This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #218, titled, “Canonical and Papal Reform, 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 Ephesians 4:11-13 which reads: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from Philip Yancey. He said: “History shows that when the church uses the tools of the world’s kingdom, it becomes as ineffectual, or as tyrannical, as any other power structure. And whenever the church has intermingled with the state, the appeal of the faith suffers as well. Ironically, our respect in the world declines in proportion to how vigorously we attempt to force others to adopt our point of view.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Canonical and Papal Reform, Part 3” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
After that time, with one exception, there was a succession of reforming popes. That exception led the reformers, under the leadership of Nicholas II (second), to call the Second Lateran [LAT-ER-UHN] Council, which determined the manner in which popes were to be elected thereafter. The power of election was to rest with the cardinals who also held the title of bishops, who would then seek the consent of the rest of the cardinals, and, finally, of the Roman people. (The origins of the title “cardinal” are obscure, and need not detain us here. By the time of the Second Lateran [LAT-ER-UHN] Council, in 1059, the cardinalate was an ancient institution.) Since the cardinals were committed to reform, and since the popes elected by them would name any new cardinals, the power of the reforming party seemed assured. The next pope, Alexander II (second), was duly elected by the cardinals and continued the work of reformation, although some of the powerful Roman families, with support from the Germans, set up a rival pope.
When Alexander died, Hildebrand [HIL-DUH-BRAND] was elected pope, although the order prescribed by the Second Lateran [LAT-ER-UHN] Council was reversed, for it was the people who demanded his election, and the cardinals who agreed. He took the name of Gregory VII (seventh), and continued the work of reformation in which he had been engaged for years. His dream was of a world united under the papacy, as one flock under one shepherd. Among the many steps he took in this direction, he declared that the Bible should not be translated into vernacular languages, for the ministry of teaching and interpretation msut be in the hands of Rome. His vision of unity included not only Western Europe, but also the Byzantine [BI-ZUHN-TEEN] church as well as the lands then under Muslim control. For a while he sought to organize a great military offensive against Islam, with a western front in Spain and another in the East, where Latin Christians would go to the succor of beleaguered Constantinople–a project that two decades later would result in the Crusades. But these plans, as well as his efforts to extend his authority to the East, never came to fruition.
In Western Europe, Gregory VII (seventh) continued the campaign against simony [SAI-MUH-NEE] and the marriage of clergy. A synod gathered in 1070 condemned simony [SAI-MUH-NEE] and ordered that clergy by celibate. Gregory reinforced the synod’s decisions by forbidding the laity from receiving the sacraments from the hands of simoniacs [SAI-MUH-NEE-ACKS]. He also named legates who would travel, ensuring that these orders were obeyed. In response, some accused Gregory of heresy, for long before his time Augustine had declared–and the rest of the church had agreed–that sacraments administered by schismatics [SKIZ-MAT-IK] were nonetheless valid. In truth, Gregory did not declare that such sacraments were invalid; he simply ordered people to abstain from them. In France, King Philip I would not heed Gregory’s admonitions. With his support, the French clergy refused to obey Gregory’s reforming decrees. Indeed, the two-pronged offensive against simony [SAI-MUH-NEE] and clerical marriage was unwise, for it created an alliance between the powerful prelates who profited from ecclesiastical posts, and the many worthy members of the lower clergy who bemoaned simony [SAI-MUH-NEE], but who were married and refused to set their wives aside. By joining the monastic ideal of celibacy to his reformation, Gregory and his friends made it much more difficult for their plans to succeed.
Gregory was most successful in England, where William the Conqueror now ruled. When he was still a papal advisor, Hildebrand [HIL-DUH-BRAND] had supported William’s plans to invade England from Normandy, and now the Conqueror, who in any case was in favor of ecclesiastical reform, supported the pope’s campaign against simony [SAI-MUH-NEE].
Next time, we will begin looking at “The Papacy and the Empire in Direct Confrontation.”
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.