“Think You’re Radical, Think Again”
Is it radical to raise your hands in worship to God? Is it radical to pray out loud during congregational praise? Is it too radical to talk about your love for Jesus when others talk about their worries and fears? What does it mean to be a radical Christian? If you asked that question to any number of believers today, probably you would receive any number of comments. Why? It’s because radicalism’s meaning has changed many times over centuries. For example, in 12th century if you demanded that Bible be written in a common language for common man, you were radical and probably would be burned at stake. In 16th century you were radical if you protested worldly lifestyle of pope. This also could cost you your life. Today many define radical Christianity as “holy rollers”—those who sing too loud, and want to talk about Jesus constantly. If that’s radicalism today, it won’t be tomorrow. One day every believer will sing loudly and shout to Jesus. When we get to heaven, shouts of praise and rejoicing will never cease. Then praises will come from everyone’s lips, even from soft-spoken believer. Trust Bible on this one. I’d like to take you back to a time in history when radicalism was no different than today’s most reserved and traditional Protestant.
The Rising Stars of Reformation were Radical
He was despised so by Council of Constance that it charged him with over 200 crimes and ordered his writings burned. Then they dug up his corpse and burnt it. He had been dead for only 44 years. Now that’s pretty severe punishment for someone whose only crime was translating Bible from Latin into primitive English for common man. But his actions were too radical for Catholic Church during rising Reformation. And although his body was destroyed, John Wycliffe’s (c.329-1384) legacy continued. There were other radicals like Wycliffe. They started appearing in history when Church became weak, immoral, corrupt and scholasticism became focus of Catholic Church. Scholasticism was an attempt to combine Greek philosophy with Christianity, but it backfired. Instead of training best minds of day to think, critique classics, and support Catholic Church, it educated a number of scholars that could now dispute Catholic doctrines, and do it intelligently.
Marsilius (c.1275-1343) was a man who could have had a successful career as a church official, but he blew it. That happens when people get radical. They disrupt their comfort zones. Marsilius, an Italian, believed that all beliefs should be measured against God’s word. If that wasn’t radical enough, he believed in priesthood of believers. The priesthood of believers means that each man may go to God in prayer and each individual is responsible to God for his spiritual condition. When he attacked pope, it didn’t set well with powers that be, and he was excommunicated. If he had not received protection from a German prince, not only would he have been excommunicated but executed as well. Pretty radical stuff isn’t it? By way, German prince that protected Marsilius also protected William of Ockham (c.1290-1349) from pope. William of Ockham developed into perhaps greatest logician that ever lived. He pointed out that ‘the Christian faith…is superior to any pope…’ This landed him in hot water too. William was tried for his beliefs, imprisoned for a while, and then excommunicated by pope. These guys were just too radical for their times.