And before whom no sinful creature can stand and expect to live.

In the second lecture I want to move from the theological foundations we’ve established to Luther’s theology of the preached word. And by the third lecture we’ll finally get to Luther’s practice of pastoral ministry. But, it’s in the preached word that the church encounters the crucified Christ and thus the preached word which must be central to the church’s life and actions. In addition, we must also remember the basic arguments of these lectures as a whole, that Luther’s theology is determinative of his understanding of the nature and the toils of the pastoral ministry.

That he would have found modern evangelical claims to ‘agree on the Gospel’, but, ‘to allow freedom in method and practice’ to be strange. Not that the Lutheran reformation looked exactly the same, everywhere in Germany. Liturgy varied in detail between places, but the basic shape of pastoral ministry and of church life enjoyed a high degree of consensus. As is the historian’s way, however, I cannot begin the story of Luther’s understanding of the word of god with Luther himself.

The late medieval background

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ la...…..  In many ways Luther remained a man of medieval ages. His politically conservative futurism and his acute sense of the physical presence of the devil, and also of demons and imps are just two examples of what separates him from the other reformers. who were trained as renaissance humanists and were men of the modern age. On the theological front, it was the late medieval critical philosophy of the language, connected to the radical application of what was called the dialectic of God’s two powers which gripped Luther’s theological imagination and remained with him from the monastic cloister to the day of his death.

…..Competency in human reason had been declining from the 12th century onwards in Europe. And this dialectic between the 2 powers of God was used in a dialectic and critical way to articulate the increasing epistemological modesty that people had with regard to God. Human reason came to be regarded less and less competent to predict what God would be like. And first, theologians focused increasingly on revelation as the source of the knowledge of God. We shouldn’t get too excited, as that revelation was not identified with Scripture, by these late medieval theologians so much as the teaching of the church’s magisterium. The distinction also fed and strengthened a perennial linguistic debate about the nature and function of words. And this will become significant for Luther’s understanding of preaching. Taken to its extreme this became an anti-essentialist view of being which effectively made words themselves the determiners of reality. This is what is known as late medieval nominalism and it was the linguistic school in which Luther was trained and whose basic assumptions remained with him throughout his entire career, to the day of his death.

Those critics of post modernism, such as Terry Eagleton have pointed out there are pointed similarities between medieval nominalism and certain schools of post modern linguistic theory. We might summarize these similarities by saying that both envisage the world as a linguistic construct. Words, not essences become determinative and constitutive of reality. I suspect that Luther would have little time for the excesses of postmodern anti-essentialism with the kind of kaleidoscopic anarchy it has created with the regard to gender, sexuality and even the notion of human nature. Nevertheless, we should note that Luther would not object to postmodernism by reasserting a kind of essentialism. Rather, I suspect, Luther’s rejection of postmodern anarchy would be based on his belief that God is the supreme reality, that He is ultimately the one who speaks, and whose speech is therefore the ground of existence and of difference. Reality is not determined by the linguistic proclivities of any human individual, or any human community, but by the word of God.

The theological implications of this should become obvious. For example, to refer back to the theology of the cross- the empiricist, the essentialist looks at the cross and sees weakness, agony, suffering and defeat, and no more. That is the outward aesthetics of the cross would seem to indicate. And it is what the social and philosophical conventions of Jews and Greeks of 1st Corinthians would also lead them to believe. But, neither the empirical aesthetics, nor their interpretation through the grid of their constructed social conventions are actually any guide to the reality  of what is taking place. God has extrinsically declared the cross to be powerful, a victory, a moment of triumph. And God’s word trumps everything in determining the reality that is there. Thus, only those christians who reject the evidence of their senses, and reject the established logic and expectations of their culture and trust instead in their counter intuitive truth of God’s words can truly understand the reality.

The same, of course applies to justification. Older medieval approaches to justification required the individual actually to be somewhat righteous before God could declare the person to be justified. Late medieval theologian Gabriel Biel had broken with this tradition, arguing instead that God could set His own criteria for the declaration of justification. For Biel, God had entered into a pact with human beings and had agreed that according to His ordained power He was going to accept an individual’s best efforts as righteousness, as meeting the condition for God to declare that person to be in a state of grace. Once in such a state of grace, the individual could then benefit form sacramental grace  and do works of real righteousness and intrinsic merit.

Luther came to reject the theology of Biel as a form of semi pelagianism. The very idea that one could do one’s best and meet any condition became anathema to him. If human beings are morally dead, then the only things they can do is acknowledge that in all humility despair in themselves and look to God for unmerited mercy. Yet in breaking with Biel, Luther remained indebted to one of Biel’s most important conceptual moves. For Biel, as later for Luther, the justified person was not necessarily, actually, intrinsically righteous. They were simply declared extrinsically to be righteous by God.

By making entry into a state of grace, something that was not based on intrinsic merit, but rather on merit determined on extrinsic pactum. Biel first shattered the link between essential reality and divinely determined reality. For those of you interested in the history of the ‘History of Dogma’ will know that this is something for which conservative catholic historians of dogma have never forgiven him and which indeed shapes how our contemporary historians like Brad S. Gregory of Notre Dame views the reformation. The reformation is seen as the ultimate evil fruit of late medieval anti-essentialism.

The practical significance of this linguistic philosophy for Luther as pastor is that words become absolutely foundational to everything the pastor does. If words determine reality, then of all things the pastor does, the words he speaks are the most important: Reading the bible in public, preaching the word form the pulpit, applying the word individually in the confessional. Each of these things determine the reality of the church. This linguistic emphasis also helps explain to those of us with less sacramental proclivities than Luther why he holds such high views of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. That on the latter point at least, he’s willing to divide protestantism over the issue.  Incidentally, Luther’s objection to transubstantiation is not in 1520 that the body and blood of Christ are there, it’s that the bread and the wine have disappeared.

It would be remiss of me simply to reduce Luther’s reformation theology to a particularly radical application of late medieval linguistic theory as a means of solving his own personal issues

The Word in Action from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

Carl Trueman at SBTS (1) Theological and Biographical Foundations – Reflections upon Luther

Dr. Carl Trueman is Professor of Historical Theology and Church History and Paul Woolley Chair of Church History and he blogs regularly at Reformation21.

See his full bio here http://www.wts.edu/faculty/profiles/trueman.html

Dr. Trueman’s teaching history:

  • Tutorial Assistant in Church History, University of Aberdeen, 1991–1993
  • Lecturer in Theology, University of Nottingham, 1993–1998
  • Senior Lecturer in Church History, University of Aberdeen, 1998–2001
  • Westminster Theological Seminary, 2001– Currently serving

If you have never read or heard Dr. Trueman, here are some notes from the beginning of this lecture (from the first 18 minutes). Dr. Carl Trueman:

Reflections upon Luther’s life & practice of the Christian ministry

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ la...

–In the years since the reformation, especially in the last 100 years of scholarship, the categories used to understand him (Luther) have become more variegated and subtle. Amongst many other approaches, he has been studied as the man who brought to a church shattering conclusion, the critical theology of the late medieval nominalists. He’s been the freudian man. (this will be discussed at length in part 2- to be posted tomorrow) projecting unto God his disrupted relationship with his own father.  He’s been the heir of late medieval eschatological expectation. He’s been the quintessential humorist of theological polemics. And, in a darker vein he has been seen as the fountainhead of German anti-semitism.

One area of comparative neglect, however in Luther’s studies is that of Luther’s pastor, and that’s surprising. Prior to the Reformation Luther was not only a monk, he was also a priest. He was ordained in 1507 and that meant that his professional religious life would never simply have been that of a university professor, or the monastic cloister. He was also  involved, on a day to day basis, with the lives of the people in his church. And indeed, it was this pastoral life, this pastoral concern which provided the trigger for the Reformation protest. when he came to see the sale of indulgences as impacting the lives of ordinary men and women of Wittenberg who were wasting their material goods on such counterfeit grace. (8 min mark)

In this 1st video Dr. Trueman lays out the basic theological elements of Luther’s thoughts, which then impacted his pastoral practice, and how Luther regarded the identity of God relative to fallen humanity, and central to this is the crucified flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • The topic of Luther as pastor is not simply  one of interest to historians, it also makes it significant to those pursuing pastoral ministry today. In the current conservative evangelical climate, much is made often of agreements on necessary theological doctrines in the context of the freedom to disagree over issues of pastoral and ecclesiastical practice. By way of contrast, the life and theology of Luther shows how theology and practice are actually more closely connected  than we might perhaps wish to imagine. Thus, in these lectures I am not primarily advocating Luther as a pastoral paradigm to be followed, although one could surely choose worst examples, but, rather as a test case for showing how theology and practice have certain necessary connections. A point which I believe is absent from major currents of American evangelical life, where a routine separation of theology and method, or perhaps theology and practical ecclesiology is often standard.

1. Theology of the cross

It is an oft repeated cliche that Luther was not a systematic theologian. Luther is in fact a remarkably consistent theologian. His treatise on The Bondage of the Will (1525) is a remarkably consistent exploration of  the theological foundations of justification by grace through faith, both as it relates to the issue of human choice and as it related to the question of Scriptural perspicuity. Similarly, the development of his Christology in relation to the Lord’s Supper between 1520 and 1529 is again a story of the consistent application and outworking of fundamental concern and insight  which are right there at the start of his reformation protest.

One of the foundational insights which emerges in Luther’s early thinking, early in his reformation career and receives dramatic exposure at the Heidelberg disputation in 1518 is the so called Theology of the Cross. When Luther places his 95 Theses on the castle door, in October 1517. In actuality, if you read The 95 Theses, it’s a petty boring document. You need to know quite a bit about medieval theology  even to understand what he’s getting at.

A much more appropriate start for the Reformation is April 1518, when Luther, as a member of the Augustinian order is attending a standard meeting of the order, in Heidelberg and has one of his friends present a series of theses for debate, that he himself had written. These are called the Heidelberg Disputation. It is often said here that he articulates the theology of the cross. In the theses of the disputation Luther himself does not refer to it as the theology of the cross, he refers to a theologian of the cross. And the text has frequently been mistranslated on this point and does not help to convey the richness of what Luther is trying to communicate.

The difference is important. Luther is not thinking of theology in some abstract way, as a technique or a set of rules, or procedures to follow which often lead one to correct theological formulations. He’s rather thinking in holistic terms. A theology as an action, performed by an individual which is intimately related to the nature and status of the person performing the action. Here are the key thesis in laying out the theology of the cross idea in full:

–„That person does not deserve to be called a theologian, who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and the manifest things of God, seen through suffering on the cross. A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works, as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded and hardened”.

In short, one might summarize Luther’s basic epistemological points here by saying that theologians of glory  assume that God is much like themselves.  and therefore must conform to their conventions. The theologians of the cross, however, know that God is who He is and to know Him one must look to His revelation of Himself and that, primarily, on the cross. In placing the cross at the center of his theological program, Luther stands in continuity with his preoccupation of certain influential strands of late medieval theology. (16 min mark)

……………..

For Luther, the cross becomes the criterion of theology and thus the means for understanding the whole of spiritual reality. This has numerous implications. For example, it points clearly to Luther’s later abolition of the line between sacred and secular callings. What makes the theologian of the cross a true theologian? It’s not that he does theology, that he thinks and talks about God. That is the task he shares with theologians of glory…. Luther is actually making the point that everyone is a theologian. Either of glory or of the cross. What makes the difference is the mode in which the person does theology… The theologian of the cross does theology by faith in God’s revelation alone and based upon God’s revelation alone. (18 min mark)

Theological and Biographical Foundations from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

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Reformation Day October 31, 1517: The Bible and Martin Luther

English Bible History

Martin Luther

Martin Luther had a small head-start on Tyndale, as Luther declared his intolerance for the Roman Church’s corruption on Halloween in 1517, by nailing his 95 Theses of Contention to the Wittenberg Church door. Luther, who would be exiled in the months following the Diet of Worms Council in 1521 that was designed to martyr him, would translate the New Testament into German for the first time from the 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus, and publish it in September of 1522. Luther also published a German Pentateuch in 1523, and another edition of the German New Testament in 1529. In the 1530’s he would go on to publish the entire Bible in German. Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 – February 18, 1546) was a Christian theologian and Augustinian monk whose teachings inspired the Protestant Reformation and deeply influenced the doctrines of Protestant and other Christian traditions.

Martin Luther was born to Hans and Margaretha Luder on 10 November 1483 in Eisleben, Germany and was baptised the next day on the feast of St. Martin of Tours, after whom he was named. Luther’s call to the Church to return to the teachings of the Bible resulted in the formation of new traditions within Christianity and the Counter-Reformation in the Roman Catholic Church, culminating at the Council of Trent.His translation of the Bible also helped to develop a standard version of the German language and added several principles to the art of translation. Luther’s hymns sparked the development of congregational singing in Christianity. His marriage, on June 13, 1525, to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, began the tradition of clerical marriage within several Christian traditions.

Portraits of Hans and Margarethe Luther by Lucas Cranach  1527

Luther’s early life

Martin Luther’s father owned a copper mine in nearby Mansfeld. Having risen from the peasantry, his father was determined to see his son ascend to civil service and bring further honor to the family. To that end, Hans sent young Martin to schools in Mansfeld, Magdeburg and Eisenach. At the age of seventeen in 1501 he entered the University of Erfurt. The young student received his Bachelor’s degree after just one year in 1502! Three years later, in 1505, he received a Master’s degree. According to his father’s wishes, Martin enrolled in the law school of that university. All that changed during a thunderstorm in the summer of 1505. A lightening bolt struck near to him as he was returning to school. Terrified, he cried out, „Help, St. Anne! I’ll become a monk!” Spared of his life, but regretting his words, Luther kept his bargain, dropped out of law school and entered the monastery there.

Luther’s struggle to find peace with God

Young Brother Martin fully dedicated himself to monastic life, the effort to do good works to please God and to serve others through prayer for their souls. Yet peace with God escaped him. He devoted himself to fasts, flagellations, long hours in prayer and pilgrimages, and constant confession. The more he tried to do for God, it seemed, the more aware he became of his sinfulness.

Johann von Staupitz, Luther’s superior, concluded the young man needed more work to distract him from pondering himself. He ordered the monk to pursue an academic career. In 1507 Luther was ordained to the priesthood. In 1508 he began teaching theology at the University of Wittenberg. Luther earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies on 9 March 1508 and a Bachelor’s degree in the Sentences by Peter Lombard, (the main textbook of theology in the Middle Ages) in 1509. On 19 October 1512, the University of Wittenberg conferred upon Martin Luther the degree of Doctor of Theology.

Martin Luther’s Evangelical Discovery

The demands of study for academic degrees and preparation for delivering lectures drove Martin Luther to study the Scriptures in depth. Luther immersed himself in the teachings of the Scripture and the early church. Slowly, terms like penance and righteousness took on new meaning. The controversy that broke loose with the publication of his 95 Theses placed even more pressure on the reformer to study the Bible. This study convinced him that the Church had lost sight of several central truths. To Luther, the most important of these was the doctrine that brought him peace with God.

With joy, Luther now believed and taught that salvation is a gift of God’s grace, received by faith and trust in God’s promise to forgive sins for the sake of Christ’s death on the cross. This, he believed was God’s work from beginning to end.

Luther’s 95 Theses

On Halloween of 1517, Luther changed the course of human history when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg, accusing the Roman Catholic church of heresy upon heresy. Many people cite this act as the primary starting point of the Protestant Reformation… though to be sure, John Wycliffe, John Hus, Thomas Linacre, John Colet, and others had already put the life’s work and even their lives on the line for same cause of truth, constructing the foundation of Reform upon which Luther now built. Luther’s action was in great part a response to the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel, a Dominican priest. Luther’s charges also directly challenged the position of the clergy in regard to individual salvation. Before long, Luther’s 95 Theses of Contention had been copied and published all over Europe.

Here I Stand

Luther’s Protestant views were condemned as heretical by Pope Leo X in the bull Exsurge Domine in 1520. Consequently Luther was summoned to either renounce or reaffirm them at the Diet of Worms on 17 April 1521. When he appeared before the assembly, Johann von Eck, by then assistant to the Archbishop of Trier, acted as spokesman for Emperor Charles the Fifth. He presented Luther with a table filled with copies of his writings. Eck asked Luther if he still believed what these works taught. He requested time to think about his answer. Granted an extension, Luther prayed, consulted with friends and mediators and presented himself before the Diet the next day.

Meeting of the Diet (assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire at Worms, Germany, in 1521, where Martin Luther defended his Protestant principles and was excommunicated

When the counselor put the same question to Luther the next day, the reformer apologized for the harsh tone of many of his writings, but said that he could not reject the majority of them or the teachings in them. Luther respectfully but boldly stated, „Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.„On May 25, the Emperor issued his Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.

Luther in Exile at the Wartburg Castle

The room in Wartburg where     Luther translated the New Testament into German. An original first edition of the translation is kept under the case on the desk.

Luther had powerful friends among the princes of Germany, one of whom was his own prince, Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony. The prince arranged for Luther to be seized on his way from the Diet by a company of masked horsemen, who carried him to the castle of the Wartburg, where he was kept about a year. He grew a wide flaring beard; took on the garb of a knight and assumed the pseudonym Jörg. During this period of forced sojourn in the world, Luther was still hard at work upon his celebrated translation of the Bible, though he couldn’t rely on the isolation of a monastery. During his translation, Luther would make forays into the nearby towns and markets to listen to people speak, so that he could put his translation of the Bible into the language of the people.

Although his stay at the Wartburg kept Luther hidden from public view, Luther often received letters from his friends and allies, asking for his views and advice. For example, Luther’s closest friend, Philipp Melanchthon, wrote to him and asked how to answer the charge that the reformers neglected pilgrimages, fasts and other traditional forms of piety. Luther’s replied: „If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign.” [Letter 99.13, To Philipp Melanchthon, 1 August 1521.]

Martin Luther’s German Bible

1529 Luther New Testament: The Oldest Printed German N.T. Scripture

Martin Luther was the first person to translate and publish the Bible in the commonly-spoken dialect of the German people. He used the recent 1516 critical Greek edition of Erasmus, a text which was later called textus receptus. The Luther German New Testament translation was first published in September of 1522. The translation of the Old Testament followed, yielding an entire German language Bible in 1534.

Luther is also know to have befriended William Tyndale, and given him safe haven and assistance in using the same 1516 Erasmus Greek-Latin Parallel New Testament that had been the source text for his German New Testament of 1522, as the trustworthy source text for Tyndale’s English New Testament of 1525-26.

Luther’s Writings

The number of books attributed to Martin Luther is quite impressive. However, some Luther scholars contend that many of the works were at least drafted by some of his good friends like Philipp Melanchthon. Luther’s books explain the settings of the epistles and show the conformity of the books of

1523 Luther Pentateuch:  The Oldest Printed      German Scripture

the Bible to each other. Of special note would be his writings about the Epistle to the Galatians in which he compares himself to the Apostle Paul in his defense of the Gospel. Luther also wrote about church administration and wrote much about the Christian home.

Luther’s work contains a number of statements that modern readers would consider rather crude. For example, Luther was know to advise people that they should literally “Tell the Devil he may kiss my ass.” It should be remembered that Luther received many communications from throughout Europe from people who could write anonymously, that is, without the specter of mass media making their communications known. No public figure today could write in the manner of the correspondences Luther received or in the way Luther responded to them. Luther was certainly a theologian of the middle-ages. He was an earthy man who enjoyed his beer, and was bold and often totally without tact in the blunt truth he vehemently preached. While this offended many, it endeared him all the more to others.

He was open with his frustrations and emotions, as well. Once, when asked if he truly loved God, Luther replied “Love God? Sometimes I hate Him!” Luther was also frustrated by the works-emphasis of the book of James, calling it “the Epistle of Straw, and questioning its canonicity. Also irritated with the complex symbolism of the Book of Revelation, he once said that it too, was not canon, and that it should be thrown into the river! He later retracted these statements, of course. Luther was a man who was easily misquoted or taken out of context. While a brilliant theologian, and a bold reformer, he would not have made a good politician. But then, he never aspired to any career in politics.

Luther’s 1534 Bible.

Martin Luther and Judaism

Luther initially preached tolerance towards the Jewish people, convinced that the reason they had never converted to Christianity was that they were discriminated against, or had never heard the Gospel of Christ. However, after his overtures to Jews failed to convince Jewish people to adopt Christianity, he began preaching that the Jews were set in evil, anti-Christian ways, and needed to be expelled from German politics. In his On the Jews and Their Lies, he repeatedly quotes the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:34, where Jesus called them „a brood of vipers and children of the devil”

Katharina von Bora, Luther’s wife (1523), by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526

Luther was zealous toward the Gospel, and he wanted to protect the people of his homeland from the Jews who he believed would be harmful influences since they did not recognize Jesus as their Saviour. In Luther’s time, parents had a right and a duty to direct their children’s marriage choices in respect to matters of faith. Likewise, Luther felt a duty to direct his German people to cling to the Jesus the Jews did not accept. It should be noted that church law was superior to civil law in Luther’s day and that law said the penalty of blasphemy was death. When Luther called for the deaths of certain Jews, he was merely asking that the laws that were applied to all other Germans also be applied to the Jews. The Jews were exempt from the church laws that Christians were bound by, most notably the law against charging interest.

Martin Luther’s Death

Martin Luther escaped martyrdom, and died of natural causes. His last written words were, „Know that no one can have indulged in the Holy Writers sufficiently, unless he has governed churches for a hundred years with the prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles… We are beggars: this is true.

photos and story (via) Wikipedia and GreatSite

Related Articles:

  1. Martin Luther –  Video Color, Video black and white
  2. John Wycliffe – first English Bible Translator Biography and  Video
  3. William Tyndale- first Bible translator from original languages Biography and Video
  4. The Impact of the printing Press on the Reformation
  5. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch
  6. The bestselling book of all times Part 1
  7. The bestselling book of all times Part 2

Luther’s theology of the cross

English: MARTIN LUTHER IN CHURCH OF MARTIN LUT...

An outstanding 30 min lecture on Luther By Harvard’s Ronald Thieman. Here’s one of his characterizations of Luther through a selection of Luther’s quotes:

Luther: „A person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him… adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty. Our utter inability to achieve righteousness before God, should not”, Luther stresses, „be cause for despair. But, rather should desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of God. But, even this self humbling and seeking is not a meritorious human act. The transformation of our wills is itself always and only a work of God, though, it is certain though that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.” 

Thus it becomes clear in these early thesis that  Luther is setting out a set of normative proposals for living a life shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While there are a set of epistemological consequences of living such a life, the existential spiritual dimensions of the theology of the cross are front and center from the onset. Thus, it comes as no surprise in the next set of thesis that Luther turns not to the abstract question of the theology of the cross, but, to the concrete issue to the form of life exemplified by the theologian of the cross. 

That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of  God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things that have actually happened.  He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross. A theologian of glory calls evil good and  good evil. A theologian of the cross call the thing what it actually is. 

„Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Resource for a Theology of Religions?” presented by Ronald Thiemann (Harvard University) on the topic of „Continuity and Novelty” – „The Global Luther: Reconsidering the Contributions of Martin Luther, an International Conference” Department of Religion, Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University, February 23, 2008. Northwestern University, February 23, 2008.http://www.religion.northwestern.edu/conferences/globalluther/

Uploaded by  on Jul 7, 2008

Remember Reformation Day – Ziua Reformarii

On Halloween of 1517, Luther changed the course of human history when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg, accusing the Roman Catholic church of heresy upon heresy. Many people cite this act as the primary starting point of the Protestant Reformation… though to be sure, John Wycliffe, John Hus, Thomas Linacre, John Colet, and others had already put the life’s work and even their lives on the line for same cause of truth, constructing the foundation of Reform upon which Luther now built. Luther’s action was in great part a response to the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel, a Dominican priest. Luther’s charges also directly challenged the position of the clergy in regard to individual salvation. Before long, Luther’s 95 Theses of Contention had been copied and published all over Europe.

Martin Luther’s life (film)

Posts in the Romanian language/ postari in Limba Romana:

A series of lectures by Carl Trueman on Martin Luther:

  1. Carl Trueman at SBTS (1) Theological and Biographical Foundations – Reflections upon Luther
  2. Carl Trueman at SBTS (2) The Word in Action – Luther’s theology of the preached word
  3. Carl Trueman Lecture at SBTS (3) Martin Luther – The Tools of the Trade
  4. Carl Trueman at SBTS (4) Panel discussion (from the Luther lectures)

Videos, films, essays on Martin Luther

Luther writes to a struggling believer

via desiringGod.org – read entire article here- Luther on Five Actions for Struggling Believers.

Jerome Weller was a theology student under Martin Luther’s direct influence, living in his home and tutoring his children for nearly a decade. In July 1530, Luther wrote a letter of advice to Weller who was in the midst of a depression.

. . . Excellent Jerome, You ought to rejoice in this temptation of the devil because it is a certain sign that God is propitious and merciful to you. You say that the temptation is heavier than you can bear, and that you fear that it will so break and beat you down as to drive you to despair and blasphemy. I know this wile of the devil. If he cannot break a person with his first attack, he tries by persevering to wear him out and weaken him until the person falls and confesses himself beaten.

Whenever this temptation comes to you, avoid entering upon a disputation with the devil and do not allow yourself to dwell on those deadly thoughts, for to do so is nothing short of yielding to the devil and letting him have his way. Try as hard as you can to despise those thoughts which are induced by the devil. In this sort of temptation and struggle, contempt is the best and easiest method of winning over the devil. Laugh your adversary to scorn and ask who it is with whom you are talking. By all means flee solitude, for the devil watches and lies in wait for you most of all when you are alone. This devil is conquered by mocking and despising him, not by resisting and arguing with him. . .

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made a satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.”

Yours,
Martin Luther

Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, trans. and ed., Theodore G. Tappert, 1960, (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2003), 85ff

 

For Reformation Day – The Bible and Martin Luther

Here’s an older post that can be revisited every year at this time, when we remember the significance of the reformation that took place almost 500 years ago today.

English Bible History

Martin Luther

Martin Luther had a small head-start on Tyndale, as Luther declared his intolerance for the Roman Church’s corruption on Halloween in 1517, by nailing his 95 Theses of Contention to the Wittenberg Church door. Luther, who would be exiled in the months following the Diet of Worms Council in 1521 that was designed to martyr him, would translate the New Testament into German for the first time from the 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus, and publish it in September of 1522. Luther also published a German Pentateuch in 1523, and another edition of the German New Testament in 1529. In the 1530’s he would go on to publish the entire Bible in German. Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 – February 18, 1546) was a Christian theologian and Augustinian monk whose teachings inspired the Protestant Reformation and deeply influenced the doctrines of Protestant and other Christian traditions.

Martin Luther was born to Hans and Margaretha Luder on 10 November 1483 in Eisleben, Germany and was baptised the next day on the feast of St. Martin of Tours, after whom he was named. Luther’s call to the Church to return to the teachings of the Bible resulted in the formation of new traditions within Christianity and the Counter-Reformation in the Roman Catholic Church, culminating at the Council of Trent.His translation of the Bible also helped to develop a standard version of the German language and added several principles to the art of translation. Luther’s hymns sparked the development of congregational singing in Christianity. His marriage, on June 13, 1525, to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, began the tradition of clerical marriage within several Christian traditions.

Portraits of Hans and Margarethe Luther by Lucas Cranach  1527

Luther’s early life

Martin Luther’s father owned a copper mine in nearby Mansfeld. Having risen from the peasantry, his father was determined to see his son ascend to civil service and bring further honor to the family. To that end, Hans sent young Martin to schools in Mansfeld, Magdeburg and Eisenach. At the age of seventeen in 1501 he entered the University of Erfurt. The young student received his Bachelor’s degree after just one year in 1502! Three years later, in 1505, he received a Master’s degree. According to his father’s wishes, Martin enrolled in the law school of that university. All that changed during a thunderstorm in the summer of 1505. A lightening bolt struck near to him as he was returning to school. Terrified, he cried out, „Help, St. Anne! I’ll become a monk!” Spared of his life, but regretting his words, Luther kept his bargain, dropped out of law school and entered the monastery there.

Luther’s struggle to find peace with God

Young Brother Martin fully dedicated himself to monastic life, the effort to do good works to please God and to serve others through prayer for their souls. Yet peace with God escaped him. He devoted himself to fasts, flagellations, long hours in prayer and pilgrimages, and constant confession. The more he tried to do for God, it seemed, the more aware he became of his sinfulness.

Johann von Staupitz, Luther’s superior, concluded the young man needed more work to distract him from pondering himself. He ordered the monk to pursue an academic career. In 1507 Luther was ordained to the priesthood. In 1508 he began teaching theology at the University of Wittenberg. Luther earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies on 9 March 1508 and a Bachelor’s degree in the Sentences by Peter Lombard, (the main textbook of theology in the Middle Ages) in 1509. On 19 October 1512, the University of Wittenberg conferred upon Martin Luther the degree of Doctor of Theology.

Martin Luther’s Evangelical Discovery

The demands of study for academic degrees and preparation for delivering lectures drove Martin Luther to study the Scriptures in depth. Luther immersed himself in the teachings of the Scripture and the early church. Slowly, terms like penance and righteousness took on new meaning. The controversy that broke loose with the publication of his 95 Theses placed even more pressure on the reformer to study the Bible. This study convinced him that the Church had lost sight of several central truths. To Luther, the most important of these was the doctrine that brought him peace with God.

With joy, Luther now believed and taught that salvation is a gift of God’s grace, received by faith and trust in God’s promise to forgive sins for the sake of Christ’s death on the cross. This, he believed was God’s work from beginning to end.

Luther’s 95 Theses

On Halloween of 1517, Luther changed the course of human history when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg, accusing the Roman Catholic church of heresy upon heresy. Many people cite this act as the primary starting point of the Protestant Reformation… though to be sure, John Wycliffe, John Hus, Thomas Linacre, John Colet, and others had already put the life’s work and even their lives on the line for same cause of truth, constructing the foundation of Reform upon which Luther now built. Luther’s action was in great part a response to the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel, a Dominican priest. Luther’s charges also directly challenged the position of the clergy in regard to individual salvation. Before long, Luther’s 95 Theses of Contention had been copied and published all over Europe.

Here I Stand

Luther’s Protestant views were condemned as heretical by Pope Leo X in the bull Exsurge Domine in 1520. Consequently Luther was summoned to either renounce or reaffirm them at the Diet of Worms on 17 April 1521. When he appeared before the assembly, Johann von Eck, by then assistant to the Archbishop of Trier, acted as spokesman for Emperor Charles the Fifth. He presented Luther with a table filled with copies of his writings. Eck asked Luther if he still believed what these works taught. He requested time to think about his answer. Granted an extension, Luther prayed, consulted with friends and mediators and presented himself before the Diet the next day.

Meeting of the Diet (assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire at Worms, Germany, in 1521, where Martin Luther defended his Protestant principles and was excommunicated

When the counselor put the same question to Luther the next day, the reformer apologized for the harsh tone of many of his writings, but said that he could not reject the majority of them or the teachings in them. Luther respectfully but boldly stated, „Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.„On May 25, the Emperor issued his Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.

Luther in Exile at the Wartburg Castle

The room in Wartburg where     Luther translated the New Testament into German. An original first edition of the translation is kept under the case on the desk.

Luther had powerful friends among the princes of Germany, one of whom was his own prince, Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony. The prince arranged for Luther to be seized on his way from the Diet by a company of masked horsemen, who carried him to the castle of the Wartburg, where he was kept about a year. He grew a wide flaring beard; took on the garb of a knight and assumed the pseudonym Jörg. During this period of forced sojourn in the world, Luther was still hard at work upon his celebrated translation of the Bible, though he couldn’t rely on the isolation of a monastery. During his translation, Luther would make forays into the nearby towns and markets to listen to people speak, so that he could put his translation of the Bible into the language of the people.

Although his stay at the Wartburg kept Luther hidden from public view, Luther often received letters from his friends and allies, asking for his views and advice. For example, Luther’s closest friend, Philipp Melanchthon, wrote to him and asked how to answer the charge that the reformers neglected pilgrimages, fasts and other traditional forms of piety. Luther’s replied: „If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign.” [Letter 99.13, To Philipp Melanchthon, 1 August 1521.]

Martin Luther’s German Bible

1529 Luther New Testament: The Oldest Printed German N.T. Scripture

Martin Luther was the first person to translate and publish the Bible in the commonly-spoken dialect of the German people. He used the recent 1516 critical Greek edition of Erasmus, a text which was later called textus receptus. The Luther German New Testament translation was first published in September of 1522. The translation of the Old Testament followed, yielding an entire German language Bible in 1534.

Luther is also know to have befriended William Tyndale, and given him safe haven and assistance in using the same 1516 Erasmus Greek-Latin Parallel New Testament that had been the source text for his German New Testament of 1522, as the trustworthy source text for Tyndale’s English New Testament of 1525-26.

Luther’s Writings

The number of books attributed to Martin Luther is quite impressive. However, some Luther scholars contend that many of the works were at least drafted by some of his good friends like Philipp Melanchthon. Luther’s books explain the settings of the epistles and show the conformity of the books of

1523 Luther Pentateuch:  The Oldest Printed      German Scripture

the Bible to each other. Of special note would be his writings about the Epistle to the Galatians in which he compares himself to the Apostle Paul in his defense of the Gospel. Luther also wrote about church administration and wrote much about the Christian home.

Luther’s work contains a number of statements that modern readers would consider rather crude. For example, Luther was know to advise people that they should literally “Tell the Devil he may kiss my ass.” It should be remembered that Luther received many communications from throughout Europe from people who could write anonymously, that is, without the specter of mass media making their communications known. No public figure today could write in the manner of the correspondences Luther received or in the way Luther responded to them. Luther was certainly a theologian of the middle-ages. He was an earthy man who enjoyed his beer, and was bold and often totally without tact in the blunt truth he vehemently preached. While this offended many, it endeared him all the more to others.

He was open with his frustrations and emotions, as well. Once, when asked if he truly loved God, Luther replied “Love God? Sometimes I hate Him!” Luther was also frustrated by the works-emphasis of the book of James, calling it “the Epistle of Straw, and questioning its canonicity. Also irritated with the complex symbolism of the Book of Revelation, he once said that it too, was not canon, and that it should be thrown into the river! He later retracted these statements, of course. Luther was a man who was easily misquoted or taken out of context. While a brilliant theologian, and a bold reformer, he would not have made a good politician. But then, he never aspired to any career in politics.

Luther’s 1534 Bible.

Martin Luther and Judaism

Luther initially preached tolerance towards the Jewish people, convinced that the reason they had never converted to Christianity was that they were discriminated against, or had never heard the Gospel of Christ. However, after his overtures to Jews failed to convince Jewish people to adopt Christianity, he began preaching that the Jews were set in evil, anti-Christian ways, and needed to be expelled from German politics. In his On the Jews and Their Lies, he repeatedly quotes the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:34, where Jesus called them „a brood of vipers and children of the devil”

Katharina von Bora, Luther’s wife (1523), by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526

Luther was zealous toward the Gospel, and he wanted to protect the people of his homeland from the Jews who he believed would be harmful influences since they did not recognize Jesus as their Saviour. In Luther’s time, parents had a right and a duty to direct their children’s marriage choices in respect to matters of faith. Likewise, Luther felt a duty to direct his German people to cling to the Jesus the Jews did not accept. It should be noted that church law was superior to civil law in Luther’s day and that law said the penalty of blasphemy was death. When Luther called for the deaths of certain Jews, he was merely asking that the laws that were applied to all other Germans also be applied to the Jews. The Jews were exempt from the church laws that Christians were bound by, most notably the law against charging interest.

Martin Luther’s Death

Martin Luther escaped martyrdom, and died of natural causes. His last written words were, „Know that no one can have indulged in the Holy Writers sufficiently, unless he has governed churches for a hundred years with the prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles… We are beggars: this is true.

pictures and information (via) Wikipedia and GreatSite

Related Articles:

  1. Martin Luther –  Video Color, Video black and white
  2. John Wycliffe – first English Bible Translator Biography and  Video
  3. William Tyndale- first Bible translator from original languages Biography and Video
  4. The Impact of the printing Press on the Reformation
  5. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch
  6. The bestselling book of all times Part 1
  7. The bestselling book of all times Part 2

Carl Trueman at SBTS (4) Panel discussion (from the Luther lectures)


See

Southern Seminary SBTS Panel with Carl Trueman, Dan Dumas, and Michael Haykin. Unlike the three lectures which were all on the subject of Luther, this discussion turns to seminaries and their role in the spiritual formation of the students.

A few of the points discussed:

  • What about Spiritual formation as something within the curriculum (that pervades the curriculum) instead of as a separate discipline in the seminaries?

Michael Haykin: Biblical spirituality is the teaching and the communication of biblical truth about the way in which we draw near to God, then He is drawn near to us. It is therefore rooted deeply in the cross and the meritorious work and life of Jesus Christ and is conveyed to us by the Holy Spirit. And so, it’s reflecting about theology, which has to be there as a foundation, that is why the recent interest in spirituality in evangelical circles ( a la Dallas Willard and Richard Foster) which doesn’t lay religious doctrinal foundations is problematic. So it’s definitely got biblical foundations, building on that, showing and teaching how we appropriate the riches that are in Christ via prayer, bible meditation,  and the other things we describe as spiritual disciplines that are a means of grace.

(16 min) There has been a significant collapse of patterns of piety established at the reformation, honed through the puritan period, still in place there, among evangelicals in the 18th and early 19th century, but then have collapsed completely in the 20th century.

Carl Trueman: The sheer size of seminaries today imposes limitations on how we can form individual students as christians. And that’s where I can see again, the church coming into play. Certainly, when I stand up in front of the class I can model a certain kind of christianity to my students. But, I think the primary place where spirituality is formed has to be the church. It also goes back yo my fear that the parachurch (seminaries included) supplants the church

  • Concerns about the overall trends in the evangelical circles, primarily about what the church should be doing being passed down to parachurch ministries (such as seminaries).
  • Sometimes spiritual formation gets very narrowly defined by seminaries in a way that can be somewhat self serving. We should not make the attendance of chapel compulsory. We have a different profile of student than we had even, say 30 years ago. Lots of our students are working their way through seminary and I’m not sure the person who had to go to chapel at 10:30 in the morning is doing something more meritorious and forming than coming off night shift, straight to my 8:30 class, then going home to see his wife.

Panel Discussion from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

Carl Trueman Lecture at SBTS (3) Martin Luther – The Tools of the Trade

Watch

Dr. Carl Trueman: In the first lecture I wanted to make the argument that theology and the practice of ministry are intimately connected. Luther is a great example of this. You see that Luther’s theology really drives his understanding of the shape of pastoral ministry. And I wanted to challenge you to move beyond the merely historical point I’m making there, to reflect longer on how you perceive ministry and how your perception actually reflects something about your theological convictions and to urge you to allow your theological convictions to drive how you think about ministry.

The second lecture I talked about Luther’s understanding of the word of God, how God is fundamentally to us, a God who speaks. And God’s speech essential constitutes reality. And I applied that to the nature of preaching. I think one of Luther’s great insights is the connection he makes between the speech of God and the speech of the preacher. And I hope that those of you who are preachers, or are going to be preachers will be excited by that idea that when the preacher speaks God’s word is powerful.

The final lecture- The Tools of the Trade- I wanna make the point that ordinary people mattered to the shape of Luther’s reformation. These are the people that are not typically featured in the textbooks other than as statistics, because, by and large they were too busy working to put bread on the table than to write books about how they’re feeling. But, yet, Luther’s connection with these people profoundly shaped how he executed his task as pastor.

So, in the third lecture I want to examine the practicality of Luther’s own pastoral ministry. As with all pastors, Luther is of course a flawed human being. And the details of his actual practice do not entirely square with his theology. One obvious example would be his increasingly bitter preoccupation with the Jews, which one finds from the 1530’s onwards. Frustrated by their failure to convert to Christianity, Luther adopted, and, indeed sharpened many of the standard –- of the anti Jewish polemic, which was so common in late medieval Europe. Indeed, his very last sermon, preached in 1546 ended with a bitter harangue against the jews. Thus, I accept at the outset that if you dig deep into Luther’s life, you will find inconsistencies and hypocrisies, here and there. My point here is not to argue for the total consistency of Luther, but rather a general conformity of his practice to his theological commitments.

The reform of worship

The first point to make as we now approach Luther’s pastoral practice, is that the way in which he reformed worship was intimately connected to his care and concern for ordinary people. Many of us are familiar with his treatise on prayer, which was originally a letter to his hairdresser Peter, who had told him while cutting his hair that he struggled with his prayer life. Reflect on that for awhile. Luther had time to write a handbook on prayer for the man who cut his hair.

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ la...

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ lag in Todes Banden, and who, with Johann Walter, also wrote the melody (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even the briefest glance at Luther’s volume of letters reveal a man who was equally comfortable writing to powerful princes and to much lesser individuals with words of encouragement, counsel and occasional letters of rebuke. Yet, Luther’s care for people has significance, not simply for his personal relations, but also for the pace and shape of the Lutheran reformation. Basic to the reformation was the education of the people in the patterns of thought and behavior reformers required by their new theology. This issue raised all manner of pedagogical questions, which in turn raised questions about what we might call now broadly – aesthetics. What was church meant to look like? What was church meant to sound like? What was family piety and individual devotions meant to look like and sound like?

In the early years of the reformation, leadership at Wittenberg was shared by Martin Luther and his academic colleague, one time friend and later nemesis, a man called Andreas Bodenstein, (named Karlstadt after his birthplace). In the years after 1517, these 2 men came to represent 2 different visions of reform and Wittenberg would ultimately prove that it was only big enough to allow only one man to succeed.

Things came to a head in 1522. After the Diet of Worms, Luther was kidnapped by his prince, Frederick the Wise’s men and kept for his own safety in the Wartburg castle, high on the hills of Eisenach where he began his work of producing a German reformation Bible, by translating the New Testament.

As Luther is in the Wartburg castle, the leadership passes to Karlstadt. Luther’s young assistant Philip Melanchthon and  his colleague Conrad Zwilling pushed very hard for radical reformation, which has all of the hallmarks of social revolution. Iconoclasm, violent rhetoric at rapid pace. Luther, later in 1521 travels to Wittenberg incognito to see the chaos first hand. And then in 1522 he’s brought back by Frederick the Wise because the riots are getting out of hand and if the reformation descends into total chaos, Frederick will have to act to crush it because the emperor Charles V will move against Saxony. Luther comes back and I think this is the point in his career where he is actually in most danger because if he can’t quell the riots in Wittenberg, and all he can use to do that is his own force of personality, he will be replaced by Frederick the Wise.

Luther comes back, quells the social revolution in Wittenberg and introduces  a much more conservative vision of reformation. There will be no iconoclasm. If you go to a Lutheran church today, you will find crucifixes. The conservative however of Luther’s intervention in 1522 was not simply a piece of political pragmatism. I think it was also connected to his pastoral sensitivity. Luther knew that lasting change could only be brought about by gentle persuasion. Most people then, as ever since did not like change. And so, Luther demonstrated in 1522 and throughout his subsequent career an aesthetic conservatism, which was designed as much to prevent the disturbance of tender consciences as it was to appease the desire of his political masters.

We tend to romanticize the reformation and we think that everybody is desperate for the reformation to come to town. We see evidence of this in Luther’s liturgical innovations. From as early as 1520, it is clear that Lutheran theology demands vernacular liturgy. How could the mass, for example, be any use if the words of promise are not clearly articulated in a language which the people could understand? Yet, for a man who stands out in history as a volcanic revolutionary, Luther’s move towards liturgical reform are gradual and hesitant. This is how he describes his approach in a pamphlet in 1523(6 yrs. after the crisis of 1517): Until now, I have only used books and sermons to wean the charts of the people from their Godless regard for the ceremonial. For I believed it would be a christian and helpful thing, if I could prompt a peaceful removal of the abomination that Satan sets up in the holy place, through the man of sin. Therefore I’ve used neither authority or pressure, nor did I make any innovations for I have been hesitant and fearful, partly because of the weak in faith who cannot suddenly exchange an accustomed order of worship for a new and unusual one and also because of the fickle  and fastidious spirits who rush in like unclean swine without faith or reason and who delight only in novelty and tires of it as quickly when it is worn off. Such people are a nuisance, even in other affairs. But, in spiritual matters they are absolutely unbearable. Nonetheless, at the risk of bursting with anger, I must bear with them, unless I want to let the Gospel itself be denied to the people.

Here, Luther made it clear that he was concerned to handle the delicate consciences with care and also to give no ground to those who seek novelty or innovation for its own sake. The liturgy he then described in 1523 was itself very conservative. Essentially, a cleaned up version of the traditional mass. Still in Latin, except for the sermon and a few hymns. And later, Luther can hardly be described as being in the vanguard of the application of his own theological principles to liturgical reform.

Indeed, even in 1524, as he wrote against the radicals, Luther rejoiced that the mass was now said in German, but also argued that such a practice should not be made compulsory lest it become a new legalism. And also because he was not yet satisfied that the German liturgy captured the full beauty of what was going on. It was not until October 1525 that a full German mass was celebrated in Wittenberg.  That’s as early as Luther feels able to push forward with the full application of theology that he’s fully articulating in 1517-1518. It’s remarkable sensitivity. (17 min mark)

The Tools of the Trade from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

Carl Trueman at SBTS (2) The Word in Action – Luther’s theology of the preached word

See

Dr. Carl Trueman:

In lecture 2 I want to talk about the power in the Word. In the first lecture (click on link above for first lecture)  I sketched out the basics of Luther’s theology, with particular reference to his understanding of God’s revelation of Himself in the incarnate and crucified flesh of Jesus Christ. There, and only there did Luther believe one can find God revealed as being gracious towards sinners. To approach God in any way, outside the flesh of Christ was to approach the God of righteous judgment. A consuming fire, the terrifying God who rides on the wing of  a storm and who is accountable to no one. And before whom no sinful creature can stand and expect to live.

In the second lecture I want to move from the theological foundations we’ve established to Luther’s theology of the preached word. And by the third lecture we’ll finally get to Luther’s practice of pastoral ministry. But, it’s in the preached word that the church encounters the crucified Christ and thus the preached word which must be central to the church’s life and actions. In addition, we must also remember the basic arguments of these lectures as a whole, that Luther’s theology is determinative of his understanding of the nature and the toils of the pastoral ministry.

That he would have found modern evangelical claims to ‘agree on the Gospel’, but, ‘to allow freedom in method and practice’ to be strange. Not that the Lutheran reformation looked exactly the same, everywhere in Germany. Liturgy varied in detail between places, but the basic shape of pastoral ministry and of church life enjoyed a high degree of consensus. As is the historian’s way, however, I cannot begin the story of Luther’s understanding of the word of god with Luther himself.

The late medieval background

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ la...

…..  In many ways Luther remained a man of medieval ages. His politically conservative futurism and his acute sense of the physical presence of the devil, and also of demons and imps are just two examples of what separates him from the other reformers. who were trained as renaissance humanists and were men of the modern age. On the theological front, it was the late medieval critical philosophy of the language, connected to the radical application of what was called the dialectic of God’s two powers which gripped Luther’s theological imagination and remained with him from the monastic cloister to the day of his death.

…..Competency in human reason had been declining from the 12th century onwards in Europe. And this dialectic between the 2 powers of God was used in a dialectic and critical way to articulate the increasing epistemological modesty that people had with regard to God. Human reason came to be regarded less and less competent to predict what God would be like. And first, theologians focused increasingly on revelation as the source of the knowledge of God. We shouldn’t get too excited, as that revelation was not identified with Scripture, by these late medieval theologians so much as the teaching of the church’s magisterium. The distinction also fed and strengthened a perennial linguistic debate about the nature and function of words. And this will become significant for Luther’s understanding of preaching. Taken to its extreme this became an anti-essentialist view of being which effectively made words themselves the determiners of reality. This is what is known as late medieval nominalism and it was the linguistic school in which Luther was trained and whose basic assumptions remained with him throughout his entire career, to the day of his death.

Those critics of post modernism, such as Terry Eagleton have pointed out there are pointed similarities between medieval nominalism and certain schools of post modern linguistic theory. We might summarize these similarities by saying that both envisage the world as a linguistic construct. Words, not essences become determinative and constitutive of reality. I suspect that Luther would have little time for the excesses of postmodern anti-essentialism with the kind of kaleidoscopic anarchy it has created with the regard to gender, sexuality and even the notion of human nature. Nevertheless, we should note that Luther would not object to postmodernism by reasserting a kind of essentialism. Rather, I suspect, Luther’s rejection of postmodern anarchy would be based on his belief that God is the supreme reality, that He is ultimately the one who speaks, and whose speech is therefore the ground of existence and of difference. Reality is not determined by the linguistic proclivities of any human individual, or any human community, but by the word of God.

The theological implications of this should become obvious. For example, to refer back to the theology of the cross- the empiricist, the essentialist looks at the cross and sees weakness, agony, suffering and defeat, and no more. That is the outward aesthetics of the cross would seem to indicate. And it is what the social and philosophical conventions of Jews and Greeks of 1st Corinthians would also lead them to believe. But, neither the empirical aesthetics, nor their interpretation through the grid of their constructed social conventions are actually any guide to the reality  of what is taking place. God has extrinsically declared the cross to be powerful, a victory, a moment of triumph. And God’s word trumps everything in determining the reality that is there. Thus, only those christians who reject the evidence of their senses, and reject the established logic and expectations of their culture and trust instead in their counter intuitive truth of God’s words can truly understand the reality.

The same, of course applies to justification. Older medieval approaches to justification required the individual actually to be somewhat righteous before God could declare the person to be justified. Late medieval theologian Gabriel Biel had broken with this tradition, arguing instead that God could set His own criteria for the declaration of justification. For Biel, God had entered into a pact with human beings and had agreed that according to His ordained power He was going to accept an individual’s best efforts as righteousness, as meeting the condition for God to declare that person to be in a state of grace. Once in such a state of grace, the individual could then benefit form sacramental grace  and do works of real righteousness and intrinsic merit.

Luther came to reject the theology of Biel as a form of semi pelagianism. The very idea that one could do one’s best and meet any condition became anathema to him. If human beings are morally dead, then the only things they can do is acknowledge that in all humility despair in themselves and look to God for unmerited mercy. Yet in breaking with Biel, Luther remained indebted to one of Biel’s most important conceptual moves. For Biel, as later for Luther, the justified person was not necessarily, actually, intrinsically righteous. They were simply declared extrinsically to be righteous by God.

By making entry into a state of grace, something that was not based on intrinsic merit, but rather on merit determined on extrinsic pactum. Biel first shattered the link between essential reality and divinely determined reality. For those of you interested in the history of the ‘History of Dogma’ will know that this is something for which conservative catholic historians of dogma have never forgiven him and which indeed shapes how our contemporary historians like Brad S. Gregory of Notre Dame views the reformation. The reformation is seen as the ultimate evil fruit of late medieval anti-essentialism.

The practical significance of this linguistic philosophy for Luther as pastor is that words become absolutely foundational to everything the pastor does. If words determine reality, then of all things the pastor does, the words he speaks are the most important: Reading the bible in public, preaching the word form the pulpit, applying the word individually in the confessional. Each of these things determine the reality of the church. This linguistic emphasis also helps explain to those of us with less sacramental proclivities than Luther why he holds such high views of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. That on the latter point at least, he’s willing to divide protestantism over the issue.  Incidentally, Luther’s objection to transubstantiation is not in 1520 that the body and blood of Christ are there, it’s that the bread and the wine have disappeared.

It would be remiss of me simply to reduce Luther’s reformation theology to a particularly radical application of late medieval linguistic theory as a means of solving his own personal issues

The Word in Action from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

Carl Trueman at SBTS (1) Theological and Biographical Foundations – Reflections upon Luther

Dr. Carl Trueman is Professor of Historical Theology and Church History and Paul Woolley Chair of Church History and he blogs regularly at Reformation21.

See his full bio here http://www.wts.edu/faculty/profiles/trueman.html

Dr. Trueman’s teaching history:

  • Tutorial Assistant in Church History, University of Aberdeen, 1991–1993
  • Lecturer in Theology, University of Nottingham, 1993–1998
  • Senior Lecturer in Church History, University of Aberdeen, 1998–2001
  • Westminster Theological Seminary, 2001– Currently serving

If you have never read or heard Dr. Trueman, here are some notes from the beginning of this lecture (from the first 18 minutes). Dr. Carl Trueman:

Reflections upon Luther’s life & practice of the Christian ministry

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ la...

–In the years since the reformation, especially in the last 100 years of scholarship, the categories used to understand him (Luther) have become more variegated and subtle. Amongst many other approaches, he has been studied as the man who brought to a church shattering conclusion, the critical theology of the late medieval nominalists. He’s been the freudian man. (this will be discussed at length in part 2- to be posted tomorrow) projecting unto God his disrupted relationship with his own father.  He’s been the heir of late medieval eschatological expectation. He’s been the quintessential humorist of theological polemics. And, in a darker vein he has been seen as the fountainhead of German anti-semitism.

One area of comparative neglect, however in Luther’s studies is that of Luther’s pastor, and that’s surprising. Prior to the Reformation Luther was not only a monk, he was also a priest. He was ordained in 1507 and that meant that his professional religious life would never simply have been that of a university professor, or the monastic cloister. He was also  involved, on a day to day basis, with the lives of the people in his church. And indeed, it was this pastoral life, this pastoral concern which provided the trigger for the Reformation protest. when he came to see the sale of indulgences as impacting the lives of ordinary men and women of Wittenberg who were wasting their material goods on such counterfeit grace. (8 min mark)

In this 1st video Dr. Trueman lays out the basic theological elements of Luther’s thoughts, which then impacted his pastoral practice, and how Luther regarded the identity of God relative to fallen humanity, and central to this is the crucified flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • The topic of Luther as pastor is not simply  one of interest to historians, it also makes it significant to those pursuing pastoral ministry today. In the current conservative evangelical climate, much is made often of agreements on necessary theological doctrines in the context of the freedom to disagree over issues of pastoral and ecclesiastical practice. By way of contrast, the life and theology of Luther shows how theology and practice are actually more closely connected  than we might perhaps wish to imagine. Thus, in these lectures I am not primarily advocating Luther as a pastoral paradigm to be followed, although one could surely choose worst examples, but, rather as a test case for showing how theology and practice have certain necessary connections. A point which I believe is absent from major currents of American evangelical life, where a routine separation of theology and method, or perhaps theology and practical ecclesiology is often standard.

1. Theology of the cross

It is an oft repeated cliche that Luther was not a systematic theologian. Luther is in fact a remarkably consistent theologian. His treatise on The Bondage of the Will (1525) is a remarkably consistent exploration of  the theological foundations of justification by grace through faith, both as it relates to the issue of human choice and as it related to the question of Scriptural perspicuity. Similarly, the development of his Christology in relation to the Lord’s Supper between 1520 and 1529 is again a story of the consistent application and outworking of fundamental concern and insight  which are right there at the start of his reformation protest.

One of the foundational insights which emerges in Luther’s early thinking, early in his reformation career and receives dramatic exposure at the Heidelberg disputation in 1518 is the so called Theology of the Cross. When Luther places his 95 Theses on the castle door, in October 1517. In actuality, if you read The 95 Theses, it’s a petty boring document. You need to know quite a bit about medieval theology  even to understand what he’s getting at.

A much more appropriate start for the Reformation is April 1518, when Luther, as a member of the Augustinian order is attending a standard meeting of the order, in Heidelberg and has one of his friends present a series of theses for debate, that he himself had written. These are called the Heidelberg Disputation. It is often said here that he articulates the theology of the cross. In the theses of the disputation Luther himself does not refer to it as the theology of the cross, he refers to a theologian of the cross. And the text has frequently been mistranslated on this point and does not help to convey the richness of what Luther is trying to communicate.

The difference is important. Luther is not thinking of theology in some abstract way, as a technique or a set of rules, or procedures to follow which often lead one to correct theological formulations. He’s rather thinking in holistic terms. A theology as an action, performed by an individual which is intimately related to the nature and status of the person performing the action. Here are the key thesis in laying out the theology of the cross idea in full:

–„That person does not deserve to be called a theologian, who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and the manifest things of God, seen through suffering on the cross. A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works, as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded and hardened”.

In short, one might summarize Luther’s basic epistemological points here by saying that theologians of glory  assume that God is much like themselves.  and therefore must conform to their conventions. The theologians of the cross, however, know that God is who He is and to know Him one must look to His revelation of Himself and that, primarily, on the cross. In placing the cross at the center of his theological program, Luther stands in continuity with his preoccupation of certain influential strands of late medieval theology. (16 min mark)

……………..

For Luther, the cross becomes the criterion of theology and thus the means for understanding the whole of spiritual reality. This has numerous implications. For example, it points clearly to Luther’s later abolition of the line between sacred and secular callings. What makes the theologian of the cross a true theologian? It’s not that he does theology, that he thinks and talks about God. That is the task he shares with theologians of glory…. Luther is actually making the point that everyone is a theologian. Either of glory or of the cross. What makes the difference is the mode in which the person does theology… The theologian of the cross does theology by faith in God’s revelation alone and based upon God’s revelation alone. (18 min mark)

Theological and Biographical Foundations from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

Related posts

ISTORIA ANABAPTISTILOR – Daniel Branzai (Lucrare de baza pentru Romanii Protestanti)

(sursa) situl Crestinul

Miscarea Anabaptistilor e importanta pentru ca Anabaptistii au fost percusori ai Reformei.

Mişcarea anabaptistă

1. ASPECTE METODICE

1.1. Definirea, incadrarea si delimitarea subiectului.

Sub aspectul cercetarii istorice, subiectul se defineste atat ca subiect de istorie a crestinismului in cadrul istoriei religiilor, care apartin stiintei seculare, folosind metode obiective, cat si ca subiect de istorie a Bisericii, ca ramura a Teologiei, folosind metoda de cercetare teologica din perspectiva evanghelica.

Subiectul se defineste drept studiu al unei miscari crestine constituite in timpul Reformei din sec. al XVI-lea, miscare care are continuitate pana in prezent. Din acest punct de vedere, se coreleaza cu o alta ramura a Teologiei istorice, si anume istoria gandirii crestine sau istoria doctrinelor crestine.

Prin problemele de teologie sistematica pe care le pune istoria doctrinelor, subiectul se coreleaza si cu teologia sistematica, mai ales cu dogmatica si cu teologia polemica. Prin problemele de teologie practica, subiectul cercetat se leaga de ramuri ca teologia evanghelizarii sau misionarism, teologia pastorala, liturgica, etc…

Din punct de vedere al istoriei seculare, subiectul pune probleme ce depasesc istoria bisericeasca, raportandu-se la istoria culturii si civilizatiei, societate, economie, stat, corelate, bineinteles, cu problema fundamentala a relatiei dintre Biserica, stat, si natiune.

1.2. Importanta problemei cercetate care justifica abordarea ei in aceasta lucrare.

Lucrarea anabaptista apartine Reformei radicale, care, la inceput, a fost prezentata ca extremista, iar in prezent este reconsiderata de teologii protestanti, mai ales cei evanghelici, fiindca prin tendinta ei anabaptista este precursoarea tuturor bisericilor evanghelice care practica botezul la varsta adulta. Prin tendinta radicala de traire integrala a crestinismului, precede fundamentalismul neoprotestant, iar prin tendinta entuziasta, precede miscarea penticostala.

Anabaptistii au separat radical Biserica de Stat, prefigurand un aspect care va fi reluat in America de Nord de baptisti, si care se va impune in statele seculare dupa Revolutia franceza din 1789. Din alt punct de vedere, participarea partiala a miscarii anabaptiste la miscarea hiliasta ( milenista), care a incercat sa instaureze o societate bazata pe crestinismul comunitar, a prefigurat socialismul secular din sec. XVIII- XIV, de la Saint Simon la Marx, care nu au facut decat sa „teoretizeze” o imparatie de 1 000 de ani fara Dumnezeu.

Esecul de a instaura o societate milenista pe scara larga a condus la aparitia comunitatilor anabaptiste inchise. In prezent, aceste comunitati tind sa se deschida si contribuie prin scrieri si activitati practice la dezvoltarea conceptiei dupa care Biserica preia de la statul secular sfere intinse de activitate.

Invatamantul, asistenta sociala, asigurarile si multe alte domenii care privesc viata sociala a membrilor sunt preocupari importante pentru Biserica. In felul acesta este limitata activitatea statului, reducandu-se riscul aparitiei tensiunilor social-politice. Importanta miscarii anabaptiste, ca subiect de cercetare reiese si din faptul ca a influientat istoria crestinismului din tara noastra, unde tendinta anabaptista spre unitarism este si mai clara prin faptul ca promotorul unitarismului in Transilvania, David Francisc a fost si promotorul anabaptistilor.

Tendinta actuala de apropiere a miscarii anabaptiste de cea evanghelica justifica un studiu pozitiv al acestor reprezentanti ai Reformei radicale.

1.3. Obiectivele cercetarii.

Originea, aparitia si dezvoltarea miscarii anabaptiste evanglelice in Elvetia, Imperiul Romano – German, Olanda, Transilvania, continuarea miscarii anabaptiste pana in prezent si tendintele ei actuale.

2. DE LA PRECURSORII REFORMEI (PREREFORMATORI) LA MAREA REFORMA PROTESTANTA

2.1. VIATA SPIRITUALA IN EVUL MEDIU

2.1.1. DECADENTA CRESTINISMULUI

Biserica Crestina, din perioada apostolilor si pana la Reforma, a fost mai intai biruitoare, in ciuda persecutiilor, dar apoi, incepand cu sec.IV a cunoscut o perioada de decadenta si declin, care s-a accentuat cu trecerea timpului.

Una din devierile timpurii de la invataturile Noului Testament a fost supozitia ca actele de cult contin puteri magice si sunt mijloace prin care se obtine mantuirea.

Botezul, in decursul timpului, a ajuns sa fie vazut ca un instrument de regenerare iar participarea la impartasanie ca un mijloc de obtinere a iertarii pacatelor savarsite dupa botez.

In decursul catorva secole, alte grave erori si practici nescripturale si-au gasit drumul in biserica. Odata cu acceptarea religiei crestine de catre Constantin, imparatul Imperiului Roman, persecutiile au incetat. Atunci a inceput cresterea exterioara si expansiunea bisericii.

Constantin si fiii lui, care i-au succedat la domnie, au acordat privilegii Bisericii, iar mai tarziu, crestinismul a devenit religie de stat. Teodosiu I, in anul 380 a dat un edict in care declara crestinismul religie de stat. Biserica s-a unit cu statul si mai tarziu, populatia a fost silita sa devina crestina.

Toate conditiile preliminare de a putea fi primit ca membru in biserica au fost abandonate, cu exceptia botezului, care a fost facut obligatoriu. Deoarece, in teorie, acest act de cult trebuia sa fie un instrument de regenerare, membrii bisericii erau considerati persoane regenerate. A fost introdus botezul copiilor mici, ceea ce inseamna ca biserica nu mai putea fi un trup de credinciosi. Disciplinarea biblica nu mai putea fi aplicata in biserica.

Consecinta acestui declin in credinta si practica a dus la pierderea standardului de viata si practica lasat de apostoli.

Ideea de preotie, luata in mod literal, a inlocuit preotia spirituala a tuturor credinciosilor. Preotii acestor biserici erau considerati ca mediatori intre Dumnezeu si om. Acum, o preotie luata in sens literal, avea nevoie de un altar, sacrificii, deasemenea luate in sens literal. Acest lucru s-a realizat prin ceremonia liturghiei, cu supozitia ca painea sau azima, in serviciul de impartasanie, este schimbata in trupul Domnului Isus, si ca El trebuie, in mod literar, oferit din nou si din nou, ca ispasire pentru pacat.

Rugaciunea catre Maria si sfinti era considerata necesara. In limbajul Scripturii, sfintii sunt cei credinciosi. In viziunea bisericii numai cei ce se canonizau si erau despartiti de viata lumeasca, erau considerati sfinti.

In timp, imagini despre Isus si sfinti au inceput sa fie obiecte de inchinare si adoratie. Biserica de Apus si cea de Rasarit aveau practici diferite in ceea ce priveste obiectele de inchinare (picturi, statui de piatra, lemn).

Printre semnele clare ale indepartarii de invataturile Noului Testament au fost doctrinele cu privire la purgatoriu, indulgente, folosirea apei si uleiului sfint, superstitiile legate de relicve, si alte practici.

Dupa secolul al 12-lea credinciosului nu i se dadea si vinul, ci numai painea, considerandu-se ca fiecare element continea si trupul si sangele lui Hristos.

Muzica a devenit complicata si colorata ca un acompaniament potrivit pentru misterele sacre al liturghiei.

Intre anii 1309-1439 Biserica Romana a ajuns cat se poate de jos in ochii laicilor. Organizarea ierarhica cu cererea ei de celibat a dus la un declin in morala clericilor. Multi preoti aveau concubine sau se angajau in aventuri nepermise cu membre din bisericile lor.

Papalitatea si-a pierdut prestigiul datorita evenimentelor legate de “Captivitatea Babiloniana” si “Marea Schisma”. Impozitele papale si numeroase alte taxe au devenit o povara pentru populatie. In anumite tari(Franta, Anglia) statul national a devenit suficient de puternic pentru a-l sfida pe papa si a incerca sa supuna Biserica intereselor nationale. Toate acestea cereau reforma interna a papalitatii in perioada evului mediu tarziu.

2.1.2. O epoca a nelinistii

Cele doua secole care preced reforma s-au dovedit in mod remarcabil vitale in fata unei provocari si schimbari fara precedent. Cu cat se inmulteau abuzurile in biserica, cu atat se se auzeau mai multe strigate pentru reforma. Noi forme de pietate laica, mici tratate devotionale, interes renascut pentru relicve, pelerinaje si sfinti, miscarile religioase – toate marturisesc o spiritualitate cu radacini adanci. Se poate observa crestere constanta in intensitate si profunzime a sentimentului religios pana la perioada Reformei.

Acest lucru nu inseamna negarea realitatii ca Evul Mediu Tarziu a trecut si prin perioade de transformari politice, sociale, economice si religioase.

Poetul Eustache Deschamps spunea „Acum lumea e lasa, decazuta si slaba, batrana , invidioasa si balbaita. Nu vad decat barbati si femei nebune. Se apropie sfarsitul, intradevar …..toate merg prost„, exprimand starea generala de melancolie.

De fapt aceasta stare de indispozitie, sentimentul ca vremurile au scapat de sub control, combinata cu asteptarile religioase tot mai mari, a produs o epoca de extraordinara neliniste.

In cartea sa , The Courage To Be, Paul Tillich schiteaza istoria civilizatiei vestice in termenii a trei tipuri recurente de neliniste, de frica.

Sfarsitul antichitatii clasice a fost marcat de o neliniste ontologica, de o preocupare intensa pentru soarta si moartea omului. Catre sfarsitul Evului Mediu, a predominat o neliniste caracterizata de un sentiment de vinovatie si frica de condamnare. Aceasta, in schimb, a lasat loc, catre sfarsitul epocii moderne, unei nelinisti spirituale, unui sentiment de desertaciune si lipsa de sens. Moartea, sentimentul vinovatiei si al lipsei de sens rasuna ca o nota distonanta in literatura, arta si teologia acestei perioade.

Aceste trei teme se contureaza in zbaterea lui Luther si in incercarea lui de a gasi un Dumnezeu plin de har. Prins in mijlocul unei furtuni cu tunete si trasnete, si temandu-se ca i se apropie sfarsitul, Luther a jurat ca va deveni calugar. O data ajuns la manastire, a fost cuprins de un coplesitor sentiment de vinovatie. Desi zbaterea lui Luther a fost doar a sa, ea rezuma sperantele, nelinistile vremii sale. El a fost, am putea spune, exact ca toti ceilalti,dar intr-o masura putin mai mare. Asfel teologia reformatorilor a fost un raspuns specific la nelinistea aparte a vremii lor.

In Evul Mediu Tarziu, Europa a fost invadata de o preocupare morbida pentru suferinta si moarte. La baza acestei experiente neplacute stau doua fenomene inrudite: foametea si ciuma. Criza agrara a fost deosebit de puternica la inceputul sec.al XIV-lea; acesteia i s-a adaugat ciuma bubonica sau Moartea Neagra, care a ajuns la apogeu in Anglia in jurul anului 1349 si care a cauzat moartea a cel putin o treime din populatia Europei.

Viziunea mortii s-a manifestat atat in predici si xilogravuri, cat si in pictura si sculptura vremii. Mormintele erau deseori impodobite cu imaginea unui cadavru gol, cu gura cascata, pumnii inclestati si cu maruntaiele mancate de viermi. Moartea, vazuta sub forma unui schelet, dansa conducandu-si victimele.

Siguranta mortii era o tema obisnuita si pentru predicatori. Un calugar franciscan, Richard de Paris, a predicat zece zile consecutiv, cate sapte ore pe zi, numai despre Zilele din urma: moarte, judecata, rai, iad. Nelinistea morala, pe care Tillich o considera a fi motivul dominant in epoca, deriva din faptul ca moartea implica judecata, iar judecata il aduce pe pacatos in fata in fata cu un Dumnezeu sfant si plin de manie.

Au existat diferite incercari de a diminua sentimentul de vinovatie, care apasa atat de greu asupra sufletelor oamenilor. Cele mai radicale au fost exercitate de diverse grupuri de persoane care practicau flagelarea, ascetismul sever, si care mergeau din oras in oras, biciuindu-se cu biciuri de piele, in sperata ca vor ispasi vina proprie si cea a intregii societati.

Nicaieri altundeva nu este mai evident sentimentul vinovatiei care caracterizeaza viata religioasa din perioada medievala ca in manualele confesionale si in catehismele laice, care au invadat lumea cu ajutorul tiparnitelor recent inventate. Analiza acestor documente, pe care o face Steven Ozment, arata ca, departe de a oferi un sentiment de iertare, acestea nu au facut altceva decat sa reinvie vina deja existenta.

In stransa legatura cu frica, ce a dominat toate fazele vietii in Evul Mediu Tarziu, se afla o criza de incredere in identitatea si autoritatea Bisericii. Spre deosebire de alte doctrine stabilite la diferite concilii, doctrina despre Biserica nu a primit niciodata un statut dogmatic.

Reforma din sec. XIV-lea a fost o continuare a cautarii adevaratei biserici, care a inceput cu mult inainte ca Luther, Zwingli, Calvin sau parintii catolici sa intre in scena.

2.2. Precursori ai reformei

De-a lungul veacurilor, pe masura ce Biserica unita cu statul se indeparta tot mai mult de adevarul Sfintelor Scripturi, au existat diferite grupuri de crestini care s-au straduit sa ramana credinciosi invataturii curate a Noului Testament. Astfel Dumnezeu nu a ramas nici o data fara sa aiba un popor al Sau, oameni care sa-L marturiseasca atat prin viata lor cat si cu gura, chiar cu riscul vietii lor. Dintre aceste grupari se pot mentiona in mod special: donatistii, valdenzii si anabaptistii. Supusi unor prigoane salbatice de catre „sfanta biserica”, hartuiti pretutindeni, torturati, macelariti, masacrati in mare parte, acesti oameni „nu si-au iubit viata, chiar si pana la moarte”. Asa cum spune autorul epistolei catre Evrei: „…unii, ca sa dobandeasca o inviere mai buna, n-au vrut sa primeasca izbavirea, care li se dadea si au fost chinuiti. Altii au suferit batjocuri, batai, lanturi si inchisoare; au fost ucisi cu pietre, taiati in doua cu fierastraul, chinuiti; au murit ucisi de sabie, au pribegit imbracati in cojoace si-n piei de capre, lipsiti de toate, prigoniti, munciti, – ei, de care lumea nu era vrednica – au ratacit prin pustiuri, prin munti, prin pesteri si prin crapaturile pamantului” (Evrei 11:35-38).

Chiar daca unele din aceste grupari nu mai exista astazi asa cum erau pe vremuri, ideile lor, credinta lor curata a strabatut veacurile si au influentat alti oameni de seama a lui Dumnezeu. Multe dintre ideile lor se gasesc in marturisirea de credinta si in practica Bisericilor Penticostale din zilele noastre. Este demn, ca pe langa aceste grupari pe care le-am amintit mai sus, sa consemnam contributia importanta pe care au avut-o unele personaje din istoria bisericii. Dintre acestea as aminti pe: William Ockham, Misticii scolastici, John Wyclif, Jan Hus si Savonarola, care au avut o contributie considerabila in pregatirea Reformei. O buna parte din ideile lor au fost luate si propovaduite de reformatori. Doresc in continuare sa vorbesc putin despre cateva dintre aceste miscari si personaje, care au avut un rol deosebit in pregatirea reformei care a urmat. Acestea sunt: Valdenzii, William Ockham, Misticii medievali, Fratia vietii in comun, John Wyclif si Jan Hus. Nu putem vorbi despre toti, deoarece spatiul acestei lucrari nu permite. De aceea i-am ales pe cei care au avut o rezonanta mai puternica in ceea ce priveste baza biblica a credintei lor precum si influenta asupra personajelor reformei, in special asupra lui Luther.

2.2.1. Valdenzii

Cea mai veche grupare crestina pre-reformatoare, care a existat si exista si azi o constituie valdenzii. Numele si l-au luat de la un negustor bogat din Lyon pe nume Petro Valdes, care pe la 1175-1176 si-a impartit averea saracilor si a hotarat sa urmeze pilda lui Hristos, traind o viata de saracie si propovaduind Evanghelia. El avea o traducere a Noului Testament din limba latina in limba vorbita de popor, traducere care a stat la baza actiunii lui de evanghelizare. Barbati si femei consacrati i s-au alaturat, iar acest ideal de viata dusa in saracie si simplitate a fost aprobat de papa Alexandru III la Conciliu Luteran III in 1179.

De aceea cred ca merita sa spunem ceva despre ei. Iata cum prezinta Elisabet Livingstone inceputurile lor: „Aceasta mica comunitate crestina, care supravietuieste in Piedmont, isi are originea in grupa <<Saracilor din Lyon>>, organizata in secolul XII de Petro Valdes, de la care si-au preluat numele… Valdes a fost un negustor bogat din Lyon care a murit intre 1205 si 1218. In 1173 sau curand dupa aceea el si-a impartit averea la saraci si a devenit predicator itinerant; in scurta vreme a atras o multime de urmasi, barbati, femei si … Alexandru al III-lea i-a aprobat lui Valdes juramantul de saracie, dar i-a interzis lui si tovarasilor sai sa predice fara invitatia clerului. Valdes a inceput curand sa nu mai de-a ascultare prohibitiei impuse… Valdes si urmasii sai s-au organizat separat de Biserica, au ignorat decretele si sanctiunile ei si si-au numit proprii lor slujitori. Mai presus de toate ei au insistat asupra dreptului datoriei de a predica”.

Dupa un timp ei au fugit din Lyon si si-au organizat miscarea ca o Biserica, alegandu-si episcopi, preoti si diaconi. In cele din urma s-au declarat Biserica adevarata si s-au raspandit peste tot: in sudul Frantei, si Spaniei, apoi in Germania, Piedmont si Lombardi dar predominand in Lombardia (Italia de nord) si Proventia (Franta de sud). Puternicul papa Inocentiu III nu putea ingadui aceasta situatie.

In 1214, el i-a denumit pe valdenzi eretici, schismatici iar in 1215, la marele conciliu Lateran IV, Inocentiu III a repetat denumirea generala a ereticilor, inclusiv a valdenzilor. Cu toate acestea valdenzii s-au raspandit atat de mult geografic si doctrinar, incat in 1218 au convocat un conciliu general la Bergano (Italia) unde s-au discutat diferentele doctrinare intre valdenzii din Lombardia si cei din Franta. Mai tarziu au fost urmariti de Inchizitie fara ca aceasta sa-i poata distruge.

Invatatura lor, pe care o respingea papa, era propovaduirea neautorizata a Bibliei si respingerea rolului intermediar al clerului, cele doua chestiuni fundamentale care le-au atras denumirea de eretici.

Una din sursele cele mai convenabile ale invataturii valdenze este un tratat scris pe la 1320 de Bernard Gui, un vestit inchizitor francez pe vremea cand valdenzii erau inca una dintre cele mai puternice miscari dizidente. Acesta ii descrie ca respingand autoritatea eclesiastica, mai ales prin nesupunerea fata de papa sau fata de decretele sale de excomunicare, si prin reinterpretarea tuturor sacramentelor romano-catolice, cu exceptia spovedaniei si iertarii si a impartasaniei.

In teorie, toti valdenzii, barbati si femei, puteau administra aceste sacramente, iar euharistia avea loc o data pe an. Pare sa se fi practicat si un botez valdenz. Sarbatorile si rugaciunile romano-catolice erau respinse de valdenzi.

Gui ii invinuieste ca se erijau ca Biserica alternativa in care „preotul” era pur si simplu un om bun, in loc sa fie o persoana ordinata de Biserica. Aceasta ii parea ceva mult mai greu decat alta importanta trasatura distinctiva ale valdenzilor, propovaduirea misionara in limba locala, cu o puternica scoatere in evidenta a Noului Testament.

Ei refuzau sa depuna juraminte, fiindca spuneau ca Biblia interzice aceasta. Valdenzii negau purgatoriul intrucat nu gaseau nici o baza pentru el in Noul Testament, negand astfel credinta romano-catolica in favoarea rugaciunilor si milosteniilor facute pentru morti. Pentru Valdenzi, daca mortii erau in iad, nu mai erau speranta pentru ei, iar daca erau in ceruri nu aveau nevoie de rugaciune.

In ceea ce priveste organizarea Bisericii spune Gui, valdenzii aveau superiori si credinciosi. Superiorii trebuiau sa traiasca vieti mai austere, fiind obligati sa evanghelizeze si sa rataceasca predicand fara incetare ca si apostolii.

Punctele notate de inchizitorul Gui in sec XIV sunt iarasi dezvaluite de inchizitorii ulteriori in sec. XV si in sec. XVI, cu anumite trasaturi, care par sa devina mai radicale.

Erau acuzati ca resping cladirile, cimitirele, altarele, agheasma, liturghiile, pelerinajele, indulgentele, toate fiind socotite netrebuincioase. Valdenzii si-au completat organizarea. „Clerul” valdenz continua sa se consacre exclusiv predicarii in dialectul local.

Zonele in care ei au fost mai puternici, au fost cele din Europa centrala si tarile romano-catolice din Europa rasariteana. Insesi invataturile valdenze au fost influentate de alte miscari dizidente.

Valdenzii francezi au continuat sa fie hartuiti pana la sfarsitul evului mediu. Aceasta a culminat cu o cruciada contra lor in 1488, in Dauphine (dofine). In Italia, ei au continuat sa reziste cu succes impotriva Inchizitiei, gasindu-si refugiu mai ales in Piemont, unde au fost atacati in 1488. Lucrarea celor din Europa centrala si partea romano-catolica a Europei de est, avea sa influenteze mai tarziu cursul Reformei protestante.

In sec. XV, in pofida campaniilor repetate impotriva lor, valdenzii au circulat mult in Europa centrala si au avut schimburi de idei cu husitii cehi si wyclifitii englezi care se aflau in aceasta zona.

Viata acestor credinciosi in munti nu a fost usoara atata timp cat ei erau cautati pentru a fi executati. Insa dupa un timp oamenii care locuiau la poalele muntilor le-a oferit un ajutor, iar mai tarziu „fratii din Boemia” au fost pentru ei un ajutor, acesta incercand o unificare cu valdenzii. Mai tarziu au luat contact cu reformatorii, fiind influentati puternic de teologia lui Calvin si identificandu-se in mare masura cu reformatii.

In ciuda tuturor prigoanelor care s-au abatut asupra lor de-a lungul timpului, au ramas si exista si azi, asa cum scrie Gunar Westin: „ei traiesc si azi inItalia si sunt unici in felul lor, o biserica libera protestanta din secolul XII, care este plina de vitalitate”.

Alaturi de aceste grupari crestine din biserica oficiala s-au ridicat si barbati de seama, cercetatori ai Sfintelor Scripturi, teologi remarcabili, care au inteles din studiul lor personal, luminati de Duhul Sfant adevarurile Bibliei si ratacirile doctrinei catolice. Cei mai de seama reprezentanti de care ne vom ocupa in cadrul acestui capitol sunt John Wycliff si Jan Huss.

2.2.2. Fratia vietii in comun (Devotia Moderna)

Aceasta a fost o comunitate de barbati, atat laici, cat si clerici, care s-au adunat in casa lui Radewijns din Deventer. Acestia erau in principal prieteni ai acestuia care aveau acelasi fel de gandire si erau adepti ai lui Groote Geert – un bastinas din Deventer (Olanda) care studiase la Paris si fusese profesor la Colonia (Koln). Acesta s-a pocait in anul 1374 (anul mortii lui Petrarca); mai tarziu a adunat in casa lui femei cucernice care traiau fara sa fi depus vreun juramant monastic, apoi s-a asociat cu Florens Radewijns. Acesta era un preot care studiase la Praga, era un bun organizator si a trait intre anii 1350-1400.

Cei care s-au adunat in casa lui Radewijsn au ajuns cunoscuti sub numele de Fratii Vietii in comun. Erau un grup semimonahal care respecta regula simpla a saraciei, castitatii si ascultarii insa neangajati prin nici un legamant formal. Astfel, orice membru era liber sa paraseasca fratia si sa se intoarca la viata seculara, daca asa ii placea. Fratii nu cerseau pomeni, cum faceau „fratii cersetori”, ci aveau grija sa fie tacuti, sa-si vada de treburile lor si sa lucreze cu propriile lor maini, dupa invatatura apostolului Pavel.

Cand Graote a murit de ciuma, Radewijns a preluat conducerea miscarii Devotio Moderna, iar in 1387 a intemeiat casa ei cea mai influenta la Windesheim, langa Zwolle, in Olanda. Acolo, Fratii Vietii in comun au devenit canonici augustini iar statutul lor a fost aprobat de papa Bonifaciu IX in 1395. Peste cativa ani, s-au asociat cu alte case din Olanda, ca sa formeze Congregatia de la Windesheim. Ei s-au consacrat nu doar vietii spirituale si renuntarii la lume, ci si intregului proces al educatiei. Ei predau in scoli locale si isi infiintau propriile lor scoli. Ca sa-si intretina comunitatea, se ocupau de toate aspectele productiei de carti: scrierea, copierea manuscriselor, legarea si comercializarea volumelor, iar odata cu aparitia tiparului, isi tipareau cartile in propria lor tipografie. Windesheim si casele sale afiliate s-au facut curand cunoscute ca stupi de sarguinta cucernica. Cu timpul, miscarea pornita de Grapte a luat avant si s-a raspandit. In secolul XV, Canonicii de la Windesheim au infiintat comunitati in Germania si Elvetia.

Multi dintre fratii vietii in comun si dintre cei mai educati de ei au marcat prin personalitatea lor lumea crestina. Cei mai de seama dintre acestia au fost Nicolaus din Cusa (Kues) si Erasmus insusi. Gabriel Biel (1420-1495), filosof cunoscut ca „ultimul scolastic german” si umanistul Rudolf Agricola (1444-1485), au fost membri ai acestei comunitati, intrucat cele mai stralucite elemente ale scolasticii si umanismului coexistau in Devotio Moderna.

Aceasta comunitate a fost importanta prin accentul pe care l-a pus pe studiu. Este deosebit de important sa stim aceste lucruri, deoarece ne vor ajuta sa-l intelegem mai bine pe Luther care a studiat intr-o asemenea scoala si este evident ca acest fapt l-a influentat in ideile si teologia lui de mai tarziu.

2.2.3. William Ockham (1280-1394)

A fost un ganditor crestin de prima importanta. S-a nascut intre 1280-1290, probabil in satul Ockham din Surrey (Anglia) si a murit la Munchen (Germania) pe la 1349. Dupa ce a intrat in ordinul franciscan, si-a inceput studiile teologice la Oxford, pe la 1309 si a indeplinit conditiile pentru a primi gradul universitar de Magister, cu prelegerile sale asupra „Cartii sentemtiilor” de Petru Lombard pe la 1318-1320.

Dupa cate s-ar parea, fostul cancelar al universitatii l-a denuntat ca eretic papei Ioan XXII si William a fost convocat la Avignon in 1324. Cand a ajuns acolo, s-a implicat intr-o controversa asupra saraciei apostolice care l-a facut sa fie mai critic fata de papalitate; el a cerut ca biserica sa fie condusa de un colegiu de papi si a afirmat ca Hristos este unicul Cap al Bisericii, invataturi care prevesteau miscarea conciliara. Ockham a respins complet autoritatea papala in materie seculara. In 1328, a intrat in serviciul imparatului romano-german, Ludovic de Bavaria, sprijinindu-l in lupta lui cu papalitatea.

In filosofie, Wiliam a elaborat o noua forma de teorie nominalista. El a respins doctrina predominanta, dupa care „universaliile” – instructiuni mentale fara realitatea autonoma – ar fi avut existenta reala. Nominalismul lui William avea sa fie numit „via moderna” (calea moderna) in opozitie cu „via antiqua” (calea veche) a lui Aquinas. Ockham argumenta ca „universaliile” sunt pur si simplu produse artificiale ale mintii umane, necesare pentru comunicarea cu ajutorul limbajului. Numai indivizii sau lucrurile „particulare” (concrete) ar avea existenta reala. Intrucat cunoasterea se bazeaza pe experienta lucrurilor individuale, stiintelor naturii li s-a dat o noua semnificatie.

In multele sale scrieri, Gulielmus Occamus (pe numele sau latinizat) a dezbatut cu iscusinta logica, magistrala marile teme ale filosofiei si teologiei. Principiul sau cunoscut sub numele de „briciul lui Ockham”, afirma: concluzia care se poate formula pornind de la mai putine presupuneri nu are rost sa fie formulata pornind de la mai multe presupuneri („ceea ce se poate face cu mai putin, in zadar se face cu mai mult”); mintea nu trebuie sa inmulteasca lucrurile fara necesitate. Occamus a facut critica elaborata a dovezilor existentei lui Dumnezeu, desi el insusi formulase o puternica teologie pozitiva (KATAFATICA, care definea pe Dumnezeu prin afirmatii, spre deosebire de teologia negativa, APOFATICA, dupa care se poate spune doar ceea ce nu este Dumnezeu, nu ceea ce este.

Originalitatea si profunzineam lui Ockham, este deficitara. Dumnezeu este absolut liber si omnipotent, El poate face totul, inclusiv sa se contrazica, de pilda poate sa mantuiasca un raufacator si sa osandeasca un sfant. Aceasta afirma unii istorici despre Ockham deoarece el subliniaza ca Dumnezeu este cunoscut numai prin credinta, nu prin ratiune sau prin iluminare si ca voia lui Dumnezeu este absolut suverana dar aceasta nu inseamna ca se contrazice. In aceste privinte si in altele, Ockham a netezit calea pentru teologia reformatorilor din sec. XVI, in mod special a lui Luther care va fi influentat de nominalismul lui, pe care il va studia la universitatea din Erfurt.

2.2.4. Misticii Germani

Studiul acestor mistici este important deoarece ei au influentat gandirea lui Luther precum si lucrarea lui.

Primul mare mistic care l-a influentat pe Luther in lucrarea sa de mai tarziu a fost Johnn Eckhart (1260-1327).

Meister Eckhart a fost un calugar dominican german a carui opera este la originea curentului mistic renan si a traditiei conceptuale reluata de idealismul german. Dupa moarte, invatatura lui a fost condamnata de papa Ioan XX (1316-1334). Este recunoscut acum drept forta cea mai de seama in viata religioasa a Germaniei inainte de Reforma.

b) Johnn Tauler (1300-1361)

Elevul lui Eckhart, Johnn Tauler – si el un mistic dominican german, a fost un predicator puternic care a accentuat nimicnicia omului in prezenta lui Dumnezeu. Predicile lui au contribuit la modelarea gandirii lui Luther intr-un stadiu critic al experientei lui spirituale.

c) Johann von Wesel (1400-1481)

Johann von Wesel, din Renania a prefigurat pe reformatorii germani intr-o mare parte din invatatura sa. A respins multe dintre doctrinele si practicile specifice ale Bisericii catolice medievale si a declarat ca numai Biblia este autoritatea absoluta in materie de credinta. A scris impotriva indulgentelor in 1475, a fost judecat de Inchizitie in 1479 si condamnat la detentiune pe viata in manastirea augustina de la Mainz.

d) Wssel Gansfort (1419-1489)

Wessel Gansfort, un teolog olandez educat de Fratii Vietii in comun, a fost denumit unul dintre umanisti biblici. Si el a scris impotriva indulgentelor si a luat in mare masura aceeasi pozitie ca si Luther in atacearea pretentiilor papei si in denuntarea erorilor Bisericii din timpul sau.

2.2.5. John Wycliff (cca. 1328-1384)

Este foarte interesant modul in care apare pe scena acest credincios considerat un premergator al Reformei.

Supunerea Regelui John al Angliei fata de Papa Inocentiu al III-lea si umilirea sa de catre acesta, au dus la o atitudine ostila fata de papalitate in acesta tara. Intreaga natiune engleza s-a considerat injosita in urma acestui act. Pretentiile exagerate ale papilor si amestecul lor in numirea episcopilor englezi au dus in repetate randuri la dispute deschise intre Biserica si conducerea laica, contribuind la largirea prapastiei existente. In aceste conditii apare pe scena Bisericii engleze Wycliff.

Iata cum il prezinta Andrew Miller:

„Tocmai cand rabdarea poporului fata de abuzurile papalitatii parea sa se fi epuizat, Dumnezeu a gasit cu cale sa ridice un oponent puternic al intregului sistem ierarhic primul om care a facut sa se zguduie din temelii dominatia papei in Anglia, si inainte de toate, un om care a iubit in mod sincer adevarul si care l-a vestit atat celor invatati cat si poporului de rand. Acesta a fost John Wycliff. El este numit pe drept precursorul, sau steaua de dimineata a zorilor Reformei”.

O buna parte din viata si-a petrecut-o studiind si apoi predand la Oxford. La inceput dorinta sa nu a fost sa lupte impotriva autoritatii Bisericii Romano-Catolice, ci dorea o reformare din interiorul ei. Astfel pana in 1378 intentia lui a fost sa reformeze Biserica prin eliminarea clericilor si prin deposedarea de proprietati care, credea el, sunt cauza coruptiei. In 1376 scrie lucrarea „Of Civil Dominio” (Despre stapanirea civila) in care sustine ca exista o baza morala pe care trebuie sa o aiba conducerea eclesiastica. Insa nu a putut suporta modul in care clerul deposeda de bani pe credinciosii de rand ai Bisericii. Pamanturile, in mare parte, erau proprietatea Bisericii, de aceea la cererea lui de deposedare de proprietati a acesteia, s-a bucurat de un sprijin deosebit din partea nobilimii engleze, care dorea mult acest lucru.

Daca la inceput a incercat reformarea Bisericii din interior, mai tarziu „dezgustat de <<captivitatea Babiloniana a Bisericii>> si de schisma, Wycliff n-a mai fost satisfacut de aceasta abordare mai degraba negativa, si dupa 1378 a inceput sa se opuna dogmei Bisericii cu idei revolutionare”.

Intrebarea fireasca pe care si-o pune orice istoric este cum a reusit Wycliff sa-si propage ideile fara sa fie excomunicat si omorat ? Raspunsul este ca Dumnezeu l-a ocrotit prin nobilii englezi si prin John de Graunt. Astfel Biserica nu s-a atins de el.

Lovitura cea mai puternica pe care a dat-o Bisericii a fost in anul 1379, cand fara sa-i fie frica de consecintele nefaste care ar fi putut sa apara, a sustinut cu toata taria in scris ca “Hristos este capul Bisericii, si nu Papa”. Prin aceasta nega ca Biserica ar avea putere absoluta, spunand: „Puterea pe care a pierdut-o prin pacate de moarte”. Sau altfel spus: „chiar daca papa si toti clericii ar disparea de pe pamant… credinta nu s-ar pierde, pentru ca ea isi are temelia numai in Domnul Isus, Stapanul si Dumnezeul nostru”.

Vazand importanta pe care o dadea clerul Bisericii in sine precum si invataturile eronate cu privire la autoritatea ei, abuzand astfel de neglijenta fata de Sfanta Scriptura, Wycliff nu a mai suportat acest lucru afirmand ca: „Biblia si nu Biserica este singura autoritate pentru credincios si ca Biserica trebuie sa ia model de la Biserica Nou Testamentala”. Critica adusa Bisericii nu s-a oprit aici, el atacand prin predicile sale alte nereguli cum sunt: cultul icoanelor, cultul sfintilor, al moastelor si al sacramentelor, precum si infiintarea indulgentelor.

Cea mai mare realizare a lui Wycliff a fost aceea de a pune Biblia la indemana poporului in limba engleza. Astfel el a putut sa-si sustina mai bine convingerile cu privire la Biserica, Papa, Scriptura.

In ceea ce priveste euharistia a sustinut consubstantierea insa extrema la care a ajuns cu privire la sacramente a fost aceea de a nu recunoaste nici un sacrament, negand caracterul sacru al euharistiei. Dupa moartea lui insa cei care au continuat invatatura lui au fost numiti „lolarzi”. Acestia erau predicatori laici care au continuat ideile lui Wycliff, iar miscarea acestora a fost numita miscarea lolarzilor.

Cu privire la acestia Elisabeth A. Livingstone a afirmat: „lolarzii sunt urmasi ai lui Wycliff, isi bazau invatatura pe credinta personala, alegerea divina si mai presus de toate pe Biblie”. In general s-au opus celibatului preotilor, transsubstantiunii, indulgentelor si pelerinajelor, sustinand totodata ca validitatea actelor preotesti era determinata de caracterul moral al preotului. Acestia erau oameni simpli, tarani care au ales sa traiasca modest. Dupa 1401, prin statutul de „haereticis comburend” s-a aprobat osandirea oricarui taran sau croitor care tagaduia sfintenia Euharistiei sau care participa seara la o intrunire frateasca in care se propovaduia Cuvantul Bibliei.

Traducerea Bibliei in limba engleza si crearea grupului de predicatori lolarzi a avut o influenta asupra englezilor si a netezit calea Reformei. In afara de aceasta ideile lui Wycliff s-au raspandit in Europa cu repeziciune. Un rol important in raspandirea acestora l-au jucat studentii boemieni, care studiau in Anglia. Acestia i-au dus ideile in Boemia, unde au devenit baza pentru invatatura lui Jan Hus.

Concluzionand in ceea ce priveste ideile lui Wycliff in istorie pot spune ca ele nu constituie altceva decat „cateva grinzi” ale unui pod care face trecerea de la un ev mediu intunecat la o epoca moderna, acest pod prinzand contur odata cu declansarea Reformei.

2.2.6. Jan Hus (1373-1415)

Pentru a intelege ceea ce s-a intamplat in centrul Europei prin anii 1400, trebuie sa ne reamintim ce s-a intamplat in Anglia precum si legaturile acesteia cu Europa centrala. In acest sens nu trebuie uitata casatoria lui Richard al III-lea al Angliei cu Ana de Boemia, care a avut o importanta istorica deosebita, aceasta concretizandu-se in ceva practic si anume: „schimbul de studenti intre Anglia si Boemia”.

Trebuie retinut faptul ca la fel ca in Anglia s-au facut simtite sentimentele nationale. In ambele cazuri, ele s-au ridicat impotriva stapanului strain, care domnea la Roma, si care avea pretentia de a fi loctiitorul lui Hristos pe pamant. In afara de aceasta, in Boemia existau nemultumiri si din cauza faptului ca germanii detineau multe pozitii inalte in cadrul Bisericii in detrimentul cehilor, iar la Universitatea din Praga pretindeau a avea o pozitie privilegiata.

Luptele dintre ei au dus la retragerea germanilor de la Praga si la infiintarea Universitatii din Leipzig in anul 1409. Atunci cand ideile teologice si filozofice a lui Wycliff s-au intalnit si s-au impletit cu nationalismul ceh, s-a dezvoltat in Boemia o puternica miscare de emancipare sub tutela Romei.

Am spus ca intre cele doua orase Oxford si Praga s-au facut schimburi de studenti. Astfel ideile lui Wycliff au ajuns foarte repede si usor pe teritoriul Boemiei, datorita studentilor care au studiat in Anglia si s-au confruntat cu ideile lui. Gasindu-le bune, acestia le-au luat in Boemia.

In vremea aceea la Oxford, in Anglia, se dezbateau ideile lui Wycliff. Acesti studenti le-au imbratisat si le-au adus in Boemia.

Dupa acestea intre studentii din Praga a luat fiinta o comunitate de admiratori ai ideilor lui Wycliff, in fruntea carora se afla Jan Hus. Pe langa acestia, ideile au fost imbratisate de multi intelectuali, clerici si laici.

Jan Hus s-a nascut in Bohmernald (astazi Husinet) in 1373 dupa unii ar fi 6 iulie 1369, intr-o familie modesta. Ramanand de timpuriu fara tata, a fost crescut de mama sa, care era o femeie credincioasa. Muncind din greu, aceasta l-a ajutat sa ajunga la Universitatea din Praga. Fiind un student sarguincios, a reusit foarte repede sa se adapteze situatiei. Interesat de cunoasterea Scripturilor, va deveni unul dintre cei mai buni studenti ai Universitatii.

Dupa terminarea studiilor ajunge predicator la Capela Betleem din Praga, avand un dar deosebit de a-si captiva ascultatorii cu predicile sale. Era familiar cu ideile lui Wycliff, astfel ca in predicile sale reproducea nu doar ideile acestuia ci chiar limbajul. Avea un rol important la Universitatea unde la inceput a fost magistru. Dupa plecarea germanilor la Leipzig, devine rector al acesteia in anul 1409. Ataca in predicile sale unele dogme ale Bisericii Romano-Catolice, coruptia clerului inalt. Sustinea, asemeni lui Wycliff ca Biblia este singura autoritate in viata si credinta crestinului: „Biserica este comunitatea celor alesi, iar Hristos este singurului ei Cap.

O vreme se parea ca Hus va reusi sa atraga de partea acestei invataturi prin predici si scrieri intreaga natiune ceha; insa si in Boemia existau ierarhi catolici, care i s-au impotrivit. Daca la inceput arhiepiscopul Sbinok de Praga l-a incurajat, curand acesta l-a abandonat, trecand de partea papei Alexandru al V-lea. Lui Hus i s-a interzis sa mai predice, iar papa a emis o bula in 1410 prin care s-a ordonat distrugerea cartilor lui Wycliff, iar pentru a curma influenta reformatorului ceh i-a interzis sa mai predice si in capelele private.

In 1411 papa Ioan al XXIII-lea l-a excomunicat pe Hus, care a trebuit sa se refugieze din Praga. In timpul acesta de refugiu, el s-a dedicat scrisului, elaborand, astfel principala sa opera „De Eclesia” in 1413, scrisa sub influenta directa a lucrarilor lui Wycliff.

Fiind citat sa se prezinte in fata Conciliului Bisericii, care s-a desfasurat la Constance in 1414, Hus bazandu-se pe promisiunea imparatului ca nu i se va intampla nimic rau, da ascultare si se deplaseaza acolo. Din pacate, imparatul nu s-a tinut de cuvant. Ba mai mult atat ideile lui Wycliff, cat si invatatura sa au fost condamnate ca eretice. Refuzand sa-si retracteze invatatura, Hus este intemnitat, iar in anul 1415 ars pe rug. Invatatura lui Hus nu a putut fi distrusa, fiind dusa mai departe de urmasii sai, care s-au impartit in doua tabere. Una era tabara radicala, „taboritilor”, dupa muntele Tabor, fortareata lor din sudul orasului Praga. Acestia au respins orice invatatura cu privire la credinta si practicile Bisericii Romano-Catolice care, spuneau ei, nu aveau fundament scriptural.

Cea de-a doua ramura care sustinea ideile lui Hus si care era mai moderata, era cea a „utraquistilor”. Ei au avut o pozitie proprie prin care sustineau ca numai ceea ce Biblia interzice trebuie eliminat si ca toti credinciosii, nu numai clerul trebuie sa primeasca atat painea cat si vinul la impartasanie.

Din gruparea radicala a taboritilor s-a format gruparea „Fratii Uniti”, sau „Fratii Boemiei”. Acestia au aparut prin anii 1540, constituind astfel suportul unei noi biserici care poate fi gasita si azi, numita „Biserica Moraviana”. Aceasta s-a dezvoltat foarte mult prin spiritul ei misionar, de aceea nu este ceva deosebit daca spunem ca Hus l-ar fi inspirat pe Luther. Deoarece Luther avea posibilitatea sa cunoasca invataturile lui Hus.

Seriozitatea religioasa, atat a lui Wycliff cat si a lui Hus, cere o admiratie deosebita. Dar in ciuda recunoasterii lui Luther a multor puncte de legatura cu Hus, Reforma s-a datorat intr-o mica masura eforturilor lor. Totusi nu trebuie uitat faptul ca ei au anticipat spiritul si lucrarea reformatorilor, netezind calea acestora si usurand astfel aparitia Reformei.

2.3. Reforma protestanta. Linii generale.

Reforma a fost o incercare de intoarcere la puritatea crestinismului Noului Testament si dezvoltarea unei teologii in acord cu acesta. Reformatorii erau convinsi ca aceasta teologie nu va deveni niciodata o realitate atata timp cat Biserica va fi autoritatea finala in locul Bibliei. In cea mai mare parte, Reforma a fost limitata la Europa de Apus si la popoarele teutonice. Nici Biserica de Rasarit si nici popoarele latine din vechiul Imperiu Roman nu au acceptat Reforma. In acele parti, inca stapaneau idealurile medievale de unitate si de uniformitate, dar in nordul si vestul Europei, popoarele teutonice au trecut la diversitatea protestantismului.

Totusi, in anumite tari Romano-Catolice in ciuda tuturor persecutiilor si-au mentinut existenta mici denominatii Valdenze si ale Fratilor Boemieni.

Principalii lideri ai acestei miscari au fost Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), Ulrich Zwingli (1484 – 1531), John Calvin (1509 – 1564). La inceput ei au fost pentru o restaurare a Crestinismului primar, dar nu dupa mult timp, liderii acestei miscari au adoptat ideea si apoi au decis ca o unire cu statul este necesara succesului bisericii. Aceasta decizie a fost un compromis fata de pozitia sustinuta la inceput. Acceptarea acestui compromis de catre Luther si Zwingli, compromis care includea si eliminarea oricaror disidente, a dus la aparitia miscarii Anabaptiste evanghelice.

Martin Luther s-a nascut la Eisleben, 1483 in Saxonia, o provincie din Imperiul German. A primit educatie la scoala Latina din Eisenach si la Universitatea din Erfurt. In 1505, el a devenit calugar augustinian in acelasi oras, sperand sa gaseasca pacea sufletului prin efort personal. In cele din urma, a ajuns la concluzia ca iertarea divina si schimbarea interioara sunt rezultatul credintei in Christos.

In 1509, a acceptat sa fie profesor la Universitatea din Wittenberg in Saxonia. In 1517, Johann Tetzel a fost insarcinat sa vanda indulgente papale in diferite parti ale Germaniei. Luther a considerat ca Tetzel pretinde prea mult pentru eficacitatea acestor indulgente, si ca in aceasta privinta el a actionat in contradictie cu vointa papei si cu invatatura Bisericii Romano – Catolice.

In consecinta, Luther a scris 95 teze in latina si le-a fixat pe usa Bisericii din Witteberg. In aceste teze el a condamnat abuzurile de care se facea vinovat Tetzel, din punctul de vedere romano- catolic. In timpul controverselor ce au urmat, Luther a fost din ce in ce mai mult convins ca multe invataturi si practici ale Bisericii Romane sunt nescripturale. Inca inainte de expunerea acestor teze el a avansat ideea doctrinei justificarii prin credinta, care din punctul de vedere al Bisericii Romane era o erezie. Electorul Frederich cel Intelept i-a acordat toata protectia posibila.

In cele din urma Luther a fost excomunicat de papa in 1520. Obtinand o copie a declaratiei papale, Luther i-a dat foc in public. Anul urmator a aparut in fata Dietei, ori a Parlamentului Imperiului German, la Worms, dar a refuzat sa retraga ceea ceea ce i s-a cerut. Electorul Frederich, in secret, a aranjat sa fie dus la Castelul Wartburg, pentru siguranta lui personala. In timpul acesta, Luther a luat decizia ca Liturghia sa fie mentinuta pana cand ea ar fi putut fi inlocuita cu aprobarea autoritatilor civile. Aceasta atitudine cu privire la Liturghie si alte puncte practice ce trebuiau reformate a dus la o stransa legatura intre stat si biserica. Liturghia a fost in cele din urma abolita in Wittenberg si in toata Saxonia, dupa moartea Electorului Fredereck, de catre fratele acestuia, Electorul John, in 1525. Biserica Luterana a fost facuta biserica de stat in Saxonia si in cele din urma in toate provinciile Germaniei si Scandinaviei, ai caror conducatori acceptasera crezul lutheran.

In aceeasi perioada Biserica Zwingliniana sau Reformata a devenit biserica de stat in anumite cantoane din Elvetia.

Ulrich Zwingli a fost un lider al Reformei in regiunea din Elvetia in care se vorbea limba germana. El s-a nascut in anul 1484, la Wildhaus, langa St. Gall in Elvetia. A studiat in Bern, Viena, si Basel fiind consacrat ca preot in 1506. In anul 1518 a fost ales episcop principal al orasului Zurich, cel mai important oras din Elvetia.

Dupa sosirea lui in Zurich, s-a putut observa in predicile lui o nota evanghelica. In cativa ani, in predicile lui, Zwingli a atacat anumite doctrine si practici Romano – Catolice. Atitudinea Consiliului din Zurich fata de Reforma a fost favorabila, dar guvernul federal al Elvetiei s-a opus miscarii. Consiliul din Zurich i-a dat lui Zwingli deplina libertate in ceea ce priveste predicarea din Scripturi. Din motive politice, consiliul a ales o atitudine de compromis, interzicand toate devierile de la practicile Bisericii Romano – Catolice ce puteau avea loc. In concluzie, lui Zwingli i s-a permis sa predice impotriva Bisericii Romane, dar nu sa si abandoneze practicile ei.

Luther si Zwingli nu au avut, in toate, aceleasi invataturi. Principala controversa dintre ei a fost in legatura cu Cina Domnului. Luter a aparat doctrina Prezentei Reale, adica painea si vinul sunt in realitate trupul si sangele lui Hristos, in timp ce Zwingli sustinea ca acestea sunt embleme sau simboluri. Zwingli, a respins doctrina regenerarii prin botez, pe care Luther o sustinea.

Zwingli a ajuns la aceste pareri datorita controverselor cu Fratii Elvetieni, dandu-si seama de faptul ca Anabaptistii aveau dreptate cand sustineau ca nici botezul nici impartasania nu sunt mijloace prin care sa se obtina iertarea pacatelor. Reforma, in anumite state a condus la infiintarea unor biserici de stat protestante. Conducatorii care acceptau crezul luteran sau zwinglinian, stabileau fie o biserica de stat Luterana sau Zwingliniana. Formarea unei noi biserici de stat nu era ceva complicat. Conducatorul teritoriului respectiv dadea ordin preotilor sa se conformeze doctrinei si practicii noului credeu. Peotii duceau la indeplinire ordinele conducatorilor. Oamenii de rand nu aveau nimic de spus in aceasta problema.

Infiintarea acestor noi biserici de stat erau in avantajul personal al acestor conducatori. In felul acesta aveau control mai larg asupra bisericilor si asupra averilor manastirilor. In provinciile Lutherane, printul conducator era considerat summus episcopus al bisericii din acel stat. Surprinzator este faptul ca religia de stat se schimba in functie de poruncile autoritatilor civile.Anumite districte care trecusera la Zwinglianism, au trecut sub stapanirea unor conduceri Romano-Catolice, iar populatia acestor districte au reacceptat credeul Romano Catolic. Locuitorii regiunii Palatinelor de Sus au fost nevoiti sa-si schimbe religia de patru ori in timpul Reformei. Oamenii, fie protestanti fie catolici nu au luat credinta lor in serios ca sa fie gata sa sufere persecutii pentru ea. Numarul martirilor Luterani si Zwinglinian este foarte mic. Anabaptistii s-au plans de multe ori ca au fost ridiculizati pentru ca au fost gata sa indure persecutii pentru credinta lor. Dupa cum s-a aratat, orice disidenta sau deviere de la crezul bisericii de stat era sever pedepsita.

Din scrierile lui Luther si Zwingli, reiese clar ca in anii de inceput ai Reformei, ei au aparat principiul membriei voluntare, nevoia disciplinei in biserica si independenta bisericii de stat. Toate aceste obiective nu au putut fi atinse de Luther si Zewingli. Istoricul lutheran, profesorul Karl Mueller, Tuebingen, Germania, a spus: „Puterea agresiva, cuceritoare, pe care lutheranii au manifestat-o in prima perioada, s-a pierdut oriunde, in momentul in care guvernantii au luat problema in mainile lor si au stabilit Crezul Lutheran.”

(VA  URMA)

The impact of the printing press on the Reformation, the history of the Bible and the emergence of the Puritans by Gavin Finley

Our journey of discovery to seek the roots of the Puritans begins at a time when the Holy Scriptures were coming to the common man in Europe. After a thousand years of medieval darkness the Word of God was returning. In Germany during the mid 1400’s Johannes Gutenberg had invented a printing press with movable type. This greatly increased the speed of printing books. These were difficult and dark days for Europe. The second Jihad had begun and the Turks were attacking Christendom in the east. High taxes, famine, and peasant uprisings brought their misery. But in this same time frame there was something wonderful happening as well. The Bible was being translated and distributed in large numbers. And with that the lights were going on all over Europe.

With the Bible being translated in the European languages good copies of the Holy Scriptures were soon beginning to come off the presses in Germany. Not only that, they were being printed rapidly in significant numbers and at prices people could afford. This was one of the keys to the dramatic changes seen back in the 1500’s. It has been said that Gutenberg’s printing press made the Reformation possible.

Along with the courageous stand by Martin Luther it was the Bible translators at their wonderful work who lit the candles and brought the Light of God’s Word into the medieval darkness. The translators unlocked the Bible from the Latin, the dead language of ancient Rome. The new printing presses, marvels of German engineering at the time, were sitting there waiting for the Bible translators to bring in their manuscripts. And so out came the Bibles into the hands of the European people. The illumination of the Word of God changed the hearts and minds and the motivations of the people who heard. This was a marvellous turn of events. The impact of the Bible on Western Civilization along with the good and the evil historical responses to its coming cannot be overestimated.

John Wycliffe, the ‘morning star of the Reformation’ had begun this work with a translation of the Bible into English in the 1300’s. In the 1500’s Martin Luther translated the scriptures into the German language. Luther himself was transformed in the process. The scriptures opened his eyes to what was going on around him. He was appalled to see the obvious disparities between what he saw in the Bible and what was being practiced by the Church of Rome. The selling of indulgences by the church, supposedly securing the release of loved ones from Purgatory, was the last straw for Luther. Protesting this outrage, and numerous other grievances he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral. This sparked off a religious conflagration with the Roman Church in Germany. With Duke Ferdinand of Saxony and other German princes coming to his aid Luther avoided being taken into custody by the Roman church where he most certainly would have been burned as a heretic. Indeed, during the previous century in 1415 this had happened to a faithful priest in Bohemia, John Hus. Luther’s stand at the German city of Worms was historic. It was a defining moment for the church. And it led western Christendom into the Reformation.

Also in the 1500’s Englishmen Miles Coverdale and William Tyndale were translating the Bible into English. Tyndale was in exile in Europe. He lived a life of constant danger, translating the scriptures and living as a wanted man. His evangelical friends from Cambridge, John Frith and William Tewksbury, were both captured and burned at the stake. For years Tyndale was hunted down by agents of Henry VIII and the Bishop of London. Since Gutenburg’s printing presses were now proliferating in a big way it was Germany that was at that time the place to go for good printing work to be done. The coming of the scriptures to the common man had an enormous impact on European and English history. The Reformation led to the evangelical movement. Unfortunately its politicization led to a great tragedy. The awful 30 Years War wrecked Germany. It was left in such a ruined state that it would not recover for 200 years.

The 1500’s were years of great change. The peasants revolted throughout central Europe during a conflict that would come to known as the Peasant Wars. During this period of internal strife the Turks took advantage of the situation. They attacked European Christendom from the east. The Muslim forces advanced to the point where for a while they were actually closing in on Vienna. It was an awful time to be alive in Europe. It was a time of unprecedented religious, political and social upheaval.

Out of all this turmoil came the Anabaptists. These were the ultimate Christian radicals. The war in central Europe had gone on for a whole generation. Successive Catholic and Protestant armies had pillaged the countryside taking the lives of young and old. Germany and the Swiss valleys were left in in a shambles. Many were now migrating out of central Europe to take refuge in Holland which was to take a dominant role in European history in the following century. During the 1600’s Dutch sea power and peaceful trade had made this a place of refuge for many evangelicals. During the Reformation wars in central Europe many had seen enough of Christian savagery and barbarism to last several lifetimes. For many separatist evangelical Christians it got to the point where they didn’t care which army won. From the scriptures they had come to believe that Christianity was a matter of personal faith, not national or church sponsored citizenship. Nor was it about which church or cathedral you belonged to. It was all about a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ and a personal faith walked out with Him daily. Accordingly, while they paid their taxes to the governing powers the Anabaptists resolved to take no oaths of allegiance with the political or ecclesiastical princes, whoever they might be. Nor would they take up arms with or against any army coming into their valleys, whether they were Protestant or Catholic. These are the main articles of the „Schleitheim Confession”. This document was penned by one of the leading lights of the Anabaptist movement, Michael Sattler at the gathering at Schleitheim, in the mountains of Switzerland in February of 1527.

For their stand in the peace of Jesus Christ they were bitterly persecuted from both sides. Millions of Anabaptists died at the hands of Catholic and Protestant powers alike. They continued to die for over 200 years. This story has not been told. It has been cut out of the history books. From these determined Christian separatists came the peace loving Amish and Mennonites along with the Brethren and some primitive Baptists of the free church tradition. They remember this history. We don’t.

Let us make no mistake about this. These saints who had rejected the sword were still full of Christian zeal. But they had given up on a church that had corrupted itself by going to bed with the state. They would prefer to go to their secret Christian meetings, even if they were under the constant threat of being arrested. If an Anabaptist met another on the pathway they would challenge him with the scripture,
„You cannot serve two masters”.
If the other man was an Anabaptist he would smile and reply,
„You cannot serve God and mammon”.

The pathway they were now going on was a ‘highway of holiness’. ~ Isa.35:8-10. The Anabaptists resolved to keep their little church pure in devotion to Christ. They were weary of seeing the hideous mixture of the cross and the sword played out before their eyes year after weary year. The sword had been stained with Christian blood. To their mind it had become a despised and shameful thing. It no longer had the sacred power of chivalry it once held over them. They had seen its dark side. It had come to the point where they were going to turn their back on politics and make the peaceful preaching of the Gospel their prime concern come what may. At this time the first missionary outreaches were organized. The Mennonites, the Baptists, the Brethren and many other Christian groups began to send out missionaries beyond European shores. A new era in Christian missions had begun.

THE EMERGENCE OF THE ENGLISH PURITANS IN THE 1500’s.

This is where we pick up our story of the Puritans. The coming of the English Bible was giving rise to desires for full Reformation of the Church of England. There was even talk of ‘purifying’ the Church of England. It was during the latter part of the 1500’s that men like Thomas Cartwright began to argue for a purified English Christianity. They wanted to see a Church of England free of the medieval trappings and vestments of the Roman Church from which it had come. These reformist evangelicals came to be called ‘Puritans’.

These were dangerous times to express such views. During the reign of „Bloody Mary”, and throughout the 1500’s many separatist evangelicals were burned at the stake. But these persecutions, as usual, only spread the fires of devotion both inside the Church of England and outside the national church in the secret house meetings of the persecuted ‘Non-Comformists’.

In 1603 Protestant King James I came to the throne. By this time the Puritans were poised to move their agenda forward. These were turbulent times. Political extremists were abroad along with religious separatists. To the King and his bishops these people were all the same. As they saw it all these unregulated people were equally dangerous. Whether they be political dissidents or religious dissidents they all disturbed the peace with their tiresome petitions for reform. They interrupted the quiet life of the people which the leaders had worked so hard to maintain. In 1605, a Catholic zealot named Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament. He and his anarchist friends wanted to kill the king and as many Puritan parliamentarians as possible. The plot was discovered and Guy Fawkes was executed.

1611 was a banner year for evangelicals in England. The King James Bible went out to the people. With the more ready access to the scriptures the Puritans continued to gain in numbers. King James was forced to put more restrictions on these movers and shakers. This in turn caused them to to push even harder for reform in the Church of England.

Evangelicals in England during those times had two choices. They could separate from the Church of England and became Non-Conformists or Pilgrim style Separatists. Or they could join the Puritans and stay in the system hoping to reform it from within. Both streams of evangelical Christianity were persecuted but the separatists had it far worse. King James had commissioned the printing of the Holy Scriptures which sets men free. But under his reign religious freedom was still not realized. Englishmen were still forbidden to worship outside the Church of England. Many Bible believing Christians, under persecution by the king’s bishops, were forced to flee the country. A Puritan community from the town of Scrooby left for Holland in 1608.

During this time the expanding Dutch sea trade to India had made Holland extremely wealthy. The infusion of new and vital people from the Reformation Wars in central Europe had enriched Holland in many ways. It was the place to be for people like godless rationalists and Godly evangelicals, both groups considering themselves enlightened. In the 1600’s Holland was the trade center of Europe. It was also the place where new ideas, the Renaissance arts, (which had originated in Italy), and ideas could be expressed in peace without church or governmental interference. This was good for evangelical Christians. It was also good for humanists, rationalists and freethinkers like Erasmus. Dutch trade and sea power had made the Netherlands the dominant power in Europe during that time. Here people of faith could gather and worship without fear of persecution. Here too they could educate their children into a biblical world view with their own Christian schools. But for the Pilgrims and Puritans from Scrooby, (and others), Holland was a temporary haven. But it was not their destiny. The Puritan fellowship from Scrooby would only stay there in Holland 12 years. Then they would set forth towards the next stop on their epic journey. The Pilgrims and Puritans were bound for the New World. During the fall of 1620 they set sail aboard the Mayflower.

Meanwhile, back in England, the Puritans fumed and fretted and chafed under the constraints under which their new biblical faith was forced to operate. The difficult Pilgrim path of living as „non conformists” and walking a separated life to Christ was open to them of course. But the Puritans were committed to the continuation of a church-state union. So they remained within the Church of England trying to move the huge medieval colossus with all its „Romish” trappings forward inch by inch into biblical Christianity. Being people who believed in ‘the system’ the Puritans were determined to change the national church from within. But they were having a very very frustrating time. Since they were forbidden to worship outside the Church of England they were stuck. The church that they believed in just didn’t seem to be going anywhere.

The Church of England did provide wonderful opportunity for English Christians since it cut them off from Roman Catholicism. But its birth was not a spiritual birth so much as a political one. Henry VIII had broken the English church free of its moorings with the Church of Rome. Now the scriptures were shining a lamp onto the pathway ahead. Many Englishmen were coming into a personal faith in Christ. The Puritans were keen to move on out of the medieval darkness. Yet the bishops, under the kings thumb, were holding back the very church reforms that these new Bible reading Christians considered necessary.

All this was making things very difficult for the emerging Puritans. They did not want to take the road of ‘separation of church and state’ as the Pilgrim separatists were doing. They were not going to worship secretly. Nor did they want to gather in little fellowships. They were Englishmen! And they would worship God as Englishmen. If the system was not with them then their future course was clear. They would change the system! If the king wanted them in a single national church that was fine. But by God’s help they were bound and determined to move the Church of England forward into an enlightened Biblical Christianity.

The proliferation of Bibles in the 1500’s made these times of great religious discovery. The Puritan corporate conscience began to burn within them. They prayed and they agonized a s they sought to bring political and social substance to their dreams of a ‘nation under God’. They knew what could and should be done. And by God’s help they were going to make it happen!

In the early 1600’s this Puritan zeal was building up enormous political pressure within English society. The history that followed was quite predictable.

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