Archive for the ‘Leonard Verduin’ Tag

Cracks in the Monolith   1 comment

Christianity underwent a metamorphosis when it became the exclusive religion of the Roman Empire. Jesus had told Christians that they would be outcasts in society as a result of their beliefs and for the first three centuries they were.  Then Theodosius made Christianity the exclusive religion of the Roman Empire and all that changed. Not too long later, the Roman Catholic Church became the acknowledged “gate to heaven” and the kings it crowned were considered divinely appointed.

We are usually taught in our history classes that the Roman Catholic Church ruled unchallenged for 1500 years until Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation. This is not exactly true.

While the Roman Catholic Church was the state religion of almost every kingdom of Europe during that time, there is ample historical evidence for evangelical outbreaks in medieval times. Leonard Verduin’s book “The Reformers and their Stepchildren” suggests a continuous line of underground believers that is interesting, but not really proven. If you step away from the concept of apostolic succession and remember that Christianity was originally based on the individual believer accepting Jesus Christ and acting upon that transformation, protestant groups look a whole lot less like heretics and a whole lot more like true believers who didn’t agree with the Roman Catholic Church.

It’s likely that the churches before Nicea contained congregations that were not integrated into the Roman scheme of things. We know that some of the Patristic Fathers complained about how the church at Rome was overstepping its authority. It’s entirely possible that there were congregations which understood truths not validated by the Roman church. Unfortunately, most of what we know about these “heretics” is what the Roman Catholic Church said about them.

They were called many terms of abuse — anabaptists (rebaptizers), enthusiasts (for their supposed lack of sensible thought), Cathars (referencing an older more gnostic heresy), revolutionaries, donatists (another reference to ancient “heresy”). They were said to deny baptism, the Eucharist and the authority of the priesthood and some were accused of fomenting revolution.

Clearly these were groups who did not think that Romans 13 required them to be obedient to the authorities.

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