Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sorry, Goose, but it’s time to buzz the tower.

In keeping with my Bohemian heritage and Reformation Day, I thought I'd highlight one of the lesser known figures, the pre-Reformer John Huss (also spelled Jan or Johannes Hus).

Huss was from Bohemia (now part of the "Czech Republic) and was the master of the University of Prague. He preached in the language of the people (not Latin) at Bethlehem Chapel, at a time when possession of a non-Latin Bible was punishable by death.

His theological views and criticisms of the church were heavily influenced by John Wycliffe, the English pre-Reformer.

Huss (whose name means "goose" in Czech) was among the first to buzz the tower and draw the ire of the church.

He opposed the corruption in the church and was on the "wrong side" with regard to accessibility to the Bible, authority of the pope, and issues of salvation. He spoke against simony (the purchase of church offices) and indulgences (the purchase of forgiveness).

Huss was excommunicated for siding with Pope Alexander (as did the people of Bohemia) instead of the Pope who succeed him (and may have murdered him) and for failure to comply with the order to ban and burn all the works of Wycliffe, and failure to stop preaching. Part of that papal bull of excommunication forbade anyone to give Huss food, drink, salutation, discourse, purchase, sale, or hospitality.

Huss was undaunted:
Huss reminds his friends that Christ himself was excommunicated as a malefactor and crucified. No help was to be derived from the saints. Christ’s example and his salvation are the sufficient sources of consolation and courage. The high priests, scribes, Pharisees, Herod and Pilate condemned the Truth and gave him over to death, but he rose from the tomb and gave in his stead twelve other preachers. So he would do again. What fear, he wrote, "shall part us from God, or what death? What shall we lose if for His sake we forfeit wealth, friends, the world’s honors and our poor life?... It is better to die well than to live badly. We dare not sin to avoid the punishment of death. To end in grace the present life is to be banished from misery. Truth is the last conqueror. He wins who is slain, for no adversity "hurts him if no iniquity has dominion over him." In this strain he wrote again and again. The "bolts of anti-christ," he said, could not terrify him, and should not terrify the "elect of Prag."
-Phillip Scaff, History of the Christian Church, §45.
Even though the Council of Constance had condemned Wycliffe and ordered his writings burned and his bones exhumed, burned, and sprinkled in the river, Huss did not distance himself from Wycliffe.
"I indeed confess that I hold the true opinions propounded by Master John Wycliffe, professor of sacred theology, not because he taught them but because the Scriptures taught them."
-Matthew Spinka, John Hus at the Council of Constance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965), pp. 69-70.
In the face of trumped up charges and imminent death, Huss was able to express joy to Christ while being burned at the stake as a heretic in 1415. As Huss stood before the stake he reportedly said, "In the truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, I die willingly and joyfully today."

584 years after Huss experienced a humiliating and cruel death, Pope John Paul II apologized to the Czech people on December 17th, 1999.
"Today, on the eve of the Great Jubilee, I feel the need to express deep regret for the cruel death inflicted on Jan Hus and for the consequent wound of conflict and division which was thus imposed on the minds and hearts of the Bohemian people."
-The Vatican Information Service (VIS)

Incidentally, Huss proved to be a prophet at his execution when he said, "You are roasting a poor Bohemian goose, but in 100 years there will arise a swan whom you will neither roast nor boil."

I don't know if any would refer to him as a swan, for Pope Leo called Martin Luther a "wild boar" (i.e., pig) in his papal bull of excommunication, Exsurge Domine. ("Rise up, O Lord, for there is a wild boar loose in your vineyard.")

I have every confidence that this "pig" would find kinship with "the goose" and wouldn't hesitate to say, "Ich bin ein Hussite."

"A cantionale, dating from 1572, and preserved in the Prag library, contains a hymn to Huss’ memory and three medallions which well set forth the relation in which Wyclif and Huss stand to the Reformation. The first represents Wyclif striking sparks from a stone. Below it is Huss, kindling a fire from the sparks. In the third medallion, Luther is holding aloft the flaming torch."
-Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, §45.

On the 490th anniversary of Luther's nailing of the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenburg, we also celebrate John Huss, an early advocate of sola Scriptura, who was willing to die a martyr's death for the One who had died for him.

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At 31 October, 2007 10:35, Blogger Oilcan said...

Top Gun

Just like with Maverick and Iceman, with Huss and Luther it is arguable who should be whose wingman. I suppose it is natural that Huss, the Goose, should be Luther's wingman since the goose has wings, but that is a silly argument. All I know is, either one would make a Mighty Wingman.

Thanks Huss for taking one for the team.

At 31 October, 2007 10:51, Blogger GUNNY said...

That fire was certainly worse than having to deal with a junior investment banker, who's talkin' 'bout herself and not much more.

That's quite an anchor, don't get me wrong, but ... great balls of fire, that was a rough time for Huss!

Gutsiest move I ever saw, Mav.

At 31 October, 2007 12:09, Blogger Oilcan said...

Good thing Huss wasn't holding on too tight, or he might have lost his edge.

Pope . . . sniff . . . you stink!

At 31 October, 2007 12:28, Blogger GUNNY said...

It was good bull when Huss said, "That's right! Pope ... man. I am dangerous."

I guess that they thought his theology was writing checks his body couldn't cash.

At 31 October, 2007 12:49, Blogger Oilcan said...

I must say, as a Reformed Christian, that, in regards to the Pope, I've lost that loving feeling.

Now, it's gone, gone, gone . . .

At 31 October, 2007 12:53, Blogger GUNNY said...

It's a good thing Huss can hold his own as a theologian so we won't have to worry about him making his living as a singer.

At 31 October, 2007 13:30, Blogger MarieP said...

I think Huss was referring to James Swan at Beggars All Reformation Blog...

At 31 October, 2007 13:32, Blogger MarieP said...

And he meant the 100 years figuratively, of course!

At 31 October, 2007 20:15, Blogger Matthew Bradley said...

Gun...missed you today at the celebration, but I know you were enjoying some good slooge with your kiddos. Thanks for the post on Huss. Well done and much appreciated.


At 31 October, 2007 22:07, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better to die well than to live poorly.

Great quote. I wish we had more like him today. Instead, it seems the visible church is well stocked with those who think theology is not important and we should heed Brother King (Rodney, that is) - "Can't we all just get along."

Thank God Huss did not just get along.

At 02 November, 2007 21:47, Blogger Lionel Woods said...

Hey Pastor Gunny, I am back. I decided to come back a little earlier. I wanted to change my look and approach. Made a few changes.

At 27 December, 2007 20:03, Blogger GUNNY said...


That's some good slooge, brother.

Keep it coming and thanks for stopping by.

You stay classy, San Diego.


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