Key Players in The Reformation
John Wycliffe » John Wycliffe has been called “The Morning Star of the Reformation.” Wycliffe lived in the 1300’s, 150 years before Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenburg, but his influence was the spark that ignited the reformation flame. By the time Wycliffe was just a teen, he was at Oxford and eventually was on the faculty there. While at Oxford, he wrote 3 important works that targeted corruption in the Roman Catholic church: On Divine Dominion (1373–1374), On Civil Dominion (1375–1376), and On the Truth of Sacred Scripture (1378). The first attacked papal authority as having no scriptural basis, the second targeted the Catholic Church’s power over civil authority, and the third taught the authority of Scripture over all else. These were violently opposed to the teachings of the church that plunged Europe into the “Dark Ages”. Wycliffe also translated the “Wyclifffe Bible”. He died on December 30, 1384 after two strokes, but at the same council that martyred John Huss years later, Wycliffe’s bones were dug up, burned, and the ashes spread into the river. His followers came to be called Lollards and continued his message of reform long after his death.
John Huss » John Huss was a Czech priest and preacher born in gooseland in the Kingdom of Bohemia around 1369. Upon seeing the wicked immorality in the priesthood, he began preaching “violent sermons” against the sins he saw around him, and was soon banned from preaching. Huss was greatly influenced by the works of John Wycliffe and because of their ties, he was excommunicated, tried for heresy in a mock trial, and burned alive. Greg Morse tells the story, “Lured to the Council of Constance under the promise of safety, (Huss) was immediately thrown into prison for six months, given a mock trial, and ordered to recant — which he refused. In July 1415, he was stripped naked, adorned with a dunce hat painted with devils and labeled “Arch-Heretic” — all as he prayed for his enemies. They then led him past a burning pile of his books and chained him to the stake. In response to being chained up like a dog, he said, “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this one for my sake, so why should I be ashamed of this rusty chain?” They told him once more to recant, but he refused, proclaiming, “What I taught with my lips I will now seal with my blood.” And that he did. As the flames climbed higher, he sang. After Huss was finally condemned to death, he proclaimed, “You may roast the goose, but a hundred years from now a swan will arise whose singing you will not be able to silence.” Exactly 102 years later, a sprightly monk nailed ninety-five theses to Wittenberg’s door.”
Urlich Zwingli » Zwingli was a contemporary of Luther in the city of Zurich in Switzerland. While a priest at Grossmunster church, Zwingli came to believe the same biblical doctrines as Luther but had a broader focus, including social reform with his doctrinal reform of the church. Zwingli was the first to declare that the bread and wine were merely bread and wine and were just a reminder of the blood and body of Christ. Unlike Luther, Zwingli’s path had much less struggle. In 1523, he was allowed to argue his doctrines before the public and won them over. Protestant teachings spread throughout the whole area, and while the doctrines were correct, the outworking of those doctrines were often full of iconoclasm (the destruction of all icons and religious art). Soon, the city authorities banned all images from churches. “Switzerland was a confederation of territories linked by a network of treaties” (The Essence of the Reformation, Kirsten Birkett). Peace was attempted through a couple of treaties in 1529 and 1531, and after 2 short battles, in which Zwingli and other protestant leaders lost their lives, the boundaries were set between protestant and catholic territories.
Other people worth reading about in the reformation include:
Bill Itzel has been a worship leader and singer/songwriter for over 30 years and is based in Westminster, MD. His family tours and leads worship around the country. Bill and his family attend Belcroft Bible Church in Bowie, MD. This is a blog about congregational worship and the latest news in the The Itzel's ministry.