Archive for the ‘Church history’ Category

I know this will cause a fire storm within some Christians because it goes against what they have been taught about the foundation of the United States of America. I’ve discussed this subject many times with fellow Christians over the years only to run into brick walls built around a foundation of misconceptions and wishful thinking. The idea our country was founded upon Christianity seems to have become a doctrine of the faith within some sects of Christianity. I hear many people ranging from local preachers to talk radio host pushing the idea that we must get the country back to it’s Christian roots. The truth is our Founding Fathers never intended our country to be ran by a religious theocracy and they setup safe guards to prevent this type of government. If the Founding Fathers intent was to base our country upon Christianity, then they did a pitiful job because no where is Jesus Christ or Christianity mentioned in the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution.

If we study history, then we see all the problems associated with a theocracy. A theocracy is oppressive and as savage as any leftist dictatorship can be. All we need to do is look at Europe in the Middle Ages, Islam, and the Salem witch trails to see the problem with mixing religion with government.

The Founding Fathers fled an oppressive theocracy when they left Europe. It’s easy to see why they took every step possible to prevent this type of abuse in the United States. The concept of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press is a safe guard against a religious theocracy or any form of oppressive government. Freedom and theocracy can never mix; it’s like saying that people are free while being under a Marxist regime. The one thing that a theocracy and Marxism have in common is how they enforce their rules which is by force backed up with a gun.

The Treaty of Tripoli is a very clear example of the the Founding Fathers view on Christianity and our government:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”(source)

The following is a very good post from Jim Walker concerning the myth that our country was founded on Christianity. I do not agree with everything that Mr. Walker promotes or believes, but I do agree with him 100% on this issue.

The Government of the United States is not, in any sense founded on the Christian religion

Mr. Walker makes his points and back them up with facts. As Christians, we should not be concerned with using the government to convert people. We should be focused on spreading our beliefs peacefully and seeking to convert people by peace rather than with the threat of force to obey our rules.

As a pro-life Libertarian, I believe in the freedom of religion and the freedom from religion. I reject the notion that we must pass laws based upon religion in order to bring peace to our country. All we need are common sense laws. We all need to learn to respect each others differences as long as those differences do not harm other people. If we feel a need to change something within our community, then buy all means use our freedoms and peacefully try to convert people to Christianity rather than trying to use the government as a means of force feed surfdom!

Theocracy is a terrible oppressive form of government that rules by fear and manipulation. The same Christians wanting to pass laws based on Christianity, are the same people who would whine about Sharia Law. Please explain to me the difference between Sharia Law and laws based upon Christianity from a US Constitutional perspective. Our constitution forbids laws to be made based upon religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

If we do, as some say, use Christianity as a foundation for laws to get America back to her roots then we will 1.) Establish a state religion 2.) Forbid the free exercise of religions that do not line up with whatever Christian sect is making the rules 3.) Censor free speech and the press 4.) And citizens will have no avenue to protest their grievances with this new government. If we do as some claim, then America will cease to be America and transform in a bigger version of mid-evil Europe were religious oppression intruded upon mankind’s basic right to be an individual. I know this is very unpopular to talk about from this perspective, but as Christians we wait on Christ to establish His perfect kingdom on earth; if we choose to set about doing this work for God, all we will do is create a bigger mess. Our Founding Fathers were wise to establish a system were liberty was allowed to flourish and at the same time rear it’s ugly head.

I had rather live under our government that strictly adheres the constitution than one that “thumps” a Bible as they use the threat of force to cram their beliefs down everyone’s throat who dares to disagree. At least under our rights given to use by our Founding Fathers, I will have the freedom to speak, to think, to disagree publicly, and the freedom to spread my beliefs without the fear of being arrested, harassed, or murdered. We cannot allow the actions of liberty hating leftist (or conservative liberty hating bible thumpers blaming “freedom” for all our sin ills) to skew our views on liberty.

Those who hate Christianity have a right to speak out, but they do not have a right to pass laws in order to silence those who choose to be Christian; likewise Christians do not have the right to pass laws to silence those whom they deem as anti-Christian. Two wrongs do not make a right. The beauty of America is that we all have the ability and right to have these debates and discussions without fearing punishment.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.-Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

The bottom line is if Christians want to change the direction of our country then they need to start by spreading the Gospel. They need to disciple new converts and teach their congregations how to live a Christian life. This is far more effective than passing things like Blue Laws etc. and trying to strong arm society to accept our beliefs. In my opinion, Christians who used the government to make laws based on their “morals” or because they were “offended“, taught many atheist how to use government to push forth their agenda. All sides need to step back and appreciate our freedoms, respect each other’s differences, and grow some thicker skin! We all share this country together so lets live together in peace while accepting each other’s differences!

AUGUSTINE—THEOLOGIAN OF GRACE

A quest for truth—no phrase better describes the work of the great theologian Augustine (354–430). After years of struggle with lust and doubt, he wrote of God: “You made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in You” (Confessions, Book 1:1). His quest for truth found its satisfaction in the person of Christ, whose saving grace became the vital center of his theology. Augustine powerfully captured that personal search for truth in The Confessions, one of the truly profound spiritual autobiographies of history.

Born in northern Africa of a pagan father (Patricius) and a devout, godly mother (Monica), Augustine excelled as a student, especially in the ancient art of rhetoric. This introduced him to the genius of the Roman rhetorician, Cicero. Although Cicero was not a Christian, his writings started Augustine on his pursuit of truth and wisdom.

One of Augustine’s greatest intellectual hurdles was the problem of evil—how could a good God permit a world filled with evil, pain, and suffering? He thought he had found the answer in Manichaeism. But when he examined Faustus, an important leader of the Manichees, his disillusionment with Faustus’s arguments caused him to abandon the system. He tried other philosophies, but none satisfied his yearning for truth and wisdom.

Another intense battle of Augustine’s early adulthood was with immorality and pride. For many years he kept a mistress, who bore him an illegitimate son. Because none of the philosophical systems he tried made demands on his personal morality, he believed his immoral lifestyle was justified. Too, his passion for personal fame in the academic world consumed him.

Seeking fame and fortune, Augustine traveled to Rome and Milan hoping to teach his beloved rhetoric. There he met Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. Ambrose’s brilliance impressed Augustine, for Ambrose showed Augustine that his objections to Christianity were shallow and mistaken.

Augustine’s conversion in 386 came, however, not through intellectual argumentation alone, but through an emotional encounter with the Almighty. In a garden outside Milan, he sat one day pondering the philosophical questions with which he had been toiling. As he tells it in his Confessions, he heard a child’s voice say, “Take and read.” He took up Paul’s letter to the Romans (especially 13:13–14) and there found his questions answered. “All the shadows of doubt were swept away,” he wrote (Confessions, Book 8:12). In God’s Word, he found truth in the person of Jesus Christ. He also found the power to shatter his bondage to lust and self-seeking glory, and he found the peace and purpose for life that none of the intellectual fads of his day could provide. He experienced the power of God’s grace that would define the rest of his life.

Augustine changed radically, breaking all ties with his immoral past. After Ambrose baptized him in 387, he returned to northern Africa where he embarked on a lifetime of study and devotion to Christ’s church. He became a priest in 391 and in 395 the bishop of Hippo, a city west of Carthage. His enormous power and influence were felt for many years from that bishopric, especially through his voluminous writing.

Augustine’s contributions to the church were extensive; in so many ways he was a transitional figure in church history. First, he defended the free-grace Gospel of Christ against many opponents, of which none was more threatening than Pelagius.

Pelagius, a British monk, taught a system that denied original sin and the need for God’s grace in salvation, thereby championing a radical man-centered theology. Man, in effect, had the ability to save himself. Augustine leveled the definitive response at Pelagius. He affirmed the guilt and corruption of all humans because of Adam’s sin and the absolute need for God’s saving grace. Following Paul, Augustine formulated the doctrines of election and predestination that would powerfully influence Luther and Calvin centuries later. Augustine’s theological system was God-centered, with salvation totally and causatively effected by God.

Second, Augustine’s Treatise on the Holy Trinity is a magnificent theological masterpiece. In it he saw the God of the Bible as an eternal, transcendent, infinite, and perfect triune God. In defining God as a Trinity in one essence, his work constituted the capstone of centuries of theological thought on the nature of God. There was little debate on the nature of the Trinity after Augustine.

In his work on the Trinity, Augustine also solved his personal struggle with the problem of evil. For him, the Bible taught that God created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo) and created humans and angels with a free will. Free will explained how evil entered into a good universe—Satan, some angels, and humans chose to rebel against God. Grace was the only explanation of why God chose to redeem humanity through His Son.

Third, his City of God, rooted in a belief in God’s sovereignty and providence, postulated the first genuine Christian philosophy of history. Written as a response to the destruction of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths, this work saw history as a story of two cities—the city of God and the city of man.

Each city is motivated by contrary loves—the city of God by love for God and the city of man by love of self. Both will continue until the end, when God will bring eternal condemnation on the rebellious city and eternal salvation to the obedient one. Therefore, Augustine argued, Rome fell, as will all cities of man, because it was sinful, idolatrous, and rebellious. Only God’s city will triumph.

Other aspects of Augustine’s theology deserve comment. Because of his ascetic lifestyle, he found repugnant any reference to a literal millennial kingdom on earth. He rebelled against the idea of God bringing in a kingdom of material goodness and physical abundance. So he allegorized passages like Revelation 20 and taught that these verses referred to the present age, not a literal thousand-year reign of Christ.

In an age when intellectual fads and promiscuous lifestyles continue to enslave, the life of Augustine remains a compelling one. He demonstrated that only God’s grace can break the chains of sin, for Jesus alone provides the answers to life’s vexing questions. Once Augustine found life’s key, he stood as a model of erudition and brilliance explained only by the power of God’s grace.

The Theologians achieved doctrinal consensus on what the Scriptures taught about the Trinity and Jesus Christ. The matter of the roles of God and man in the dynamic of salvation was not as easy. Increasingly, the official position of the Roman Catholic Church rendered man’s role as equally important, so that salvation was taught to be a cooperative effort between man and God.

Eckman, J. P. (2002). Exploring church history (35–38). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway.

DEFINING THE DOCTRINE OF THE GOD-MAN

The touchstone of theological orthodoxy is the person of Christ. Both His deity and His humanity must be affirmed, or the entire doctrine of salvation is affected. Only a Jesus who is truly God and truly man can provide a complete salvation for humanity.

A problem in the early church was explaining how Jesus’ deity and His humanity related. At any given point in His earthly life, how did His two natures blend? Was He more God or more man? How should we view the union of these two natures in the one person? The debate over Jesus’ two natures troubled the church for more than 300 years, at least until 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, when the definitive statement about Jesus’ two natures was written.

As one studies the early church, it becomes clear that the emergence of error usually prompted the church to seek a more satisfactory explanation of a theological question. This was true of the doctrine of Christ. Throughout the period from 325 to 451, major interpretations emerged, often heretical, that challenged the church to think more precisely about defining the relationship of Jesus’ two natures.

The Alexandrian School

Two schools of theology, one in Antioch and the other in Alexandria, Egypt, framed the debate on the nature of Christ. The Alexandrian school claimed such luminaries as Athanasius and the great Origen. Influenced by Greek philosophy, especially Plato, the Alexandrians tended to elevate the spiritual—Christ’s deity—at the expense of His humanity.

Following logically from the Alexandrian position came the heresy propagated by Apollinarius. He was a friend of Athanasius and Basil the Great as well as a teacher of the great Jerome. However, he taught that Jesus was fully God but that His “rational soul” was supplanted by the divine Logos. This meant that Jesus was not completely human.

The Council of Constantinople in 381 condemned Apollinarius as a heretic because his view affected the doctrine of salvation. How could Christ sufficiently die for humans if He was not totally a man Himself? The council thus concluded that Jesus had to be completely human and completely divine.

The Antiochene School

The second major school of theology, in Antioch, was influenced by Aristotle, who saw man as a unity of soul and body, not a dichotomy. This school gave far more importance to the unique distinction of Jesus’ two natures than did the Alexandrians. The Antiochene emphasis logically produced the heresy Nestorianism, named after Nestorius, who further challenged the church’s thinking about Jesus.

As Patriarch in Constantinople in 428, Nestorius held a powerful position in the early church. For several reasons he was uncomfortable with the way the Alexandrians were using certain phrases about Jesus, all of which he thought amounted to a dangerous mixing of the human and divine natures of Christ. His solution was to maintain an absolute distinction of the two natures to such an extent that the only connection between them was the will.

The best analogy of how Nestorius viewed Christ was as a Siamese twin. Because the patriarch could not imagine deity being involved in human suffering or change, he insisted that the two natures were artificially joined. Even though some modern scholarship doubts whether Nestorius actually taught this, this teaching was condemned as heresy at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

It was clear that neither the rigid two-nature model of Nestorius nor the careless one-nature theory of Apollinarius corresponded with the biblical data. In Jesus’ confrontation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, His two natures seemed to be in perfect communion. At any given moment in time, He was both God and man. Thus a position was needed that would combine the strength of both proposals.

A monk from Constantinople named Eutyches proposed a model for understanding Christ that attempted to reconcile Apollinarius and Nestorius. He refused to maintain a clear distinction between the two natures of Jesus; instead, he argued for a mixture of the natures such that a third confused mingling was the result. The analogy of dropping a few drops of oil into a pail of water illustrates the point—both the oil and the water are present, but the distinction between the two is not clear. The result of Eutyches’ teaching was a confused mixture, not fully God or man.

The Council of Chalcedon

To settle this critical matter of how to view the two natures of Jesus, a major council of more than 400 church leaders was called at Chalcedon in 451. After much debate, these leaders affirmed a statement rooted in Scripture that has singularly remained the most important declaration about Jesus Christ in the history of the church.

The statement proclaimed Jesus to be both God and man in one person. It declared that both natures are joined in a miraculous way so neither nature is damaged, diminished, or impaired. His two natures are joined “unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, and inseparably” (Leith, 36). Salvation is thus secured for those who profess faith in Jesus because His sacrifice was as both saving God and identifying man.

From Chalcedon, then, the church taught that Jesus is undiminished deity plus perfect humanity united in one person, without any confusion of the two natures. In the absolute sense of the term, He is the God-man!

We live in a world where religious cults are threatening orthodox truth at every turn. If church history teaches us anything, it is this—precision of language in doctrinal matters is imperative. Any choice of words when describing Jesus that diminishes His deity or His humanity is incorrect and heretical.

The miracle of the Incarnation stretches our finite minds to the limit. The great legacy of the Council of Chalcedon reflects a consensus on the language that preserves both the complete deity and humanity of Jesus in His person. A complete salvation demands it; faith in the God-man, Jesus Christ, procures it.

Eckman, J. P. (2002). Exploring church history (32–35). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway.

THE THREE CAPPADOCIANS—DEFENDING THE TRINITY

One of the most profound truths of the Christian faith is the doctrine of the Trinity. It separates Christianity from all other world religions.

The Bible teaches in Deuteronomy 6:4 that God is one; yet from the New Testament it is clear that this one God consists of three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The church has always affirmed this doctrine as orthodox, but wrestling with its theological and philosophical implications has been difficult. Especially in the early church, this struggle often produced heresy.

The ancient church of the third and fourth centuries was plagued with false teaching that challenged the deity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Whether it was the teachings of Arius or a group called the Pneumatomachians, the Son and the Spirit were regarded as subordinate to the Father. In order to preserve the oneness of God, others argued that Jesus was a man who was adopted as the Son of God; thus He was not eternally the Son.

Others contended that there was one God who revealed Himself in one of three modes—Father, Son, or Spirit. To decide the issue, the early church asked, “Is this what the Scriptures teach?” More specifically, what precise, descriptive words could guard against heresy when it comes to explaining the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit? Even into the fifth century, the church labored over these questions.

The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity was a product of a series of debates and councils, sparked in large part by heretical teaching from within the church. It was the collaboration of three friends, the Three Cappadocians—Basil of Caesarea (circa 330–379), Gregory of Nazianzus (circa 329–389), and Gregory of Nyssa (circa 330–394)—that produced the victory over many of these heresies. God clearly used them in a mighty way to formulate the truth about the relationship between the members of the Godhead. Until modern religious liberalism emerged in the nineteenth century, their work provided the definitive framework for thinking and speaking about the Trinitarian God we worship.

Brief biographical sketches place all three as key leaders in the Eastern church. Basil was born into a wealthy Christian family in what would be modern Turkey. Well educated in the schools of Greece, he was appointed bishop of Caesarea. His influence in the development of monasticism was enormous.

His brother, Gregory of Nyssa, became a teacher of rhetoric and was appointed bishop of Nyssa. While the Arians were in resurgence in the Eastern empire, he was deposed and sent into exile for five years. Their mutual friend, Gregory of Nazianzus, was also educated at the universities at Alexandria and Athens, where he met Basil. To one degree or another, each was philosophical, mystical, and monastic. But they shared a deep commitment to orthodox Nicene Christianity. Passionately, each defended the members of the Trinity as coequal, coessential, and coeternal.

Perhaps Basil made the most significant contribution in championing the orthodox view of the Trinity. The language used by theologians of the early church often depicted the Son as subordinate to the Father; He was thus in some way inferior. When it came to the Holy Spirit, there was very little discussion at all.

Basil showed that when we think of the Trinitarian God, we must always separate the terms “essence” and “person”; they are not synonyms. “Essence” is what makes God, God. Attributes such as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience are involved here. “Person” is a term that defines the distinctions within that one essence. Thus we can correctly say “God the Father,” “God the Son,” and “God the Spirit,” while maintaining that they are one and inseparable in being. Basil was also the first theologian to write a major treatise on the Holy Spirit in which he offered proofs for the deity of the Spirit.

Gregory of Nazianzus took the argument a step further. Agreeing with his friend Basil’s contention of the difference between essence and person, Gregory showed that the difference between the three persons is relational. This relationship is delineated as eternally the Father, eternally the Son, and eternally the Spirit. Eternally there has been love and communion between the persons of one essence that constitute the Trinity.

Basil’s brother, Gregory of Nyssa, also showed that the difference between the members of the Godhead is not one of essence or of substance. The difference can be grounded only on the inner relations and functions of each. Any language that results in the Son’s being subordinate to the Father or of the Spirit’s being subordinate to the Son is simply unacceptable.

Thus the Trinity is one God of three persons whose difference is relational and functional, not essential. We do not have three gods or three modes of God; we have one God. Ephesians 1:1–14 illustrates the point quite well—the Father chooses, the Son redeems, the Spirit seals (see also 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2). Each member of the Godhead is intimately involved in the drama of salvation. We thus can follow Paul and praise the Trinitarian God of grace!

It is difficult for us in the modern church to imagine how much the early church struggled with choosing the proper words when discussing the nature of the Godhead. But in each generation God raised up individuals to protect the church from error. The Three Cappadocians teach us the importance of precise thinking when it comes to the Trinity. Their precision won the day at the Council of Constantinople in 381 where the forces of heretical thinking were defeated.

Eckman, J. P. (2002). Exploring church history (30–32). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway.

Sola Scriptura

by A.A. Hodge (1823-1886)

Originally published in 1860, A.A. Hodge’s Outlines of Theology is still regarded as a great introduction to classical Protestant theology. This electronic edition (which is an unedited reproduction of chapter five of Hodge’s book) was made available by Shane Rosenthal for Reformation Ink. It is in the public domain and may be freely copied and distributed. The title “Sola Scriptura” was given for this electronic edition, but the actual chapter heading appears below as it was originally printed.(source)

 THE RULE OF FAITH & PRACTICE.

The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Having Been Given By Inspiration of God, Are the All-Sufficient and Only Rule of Faith and Practice, and Judge of Controversies.

1. What is meant by saying that the Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

Whatever God teaches or commands is of sovereign authority. Whatever conveys to us an infallible knowledge of his teachings and commands is an infallible rule. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the only organs through which, during the present dispensation, God conveys to us a knowledge of his will about what we are to believe concerning himself, and what duties he requires of us.

2. What does the Romish Church declare to be the infallible rule of faith and practice?

The Romish theory is that the complete rule of faith and practice consists of Scripture and tradition, or the oral teaching of Christ and his apostles, handed down through the Church. Tradition they hold to be necessary, 1st, to teach additional truth not contained in the Scriptures; and, 2nd, to interpret Scripture. The Church being the divinely constituted depository and judge of both Scripture and tradition.–” Decrees of Council of Trent,” Session IV, and “Dens Theo.,” Tom. 2., N. 80 and 81.

3. By what arguments do they seek to establish the authority of tradition? By what criterion do they distinguish true traditions from false, and on what grounds do they base the authority of the traditions they receive?

1st. Their arguments in behalf of tradition are–(1.) Scripture authorizes it, 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6. (2.) The early fathers asserted its authority and founded their faith largely upon it. (3.) The oral teaching of Christ and his apostles, when clearly ascertained, is intrinsically of equal authority with their writings. The scriptures themselves are handed down to us by the evidence of tradition, and the stream cannot rise higher than its source. (4.) The necessity of the case. (a.) Scripture is obscure, needs tradition as its interpreter. (b.)Scripture is incomplete as a rule of faith and practice; since there are many doctrines and institutions, universally recognized, which are founded only upon tradition as a supplement to Scripture. (5.) Analogy. every state recognizes both written and unwritten, common and statute law.

2nd. The criterion by which they distinguish between true and false traditions is Catholic consent. The Anglican ritualists confine the application of the rule to the first three or four centuries. the Romanists recognize that as an authoritative consent which is constitutionally expressed by the bishops in general council, or by the Pope ex-cathedra, in any age of the church whatever.

3rd. They defend the traditions which they hold to be true. (1.) On the ground of historical testimony, tracing them up to the apostles as their source. (2.) The authority of the Church expressed by Catholic consent.

4. By what arguments may the invalidity of all ecclesiastical tradition, as a part of our rule of faith and practice, be shown?

1st. The Scriptures do not, as claimed, ascribe authority to oral tradition. Tradition, as intended by Paul in the passage cited (2 Thess. 2:15, and 3:6), signifies all his instructions, oral and written, communicated to those very people themselves, not handed down. On the other hand, Christ rebuked this doctrine of the Romanists in their predecessors, the Pharisees, Matt. 15:3,6; Mark 7:7.

2nd. It is improbable a priori that God would supplement Scripture with tradition as part of our rule of faith. (1.) Because Scripture, as will be shown below (questions 7-14), is certain, definite, complete, and perspicuous. (2.) Because tradition, from its very nature, is indeterminate, and liable to become adulterated with every form of error. Besides, as will be shown below (question 20), the authority of Scripture does not rest ultimately upon tradition.

3rd The whole ground upon which Romanists base the authority of their traditions (viz., history and church authority) is invalid. (1.) History utterly fails them. For more than three hundred years after the apostles they have very little, and that contradictory, evidence for any one of their traditions.

They are thus forced to the absurd assumption that what was taught in the fourth century was therefore taught in the third, and therefore in the first. (2.) The church is not infallible, as will be shown below (question 18).

4th. Their practice is inconsistent with their own principles. Many of the earliest and best attested traditions they do not receive. Many of their pretended traditions are recent inventions unknown to the ancients.

5th. Many of their traditions, such as relate to the priesthood, the sacrifice of the mass, etc., are plainly in direct opposition to Scripture. Yet the infallible church affirms the infallibility of Scripture. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

5. What is necessary to constitute a sole and infallible rule of faith?

Plenary inspiration, completeness, perspicuity or clarity, and accessibility.

6. What arguments do the Scriptures themselves afford in favor of the doctrine that they are the only infallible rule of faith?

1st. The Scriptures always speak in the name of God, and command faith and obedience.

2nd. Christ and his apostles always refer to the written Scriptures, then existing, as authority, and to no other rule of faith whatsoever.–Luke 16:29; 10:26; John 5:39; Rom. 4:3;2 Tim. 3:15.

3rd. The Bereans are commended for bringing all questions, even apostolic teaching, to this test.–Acts 17:11; see also Isa. 8:16.

4th. Christ rebukes the Pharisees for adding to and perverting the Scriptures.–Matt. 15:7-9; Mark 7:5-8; see also Rev. 22:18, 19, and Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Josh. 1:7.

7. In what sense is the completeness of Scripture as a rule of faith asserted?

It is not meant that the Scriptures contain every revelation which God has ever made to man, but that their contents are the only supernatural revelation that God does now make to man, and that this revelation is abundantly sufficient for man’s guidance in all questions of faith, practice, and modes of worship, and excludes the necessity and the right of any human inventions.

8. How may this completeness be proved, from the design of scripture?

The Scriptures profess to lead us to God. Whatever is necessary to that end they must teach us. If any supplementary rule, as tradition, is necessary to that end, they must refer us to it.

“Incompleteness here would be falsehood.” But while one sacred writer constantly refers us to the writings of another, not one of them ever intimates to us either the necessity or the existence of any other rule.–John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:15-17.

9. By what other arguments may this principle be proved?

As the Scriptures profess to be a rule complete for its end, so they have always been practically found to be such by the true spiritual people of God in all ages. They teach a complete and harmonious system of doctrine. They furnish all necessary principles for the government of the private lives of Christians, in every relation, for the public worship of God, and for the administration of the affairs of his kingdom; and they repel all pretended -traditions and priestly innovations.

10. In what sense do Protestants affirm and Romanists deny the perspicuity of Scripture?

Protestants do not affirm that the doctrines revealed in the Scriptures are level to man’s powers of understanding. Many of them are confessedly beyond all understanding. Nor do they affirm that every part of Scripture can be certainly and perspicuously expounded, many of the prophesies being perfectly obscure until explained by the event. But they do affirm that every essential article of faith and rule of practice is clearly revealed in Scripture, or may certainly be deduced therefrom. This much the least instructed Christian may learn at once; while, on the other hand, it is true, that with the advance of historical and critical knowledge, and by means of controversies, the Christian church is constantly making progress in the accurate interpretation of Scripture, and in the comprehension in its integrity of the system therein taught.

Protestants affirm and Romanists deny that private and unlearned Christians may safely be allowed to interpret Scripture for themselves.

11. How can the perspicuity of scripture be proved from the fact that it is a law and a message?

We saw ( question 8 ) that Scripture is either complete or false, from its own professed design. We now prove its perspicuity upon the same principle. It professes to be (1) a law to be obeyed; (2) a revelation of truth to be believed, to be received by us in both aspects upon the penalty of eternal death. To suppose it not to be perspicuous, relatively to its design of commanding and teaching is to charge God with clearing with us in a spirit at once disingenuous and cruel.

12. In what passages is their perspicuity asserted?

Ps. 19:7,8; 119:105,130; 2 Cor. 3:14; 2 Pet. 1:18,19; Hab. 2:2; 2 Tim. 3:15,17.

13. By what other arguments may this point be established?

1st. The Scriptures are addressed immediately, either to all men indiscriminately, or else to the whole body of believers as such.–Deut. 6:4-9; Luke 1:3; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; 4:2; Gal. 1:2; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2; James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 2:12,14; Jude 1:1; Rev. 1:3,4; 2:7. The only exceptions are the epistles to Timothy and Titus.

2nd. All Christians indiscriminately are commanded to search the Scriptures.–2 Tim. 3:15,17; Acts 17:11; John 5:39.

3rd. Universal experience. We have the same evidence of the light-giving power of Scripture that we have of the same property in the sun. The argument to the contrary, is an insult to the understanding of the whole world of Bible readers.

4th. The essential unity in faith and practice, in spite of all circumstantial differences, of all Christian communities of every age and nation, who draw their religion directly from the open Scriptures.

14. What was the third quality required to constitute the scriptures the sufficient rule of faith and practice?

Accessibility. It is self-evident that this is the pre-eminent characteristic of the Scriptures, in contrast to tradition, which is in the custody of a corporation of priests, and to every other pretended rule whatsoever. The agency of the church in this matter is simply to give all currency to the word of God.

15. What is meant by saying that the Scriptures are the judge as well as the rule in questions of faith?

“A rule is a standard of judgment; a judge is the expounder and applier of that rule to the decision of particular cases.” The Protestant doctrine is–

1st. That the Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

2nd. (1.) negatively. That there is no body of men who are either qualified, or authorized, to interpret the Scriptures, or apply their principles to the decision of particular questions, in a sense binding upon the faith of their fellow Christians.

(2.) Positively. That Scripture is the only infallible voice in the church, and is to be interpreted, in its own light, and with the gracious help of the Holy Ghost, who is promised to every Christian (1 John 2:20-27), by each individual for himself; with the assistance, though not by the authority, of his fellow Christians. Creeds and confessions, as to form, bind only those who voluntarily profess them, and as to matter, they bind only so far as they affirm truly what the Bible teaches, and because the Bible does so teach.

16. What is the Romish doctrine regarding the authority of the church as the infallible interpreter of the rule of faith and the authoritative judge of all controversies?

The Romish doctrine is that the church is absolutely infallible in all matters of Christian faith and practice, and the divinely authorized depository and interpreter of the rule of faith. Her office is not to convey new revelations from God to man, yet her inspiration renders her infallible in disseminating and interpreting the original revelation communicated through the apostles.

The church, therefore, authoritatively determines–1st. What is Scripture. 2nd. What is genuine tradition 3rd. What is the true sense of Scripture and ‘tradition’, and what is the true application of that perfect rule to every particular question of belief or practice.

This authority vests in the pope, when acting in his official capacity, and in the bishops as a body, as when assembled in general council, or when giving universal consent to a decree of pope or council.–“Decrees of Council of Trent,” Session 4.; “Deus Theo.,” N. 80, 81, 84, 93, 94, 95, 96. “Bellarmine,” Lib. 3., de eccles., cap. 14., and Lib. 2., de council., cap. 2.

17. By what arguments do they seek to establish this authority?

1st. The promises of Christ, given, as they claim, to the apostles, and to their official successor, securing their infallibility, and consequent authority.–Matt. 16:18; 18:18-20; Luke 24:47-49; John 16:13; 20:23.

2nd. The commission given to the church as the teacher of the world.–Matt. 28:19, 20; Luke 10:16, etc.

3rd. The church is declared to be “the pillar and ground of the truth,” and it is affirmed that “the gates of hell shall never prevail against her.”

4th. To the church is granted power to bind and loose, and he that will not hear the church is to be treated as a heathen. Matt. 16:19; 18:15-18.

5th. The church is commanded to discriminate between truth and error, and must consequently be qualified and authorized to do so–2 Thessalonians 3:6; Romans 16:17; 2 John 10.

6th. From the necessity of the case, men need and crave an ever-living, visible, and cotemporaneous infallible Interpreter and Judge.

7th. From universal analogy every community among men has the living judge as well as the written law, and the one would be of no value without the other.

8th. This power is necessary to secure unity and universality, which all acknowledge to be essential attributes of the true church.

18. By what arguments may this claim of the Romish church be shown to be utterly baseless?

1st. A claim vesting in mortal men a power so momentous can be established only by the most clear and certain evidence, and the failure to produce such converts the claim into a treason at once against God and the human race.

2nd. Her evidence fails, because the promises of Christ to preserve his church from extinction and from error do none of them go the length of pledging infallibility. The utmost promised is, that the true people of God shall never perish entirely from the earth, or be left to apostatize from the essentials of the faith.

3rd. Her evidence fails, because these promises of Christ were addressed not to the officers of the church as such, but to the body of true believers. Compare John 20:23 with Luke 24:33,47,48,49, and 1 John 2:20,27.

4th. Her evidence fails, because the church to which the precious promises of the Scriptures are pledged is not an external, visible society, the authority of which is vested in the hands of a perpetual line of apostles. For–(1.) the word church ekklhsia is a collective term, embracing the effectually called klhtoi or regenerated.–Rom. 1:7; 8:28; 1 Cor. 1:2; Jude 1:; Rev. 17:14; also Rom. 9:24; 1 Cor. 7:18-24; Gal. 1:15; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 9:15; 1 Pet. 2:9; 5:10; Eph. 1:18; 2 Pet. 1:10. (2.) The attributes ascribed to the church prove it to consist alone of the true, spiritual people of God as such.–Eph. 5:27; 1 Pet. 2:5; John 10:27; Col. 1:18,24. (3.) The epistles are addressed to the church, and in their salutations explain that phrase as equivalent to “the called,””the saints,””all true worshippers of God;” witness the salutations of 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1st and 2nd Peter and Jude. The same attributes are ascribed to the members of the true church as such throughout the body of the Epistles.– 1 Cor. 1:30; 3:16; 6:11,19; Eph. 2:3-8, and 19-22; 1 Thess. 5:4,5; 2 Thess. 2:13; Col. 1:21; 2:10; 1 Pet. 2:9.

5th. The inspired apostles have had no successors. (1.) There is no evidence that they had such in the New Testament. (2.) While provision was made for the regular perpetuation of the offices of presbyter and deacon (1 Tim. 3:1-13), there are no directions given for the perpetuation of the apostolate. (3.) There is perfect silence concerning the continued existence of any apostles in the church in the writings of the early centuries. Both the name and the thing ceased. (4.) No one ever claiming to be one of their successors have possessed the “signs of an apostle.”–2 Cor. 12:12; 1 Cor. 9:1; Gal. 1:1,12; Acts 1:21,22.

6th. This claim, as it rests upon the authority of the Pope, is utterly unscriptural, because the Pope is not known to Scripture. As it rests upon the authority of the whole body of the bishops, expressed in their general consent, it is unscriptural for the reasons above shown, and it is, moreover, impracticable, since their universal judgment never has been and never can be impartially collected and pronounced.

7th. There can be no infallibility where there is not self- consistency. But as a matter of fact the Papal church has not been self-consistent in her teaching. (1.) She has taught different doctrines in different sections and ages. (2.) She affirms the infallibility of the holy Scriptures, and at the same time teaches a system plainly and radically inconsistent with their manifest sense; witness the doctrines of the priesthood, the mass, penance, of works, and of Mary worship. Therefore the Church of Rome hides the Scriptures from the people.

8th. If this Romish system be true then genuine spiritual religion ought to flourish in her communion, and all the rest of the world ought to be a moral desert. The facts are notoriously the reverse. If; therefore, we admit that the Romish system is true, we subvert one of the principal evidences of Christianity itself; viz., the self-evidencing light and practical power of true religion, and the witness of the Holy Ghost.

19. By what direct arguments may the doctrine that the Scriptures are the final judge of controversies be established?

That all Christians are to study the Scriptures for themselves, and that in all questions as to God’s revealed will the appeal is to the Scriptures alone, is proved by the following facts:

1st. Scripture is perspicuous, see above, questions 11-13.

2nd. Scripture is addressed to all Christians as such, see above, question 13.

3rd. All Christians are commanded to search the scriptures, and by them to judge all doctrines and all professed teachers.–John 5:39; Acts 17:11; Gal. 1:8; 2 Cor. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:21; 1 John 4:1,2.

4th. The promise of the Holy Spirit, the author and interpreter of Scripture, is to all Christians as such. Compare John 20:23 with Luke 24:47-49; 1 John 2:20,27; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16, 17.

5th. Religion is essentially a personal matter. Each Christian must know and believe the truth explicitly for himself; on the direct ground of its own moral and spiritual evidence, and not on the mere ground of blind authority. Otherwise faith could not be a moral act, nor could it “purify the heart.” Faith derives its sanctifying power from the truth which it immediately apprehends on its own experimental evidence.–John 17:17, 19; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:22.

20. What is the objection which the Romanists make to this doctrine, on the ground that the church is our only authority for believing that the scriptures are the word of God?

Their objection is, that as we receive the scriptures as the word of God only on the authoritative testimony of the church, our faith in the Scriptures is only another form of our faith in the church, and the authority of the church, being the foundation of that of Scripture, must of course be held paramount.

This is absurd, for two reasons–

1st. The assumed fact is false. The evidence upon which we receive Scripture as the word of God is not the authority of the church, but–(1.) God did speak by the apostles and prophets, as is evident (a) from the nature of their doctrine, (b) from their miracles, (c) their prophecies, (d) our personal experience and observation of the power of the truth. (2.) These very writings which we possess were written by the apostles, etc., as is evident, (a) from internal evidence, (b) from historical testimony rendered by all competent cotemporaneous witnesses in the church or out of it.

2nd. Even if the fact assumed was true, viz., that we know the Scriptures to be from God, on the authority of the church’s testimony alone, the conclusion they seek to deduce from it would be absurd. The witness who proves the identity or primogenitor of a prince does not thereby acquire a right to govern the kingdom, or even to interpret the will of the prince.

21. How is the argument for the necessity of a visible judge, derived from the diversities of sects and doctrines among Protestants, to be answered?

1st. We do not pretend that the private judgment of Protestants is infallible, but only that when exercised in a humble, believing spirit, it always leads to a competent knowledge of essential truth.

2nd. The term Protestant is simply negative, and is assumed by many infidels who protest as much against the Scriptures as they do against Rome. But Bible Protestants, among all their circumstantial differences, are, to a wonderful degree, agreed upon the essentials of faith and practice. Witness their hymns and devotional literature.

3rd. The diversity that does actually exist arises from failure in applying faithfully the Protestant principles for which we contend. Men do not simply and without prejudice take their creed from the Bible.

4th. The Catholic church, in her last and most authoritative utterance through the Council of Trent, has proved herself a most indefinite Judge. Her doctrinal decisions need an infallible interpreter infinitely more than the Scriptures.

22. How may it be shown that the Romanist theory, as well as the Protestant, necessarily throws upon the people the obligation of private judgment?

Is there a God? Has he revealed himself? Has he established a church? Is that church an infallible teacher? Is private judgment a blind leader? Which of all pretended churches is the true one? Every one of these questions evidently must be settled in the Private judgment of the inquirer, before he can, rationally or irrationally, give up his private judgment to the direction of the self-asserting church. Thus of necessity Romanists appeal to the Scriptures to prove that the Scriptures cannot be understood, and address arguments to the private judgment of men to prove that private judgment is incompetent; thus basing an argument upon that which it is the object of the argument to prove is baseless.

23. How may it be proved that the people are far more competent to discover what the Bible teaches than to decide, by the marks insisted upon by the Romanists, which is the true church?

The Romanists, of necessity, set forth certain marks by which the true church is to be discriminated from all counterfeits. These are (1.) Unity (through subjection to one visible head, the Pope); (2.) Holiness; (3.) Catholicity; (4.) Apostolicity, (involving an uninterrupted succession from the apostles of canonically ordained bishops.)–“Cat. of Council of Trent,” Part 1., Cap. 10. Now, the comprehension and intelligent application of these marks involve a great amount of learning and intelligent capacity upon the part of the inquirer. He might as easily prove himself to be descended from Noah by an unbroken series of legitimate marriages, as establish the right of Rome to the last mark. Yet he cannot rationally give up the right of studying the Bible for himself until that point is made clear.

Surely the Scriptures, with their self-evidencing spiritual power, make less exhaustive demands upon the resources of private judgment.

ROMAN CATHOLIC DOCTRINE AS TO THE PRIVATE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE, AND AS TO TRADITION, AND AS TO THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE POPE.

1st. AS TO THE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE.–“Decrees of council of Trent,” Sess. 4.–“Moreover the same sacred and holy Synod ordains and declares, that the said old and Vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many ages, has been approved of in the Church, be in public lectures, disputations, sermons, and expositions held as authentic; and that no one is to dare or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.”

“Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, it decrees that no one, relying on his own skill shall in matters of faith and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother church–whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy scriptures–hath held and doth hold, or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published.”

“Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican council,” ch. 2.–“And as the things which the holy Synod of Trent decreed for the good of souls concerning the interpretation of Divine Scripture, in order to curb rebellious spirits, have been wrongly explained by some, we, renewing the said decree, declare this to be their sense, that, in matters of faith and morals, appertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of Holy Scripture which our holy mother Church hath held and holds, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense of the Holy Scripture; and therefore that it is permitted to no one to interpret the sacred scripture contrary to this sense, nor, likewise contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers. ”

2nd. AS TO TRADITION.–“Prof. Fidei Tridentinoe”–(A. D. 1564) 2. and 3. “I most steadfastly admit and embrace apostolic and ecclesiastic traditions, and all other observances and constitutions of the same Church. I also admit the Holy scriptures, according to that sense which our holy mother Church has held and does hold, to which it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Scriptures, neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according, to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.”

“Council of Trent,” Sess. 4.–“And seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the apostles from the mouth of Christ himself or from the apostles themselves the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us transmitted as it were from hand to hand.”

3rd. AS TO THE ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY OF THE POPE.–“Dogmatic Decisions of the Vatican Council,” chap. 3.–“Hence we teach and declare that by the appointment of our Lord . . . the power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff is immediate, to which all, of whatever rite and dignity, both pastors and faithful, both individually and collectively, are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world. . . . We further teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all causes, the decision of which belongs to the Church, recourse may be had to his tribunal, and that none may reopen the judgment of the Apostolic See, than whose authority there is no greater, nor can any lawfully review his judgment. Wherefore they err from the right course who assert that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman Pontiff to an ecumenical council, as to an authority higher than that of the Roman Pontiff.”

4th. CONCERNING THE ABSOLUTE INFALLIBILITY OF THE POPE AS THE TEACHER OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH.–“Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council,” Chap. 4.–“Therefore faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, for the glory of God our Saviour, the exaltation of the Catholic religion, and the salvation of Christian people, the sacred Council approving, we teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed:That the Roman Pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to he held by the universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, is possessed of the infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed for defining doctrine according to faith and morals; and that therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the church. But if any one–which may God avert–presume to contradict this our definition:let him be anathema.”

Cardinal Manning in his “Vatican Council” says, “In this definition there are six points to be noted:”

“1st. It defines the meaning of the well-known phrase loquens ex cathedra ; that is, speaking from the Seat, or place, or with the authority of the supreme teacher of all Christians, and binding the assent of the universal Church.”

“2nd. The subject matter of the infallible teaching, namely, the doctrine of faith and morals.”

“3rd. The efficient cause of infallibility, that is, the divine assistance promised to Peter, and in Peter to his successors.”

“4th. The act to which this divine assistance is attached, the defining of doctrines of faith and morals.”

“5th. The extension of this infallible authority to the limits of the doctrinal office of the Church.”

“6th. The dogmatic value of the definitions ex cathedra, namely that they are in themselves irreformable, because in themselves infallible, and not because the Church, or any part or member of the Church, should assent to them.”

“Dogmatic Decrees of Vatican Council” Ch. 4.–“For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter, that by his revelation they might make known new doctrine; but that by his assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith delivered through the Apostles.”

Post copied from HERE

T H E
Barren Fig Tree;
O R,
The Doom and Downfall of the Fruitless Professor:
Showing, that the day of grace may be past with him long before
his life is ended.
The signs also by which such miserable mortals may be known.


‘Who being dead, yet speaketh.’—Hebrews 11:4


By J O H N.B U N Y A N.



L O N D O N,
Printed for J. Robinson, at the Golden Lion,
in St. Paul’s Churchyard, 1688.

THE BARREN FIG-TREE, OR THE DOOM AND DOWNFALL OF THE FRUITLESS PROFESSOR.

‘A CERTAIN MAN HAD A FIG-TREE PLANTED IN HIS VINEYARD; AND HE CAME AND SOUGHT FRUIT THEREON, AND FOUND NONE. THEN SAID HE UNTO THE DRESSER OF HIS VINEYARD, BEHOLD, THESE THREE YEARS I COME SEEKING FRUIT ON THE FIG-TREE, AND FIND NONE: CUT IT DOWN; WHY CUMBERETH IT THE GROUND? AND HE ANSWERING SAID UNTO HIM, LORD, LET IT ALONE THIS YEAR ALSO, TILL I SHALL DIG ABOUT IT, AND DUNG IT: AND IF IT BEAR FRUIT, WELL: AND IF NOT, THEN AFTER THAT THOU SHALT CUT IT DOWN.’—LUKE 13:6-9.

At the beginning of this chapter we read how some of the Jews came to Jesus Christ, to tell him of the cruelty of Pontius Pilate, in mingling the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices. A heathenish and prodigious act; for therein he showed, not only his malice against the Jewish nation, but also against their worship, and consequently their God. An action, I say, not only heathenish, but prodigious also; for the Lord Jesus, paraphrasing upon this fact of his, teacheth the Jews, that without repentance ‘they should all likewise perish.’ ‘Likewise,’ that is by the hand and rage of the Roman empire. Neither should they be more able to avoid the stroke, than were those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them (Luke 13:1-5). The fulfilling of which prophecy, for their hardness of heart, and impenitency, was in the days of Titus, son of Vespasian, about forty years after the death of Christ. Then, I say, were these Jews, and their city, both environed round on every side, wherein both they and it, to amazement, were miserably overthrown. God gave them sword and famine, pestilence and blood, for their outrage against the Son of his love. So wrath ‘came upon them to the uttermost’ (1 Thess 2:16).[2]

Now, to prevent their old and foolish salvo, which they always had in readiness against such prophecies and denunciations of judgment, the Lord Jesus presents them with this parable, in which he emphatically shows them that their cry of being the temple of the Lord, and of their being the children of Abraham, &c., and their being the church of God, would not stand them in any stead. As who should say, It may be you think to help yourselves against this my prophecy of your utter and unavoidable overthrow, by the interest which you have in your outward privileges. But all these will fail you; for what think you? ‘A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.’ This is your case! The Jewish land is God’s vineyard; I know it; and I know also, that you are the fig-trees. But behold, there wanteth the main thing, fruit; for the sake, and in expectation of which, he set this vineyard with trees. Now, seeing the fruit is not found amongst you, the fruit, I say, for the sake of which he did at first plant this vineyard, what remains but that in justice he command to cut you down as those that cumber the ground, that he may plant himself another vineyard? ‘Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?’ This therefore must be your end, although you are planted in the garden of God; for the barrenness and unfruitfulness of your hearts and lives you must be cut off, yea, rooted up, and cast out of the vineyard.

In parables there are two things to be taken notice of, and to be inquired into of them that read. First, The metaphors made use of. Second, The doctrine or mysteries couched under such metaphors.(Read the whole work here)

John Wycliffe

(1324-1384)

Born: 1324 at Hipswell, North Yorkshire Died: 28th December 1384 at Lutterworth, Leicestershire

John Wycliffe is remembered as the “Morning Star of the Reformation” and one of Oxford University’s last great medieval Schoolmen. He was an English statesman as well as a theologian, once representing the King on the continent in negotiations with the legate of the pope. Although the papacy was, at this time, dominated by the King of France, even to the point of its removal from Rome to the French city of Avignon, Wycliffe defended the political rights of England. He is best remembered, however, as the prime mover in first translating the Bible into the common language of the English people.

Born in Yorkshire in 1324, he chose not to return to his family estate after attending Oxford University. Instead, he presided over a rural parish in Leicestershire, nearer libraries and other scholars. He organized a band of poor preachers, known as the Lollards, who went from village to village, teaching the Bible to all who would listen. He was probably the exemplar for the pious country parson in the Canterbury Tales of his contemporary, Chaucer.

He challenged a number of Roman Catholic doctrines with arguments which centuries later would echo during the Protestant Reformation. He spoke out against the monastic system, the sale of indulgences for the forgiveness of sins and the doctrines of baptismal regeneration and transubstantiation. He proclaimed predestination and salvation by faith alone, in a time of great fear and superstition. In the late summer of 1348, the Black Plague had reached England and Wycliffe heard reports of the death of half the population! This had much to do with his ideas of personal reverence for God.

Although there is debate as to what role Wycliffe played in the translation of the version now associated with his name, no-one doubts that he was leading the movement which culminated in that first widespread version of an English Bible. Although translated from Latin, instead of the original Greek and Hebrew texts, copied by hand a century before Gutenberg’s printing press could insure uniformity, still over 150 copies of the Wycliffe version exist today. Many of these represent a revision of the translation made following Wycliffe’s death in 1384, but their unprecedented number attests to the impact his English Bible had upon the entire nation.

Ultimately Wycliffe was excommunicated from the church, but he was not physically harmed before he died from a stroke. The effect of Wycliffe’s teaching extended far beyond the British Isles. King Richard II’s first wife, Anne of Bohemia, was daughter of the Holy Roman Emporer, Charles IV. When she died prematurely in 1394, her attendants carried Wycliffe’s ideas to the very Imperial Court in Prague. There they were taken up by theologians at Charles’ University, such as Jan Hus.

At the same time it ordered Hus to be burned at the stake outside of the city, the Council of Constance, in 1415, decreed that Wycliffe’s remains in England should be dug up, his bones burned and the ashes scattered on the water. His incorporeal remains, however, were like raindrops which fell over all of England, producing fertile soil for William Tyndale, Thomas Cranmer and later English Reformers.

Our thanks to Thomas E. Martin Junior(source)