Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Church History Essay: Jan Hus

A Summative Assessment of Jan Hus Focusing on his Contribution to the Church both then and now, and his Contribution to the Development of Christian Theology.

Hus preached the word to the people of Bohemia, He steered them towards biblical truth, spoke against abuses, and was persecuted and burned alive by the religious authorities. While he did not manage to divest himself of all religious tradition, he was an important precursor to the Reformers, inspiring both them, and the people of the Czech Republic ever since. In more recent times he has been approved of by people from many branches of Christianity.

Jan Hus, mostly following Wycliff, preached the Word of God to the well-prepared Bohemian people, condemned wicked aspects of the church, inspired the Reformers, and inspired the Czech people.

Born circa 1369[1] in Husinetz in the Kingdom of Bohemia, Jan Hus was a learned and studious man, although it has been suggested his fondness for chess was often a distraction. He earned himself a B.A., B.D. and an M.A.  Over time, Hus served God in varied capacities: as a rector in the University of Prague, as a preacher in the Bethlehem Chapel, as a philosopher and a theologian who sought biblical truth, and most notably as one of the earliest reformers to challenge the papacy.[2]

Before Hus began his exegetical communications to the assembled crowds there were some notable men who had provided Bohemia with exceptional spiritual nourishment: Konrad of Waldhausen, Milicz of Kremsier and Matthias of Janow.[3]  In fact there was a mass exodus from the churches of the Mendicant orders due to blandis sermonibus.   This prepared the ground for Hus to bring the Gospel and reform to God’s Bohemian elect.[4]

The reform Hus brought was to steer the church of Bohemia back to biblical truths and foundations.[5]  He castigated those in ecclesiastical office who were misusing privileges and living lives which were inappropriate for clergy.  Simony was a common practice to which Hus was vocally opposed.[6]  Hus also called the laity to reform by invoking them to consider their consciences and to live lives in keeping with repentance.  His popularity in Bohemia was such that when he was excommunicated by one of the popes a riot broke out.  Eventually Prague was excommunicated and he was required to leave for a time.[7]

There were problems with the papacy, the church and the inquisition at the time of Hus, and he opposed the prevailing conditions in these institutions. 
Relying upon Augustine’s definition that the church is the body of the elect, they [Wycliff and Hus] contested the proposition that what the visible church teaches must be believed because the church teaches it. They turned away from an infallible pope and infallible visible church to the living Christ, who rules personally in the hearts of believers and in the scriptures. They questioned or denied the church’s right to punish heretics and schismatics with physical punishments.[8]

Hus challenged the papal tradition that Peter was the head of the church and appealed to Augustinian theology for inspiration.  Hus, like Augustine, believed that Christ is the rock on which the church is built and that the correct definition of the church is the body of the elect.
At the early period Huss took the ground he afterward assumed in his Treatise on the Church, that not Peter, but Christ, is the rock on which the church is built. In favour of this interpretation, he quoted the famous passage from Augustine’s Retractations and confirmed it from 1 Corinthians 3. . . . He refers to the abuse of the power of the keys and claims for all the Apostles equally the right of loosing and binding. In these sermons the church is defined as the whole number of the elect – totus numerous predestinatorum.[9]

Praha makes mention of this in his paper and notes that there is much agreement between Hus and Wycliff in their writings and arguments of the definition of the church and he states that they deny the existence and functioning of the church as an institution.[10]  Hus was well versed in the theology of Wycliff and did agree with him on many points. They both believed that every elect person should participate in communion.  However he did differ from Wycliff in his theology behind communion; Hus was in favour of transubstantiation.[11]

Another way in which Hus was closer to Catholic views that Wycliff was in his continued veneration of Mary. He preached many sermons about her and he taught that she was in God’s presence interceding for sinners. He also believed that she ascended into heaven but was uncertain “whether Mary ascended in soul only or enveloped with her body”.[12]  

When Hus was a student he purchased an indulgence but later in his life he came to the realisation that this practice was unbiblical and unnecessary. Schaff made mention that Hus was opposed to the sale of indulgences.[13]

Hus took an interest in eschatology, particularly in the passage of the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15.[14]

Hus started to question the authority of the church and the pope.  Hus saw the Scriptures as the highest authority and if a pope or clergyman was acting in contradiction to the Word of God then he need not be obeyed.[15]  In his De Ecclesia Hus stated “. . . he who commands ought only to command things in agreement with the law, and the person obeying ought to the same extent to obey them and never act contrary to the will of God Almighty”.[16]

In 1414 Hus travelled under safe conduct, provided by Emperor Sigismund, to the church council at Konstanz. By this time Hus had been declared a heretic. “The charges against Hus were that he had disobeyed the discipline of the church and rejected sundry of its doctrinal tenets.”[17] Hus was condemned without a trial and burnt at the stake on the 6th July 1415.  Erasmus said that “Hus was burned but he was not convicted”.[18]

One hundred and four years after the death of Hus, Martin Luther was acquainted with writings of the man he was taught had been a heretic.  Accused of being a Hussite, Luther delved into Hus’s De Ecclesia and realised that indeed he was, at least on many of the major theological points.  This had an impact on Luther’s theological ideas that would be invaluable for the German reformation.[19]

Lubomir Batka, who wrote a paper describing the theology of Hus from a Lutheran view point said, “Luther's enthusiasm for Hus does not relate to all central aspects of Hus' teaching. Luther moved beyond Hus' understanding of original sin, of medieval ecclesiology and piety, of the law of Christ and of the difference between the visible and invisible church. These changes are based on the importance Luther ascribed to the external word of the preached gospel. This is what changes the heart of the sinner and creates faith, the church, and life everlasting.”[20]

In more recent times it has been suggested that Hus was focused on the reformation of the church.  Paul Kubricht, in a paper, gave a brief insight into this opinion:  “Matthew Spinka, the leading American scholar on Hus has written: "His [Hus] overwhelming motive was the reformation of the church; his theology was only a means to this end." Hus felt he had a spiritual call and purpose to his activity and noted that he, in his own life, had undergone a change in values and goals that led him to focus on the less worldly concerns of life.”[21]

Among Hus’ critics is Thomas Fudge, an historian specialising in medieval and reformation history.  Thomas Fudge has claimed that “Jan Hus and the Hussites in the sixteenth century were mainly utilities both in the hands of their admirers and their detractors.  The historical, theological, social and religious realities of Hus and the Hussites were of secondary importance at best.”[22]  If that were the case, there would be little talk about Hus and his followers, and his plight would not have encouraged the Reformers, like Luther, to the extent that it did.

The Polish-American historian, Piotr Wandycz, has made the point that the Czech reformation, instigated by Hus, and the Hussite movement, was an inspiration for the Czech people in more recent history.  This was important for nationalism going into and coming out of Communism.
The Hussite upheaval was variously appraised as part of an all-European crisis that surfaced first in Bohemia, or as a manifestation of specifically Czech conditions; as a pre-Reformation or Czech reformation; and as a national or bourgeois revolution. It was perhaps the most important single development in Czech history. Both universal and native elements mingled to produce a revolution that affected religion, culture, politics, economy, and society. Even if a certain mythology grew around it, Hussitism served as an inspiration for Czech democratic tradition in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[23]

It is also worthy to note that Hus played another important role in the history of Bohemia.  Wandycz propounded, “Hus’s contribution to the Czech language, its grammar and spelling, is comparable to Luther’s impact on the German tongue. A Czech translation of the Bible was preceded only by German and Italian, and followed by the French. Hussite influences were responsible for the first translation of the Bible into Hungarian”.[24]

On a more recent and international scale Hus has received acclaim from participants in various theological traditions.  Vilem stated “Hus was recognized as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, and has been honored as God's witness by Reformed churches and, since its inception, by the Czechoslovak Hussite Church”.[25]  In recent years the Vatican has been considering changing the views it currently holds regarding Jan Hus. In 1996 an article appeared in the periodical Christian Centuary stating that, “Several Roman Catholic experts have urged Pope John Paul II –who during a visit to Prague in 1990 spoke of Hus’s ‘personal integrity of life’ – to condemn the treatment of Hus”.[26]

The contribution Hus has made to the church over the centuries has been to impact in a penetrative yet humbling way through the inspiration of the example he set.  “John Hus was condemned . . . and they supposed that his name was obliterated forever.  Yet now he is shining forth with such glory that his cause and his teaching have to be praised before the whole world, while the pope’s cause lies ignominiously in the manure.”[27]

Hus was inspired by Wycliff, and intur inspired the Reformers and the Czech people. He preached God’s word, and highlighted abuses in the Catholic church. Hus was against unspiritual institution, and an advocate for the body of Christ.  “The blood of the martyr produced seed. The ink of the scholar brought forth substance and the ‘man’ made ‘saint’ in the hands of others gave birth to a myth that whispered in Prague, sang in Constance and shouted across Europe.”[28]

Batka, Lubomir. “Jan Hus’ Theology in a Lutheran Context.” Lutheran Quarterly 23, nο.1 (March 1, 2009): 1-28

Di Domizio, Daniel G. “Jan Hus’s De Ecclesia, Precursor of Vatican II.” Theological Studies 60, no.2 (June 1, 1999): 247-260

Fudge, Thomas A. “ “The Shouting Hus”: Heresy Appropriated as Propaganda in the Sixteenth Century.” Communio Viatorum 38, no. 3 (January 1, 1996): 197-231

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. 2nd Edition.  New York: Harper Collins, 2010.

Vilem, Herold, and David, Zdenek V. “Jan Hus: a Heretic, a Saint, or a Reformer?.” Communio Viatorum 45, no.1 (January 1, 2003): 5-23

Hus, Jan. The Church. Translated by David S. Schaff. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915.

Kubricht, Paul. “The Impact of Historical Interpretations on the Popular Press: the Case of John Hus in Modern Czechoslovakia.” Fides Et Historia 12, no.1 (September 1, 1979): 29-43.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Reformation: Europe’s House Divided. London: Penguin Books, 2004.

Schaff, David S. John Huss: His Life, Teachings and Death, After Five Hundred Years. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915.

Tomkins, Stephen. A Short History of Christianity. Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2005.

“Vatican Reconsidering Views on Jan Hus.” Christian Century 113, no.11 (April 3, 1996): 368.

Wandycz, Piotr S. The Price of Freedom: A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present. 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge, 2001.

[1] Other sources may claim as early as 1362 or as late as 1371; see the following for details: {}; {source 2}.
[2] David S. Schaff, John Huss: His Life, Teachings and Death, After Five Hundred Years (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915), 20-21.
[3] Schaff, John Huss, 33.
[4] Schaff, John Huss, 28.
[5] Diarmaid MacCulloch,  Reformation: Europe’s House Divided. (London: Penguin Books, 2004), 37
[6] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. 2nd Edition.  (New York: Harper Collins, 2010), 416-417.
[7] Stephen Tomkins.  A Short History of Christianity. (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2005), 126.
[8] Schaff, John Huss, 30-31.
[9] Schaff, John Huss, 36.
[10] Herold Vilem, and Zdenek V. David, “Jan Hus: a Heretic, a Saint, or a Reformer?.” Communio Viatorum 45, no.1 (January 1, 2003): 13.
[11] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, 416.
[12] Schaff, John Huss, 36.
[13] Schaff, John Huss, 271.
[14] Schaff, John Huss, 30.
[15] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, 417-418.
[16] Jan Hus, The Church, Translated by David S. Schaff. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915), 194.
[17] Schaff, John Huss, 264.
[18] Schaff, John Huss, 266.
[19] Herold Vilem, and Zdenek V. David, “Jan Hus: a Heretic, a Saint, or a Reformer?”, 10.
[20] Lubomir Batka. “Jan Hus’ Theology in a Lutheran Context.” Lutheran Quarterly 23, nο.1 (March 1, 2009): 20.
[21] Paul Kubricht. “The Impact of Historical Interpretations on the Popular Press: the Case of John Hus in Modern Czechoslovakia.” Fides Et Historia 12, no.1 (September 1, 1979): 31.
[22] Thomas A. Fudge, “ “The Shouting Hus”: Heresy Appropriated as Propaganda in the Sixteenth Century.” Communio Viatorum 38, no. 3 (January 1, 1996): 198.
[23] Wandycz, The Price of Freedom, 43.
[24] Wandycz, The Price of Freedom, 36.
[25] Herold Vilem, and Zdenek V. David, “Jan Hus: a Heretic, a Saint, or a Reformer?”, 10.
[26] “Vatican Reconsidering Views on Jan Hus.” Christian Century 113, no.11 (April 3, 1996): 368.
[27] Thomas A. Fudge, “The Shouting Hus”, 207.
[28] Thomas A. Fudge, “The Shouting Hus”, 197.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Garden (and a brief update)

So I've been really slack and haven't posted in a while. I got a high distinction for Hebrew last semester and passed Church History satisfactorily. This semester I am continuing Hebrew and I am doing the second Old Testament unit which is prophets and writings. I expect to do an essay on Proverbs which I shall post once I have my marks. I did an essay on Jan Hus last semester which I will post sometime soon.

My Garden
We have put in two veggie boxes with a variety of veggies, a small herb garden and I have scattered some edibles through the garden beds as well.

In the veggie patch I have tomatoes (hidden from frost), chives, kale, parsnips, carrots, broad beans, dwarf butter beans and lettuce. I planted most as seeds so there isn't really anything to see but I noticed yesterday, when I watered in the evening, that the lettuces were just peeking through. Rather exciting considering we couldn't see them at lunchtime when we showed Craig's mum around the garden. The only issue I've noticed is the broads grow up to two metres. I thought I got dwarf broads and I didn't realise my mistake until after I had planted the seeds. I did some research and it looks like I can make a little frame for them to grow up and if I pinch off the tops that will keep the plants to about 1 metre and apparently there should be more beans. I'll just have to wait and see. I also have some seedling trays and little pots in which I am trying to grow celery, cabbages and chillies. I plan to keep the chillies potted but I will transplant the celery and cabbages into the main veggie patch when they are stronger.

I have a sunny herb which contains rosemary cuttings and sage, thyme and oregano seeds. I haven't seen much progress there but the rosemary looks alive which I think is a good start. I have a sheltered garden bed where I will put dwarf sunflowers and basil. I have put my mint, parsley and nugget pumpkins in a damper and shadier regular garden bed. There were a few bulbs around and some dead shrubs so I thought it would be nice to have some greenery as a ground dweller. I also want the mint and parsley to become weed-like because I desire to harvest regularly. I have ideas of relaxing in the shade in the hammock drinking my own iced mint tea, then munching on a home-grown salad.

While I was out and about with the camera this morning I took a picture of the nectarine blossom. We have five fruit trees: nashi, nectarine, apple, greengage and cherry. I think they're all starting to bud. I'd like to add a lemon tree to our collection. If we lived in a warmer climate I would definitely want oranges, limes, mangos, bananas and avocados too. 

There is something so special about being able to see God's creation coming back to life in spring. I heard bird calls today which I haven't heard in months. I saw young steers gallivanting around the paddock and enjoying the sun (and obviously unaware of what will befall them once they fatten up). And there was the smell of flowers and freshly cut grass. Ah! what joy it brought me.

So aside from study and indoor housewifery, this is what I have been doing of late.