Monday, November 05, 2007

Lutheran Carnival LXII: World Series Edition The Wycliffe Notes on the Reformation

Wow, what a wonderful coincidence that I would be hosting the Lutheran Carnival for both the first week and the last week of the baseball season!!!

Don’t worry, searching for Bill Wambsganss was enough work for me….I just want to tip my hat to the Boston Red Sox because with all the hype (wonderful hype) about Joe Torre going to the Dodgers (woo-hoo) and stuff about A-rod, they barely got noticed in their incredible accomplishment. So congrats to Red Sox fans.

Now, since this also is more than touching on Reformation Day and a lot of the posts submitted have to do with that, I decided to be a good Lutheran and touch on that as well, only it would have to be somewhat rebelliously, of course.

Since we all are reading this in English, (unless you’re using a translator), I decided to see if there could possibly be some great English-speaking theologian around the time of Luther, or who knows, maybe even before Luther and who might have even influenced him a bit....but no dice...couldn't find anybody.

(Hey, how did this History Channel documentary on John Wycliffe end up on my DVR? I’d better erase that to make room for more reruns of "Mythbusters"…no, wait…hmmmm)

Lutheran Carnival: The Wycliffe Notes version

John Wycliffe was born in Ipreswell, Yorkshire, England in the mid 1320’s. Not much is known about his childhood or his early studies, but he came to Merton College, Oxford when he was seventeen (1)(2) (actually, different sources say very different things about this).

In Wycliffe’s day, the people had access to Bible stories through word of mouth, writings, and such things as morality plays, but not to the Bible itself, except in Latin. Church services were in Latin, and the Scripture could only be read by the priests, and was often read silently, with a bell being rung to indicate to the people that the important parts were being read.

But corruption was common in The Roman Catholic Church and even many clergy had been put in place that did not even know Latin, the language of The Church. The Bishop of Gloucester had found that when he surveyed 311 deacons, archdeacons, and clerics that 168 were unable to repeat the Ten Commandments, 31 did not even know where they could be found, and 40 could not even repeat the Lord’s Prayer. Luther later wrote in the Large Catechism about this being the case in Germany as well.

Wycliffe was considered a major philosopher and was also a respected theologian. Wycliffe believed very strongly that the people should have access to the Scriptures in their own tongue. He railed against the corruption in The Church, and maintained “When men talk of The Church, they usually mean priests, monks, canons, and friars. But that should not be so. Whether a hundred popes and all the friars turned to cardinals, their opinions in matters of faith should not be accepted except in so far as they are founded on the Scripture itself.”

So Wycliffe organized the translation of the Bible into English. It is not known how many translators worked with him. Once the Bible was finished, it was transcribed by others. Currently, there are 170 copies of Wycliffe’s Bible in existence; an amazing number for a book 600 years old, especially keeping in mind how many hundreds of them must have been burned when they were declared heretical.

Wycliffe organized a whole new order of itinerant preachers that came to be known as Lollards. They journeyed throughout England, preaching against the corruption in the Church in the streets, the taverns, and anywhere else they could, and reading from the English Bible.

As Luther’s German Bible changed German, Wycliffe’s Bible changed English. Hundreds of new words entered the English vocabulary such as envy, godly, graven, humanity, frying pan, puberty, and many others. But Wycliffe was also very cautious in his translating. He made every attempt to translate word-for-word, thus many Latin words entered into the English language as well such as: emperor, justice, city, cradle, profession, suddenly, angel, multitude, and glorie. He was so careful that the Latin sentence structure was even retained, so there were sentences such as “Lord, go from me for I am a man sinner” and “I forsooth the Lord they God strong and jealous.”(1)

In May of 1872, a Synod met at Blackfriars and two days into the meeting, it was Wycliffe was pronounced a heretic, and that his associates be arrested. Wycliffe became ill and had a stroke which left him paralyzed. He died two years later and was buried in Lutterworth. The Lollards continued their work, and it was even stated that “Every 2nd man is a Lollard, going about converting nobles and the wealthy to their cause. (1)”

Wycliffe is called “The Morning Star of the Reformation,” and his theology is touted as being the closest to Luther’s of all pre-reformation theologians. He stated that there is one Universal church of which no pope could head, he condemned the sale of indulgences; taught predestination; argued against Scholasticism (formation of doctrine by attempting to explain how things such as the Real Presence happen, when the Bible does not give us such information) saying "we concern ourselves with the verities that are, and leave aside the errors which arise from speculation on matters which are not."; that the king is a higher temporal power than any bishop, cardinal, or pope; his later writings declared that he didn’t see much of a difference between the pope and “antichrist ;“ and he confessed justification by faith: "If a man believe in Christ, and make a point of his belief, then the promise that God hath made to come into the land of light shall be given by virtue of Christ, to all men that make this the chief matter.(2)(3)" All common teachings to the Lutheran ear.

Wycliffe’s work went on to directly influence the work of Jan Hus and Martin Luther as well as when his work was re-embraced upon the dawn of the English Reformation.

In 1415, at the Council of Constance, where Jan Hus was condemned and then burned at the stake, the Catholic Church reexamined Wycliffe’s work and even though he was already dead, placed him under papal ban (2). It was ordered that his body be exhumed and burned. The ashes were dumped in to a tributary of the River Avon.

There is a Lollard “prophecy” which states:

Avon to the Seven runs,
The Seven to the sea;
and Wycliffe’s dust shall spread as broad
wide as the waters be.

And so they were.


1. The Adventure of English – The Reformation (History Channel documentary thought I was joking)
2. Wikipedia – John Wycliffe

Now for the Carnival!:

We start off submission by Dan at Necessary Roughness. In The Feast of All Saints, Dan has an interesting take on the invocation of saints and reminds us that we commemorate the dead in Christ for the benefit of the living. Then he shares a post by Gina at Simul Justis et Pecatur called "Day 62: Happy Reformation."

Along the same line, and written by a friend of mine who doesn't know I am submitting this, "Here I Stand, I Can Do No Other" at Random Neural Firings from a real DogMom. She writes about how Luther modeled for us the Christian responsibility of pointing out the errors of our brothers and sisters in Christ, not just to sit there and let it be unspoken. As she puts it "Even if it's family. Even if it hurts. Even if we don't like it." She effectively conveys how difficult and painful it can be, as well.

Weekend Fisher of Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength, shares a post with us that she also submitted to the Christian Reconciliation Carnival, whose topic was to name was to name the one contribution your church body or denomination makes to Christianity as a whole. Her response from the Lutheran view was The cross is our theology. It really is beautiful. The other contributors' responses can be seen in Christian Reconciliation Carnival #9 She also adds this statement to us:Read the other responses, what the other people think their groups do best, and know this: we Lutherans need to get out more. It's not enough that we have Christ at the center; the Reformation isn't finished til all of Christendom has Christ at the center and nobody writes in saying their church's strong suit is anything other than Christ crucified. This month's reconciliation carnival could have been subtitled "Why I am a Lutheran". It also could have been subtitled "Why Lutherans need to talk more."

Paul Siems at Not Alone ponders "are we in need of a new reformation or of a return to The Reformation? When the issue of reformation arises, who is in need of this reformation and who brings this reformation to fruition? These questions are addressed in his post simply titled"Reformation" .

Pastor Walter Snyder submitted two posts. The first: Baptism - "In the Name" or "In the Names"? So asks someone uncomfortable with an alternate wording of the baptismal formula. Pastor Snyder's reply at Ask the Pastor urges "as is" repetition of Christ's words for reasons of doctrine and assurance to those of weak faith. His second post, The Law, Moses, and Jeremiah examines how understanding the meaning of Law in the context of Torah helps interpret much of the Old and New Testaments.

Kletos Somboulos of Amor et Labor shares thoughts on John 2: 23-25 as informed by Dr. Luther in Jesus knows what is in man.

Lutheran hymnody spawned a three-part hagiography at Aardvark Alley as Aardie noted the commemoration of Nicolai, Heermann, and Gerhardt, Hymn Writers. Another observance from the Alley was All Saints' Day's lesser known companion, the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed.

This makes a nice transition into something else that was written on by a few bloggers this week: music and liturgy!

Dan at Necessary Roughness shares Old and New at Our Saviour. Dan's church celebrated the Formula Missae et Communionis, and Dan had the opportunity to serve as Cantor. There are two snippets of solos for your perusal and comment.

Ritewinger presents
You tell them, Dr. posted at TheoCon. I personally liked his quote from Dr. Schalk "those of you who are pastors and those who will be, sing the liturgy, Why? Because we're Lutherans, and thats what we do."

And for the heck of it, I'm going to submit one of my own, Feeling Foreign, that talks about my struggles sitting in a blended worship service a few weeks ago.

So that's it for the Carnival this time around. God bless, everybody, and happy reading!!!


Weekend Fisher said...

I'd sent in a submission late (Saturday). If you're feeling generous, could you please consider ...?

Thank you.

The Carnival looks great. I'd never have thought of Wycliffe ...

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


Done! Sorry, I'd filed it away in the wrong "safe place."

That was a GREAT post, BTW

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Thanks for your comments on Wycliffe. At first I thought that you were overlooking him, but was pleased to see that you did speak of him. Your comments about his similarities in doctrine to Luther stands as a reminder that even without traditions or ceremonies or the Lutheran Confessions, when the Scriptures are received as they are given to us by the Lord and when they are truly the norm by which all is normed, an amazing thing happens: The truth is heard and believed and the Church is blessed with new saints.

Then the other dismaying thing also happens: the false church persecutes the Gospel.

Weekend Fisher said...

Thanks for getting me in even though late and for the encouraging words!

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

A terrific job, and worth the wait.