This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #221, titled, “The Papacy and the Empire in Direct Confrontation, Part 3.”
When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.
Our Scripture for today is Acts 20:28 which reads: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from Paul House. He said: “The early church was most useful when it preached the meaning of Christ through the lens of the whole of Scripture. It was most powerful when it maintained integrity with God and other human beings. It was most evangelistic when it understood that adherents of other religions, whether Jewish or Greek or Roman, faced eternal judgment without Christ.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Papacy and the Empire in Direct Confrontation, Part 3” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
Henry V (fifth) waited three years to respond to the pope’s challenge. Then he invaded Italy, and Paschal was forced to reach a compromise. What Henry proposed, and Paschal accepted, was that the emperor would give up any claim to the right of investiture of bishops, as long as the church gave up all the feudal privileges that prelates had, and which made them powerful potentates. Paschal agreed, with the sole stipulation that “Saint Peter’s patrimony” would remain in the hands of the Roman church. Henry’s proposal cut to the heart of the matter, for civil rulers could not afford to give up the right to name and invest bishops as long as these were also powerful political figures. And, if the reformers were consistent on their application of monastic principles to the reform of the church, they should be willing to have the church follow the way of poverty.
But this decision, reasonable though it seemed, was not politically viable. There soon was a violent reaction among prelates who saw themselves deprived of temporal power. Some were quick to point out that the pope had been very liberal with their possessions, but had retained his. The high nobility in Germany began to suspect that the emperor, having strengthened his position by stripping the bishops of their power, would turn on them and abolish many of their ancient privileges. Then the people of Rome rebelled against the emperor, who left the city taking as prisoners the pope as well as several cardinals and bishops. Finally, the emperor returned the pope to Rome, and the latter in turn crowned him at St. Peter’s–with the doors closed for fear of the populace. The emperor then returned to Germany, where urgent matters required his presence.
In Germany, Henry encountered new difficulties. Many of the high clergy and the nobility, fearing the loss of their power, rebelled. While Paschal remained silent, many of the German prelates excommunicated the emperor. Then several regional synods followed suit. When Henry protested that by his attitude Paschal was breaking their agreement, the pope suggested that the emperor call a council in order to solve the dispute. This Henry could not do, for he knew that the majority of the bishops, who saw their possessions and power threatened by the emperor’s policies, would decide against him. Therefore, he opted for renewed use of force. As soon as the situation in Germany allowed him to do so, he again invaded Italy, and Paschal was forced to flee to the castle of Sant’ Angelo, where he died.
The cardinals then hastened to elect a new pope, lest the emperor intervene in the election. The new pope, Gelasius II (GUH-LAY-SHUS second), had a stormy and brief pontificate (1118-1119). A Roman potentate who supported the emperor made him a prisoner and tortured him. Then the people rebelled and freed him. But the emperor returned to Rome with his armies, and Gelasius [GUH-LAY-SHUS] fled to Gaeta [GEE-TUH]. Upon returning to Rome, he was again captured by the same Roman magnate, but he fled and finally fell exhausted in the middle of a field, where some women found him, almost naked and lifeless. He then sought refuge in France, where he died shortly thereafter in the abbey of Cluny.
The decision of Gelasius [GUH-LAY-SHUS] to flee to France was a sign of the new direction in which papal policy was being forced. Since the empire had become its enemy, and since the Normans in the south had proven unreliable allies, popes began looking to France as the ally who would support them against the German emperors.
The next pope, Calixtus II (KUH-LIX-TUS second) (1119-1124), was a relative of the emperor, and both he and his kinsman were convinced that the time had come to end the dispute. After long negotiations, interspersed with threats and even military campaigns, both parties came to an agreement by the Concordat [KUHNG-KOR-DAT] of Worms [VURMS] (1122). It was decided that prelates would be elected freely, according to ancient usage, although in the presence of the emperor or his representatives. Only proper ecclesiastical authorities would henceforth have the right to invest prelates with their ring and crosier [KROW-ZHR], symbols of pastoral authority; but the granting of all feudal rights, privileges, and possessions, as well as of the symbols thereof, would be in the hand of civil authorities. The emperor also agreed to return to the church all its possessions, and to take measures to force any feudal lords holding ecclesiastical property to do likewise. This put an end to this series of confrontations between papacy and empire, although similar conflicts would develop repeatedly through the centuries.
In the end, the program of the reforming popes succeeded. The rule of clerical celibacy became universal in the Western church, and was generally obeyed. For a while, simony [SAI-MUH-NEE] almost disappeared. And the power of the papacy continued to grow, until it reached its apex in the thirteenth century.
However, the controversy over the appointment and investiture of prelates shows that the reformist popes, while they insisted on the monastic ideal of celibacy, did not do the same with the ideal of poverty. The question of investitures was important for civil authorities–especially the emperor–because the church had become so rich and powerful that an unfriendly bishop was a political power to be feared. Bishops could afford rich courts and even armies. Therefore, in the interest of self-preservation, rulers had to make sure that those who occupied such important positions were loyal to them. Henry V (fifth) had pointed to the heart of the matter when he suggested that he was willing to relinquish all claim to the investiture of bishops in his realm, as long as those bishops did not have the power and resources of great feudal lords. As the reformist popes saw matters, the possessions of the church belonged to Christ and the poor, and therefore could not be relinquished to the civil authorities. But in fact those possessions were used for personal profit, and for achieving the ambitious personal goals of bishops and others who in theory were not owners, but guardians.
Next time, we will begin looking at “The Offensive Against Islam.”
Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.