History of the Church of God
AS-HE FIRST millennium of the Christian era drew to a close, many people speculated whether they were living in the prophesied "time of the end."
While the word millennium does not appear in the Bible, the book of Revelation mentions a future period of 1,000 years during which the resurrected saints will rule with Christ (Revelation 20:46). Had you been alive just before A.D. 1000, it would only have been normal to wonder if something significant was about to happen.
But judgment was not at hand. Jesus Christ did not return. And the kingdom of God was not established.
But the Church Jesus founded continued to hide in "the wilderness" (Revelation 12:6). These were dark days in human history.
During these difficult times, scattered and often persecuted believers preserved remnants of truth from the early Church founded by Jesus Christ. We learned about some of these Christians in the last issue.
First, these faithful followers of Jesus were called Nazarenes. Then, in the region of Armenia, they were numbered among the Paulicians. As they moved westward into Europe, they were to be found among those known as Bogomils. Numerous other names were applied to non-orthodox Christians. We have space to discuss only a few of these groups.
Sects and Heretics
As religious discontentment grew, numerous dissenting groups arose in Western Europe.
Because so little accurate information is known about these groups, it is difficult to discern fact from accusation. As several historical sources note, the primary information we have about them is from those who persecuted them.
The better known of the separatist groups sprang up in Europe just after A.D. 1000. They made possible a measure of political and religious freedom in which the people of God could live. First were those known as Cathars.
As they spread from region to region, different names were ascribed to them. Writing in Heresy, Crusade and Inquisition in Southern France 1100-1250, Walter L. Wakefield observed:
"Between about 1140 and 1 160 the `new' dualist heresy spread from northern Europe where it appeared in cities such as Koln and Liege southward .... [It] was probably about 1150 that it penetrated Languedoc.
"The name 'Cathars' was first applied to the heretics in the north about 1160. As they spread they acquired others: Publicans was often used in the north; in Italy they were called Patarines. The connection with Balkan sects gave rise to the name Bulgars (or Bogomils).... Opponents also revived ancient sect names-Arians, Manichaeans, Marcionitesto apply to them.
"All Europe soon knew those who congregated in southern France as the Albigenses" (page 30).
The Albigenses were so called after the name of the French town of Albi where large numbers of them lived.
Religious leaders undertook many measures to counteract the movement. One such measure can still be seen in the town of Albi today.
To deter the masses from joining what was called by the priests "the Albigensian heresy," the community constructed a beautiful cathedral in Albi. Its massive size, beautiful stained-glass windows and inspiring organ and acoustics are as impressive today as they must have been hundreds of years ago.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica says of the Albigensians: "In the East they were called Bogomils and Paulicians; in the West, Patarenes, Tixerands ..•. Bulgars, Concorricii, Albanenses, Albigeois, and in both, Cathars and Maricheans" (volume V, page 515, article "Cathars").
"The heresy, which had penetrated into these regions probably by trade routes, came originally from eastern Europe. The name of Bulgarians (Bougres) was often applied to the Albigenses, and they always kept up intercourse with the Bogomil sectaries of Thrace....
"It is exceedingly difficult, however, to form any very precise idea of the Albigensian doctrines, our knowledge of them is derive( from their' opponents, and the, very rare texts emanating from the Albigenses which have come down to us ... contain very inadequate information concerning their metaphysical principles and more practice.
"What is certain is that, above all, they formed an anti-sacerdotal party in permanent opposition to the Roman church, and raised a continued protest against the corruption of the clergy of their time" (volume I, page 505, article "Albigenses").
The article about the Albigenses in the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion is quite interesting:
"By the beginning of the 13th cent[ury], the Albigenses had become a threat to the very existence of the Church in S. France. Innocent III at first attempted to convert the heretics by sending Cistercian and later Dominican preachers into the infected area, but sermons and disputations proved generally ineffective. When the Papal Legate Peter of Castelnau was murdered in 1208, the Pope decided that the use of force was justified and launched a crusade against the recalcitrant Albigenses....
"Once deprived of baronial protection, the Albigenses found it necessary to flee or go underground. Their final extirpation was accomplished by the Inquisition established by Gregory IX in 1233. By the end of the 14th cent[ury] their power was completely broken" (page 96).
Heretic though they were, when viewed through the eyes of contemporary religious leaders, the Albigenses or Cathari provided the religious ferment in which the people of God could begin to flourish.
Apostolic Practices Upheld
As we've noted, these sectarians appear under many different names. Because of their association with the heirs of the original Jewish Christians of the first century, some individuals and groups came to better understand the doctrines and traditions of the early Church.
One such group were the Pasagini. The Church historian Mosheim says that they seem to have been a remnant of the Nazarenes. They had distinguishing tenets:
1) that the observance of the law of Moses in everything except the offering of sacrifices was obligatory upon Christians;
2)that Christ was the first and purest creature of God, which appears to be the doctrine of the Arians.
Of course, the latter doctrine, if indeed that is what they taught, was in error. But the point is that so-called "Jewish Christians" or Nazarenes perpetuated the Sabbath, the laws of clean and unclean meats, the Holy Days and other doctrines, just as the Church recorded in the biblical book of Acts practiced.
Another group located around Milan in northern Italy were the Patarines. The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion says they were "members of a movement at Milan (c. 1050) against the simony and concubinage of the clergy.
of the Church
in S. France.
The quarter of the city where they met, Pataria, is probably the origin of the name....
"Their leaders SS. Arialdus and Erlembaldus were martyred by agents of the archbishops. The spirit of the movement spread to other parts of Italy and contributed to the Gregorian Reform. By the end of the 11th cent[ury] the Patarines ceased to be active. For uncertain reasons the same name was applied in the 12th cent[ury] to the Bogomils; Lateran Council IV ... used it as practically synonymous with Cathari; and in the 13th and 14th cent [uries] it often designated any sort of heretic" (page 2691).
We read further of them in John Henry Blunt's Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties, and Schools of Religious Thought:
"They observed the law of Moses except as to sacrifices: circumcision, the Sabbath, and distinctions of clean and unclean food, all forming part of their system, and hence they were called, 'Circumcise'.... the Pasagians appealed to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in support of their doctrine" ("Pasagians," pages 408-409).
Thus we find the north of Italy and the south of France in a certain religious turmoil. Some among the groups we study in a history of the Church were faithful to the Sabbath, the New Testament Passover and other customs of the early apostles.
Peter de Brueys
These sectarian Christians-as they are viewed in history-grew in numbers.
Countermeasures taken by both church and state varied in their effectiveness, but none could stamp out the adherents who were deeply committed to their beliefs.
Out of these movements came many leaders-and sometimes martyrs for their causes.
One such man, in the south of France, was Peter de Brueys. His story is told in numerous reference works. Out of this most unusual man's work grew a movement called after his name-the Petrobusians.
His career began in about A.D. 1104 in the town of Bruy or Bruey. He was apparently a member of the secular clergy, but came to oppose the clerical abuses and doctrinal errors.
Much of what we know about Peter de Brueys comes from the writings of another man named Peter-Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Clugny, who rebutted Peter de Brueys' doctrinal position.
The Abbot of Clugny wrote that the heresy of Peter de Brueys had been flourishing for 20 years when the Abbot wrote in A.D. 1125.
Charges of heresy filed against Peter de Brueys included these points:
1) He rejected infant baptism.
2) He denied that anything special resulted from consecrating church buildings, and in fact advocated pulling down such pretentious buildings.
3) He objected to adoration and honor given to the cross-feeling the cross should be a symbol of horror to all Christians.
4) He denied the doctrine of transubstantiation.
5) He rejected the use of prayers and other deeds done on behalf of the dead.
Peter de Brueys was not ascetic in his beliefs. He thought of marriage as having the highest value and believed priests ought to marry. He would have abolished the many fasts of the church at that time.
In condemning him, Peter the Venerable called him that "wretched little man," and wrote: "The people are re-baptized, churches profaned, altars overturned, crosses are burnt, meat eaten openly on the day of the Lord's Passion, priests scourged, monks cast into dungeons, and by terror or torture constrained to marry" (Dictionary of Sects, and Heresies... , page 423).
One day, as Peter de Brueys preached, an angry mob seized him and committed him to the flames in the French town of St. Gilles. It was about A.D. 1125. In only two decades one man stirred a whole region of Europe and laid the foundation for what was to follow.
A second personality of the 12th century was Arnold of Brescia. From the south of France all the way to Rome, he preached against the evils and corruption he found in the established church.
As with Peter de Brueys, numerous reference materials are available to read about Arnold of Brescia. He was willing to stand against all opposition for the truths he could understand.
Arnold and those who followed him, called Arnoldists, developed an opposition to the wealth and resultant abuses of the clergy in his area. Arnold believed the civil government should be separated from the church.
Arnold, in his day, paved the way for later civil and religious liberties.
In History of the Christian Church, Professor Schalf writes of Arnold:
"It was the political complication which caused his ruin.... Arnold sought the welfare of the Church in her complete separation from the State and of the clerical office from secular entanglements" (page 98).
Henry of Lausanne
A third powerful personality of the 12th century was a former Benedictine monk-Henry from the city of Lausanne.
The Dictionary of Sects, and Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties, and Schools of Religious Thought describes Henry or Henri: "He was of imposing stature, wore a cropped beard and flowing hair, went barefooted- in winter, with a
paved the way
for later civil
frame so robust as to endure with ease the utmost rigours of the climate, and a voice so powerful that his adversaries compared it to the roar of legions of devils" (page 183).
He was a monk by education, but his studies led him to conclude marriage was honorable for priests. Gradually his opposition to established teachings grew till he was numbered among the heretics.
He continually denounced the vices of the clergy in his area. He was banished from Lausanne by the bishop, and his journeys led him to the south of France where he followed in the way opened by Peter de Brueys.
He, as Peter before, came to see that the Church of God was not buildings made from stone but was, rather, the congregation of believers. He preached that God may be worshiped in a marketplace or stable as well as in a consecrated church building.
Henry and his followers (called Henricians by others) preached in the streets and town squares.
Along with the Petrobusians, they rejected the cross and the sacred music that had become an important function of religious worship.
As a result of his preaching, Henry was seized and imprisoned. The probable date of his death was A.D. 1149.
We can only strive to imagine how difficult it must have been to live in opposition to established beliefs, customs and practices during these grim times.
Branded as heretics, banished, arrested, sometimes tortured and in the end put to violent death, these remarkable individuals endured to the end.
The first crusade (organized before A.D. 1100) was organized to suppress the heretical Albigenses and for other political purposes before the Crusaders were dispatched to take Jerusalem from the Muslims.
By 1184, so influential were these many nettlesome movements that Pope Lucius III issued his famous decree, excerpts from which show the impact of contrary views during this tumultuous period.
But the most serious method of suppression was yet to come-the Inquisition. The word still makes one shudder to think of man's inhumanity to his fellowman. And all in the name of religion. In the next chapter we'll discuss the nightmare that was the Inquisition.
But we'll also see how the stage was set for later dramatic times. The light of the small group of apostolic believers that had barely flickered in the Middle Ages was about to burn more brightly.
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