Saturday, February 22, 2014

THREE WISE GUYS: Martin Luther | Super Inc. Cinema

Justin Martyr had finally seen the Light and shared it with others.
Augustine's inspiration turned into action through his ministry.
But, somehow, this same magnificent Illumination had left Martin Luther in darkness.

How can that be?

What had been previously known as the only triumphant truth and the meaning of life now condemned the theologian. He entered a penitential state. Caught between as struggle of his soul against the power of God ... the will of man verses the will of the Lord, he did not know whether his salvation was truly based on the merits of his own works or by submitting everything, even his own identity, to God. It was a type of tug-of-war with no regard for the sake of the rope.

The Jesus Christ that the early theologians had known had been replaced by the Judging Christ, the Lord with a sword for a tongue and wrath in his eyes.

“One part of his vocation that Luther came to despise” was confession. With Augustinian monks who rarely openly sinned “the confessor sought to uncover motives, emotions, thoughts, and even repressed feelings. These revealed the evil in the heart. And like the body, the heart, too, had to be purged of every impurity.

These rigorous examinations horrified Luther. After the fact, he would suddenly remember a thought or an emotion that contradicted his vocation and stained his heart. He knew that it would rightly bring the wrath of God down on him.

These daily and sometimes hourly experiences were so terrifying that he once said, ‘When it is touched by the passing inundation of the eternal, the soul feels and drinks nothing but eternal punishment….’” “In retrospect Luther insisted that such probing into the heart lay too grievous a burden on sinners. In his own case, the awareness of secret sins nearly drove him to despair,” the unforgivable sin:[1]

“He confessed frequently, often daily, and for as long as six hours on a single occasion. Every sin in order to be absolved was to be confessed. Therefore the soul must be searched and the memory ransacked and the motives probed...

Luther would repeat a confession and, to be sure of including everything, would review his entire life until the confessor grew weary and exclaimed, ‘Man, God is not angry with you. You are angry with God. Don’t you know that God commands you to hope?’

This assiduous confessing certainly succeeded in clearing up any major transgressions. The leftovers with which Luther kept trotting in appeared to [his mentor]... to be only the scruples of a sick soul. ‘Look here,’ said he, ‘if you expect Christ to forgive you, come in with something to forgive—parricide, blasphemy, adultery—instead of all these peccadilloes.’

But Luther’s question was not whether his sins were big or little, but whether they had been confessed. The great difficulty which he encountered was to be sure that everything had been recalled. He learned from experience the cleverness of memory in protecting the ego, and he was frightened when after six hours of confessing he could still go out and think of something else which had eluded his most conscientious scrutiny. Still more disconcerting was the discovery that some of man’s misdemeanors are not even recognized, let alone remembered…”[2]

He had to make up for a world of sin.

There was nowhere to go, nowhere to turn to.
If there was, the Church had remained silent about it.

Luther had lived the life of Romans 7, "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out." Someone had once told Luther that he had begun to live off of his failures.

That is why his epiphany, his sudden inspiration, from Romans 6 is so crucial: "You are not under law but under grace." He must instead live off of Christ.

He had a faith of action, but his action had seemed to only lead him to fall short, fall apart, and fall into sin. (Remind you of another big Fall?) But, instead of dwelling on it, instead of tearing himself to pieces over minor stains, he had been reminded to live in Christ.

The Church had remained silent, they had given into Mammon and Power, they served secular idols, and they needed to repent. The concept of a life of grace had been stolen. And, Luther sat there, shook, trying to make things right on his own.

He knew it was an impossible feat.

That is why he turned to a life of Christ. He lived for Him and faith alone. He faced death-threats, excommunication, damnation, and his own family and friends. But, he realized that if he faced these things with his Lord and Savior, the God of Grace, he was not alone.

He was not empty, but filled by the Spirit.

He knew the Christian life must continue to be a life of repentance. We cannot sin all the more so that grace may abound. But, this holy life must also be a life of absolution. Our sins are forgiven. The Old Adam is dead. Done.

But, then he comes back.
That's why Christ must remain.
He does not empower us to empower ourselves.
But, He does empower us to lean on Him... to be forgiven again... to become ourselves again.

The THREE WISE GUYS might be a funny name for this series. But, it fits.
A wise guy is still just the fool without knowing Jesus Christ.

[1] Kittelson, 55-56.
[2] Bainton, 54-55.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

THREE WISE GUYS: Augustine | Super Inc. Cinema

"You are someone else."

It took me a while to think of a superhero to stand for the second (of three) wise guy. It seems as if Christmastide has flown past, leaving us here waiting for Lent.

But, it's still Epiphany.

The light-bulb's still going off.

Revelation after revelation, Jesus Christ takes this time to show himself to us during this in-between season.

It has not been that long ago that we discussed Saint Walker and Justin Martyr to explain the light entering the world and the world knowing Him through us. But, that was just the beginning.

Around three hundred years after Martyr, Augustine followed in his footsteps.

He had been a scholar for most of his life, becoming an expert at rhetoric and pretty well-off. He knew the "God of the Philosophers" and even set up a community for early retirement hoping to spend the better-part of his life meditating on Reason and Wisdom.

Just like the Watcher, he was content to view the ideas and conclusions laid out before him. He would enjoy separating himself from the world in order to study the world.

But, one day he woke up.

It was a day just like any other, a fellow African came to visit Augustine. He saw a copy of St. Paul’s letters on his friend’s table and relayed stories of the monastic St. Anthony to him.

The story of St. Anthony moved the philosopher, Augustine turned to his friend unable to hide his unrest saying, “What is the matter with us? What is the meaning of this story? These men have none of our education, yet they stand up and storm the gates of heaven while we, for all our learning, lie here groveling in this world of flesh and blood!”

Unable to constrain himself, Augustine immediately left to search for solace in the small garden attached to the house. There, he was driven to extremities such as hammering his forehead with his fists and hugging his knees to suffuse the torment which had erupted within his breast, the internal struggle for his soul.

Finally, he gave way to the tears that washed over him...

Out of the silence, he heard the voice of a child say, “Take it and read, take it and read.” He looked up to see where the sound had come from, but found no speaker.

He attempted to remember what childhood riddle or rhyme this phrase might have come from, but he could remember none. 

As he wiped away some of the tears that covered his face, realized that this “could only be a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall” just as St. Anthony had.

He rushed back to the book of Paul’s letters, grabbed hold of it, opened it, and in silence read the first passage he saw. As he read, a “light of confidence” poured into his heart and “all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.”

His life knew meaning once again.

But, still, he avoided the priesthood. He knew that he was smart enough and a good enough speaker to be a leader of the church. But, he didn't want to get into that mess. He knew that he was an opportune candidate so he avoided meeting with clergy or announcing his arrival to the congregation.

That is until the hand of God worked against him.

One day, while Augustine was out in the doorway (narthex) of the church, the crowd pulled him in. He was made a priest. And, he began to cry. Augustine was an emotional man and it was not unusual for him to cry. But, as the crowd thought he wept for being ordained as a simple priest instead of bishop, he wept because he did not want the office.

He eventually became the best Bishop Hippo ever had.

He went from living in a fantasy philosophical life to living out his own life.

Like the Watcher he woke up to his world. But, unlike the Watcher, Augustine applied himself.

In the same way, we must apply ourselves to the Gospel that has been preached to us.

We do not believe in vain.

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures... he was buried... he was raised on the third day... he appeared to his followers after his resurrection. And, as one untimely born, he also appeared to Paul. He was able to take a persecutor of Christians (much worse than just an observer or neutral bi-standard) and make him an Apostle.

The grace of God recreated Paul to who he had to be.

His grace also works on us... not without effect.

Kyle Idleman's new book AHA comes out next month. In it (page 147), he brings up the research of a Catholic philosopher who says, "until there is action, our beliefs and convictions aren't genuine." He then describes three different levels of belief:

Public beliefs: Beliefs we present to others, beliefs we try to get other people to think we believe, but which we don't really believe...

Private beliefs: Beliefs we have that we sincerely believe. But, when those beliefs are tested we discover we don't really believe in those values.

Core beliefs: Ultimately our only true beliefs... backed up by reality. They're not just something we say or feel. But, they are beliefs that actually define how we live. These core convictions are determined by the actions we take.

By the grace of God, Martyr's, Augustine's, Paul's, and even our own beliefs move from the second category to the third. Not by our own power, but by His power of the Gospel shown with the Cross and proved by the Resurrection.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Cause of Sin & Effected Works

Cause and Effect

For 20 centuries, an ancient thought-process had reigned. Before 300 BC, Aristotle saw that the world and everything else which had been created stemmed from four causes. These four causes were to answer the four questions of: “Who made it?” “What was it made out of?” “How was it made?” and “What was it for?” By the time Modern Philosophy came around, a couple hundred years after the Reformation, these four causes went down to one, the first cause (who/from whence was it made?). David Hume categorized this as the cause. This cause, then, led to effects. In a way, the effects took the place of the third cause (how was it made?) as the immediate action of the first cause.

By Modern standards, the second cause (what was it made from?) and fourth cause (why was it made?) seem to have been left out of the picture entirely. And, since the world began to favor Rationalism over Empiricism, the individual became the first cause (instead of the Empiricist’s view of the individual simply being an effect). In Postmodernism, since the individual is the one who now chooses how to influence the world, as opposed to being influenced by the world, the power is in our hands. This is the current view of existentialism which may often lead to nihilism (if the individual is the first cause and they do not see themselves worth much then there is nothing greater than themselves to rely on).

In religion, this would be seen as the idolatry of self. As Aristotle observed, the identity of the first cause is meant to be aligned with the cause of all things. Aquinas would continue the revelation by understanding that this Cause was found in the Christ and the Creator, Lord of all. With this in mind, it is clear that Articles XIX and XX of The Augsburg Confession belong together.

The Cause of Sin

The writing of this Confession took place long before the terms of Rationalism and Empiricism had been introduced. Back then, the world was not quite as dichotomized in this fashion. The evident truth would be that the individual is both a cause and an effect.

God is the Creator and sustainer of nature. This places the cosmos, Earth, plants, animals, and the whole of mankind under His dominion and care. He is the Cause of all these things. Humanity is but an effect of His reach. Where, then, had sin come from?

Sin is located in the will of the wicked… the devil and ungodly people. It is within God’s almighty power to create a creature that can be a creator on its own. Do not misunderstand, humanity and the devil can only create out of the things that have been created around them. They do not have the free will to make something out of nothing. But, they have been given the power and will to make something else out of what they have been given. The first big effect of Satan had been temptation. The first big invention by man had been sin.

Without the proper control, the mind of man is bound to follow the mind of the world, turning the ultimate cause away from God and into himself. He soon mistakes the power to change with the power of authority and the source of rites with the source of will. It is no wonder that the German text insists that this is a perverted will.

Effected Works

In a mistaken identity, the cause of works is in the individual. The Reformers knew this. But, if good works were of man, man would be right in boasting of himself. And, if good works were of man, they would resemble the other great invention of man, sin. Instead, we are told to boast in the Lord. For, He has done great and marvelous things.

If it were up to man, good works would be turned into childish and needless things such as man-created holy days, unusual fasts, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, honoring saints, rosaries, monasticism, and so-forth, misdirecting the mind from God. Instead, mankind needs to focus on the works that are ordained by God such as the Ten Commandments and similar doctrine that may be taught usefully about all estates and duties of life.

During the writing of the Confessions, the culture had gone so far as to embrace man-made works. It would take time to unlearn them. It would take time to turn back (repent) to God. It would take time to see Him as the Cause again. With Him (and not man) as the Cause, it would take time to join faith and works together again.

With God as the Cause and faith as the way we understand that cause, the effect is good works. Faith is the tool used to fix our perverted eyes back to the Original Cause. And, even this faith is an effect of that same Spirit. Faith and works flow from God. He is the strength of our hearts and the security of our minds. That is why, without God, the works of the pagan are meritless.

It is only through this faith, this effect of God, that any action may have meaning, worth, or merit. It is only through this faith that our sins may be forgiven, that we may be reconciled with Him. If this were not true, redemption by Christ’s blood would be worth very little, and God’s mercy would not surpass man’s works.

This is a scary idea. If our works were actions and effects of our own, we would have nothing bigger than ourselves to cling to. We would have no source for hope, strength, and meaning. But, at the same time, those who have learned to live for the sake of themselves would despise this teaching. They would loathe the loss of control this ultimate truth brings to their world.

Yet, a Christian should find consolation in this belief. In the midst of worldly conflict, there is security in God’s peace. There is a certainty in His will. There is reality in His effects. Although, mankind has become accustomed to completing its own works, its own effects, becoming its own cause, its struggle can enter solitude in the revelation that all the works which yield salvation have been accomplished for us by the One who made us.

This does not mean that the faith is a sterile faith, believing solely in things that have happened and are complete. It is not merely a faith in history but also the effect of history. It is founded in the aspect of what God’s actions mean for us today. This sort of faith is an active faith, it lives in us, pointing us to our source, directing us back to God. Without faith, human nature does not call upon God, nor expect anything from Him.

Nothing in man is harmless. Instead, human nature seeks to trust in human help. But, without the Holy Spirit, human desires are too weak to do godly works. They push human beings into various sins, ungodly opinions, and open crimes. With the Spirit, God is made known to us, He works in us and through us. All good things come from Him.

Meditation on the Text

Hume’s simpler view of stripping down Aristotle’s Four Causes to solely Cause and Effect has proved useful thus-far. Making two points, observing action and reaction, influence and response instead of stretching out to four has kept the focus on the goal. It has made it easy to reflect on the source and the outcome. In relation to this theology, the cause is God and the effect is faith and Good works (through man). If the cause were to be man, the effect would be meritless, worthless and perverted works.

But, the picture is not complete. It is not as holistic as the view of antiquity. Although, it may tend to simplify things, it cuts out half of the areas of study. In everything that has been created, there must be (at least) four causes. This is due to the sentient nature of the creator. There is not just a cause and an effect, but a motive and a tool used to convey obtain the end result.

Those who wrote the Confessions were not immune to all four of these causes. They met as a source of creation, they worked through writing and speech, and their purpose was to proclaim and share their beliefs. It is at this point of the paper that we must meditate on the second cause, the material cause. Ironically, this material is not material at all. It is thought, spoken, written, and read, the material used to express the ideas of the Confessors was language. And, this language was split.

Article XIX

Specifically, in Articles XIX and XX, there are a good amount of variances. The first one that sticks out seems to be the German’s use of a “perverted will.” This particular phrase does not come out in Latin, nor does the underlying idea aside from an “evil” will. A perversion of will allows the possibility that the will had been once intended for good. It had been pure. But, something had caused the imperfection. An evil will could have also at one time been good, but the thought is not as heavily implied.

The German text also says that “As soon as God withdrew his hand, it [the will] turned from God to malice.” The Latin rephrases these words by saying that “Since it [the will] was not assisted by God… [it] turned away from God.” Both bear a reminiscence of a child taking its first steps. But, the German child goes from crawling and wobbling to becoming the rebellious teenager while the Latin child becomes the Prodigal Son. The German is an act against God, an anger and deep hate. While, the Latin, just falls away, it may ignore God, forgetting about Him completely. Both are true.

In honoring ones’ parents, it is proper to remember them. The German severely forgets who his parents are supposed to be. Instead of relying on them and trusting them, he stabs them in the back. While the Latin also forgets who their parent is, but instead of hating him, he leaves him right away. As soon as he began to walk, he started to run. He neglects the source of security and help. In both translations, it is evident that the offspring no longer retain the idea of what their relationship to their forbearer had been intended to be. And, either outcome may follow from that particular neglection.

Article XX

In the twentieth Article, the focus shifts to what happens when the child is led back home. The Prodigal is no longer wasting his allowance in a far off land and the rebel has matured into the parent’s understanding. Now, the boy is ready to consider his priorities.

In the Latin and the German text both compile examples of things that should not make the top of the priority list. The German stresses that these particular things had been continuously “emphasized in all sermons.” Both translations, then, yearn for the emphasis to change to the matter of faith, which had not been preached “at all in former times” (German). They look for a proclamation instead of “a profound silence” (Latin).

Both translations continue with an explanation of what their church must teach in order to correct the unrighteous fallacy that has presented itself. They state that we cannot “obtain” (German) or “merit” (Latin) grace or “reconciliation” (German) and “forgiveness of sins” (Latin) on our own. The Church must teach a means to be made right with God.

Both sections then discuss that the church has taught that it is by our own means that we can be made right with God. “In former times” no “comfort” (German) or “consolation” (Latin) was achievable by this doctrine. Instead, “poor consciences [were driven] to their own works” (German) and were “vexed by the doctrine of works” (Latin) when they needed to hear “the gospel” (Latin). For, the Gospel teaches that it was not something that man could do to make himself right with God, but something that God had done to make man right with Himself.

The logical argument reaches the question of “What is faith?” or “What is the Gospel?” The German states that it is to “know that in Christ they have a gracious God [and] call upon him.” The Latin emphasizes that “they are reconciled to the Father through Christ [and] truly know God, know that God cares for them, and call upon him.” This calling upon God is an active thing, not a historical knowledge. “’Faith’ is to be understood not as knowledge, such as the ungodly have, but as trust that consoles and encourages terrified minds” (Latin). It is a “confidence in God—that God is gracious to us—and not merely such knowledge of these stories as the devils also have” (German).


The difference between translations is deeper than a difference between synonyms. German and Latin both represent their own unique history, background, and culture. A change in tongues is a change in understanding. The same can be said for the Reformers. Just as the understanding of the language affected the way they wrote the separate translations, the understanding of their historical context affected what they chose to say.


It has been stated that what made Augustine great was the controversy that arose around him. Without that conflict, the Saint may have been just another North African Theologian. The same may be true for Luther and his followers.

The Reformers had been caught up in a world ready to embrace penance and hardship. In all things, man was taught to act in the fear of God rather than from the love of God. The Mystics realized that they could not do the good that God had intended for them to do and believed that they must succumb to His Being. While, the Majority was left to try to save themselves from drowning although they had never been taught how to swim.

The cause, focus, and source of strength had moved from the Ultimate Source of God to the mortal source of man. There was no hope. Only silence was preached to vexed listeners. The good works of man was proclaimed as the punishment of God was revered. In this backwards world, the earth needed to be flipped around. Instead of humanity becoming the cause of their own good while the punishment of God had simply become an effect of their trespasses, the world needed to remember that God is the source of good while sin was an effect of man.


We are in that same position today. Instead of just good works being placed on mans’ shoulders, the individual has become their own personal Atlas. They are god and their effects are whims of their own being. Mankind has become the cause and the world is seen as their creation. Perhaps, this is the trouble in being made in the image of God.

The shift of practice may be due to the rise of Rationalism over Empiricism. But, Empiricists are often guilty of the same thing. The change may be an effect of Therapeutic Moral Deism, a slippery slope of using the Cause as an abused effect. But, the philosophy is also seen outside of the church. Perhaps, the confusion is just inherent to our sin-born nature and our own perverted wills.

In any case, if the individual remains as god, there is no outward source of security, identity, and meaning. It may be true that the creature can cause and effect, but it loses the other causes remembered so long ago. Who created this creator god? What had it been made from? How was it made? And, for what reason? These questions naturally linger within a person’s mind. A dichotomist worldview is not enough. In such a segmented perspective, there is no purpose. Good may be misconstrued into our own relative passions, childish endeavors, or needless fetishes (in any other word, sin). But, in acknowledging that the Cause comes from outside of us, good is a trustworthy thing. Its source is permanent, reliable, and true. It is possible to have good works.

I hope I have not lost you by translating this doctrine into the language of Modern Philosophy. But, that is what is needed in today’s world. Just as the German and Latin have previously accomplished in their own time, this language of Modern Philosophy may create an impact to a culture that speaks in Modern terms. The worry here is that it may be too late. Even the logic of Modernism seems to be neglected. Perhaps, now is the dawn of a new era, one of relativism and individualism. But, how can relativists and individualists see outside of themselves?

Just as the Reformer had been before them, they must be affected by a greater Cause.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014



“In 1929 an alarming thing happened. A scientist named Edwin Hubble discovered that the light from distant galaxies appears to be redder than it should be. The startling conclusion to which Hubble was led is that the light is redder because the universe is growing apart—it is expanding! Therefore, the light from the galaxies is affected, since they are moving away from us.

This is the interesting part: Hubble not only showed that the universe is expanding but that it is expanding the same in all directions… As space itself expands, all the galaxies in the universe grow farther and farther apart.

The staggering implication is that, as we go back in time, everything was closer and closer together. Ultimately, at some point in the finite past, the entire known universe was contracted down to a mathematical point, which scientists call the ‘singularity,’ from which it has been expanding ever since. The farther back one goes in the past, the denser the universe becomes, so that one finally reaches a point of infinite density from which the universe began to expand. This initial even has come to be known as the ‘Big Bang.’”[i]

This “Big Bang cosmology, along with Einstein’s theory of general relativity, implies that there is indeed an ‘in the beginning.’ All the data indicates a universe that is exploding outward from a point of infinite density… this singularity is not really a point; it is the whole of three-dimensional space compressed to zero size. This, in fact, actually represents a boundary at which space ceases to exist. Even the terms plead for explanation. The point I wish to make here… at the point of the universe’s origin, there is something rather than nothing… matter cannot simply ‘pop into existence’ on its own.”[ii]

The Cause

“Now then, in my [Plato’s] opinion, one must first distinguish the following. What is it that always is and has no origin; and what is it that comes into being and is not eternal?” If something has come into being, it may come to an ending. But, if something has no beginning, it may not have an ending. The universe has come into being. And, “everything that comes into being, of necessity comes into being by some cause; for apart from a cause, it’s impossible for anything to come to be.”[iii] This includes the universe itself. Since it has had a beginning, it must have an ending. And, since it has had a beginning, it must also have a cause...

[i] William Lane Craig, Tough Questions about Science in Who Made God? 54-55.
[ii] Ravi Zacharias, The End of Reason, 31-32.
[iii] Plato, Timaeus, 28A-B.

The Mentor | Staupitz

Johann Von Staupitz

First of all, Johann Von Staupitz is referenced as Luther’s father in doctrine and bearer in Christ. “Everything had started with him.” Although this may be true, the mentor was “generally underexposed” and “seldom fully appreciated.” The Roman Catholic Church put his writings on the index of forbidden books. And, Protestantism seemed to only view him as an Alfred to the Dark Knight Reformer. But, without a knowledge of this teacher, “the Reformation in Germany cannot be understood fully and properly.” [1]

Staupitz’ life verse was “I am yours, save me” taken from the Psalms. This highlights the emphasis of a life completely under God’s control and within the Maker’s hands. With this understanding of vocation and his deep loyalty to Scripture (“he’s held to whatever the sacred page teaches”), it is no wonder that the man had such an impact on both the Lutheran and Catholic Reformations. [2]

Life and Teachings

Between 1463 and 1468, Johann Von Staupitz was born to an old noble Saxon-Meissen family. He studied at the University of Cologne, receiving his bachelor of arts in 1484 and receiving his master of arts in 1489. By the death of his father in 1494, Staupitz had already become an Augustinian friar. He was ordained a priest and became a Baccalaureus Biblicus.[3]

By 1498, he found himself as a Magister at a convent in Tubingen, a relatively young institution, where the four classical faculties of philosophy, theology, jurisprudence, and medicine were taught. Staupitz appreciated the upcoming rise of reform at friaries and university studies. One change that affected Tubingen more than the Augustinian friary was that Hebrew and Greek were being studied along with Latin. At Tubingen, Staupitz would have also encountered the ideas of the most widely known theologians and preachers of the time.[4]

It is here between 1497 and 1498 that Staupitz’ first writings were published. They covered the first two chapters of Job and reemphasized the impact of the Lord in a similar way to his life verse. “At the beginning of each single ‘sermon’ he repeated the main theme, ‘The Lord has given…’” He also stressed the mercy of God, sermonizing the correlation between the gentile Job and his relation to God, owing much to a theology of grace. These sermons also depict Staupitz as “a reformer of the religious life.” “He was critical of the non-reformed mendicant friars. In his mind there was a connection between the devotion and work of the friars and that of the common people.” [5]

He drew heavily on St. Augustine as a source and made good use of the talk of the “sweetness of God.” “Staupitz’s image of Christ was essentially that of the generous giver.” He had a humanist incline, turning away from late medieval scholasticism and preferring the earlier church fathers and the Bible. He became “a reformer of the monastic life and of pastoral care” in his own rite.[6]

It would only be after Staupitz achieves his own doctorate, becomes the head of a monastery, and takes his role in Wittenberg that he would meet the young Martin Luther. But, his education, influence, and input were definitely sources that shaped the wee Reformer’s innocent mind. “Luther himself indicated that through Staupitz the light of the gospel had entered his heart.”[7]

[1] Franz Posset, The Front-Runner of the Catholic Reformation, (Ashgate, Burlington, VT, 2003), xiii, xv.
[2] Ibid., 1, xv.
[3] Ibid., 32, 34, 36-37.
[4] Ibid., 38-40.
[5] Ibid., 43-48.
[6] Ibid., 50-52, 57.
[7] Ibid., 1.

The First Reformer | John Hus

The Life and Teachings of John Hus

John Hus was a man who grew up much-like Martin Luther. He had been born to bohemian peasants in 1373 and sent off to the University of Prag sixteen years later. Like The Protestant, he sang for bread in the streets and studied diligently. In 1394, Hus received the Bachelor of Theology; in 1396, the Master of Arts; and, in 1400, he had been finally ordained as a priest.[1]

Although, there had been a couple of events leading up to this point, one of the first big controversies of Hus was after he had been appointed as the Synodal preacher in 1405. The vocation of this new office led Hus to use ferocity and a fiery fervor to scorn the avarice and immorality of the clergy. He held “sin no more permitted to a clergy-man than to a layman, and indeed more blameworthy.” This led to a festering of hatred against the man.

At the same time, there were two men from Prag who had painted a cartoon on their house outside the city. This cartoon contrasted “the lowly Christ and the proud pope.” It immediately became rather popular and drew crowds. Hus recommended this portrait from the pulpit as “a true representation of the opposition between Christ and Antichrist.” Luther would later edit similar cartoons of the same effect.[2]

Hus would later come into conflict against the abuse of relics and fraud to raise funds for the church. He did not see the need for pilgrimages and indulgences which simply seemed like an economy for the mammon-loving clergymen. He wrote that “a Christian need not seek for signs and miracles but need only hold by the Holy Scriptures.” “Man gets forgiveness of sins through real sorrow and repentance, not through money.” Luther would also hit the church where it hurt the most, in the wallet. Both men received a similar reaction: “Hurt in pride and pocket, the enraged clergy lodged complaints against Hus as a pestiferous heretic, who had to be suppressed; he lost his position as the Synodical preacher in 1408.” Two years later, Hus and his followers were excommunicated for wielding teachings that allowed the laity to think they were meant to lead their clergy and made their clergy disobedient to the Roman Church. [3]

Yet, Hus continued to preach. He said, “Wherever in a city or village or castle a preacher of the holy truth appears, the people stream together in great crowds.” “We must obey God rather than men in things which are necessary for salvation.” Hus placed the authority of the Church against the individual conscience. And, stated that his purpose was, “to defend the truth which God has enabled me to know, and especially the truth of the Holy Scriptures, even to death, since I know that the truth stands and is forever mighty and abides eternally; and with Him there is no respect of persons. And if the fear of death should terrify me, still I hope in my God and in the assistance of the Holy Spirit that the Lord will give me firmness. And if I have found favor in His sight He will crown me with martyrdom.” [4]

In 1412, Hus’s Reformation had won its first three martyrs who were executed by the church for burning the Pope’s bull and speaking against indulgence. In 1414, Hus had been invited to meet with the Pope and king, “the two vilest men then living on the face of the earth,” at Constance, Baden, near Switzerland. He went there “thinking he was going to his death” and found himself in the midst of seventeen hundred entertainers including seven hundred public prostitutes summoned to amuse his hosts. There, he was condemned, he was sent to prison soon after and burned alive the following year. [5]

It seems as if Olivier was right. The change in theology was needed for the Church. But, the men who were ahead of their time suffered for pursuing such an act.

[1] William Dallmann, John Hus, (Concordia Publishing House, 1916), 1-2.
[2] Ibid., 6-7. It is also worth noting that Hus and both of the cartoonists were followers of Wicliff whose books would be burned by the church in 1410 leading to riots and Hus’ public defense of Wicliff’s teachings.
[3] Ibid., 7-8, 10-12, 16.
[4] Ibid., 12-14.
[5] Ibid., 16, 20-25, 58.

Olivier's Luther | Speaking Past Denominations


This writing of Daniel Olivier (a Roman Catholic) was first published in 1978, over 400 years after the dawn of the Reformation. Olivier had realized that the man who had caused the great schism in Christian history had been left on the way-side. He saw that the Roman Catholic Church tended to throw out the Theologian with the “heresy.” And, he encouraged instead to study the problems that had arisen rather than simply ignoring them.

He does not request a remedy to “a catastrophic decision within its [the Catholic Church’s] own past.” But, instead encourages an approach that may create a means to save the Church from remaining “lamentably divided.” He stresses that the only way for Christianity to become itself again is to work in dialog with other ecclesial communities. The Church needs to work passed its tainted view that every discussion with a Protestant is a discussion with a heretic, and instead needs to realize that Protestantism may have some sight into the Church’s own progression (an example is shared on page 19 of Roman Catholics adopting a mass similar to Luther’s 400 years after his change in practice).[1]

“What is presented in this book is the result of research stimulated by reflections like these… Protestants are not always those who appear to be so. It is one thing to protest one’s faith and another thing altogether to be more papist than the pope. My aim here is to put to rest once and for all the idea of the ‘protestantization’ of the Church.”[2] And, where better to begin than with the life of The Protestant himself, Martin Luther? “Luther is today for Catholic theology a witness to the common faith, for the past as well as for the future; he is our ‘common master,’ as Cardinal Willebrands said.”[3]


The first premise of Olivier’s case is the inseparability of Luther and the Reformation from the current understanding of faith. He also distinguishes the difference of Luther being “the man of the Reformation” rather than “the man of the schism.” It was not a rebellious revolt that the son of a miner had established, but a “disagreement about the higher interests of faith.” “Luther lived only for faith… nothing else in his life mattered.”

This led to the inevitable crisis that would cause a fundamental change needed in the papal Church. But, this crisis had become “miscarried; instead of being a renovation of the one Church, it ended in the Church’s division.”[4] It was too soon for the stubborn papists.

Olivier’s book continues with a discussion of Luther’s view of the Gospel, the “central belief which gives form and significance to everything else.”[5] It follows with the “Problem of Salvation,” a section explaining how Luther’s view needed to change in order to see the grace of the Gospel within the Church. Here, he discovered mercy and justification by faith in Jesus Christ. This did not mesh with a broken church.

Olivier’s end-goal is to “liberate” the Gospel within the Church. To do this, “The Church must find once more the dual form of discourse which is indispensable to her transmission of the message which is hers and which she alone can deliver… The Christ who is present in His Word must be liberated… The Church has no other ‘power’ than the Word of the Gospel.” “Luther lived only to plead within the Church for a new union with Christ.” Today, this union must go further than denominational walls. This is not to accept heresy, but to witness the body of Christ as a whole once again.[6]

[1] Olivier, 18.
[2] Ibid., 19.
[3] Ibid., 21.
[4] Ibid., 25-26, 33.
[5] Ibid., 39.
[6] Ibid., 167-168.