Volume 14 Issue 9
Sitting in Bethlehem chapel here in Prague, Czech Republic, my imagination is pushed back to the 15th Century. I can almost hear the sound of Jon Hus’ carriage bumping down the cobblestone streets as he is forced from his famous chapel and into an uncertain journey that will end with his trail and death: death by burning at the stake. A death he could have avoided if he had only agreed to recant his stated convictions.
Hus sought broad reforms from the Catholic Church. He was himself a priest, and by his own admission, he had from early childhood looked forward to the power and prestige that such a position would bring him. He served at a time when kings bowed when coming into the presence of a Bishop. But in the end, his love for the people, the laity, compelled him to take up the cause of reform that ended in his death. The sign he was forced to carry to his execution identified his as a heretic.
He died because he dared to champion the reform of the Catholic Church. He took on many issues pertaining to rampant corruption; a small plague on the wall of Bethlehem Chapel gives a summary.
First, he wanted the church to permit the scripture to become available to the public. People had no way of knowing what the church; and further, the church alone, without challenge, set the cannon of scripture. Corruption was rampant.
Secondly, he wanted communion to be given to everyone based on his or her own desire and conscience. At this time in history, only the priest and the elitist few were allowed the full attention of the church. Blessings and favors could be bought for a price; and this from a church that taught that all the power, forgiveness, salvation, and hope was in the hands of the church alone. Jesus was acknowledged as Savior, but only through the church and the clergy could His offer of salvation be obtained. History clearly shows the horror and corruption this idea caused, and still causes to this day.
Hus wanted the rights of the secular populace to be free from the power of the church. He believed in the church, but also in the right of people to be free from the church if they so chose, without punishment or forced conversation. He believed that Christ was the head of the church, not the Pope. This may have been the real ‘final straw’ because it suggested that the power of the Catholic Church over society needed to be tempered, especially the power to wage war.
For these ideas he was killed.
His death was not meaningless. Historians believe it paved the way for the ‘great reformation’ led by Luther and others nearly a hundred years later. But perhaps more than that, his death still speaks in the age of compromise and subterfuge.
Most people would agree that Hus was right about the issues, but he was also right about the matter of his courage. He was right about what men must do to win the day. He was right about the power of standing on principle. It is weakness of conviction that renders the church powerless to change society. The power of conviction will be required of the church is to influence this wicked world. Hus knew this. We have forgotten.
Polls tell us that Americans believe in God, are against abortion, object to homosexuality on moral grounds, hate pornography, and feel that they are losing their rights and freedoms. Yet when they vote, they scarcely support these issues. They “vote party.” They “vote money.” They vote socialism in spite of the fact that capitalism has made them prosperous. They decry the conditions, but will not join the fight.
As recent events demonstrate, we send our young men and women to invade the nest of terrorist who have attacked our nation, who have killed thousands and who would have killed more, if they had had the means; and then we tolerate politicians, intellectuals, media personalities, liberal preachers, newspapers, and graduation speakers who bash our country and its ideals of freedom. Anemic Americans are praying good money to attend concerts and public events where the entertainers insult them and their country. If we had real convictions and courage we would not put up with this for even one moment.
Furthermore, weakness drives churches today. Preachers have created clubs, cults, and clinics, instead of churches. Many have charismatic personalities, but fail to preach the word. It may be true that most members would not endure sound doctrine, but there is little danger they will be driven away, because it is unlikely they will ever hear any sound Bible doctrine.
I hope the good folks running the chapel here in Prague will not throw me out. Perhaps they are used to preachers sitting here writing for a while, or sitting here thinking about what is involved when people are willing to die for their convictions.
Sitting here daring to ask the question: how deeply do I believe?