In God's good providence, I found myself reading from Foxe's Book of Martyrs this morning and being amazed at the steadfast testimony of Jan Hus. This Czech priest, philosopher and leader in the Bohemian Reformation was one of the early lights of the Protestant Reformation whose story of martyrdom equipped the coming Reformers with strength.
Toward the end of his trials, Hus was forced to affirm and explain various quotes taken from his writing. His reflections upon the nature of authority and the dangers of the structure of the Roman Catholic Church seem as appropriate now as they ever were.
Arguing that without sincere morality, spiritual authority is rendered moot-to-nonexistent, Hus explained:
"...if [the vicar] walk in contrary paths and ways, then he is the messenger of the Antichrist, contrary both to St. Peter, and to our Lord Jesus Christ...The Pope's power as vicar is but vain and nothing worth, if he do not confirm and address his life according to Jesus Christ, and follow the manners of St. Peter...The cardinals are not the manifest and true successors of the other apostles of Jesus Christ, if they live not according to the fashion of the apostles, keeping the commandments and ordinances of the Lord Jesus." (Foxe, 117-118)
A couple quick thoughts as it relates to the horrifying revelations out of the Roman Catholic Church in the last couple weeks:
Let’s clean our own house. The Protestant church has proven itself more than capable of protecting abusers. A significant part of this is the unbiblical hierarchical nature of many churches, especially those following a single man/personality (ironically copying one of the deepest errors against which our Reformer fathers stood).
Leaders, let’s give more attention to our morality than our authority.
Leaders, let’s embrace a culture of accountability, otherwise known as sincere presbyterianism. Ruling elders, if you don’t hold the pastor accountable, who will? Take your job seriously.
Let us plead with Jesus that the Protestant church in America will be able to speak, sometime within our lifetime and with genuine moral authority, the gracious word of Jesus.
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