The Christian Church: Biblical Origin, Historical Transformation, and Potential for the Future

By Hans Schwarz | Go to book overview

5
Between Reformation
and Revolution

IT WOULD BE MISLEADING TO CLAIM THAT THE REFORMATION BEGAN ON OCTOBER 31, 1517, when Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. The start of the Reformation cannot be so clearly dated, especially since the Reformation was not a single event. It was instead a process that eventually became inevitable. For instance, we know that during his pontificate, Pope John XXII spent 63.7% of his revenues on warfare.1 The popes had excommunicated each other several times during the Great Schism (1309-77). The Donation of Constantine was openly declared a forgery designed to enable the papacy to amass worldly riches. Indulgences were peddled primarily to provide revenues for papal building plans and not to relieve the people from the threat of eternal damnation. Under Renaissance popes Innocent VIII and Alexander VI, Rome had become the center of simony (i.e., obtaining church offices through payoffs), murders, and indescribable vices. The whole church, from cardinals down to bishops, priests, abbots, and monks, resembled the picture portrayed by Rome. These examples that could be easily multiplied show too clearly that only drastic changes could return the church to the apostolic tradition from which it had strayed.


1. The medieval church—The failure to keep in touch

At times Protestants have been tempted to write off the medieval church with the argument that its doctrinal assertions are contrary to Scripture and to the teaching of the church universal. For instance, at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 the doctrine of transubstantiation was officially declared. Now it was doctrine that the body and blood of Jesus Christ

are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the species of bread
and wine; the bread "changed" into His body by divine power of transub-
stantiation, and the wine into the blood…. And surely no one can accom-

-167-

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