This book is very much like a small text book. Lots of little snippets of information that kind of jump around under a larger umbrella. As I mentioned in my previous post, it is out of print. I’ve linked some subjects to google books which offers an amazing amount of material and some of it is in full text form.
Chapter 1 – The Late Medieval World
Weinlick begins by discussing the very real and worthy work going on in church life prior to the Reformation. He mentions that sometimes we go back to Luther and stop, but men of faith were challenging the system before that. While there were many attempts at breaking away from the church, only two pre-reformation churches were still around to see the Reformation. Group 1 was the Waldenses from the late 1100s and the other was the Unitas Fratrum (1457).
In the 1300s we see a powerful papacy as well as a rising university system. The language was Latin in both cases and that made for easy movement from county to country for both priests and lecturers. The church had a stronghold on the people and the threat of excommunication was constantly present. The church was terribly corrupt.
The Crusades had been stage central from 11-1300 expanding mental horizons if not necessarily territorial ones. Trade opened up, and a monetary economy began to develop. Feudalism was declining. Nationalism was rising. Inquiry and exploration are intriguing to an ever growing number of people.
Nationalism meant that languages were developing in new and exciting ways. Literature was being written in those different languages. People wanted their languages used for more than day to day communications – church, school.
The church was troubled. The new language interests alone could weaken their control. And the new nationalism meant countries didn’t want to send money to Italy for any reason. There was a French Pope and he lived in France. When he returned to Rome, the French actually elected another pope. Now we had two, at least until the Council of Constance. This time was known as the papal schism.
And still we see evidence of the faithful. This is the period that will give rise to the Reformation. This environment produced Francis of Assisi, Peter Waldo, Thomas a Kempis, John Wiclif and John Hus. It cannot be said that this period was completely void of spirituality.
Enter John Wiclif. (This is the spelling used by Weinlick.) Wiclif was born in Yorkshire, trained in Oxford. He was a priest and a professor. Weinlick used the words radical and upsetting to describe Wiclif’s work. What he did:
- rejected doctrine of transubstantionation
- emphasized predestination. He did believe the church represented the elect.
- stressed that Christ is the head of the church – not the pope. The church may have an earthly leader but not one that is scraping to get his hands on any piece of wealth on the globe
- believed that priests were servants
- thought of the Bible as the only law
Wiclif translated the Bible into English during the 1380s. There is some dispute as to how much he actually translated. He may have done the NT and a colleague the Old. It had a wide circulation even without a printing press. Wiclif was spared persecution. He was apparently a tad too early for that. He obviously stayed in trouble with the church, but had some powerful political friends like John of Gaunt. He was popular with the people who liked his message for what must have been a variety of reasons.
During this time, priests (nicknames Lollards) went out two by two as itinerant preachers. They taught in the local languages to anyone who would listen anywhere they would listen. this movement continued until 1401 when Lollards were burned at the stake. While this put a stop to the movement at large, it did continue in smaller and less obvious ways.
Chapter 2 – John Hus, The Martyr of Bohemia