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John Wycliffe  1330-1384

Two hundred years before the Protestant Reformation there was a reformer who foreshadowed what was coming. Although the world’s circumstances were then not developed to permit the Reformation, many of Wycliffe’s criticisms of Catholicism and his translation of the Bible would prefigure the coming Reformation.

Wycliffe lived through the Black Death, when 25 million people died in Europe. That catastrophe delayed his completion of a doctorate at Oxford until 1372. He became a dissident, and although sanctioned and opposed by the Pope (five edicts from Pope Gregory XI condemned him for 18 errors and called him “the master of errors”), but he believed and taught that the Pope and the church were second in authority to scripture. He conceived of an invisible church of the elect who were recognized by heaven, rather than an organization on earth that controlled salvation. Many of his ideas would later be advanced by the Reformation Fathers.

His arguments with Rome were first political (1366-1378), and later theological (1378-1384). During his last six years of life he provided a continuing written campaign against the Pope and the entire church hierarchy of the time. By the end he came to equate the Pope to the Antichrist.

Among his issues, he disputed transubstantiation: “The bread while becoming by virtue of Christ’s words the body of Christ does not cease to be bread.” He condemned indulgences: “It is plain to me that our prelates in granting indulgences do commonly blaspheme the wisdom of God.” He repudiated confession to the priests: “Private confession … was not ordered by Christ and was not used by the apostles.” He viewed faith as saving: “Trust wholly in Christ; rely altogether on his sufferings; beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness.”

He believed every Christian ought to be able to read scripture. At a time when only Latin Bibles existed in England, he began translating it into the common English language. He was assisted in this by John Purvey, and, when Wycliffe died before it was completed Purvey finished the translation. Rome condemned this as an act of rebellion: “By this translation, the Scriptures have become vulgar, and they are more available to lay, and even to women who can read, than they were to learned scholars, who have a high intelligence. So the pearl of the gospel is scattered and trodden underfoot by swine.” Wycliffe responded with this explanation: “Englishmen learn Christ’s law best in English. Moses heard God’s law in his own tongue; so did Christ’s apostles.”

Wycliffe believed church officials ought not to live in wealth, but instead sacrifice to serve. Church wealth should be directed to help the poor. He encouraged English leaders of both church and state to stop sending wealth to Rome, and instead use it to help those locally in need.

Wycliffe died before authorities convicted him of heresy. After his death the Council of Constance declared him a heretic, ordered his remains to be removed from consecrated ground, burned, and his ashes thrown into the river Swift. Pope Martin V confirmed the edict and it was carried out. However, Wycliffe’s influence could not be suppressed, and as one writer observed,   “Thus the brook hath conveyed his ashes into Avon; Avon into Severn; Severn into the narrow seas; and they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wycliffe are the emblem of his doctrine which now is dispersed the world over.”

New Website

A new website dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is now live. The link is:

www.christianreformation500years.info

In addition to the written information, there are a series of videos linked on this new website that are also posted on YouTube. Three videos are available immediately, but others will be added as time permits. If you subscribe to the YouTube channel, you will be notified of the new videos as they are made available.

The YouTube channel link is:

 www.youtube.com/channel/UC6cEtBt6U_A0oDKfQCGoCjA

The new site is intended for a Christian audience. If there is anyone you believe would be interested in learning more about the Protestant Reformation, please refer them to the site.

Christians Should Study Mormonism

Between the death of Christ’s apostles and the Council of Nicaea, Christianity changed dramatically. It is impossible to account for all that happened to cause the changes. Although some of the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Christian leaders before Nicaea) have been preserved, the records are wholly inadequate to understand everything that happened, and why it happened.

A new religion rarely appears in history. When one does, it presents a unique opportunity for us to study the process.

Religions begin with an inspired leader whose confident vision opens new light and truth into the world. If there is no new vision then the religion won’t survive. But an original, inspired leader is difficult to replicate. Within a short time, the founder’s work is overtaken by others. Their insecurities and fears leave them without the confidence once present at the foundation. Believers donate, and contributions aggregate. A new generation of believers begin to notice the wealth of their movement, and aspiring leaders who would never sacrifice their name, reputation, security and lives are drawn to management, seeking personal benefit from the institution. Bold claims become hollow echoes, and leaders’ insecurity results in defensive and protective steps. Instead of moving forward with inspired new light and truth, the established religion fears and fights against threatened losses.

William James explained the process:

A genuine first-hand experience like this is bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing as a mere lonely madman. If his doctrine prove contagious enough to spread to any others, it becomes a definite and labeled heresy. But if it then still prove contagious enough to triumph over persecution, it becomes itself an orthodoxy; and when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over: the spring is dry; the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which in purer days it drew its own supply of inspiration. Unless, indeed, by adopting new movements of the spirit it can make capital out of them and use them for its selfish corporate designs!” (The Varieties of Religious Experience, being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902, Lectures XIV and XV: The Value of Saintlessness.)

Mormonism was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith who claimed that ten years prior to founding a church he had been visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. In the intervening years between the first visit and the time a church was organized, Joseph claimed to have been visited by an angelic messenger who delivered to him a new volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon. He claimed to have received revelations before founding the church, and then many more after its organization.

Whether you believe Joseph Smith’s claims or not, he and his followers give a unique opportunity to witness how founding a religion sets in motion a series of predictable events that happen every time a new religion begins. Perhaps the best way to decipher the transition of Christianity from the original Primitive Christianity to its replacement, Historic Christianity, is to study Mormonism. Similar to the way the Primitive Christian church passed away after the death of the apostles, Mormonism has passed away following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. The same process was at work in both.

Primitive Christianity and Mormonism set out to change the world, and after some initial success, both enjoyed worldly success. Their success diverted attention from saving souls to managing people and property. Paul observed, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10.) A new religion is not profitable for the first believers. They are persecuted. They sacrifice their lives and property to follow what they believe to be God’s burden laid on them. Because of their sacrifices, they have faith and know they please God. Without sacrifice, it is impossible to obtain the faith required for salvation. Founders make sacrifices, successors enjoy the fruit of those sacrifices.

In time, the founding gives way to popular approval. John Wesley observed the price that is paid for popular acceptance is the loss of the Spirit.

“It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian;…From this time they almost totally ceased;…The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens….This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.Churches all come to depend on money for survival.”

Churches, like the men who belong to them, are just as vulnerable to the “love of money” which leads to “all evil.” People can have the gifts of the Spirit, or they can acquire riches in this world, but cannot have both.

Catholicism grew wealthy from the offerings of its members. When it owned most of the European lands and ruled over all people within Roman Catholic boundaries, it was cold, corrupt, violent and cruel. The transition from persecuted minority to dangerous majority took three centuries. With that status the original was lost.

Mormonism has followed the same path and achieved the same end in less than half the time. If a Christian wants to know how Primitive Christianity was lost to apostasy, the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is where it can be found. Mormon beliefs are so unstable that they now “unequivocally condemn” 10 of the first 11 of their church presidents, including Brigham Young, John Taylor and David O. McKay.

In order to progress forward, we must go back. Since we have no way to recover enough information to understand Christianity’s trek from Jerusalem to Rome, Mormonism allows Christians a view into the transition from Nauvoo to Salt Lake. Both paths followed the same tragic topography.

Christian Talks in 2017

This year I will be speaking to Christians about the Christian Reformation. I will give three lectures in three different venues over the next year. The talks will be recorded and available online for anyone interested in the history and destiny of Christianity.

Christ originally sent twelve messengers to spread the news about Him. They organized congregations of believers throughout the Mediterranean World, the Indian sub-continent and beyond. These were diverse bodies of believers, and depending on which of the twelve organized them, reflected different priorities. But they were all “Christian” and all followed Christ’s teachings.

Early Christianity included diverse and sometimes conflicting groups, all calling themselves “Christian.” But conflicts grew in intensity over the centuries that followed. When the Roman Emperor Constantine saw the value in adopting Christianity, he did not realize Christianity was internally fighting over fundamental beliefs. Accordingly, in 324 a.d. Constantine forced an agreement among Christian leaders in Nicaea. The result was the Nicene Creed. This creed marked the beginning of a new era referred to as Historic Christianity.

Historic Christianity divided at about 1,000 a.d. between Rome (Catholic) and Constantinople (Orthodox). That division remains today, more than a millennium later.

Rome’s dominion over Western Europe was further broken up beginning in 1517 when the Protestant Reformation began. What began with Martin Luther, has continued to divide and multiply Christian denominations with different groups placing different emphases on parts of the New Testament.

Coming up on the half-millennium anniversary of the Reformation, I will deliver three talks. There are a number of volunteers working to help arrange venues and spread word about these talks. They will be free to the public and all are invited to come and consider the history and destiny of Christianity.

As soon as each talk is finished, it will be made available on-line. Next Saturday a new website devoted to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation will be on-line. Work on that site, also by volunteers, has been underway for months. The link will be provided.

Arriving at a “unity of the faith,” which Paul hoped could be achieved by Christians (Eph. 4:11-13) is a ways off. Christianity has instead become the handmaiden of ambitious men who have diverted resources from the poor to serve themselves. The present state of Christianity is not markedly different from Jerusalem at the time of Christ. The Christian leaders today, like the Sadducees and Pharisees, shear the sheep, consume them, but fail to serve them as Christ did.

Christianity began with personal worship and devotion in the homes of believers. Christ and His twelve built no cathedrals, chapels or church structures, but did give aid to the poor. Isaiah prophesied that only one kind of building would be built for God by His followers:  A Temple or House of God, to be built on the mountaintop in Zion, and another in Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:2-3.) Beyond those two structures, all other resources should help the poor, as was once done by early Christians.

Although the website and lectures planned for 2017 are intended for a Christian audience, anyone who is interested in the history and the future of Christianity will find the material useful and interesting.

Temple Fund Website

The three women I mentioned during the Boise Conference who have been working to establish the means to aggregate funds dedicated to building a temple now have a website established with two available methods where fellow believers may donate to this cause.  The website can be found at www.theTempleFund.net.
 
The women continue to look for ways to improve donating, as their website explains. God’s people are always required to build a temple. Therefore, there needs to be preparation for the coming commandment. When the Nauvoo Temple was commanded to be built, the resulting struggle lasted for nearly six years before it was abandoned. It was never completed. That repeated failure will not please the Lord. I have met with the women who have done this work and they have my confidence. I trust that any proceeds donated will be used for a temple and not for any other purpose. In my view all donations belong to God alone, and must be directed toward His House to keep faith with Him. The women share this view. 

Temple Fund

The work of three women (volunteers) to provide a means for raising funds for a temple has taken many months. They have consulted with lawyers and accountants to advise them. Many dead-ends have been explored in their attempt to find the means to raise funds for a temple.

There are numerous laws, both state and federal, which regulate fund raising by an organization. But they do not want a regulated business or charitable entity, nor do they intend to invite legal supervision that may permit fund raising today, but regulate and control by force what is built tomorrow. This is intended as God’s house, and His authority alone is to be respected there.

After months of work, I met with the women this morning. Tomorrow an announcement will be available from them, and I will post it on this website.

Christmas Carol

Here is a link to a short but beautiful Christmas Carol. It is titled “The Angels And The Shepherds” and is a recording of the King’s College Choir at Cambridge.

Early Christian Meetings

Justin Martyr lived from 110-165 a.d. and wrote in the “sub-apostolic” age. His writings give a glimpse into how Christianity functioned in its earliest days.

In his First Apology, he provides a description of Christian worship. They met in homes, having no church buildings.

Before being considered a Christian, a candidate was baptized “in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.” (First Apology, Chapter LXI-Christian Baptism.)

Meetings began with a prayer and “saluting one another with a kiss.” Then sacrament is prepared and administered using bread a “cup of wine mixed with water” which is blessed by “giving praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands.” (Id., Chapter LXV-Administration of the Sacraments.)

The early Christians recognized there was an obligation for “the wealthy among us [to] help the needy.” Therefore, after reading scripture and “the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets” donations are collected. “And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want.” (Id., Chapter LXVII-Weekly Worship of the Christians.) The reference to the “president” is to the one who conducted the meeting that week.

These simple observances were resilient enough to preserve Christianity after the death of the apostles and before any great hierarchical magisterium arose. It was the power of baptism, the sacrament, scripture study and financial aid among believers that gave Christianity its power. But it was diffused, and therefore incapable of destruction. When Justin Martyr was slain, the scattered Christians continued unaffected. It was just like when Peter and Paul were slain, and before them, James was killed. The power of Christianity reckoned from the vitality of its original roots. These roots were in Christ, His message, and teachings, which were employed to relieve one another by the alms shared from rich to poor.

When a centralized hierarchy took control over Christianity, the money that was used for the poor, the widows and orphans, was diverted to building churches, cathedrals, basilicas and palaces. Ultimately, the wealth generated by the generosity of Christian believers became the tool used by the hierarchy to buy up armies, kings, lands and treasures which were used to rule and reign as a cruel master over a subjugated population made miserable by the abuse heaped on them from Rome.

Even after the Protestant Reformation, Christianity continued to be ruled by hierarchies. Cathedrals and church buildings consumed and consume resources which are to be used to help the poor. Christ built no building, although He accepted the temple in Jerusalem as His Father’s house. Peter built no church building. Nor Paul, nor James, nor John. Christianity in the hands of the Lord and His apostles needed no brick and mortar for its foundation. It was built on the hearts of believers, brought together by the charity and assistance shared between them.

Today Christianity is not benefitted, but weakened, by hierarchies, cathedrals, edifices and basilicas housing opulence, wealth and art. Although the prophecies foretell of a temple to God in Zion, and another in Jerusalem, there are no other structures foretold to be built by Christians or latter-day Israel. How much stronger would Christianity be today if wealth were reserved for the poor, and hierarchies were stripped of their wealth?

Talks to Christians

I have announced a plan to give three talks to Christian audiences. I have asked several theological programs to allow me to address their students. In every case I’ve been declined. Because of that, I asked others to help me find opportunities to address a Christian audience. In the last few months, a number of people have voluntarily made numerous requests to seminaries, churches and other religious groups asking them to allow me an opportunity to speak. Nothing has been arranged.

We are approaching 100 declined requests and it seems unlikely I will get an invitation from a seminary or church. As a result, a new approach will be taken to accomplish the project.

Next year will be the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Because the owners of churches and seminaries are uninterested, I will rent venues and invite Christians to come. It will be free for any who come to listen. I do not preach for hire, nor ask for donations. I will use my own resources to be able to address any who will listen.

When the venues and dates are confirmed, I will post the information here. Right now July, August and September are tentatively targeted. California in July, Texas in August and Atlanta in September. All talks will be recorded and available on-line after each one is given.

The new approach will require some effort to publicize the talks beforehand. I’ll be asking for volunteers to help pass out flyers and tell people of the talks in each area. The size of the audience is unimportant. But the talks need to be given and then made available for anyone to hear.

The talks will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and will take note of the things God has done and yet promises to accomplish before the Second Coming in glory of the Lord. A new website is being prepared as part of this effort and should be live in January 2017. Posts on this website related to the outreach to Christians will also be posted on the new website. New videos of interest to a Christian audience are also planned for the new website.