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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Lesson #93

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #93
            Previously we focused primarily on the first 1500 years of Christianity’s history. Now, we will proceed from there forward, focusing on the Lutheran perspective. We just celebrated the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses to the castle church in Wittenberg on October 31st, 1517. This is seen by most of the world as the beginning of the Reformation. The 95 Theses themselves were primarily concerned with the practice of selling indulgences; full-fledged Lutheran theology was “hammered out” much more thoroughly in the years that followed. From the time of 1517 and on, the Reformation can be covered from many historical angles, but I would like to track it through its clear confession of biblical truth as we believe, teach, and confess it today. Because of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, these confessional documents were mass-produced and distributed, spreading the faith eventually all over the world.

            1529 is the next significant date. Luther wanted to produce a simple tool for parents to use to teach their children the faith. So, he produced The Large and Small Catechisms, which give the clearest and briefest explanations of what the 10 commandments, creeds, Lord’s Prayer, baptism, confession & absolution, and Lord’s Supper mean in the daily life of every Christian. In the same year Luther was brought before the diet (a royal legislative court) at Worms and on the 18th of April, refused to recant his writings with the famous “Here I Stand” speech. On the 25th of May (the next month), Luther was made an outlaw by that same court.

            Many would contend that June the 25th, 1530 is the date that should be celebrated as the birth of the Reformation, because this is when The Augsburg Confession was presented. In order to exclude the people, the little chapel of the episcopal palace was appointed in place of the spacious city hall where the meetings of the diet were held. Written copies in German and Latin were presented. The document was read before Emperor Charles V (initially against his wishes) and the electors of the Roman Empire from 3 to 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Christian Beyer, a Saxon chancellor, read it aloud in German quite loudly, so that the crowds in the courtyard could hear each word through the open windows. The originals no longer exist, but it was soon published and widely distributed.

            In 1531, The Apology to the Augsburg Confession was published. The Roman Catholic church refuted the Augsburg Confession, and the Apology was published to clarify and explain the misconceptions, misunderstandings, and misrepresentations contained in their response and asserted by many others who disagreed with the Augsburg confession.

            In 1537, Luther wrote The Smalcald Articles in preparation for an ecumenical council. When the council took place, however, the Lutherans were not allowed to make any presentations. Luther was very ill when he wrote it, and many refer to the document as his theological last will and testament.

            Philip Melancthon wrote The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope in 1540 at a conference of theologians and princes in Smalcald. It summarized the view of the papacy taught by Luther and was endorsed along with the Augsburg Confession and The Apology by all present.

            Due to doctrinal disagreement between Lutherans on a number of issues, the elector (a regional prince who votes for or “elects” the emperor) of Saxony assembled respected theologians to produce The Formula of Concord in 1577 to provide a common confession regarding the disputed issues.  

            In 1580, The Book of Concord (a collection of the aforementioned documents) was published for the first time in Dresden. This book is the confessional standard for all orthodox Lutheran church bodies today. LCMS pastors publicly commit to teach in accord with its confessions at their ordinations and installations. All LCMS congregations also have an unalterable article in their constitution that commits them to teach in accord with the Book of Concord’s confessions.

            We believe, teach, and confess that The Book of Concord is the clearest expression of biblical truth currently in existence. In 2006, CPH published a readers’ edition of The Book of Concord, which I recommend as a great historical and theological reference to have in your home library.

Lesson #92

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #92
            Dark ages, Middle ages, Renaissance, many western Christian historians define the general period from around 500 to around 1500 with these titles more specifically the fall of Rome’s western empire in 476 followed by the Dark ages which in some areas lasted until the 1300’s. The Middle ages begin when King Charlemagne of the Franks is crowned first Holy Roman Emperor of the West by Pope Leo III in 800, also known as the Western Christian Medieval period. The event that marks the end of this period is when the Last Crusader city (Acre) falls to the Mamelukes in 1291. The late middle ages or Renaissance begins with Dante’s writings know as the Divine Comedy written between 1307–1314. This period comes to a close with a number of key events such as the discovery of the Americas by the west in 1492 by Christopher Columbus and the beginning of the Reformation in 1517. Some carry the time of the renaissance to 1700.

            We spent the last two sessions on the crusades which take place right in the middle of this 1000-year period. Now let’s take a little time on this window to see some of the major world history events taking place primarily in the western Christian World.

            Dark Ages: After the fall of Rome as is the case in any fall of a society decades or even centuries of chaos, disease and war tend to leave less written history than the times before and after ergo the title dark ages.  The first big blow to civilization was the devastation of some 40% of Europe’s population due to a plague in 541 & 542.  Another reason it is often called the dark ages is various Germanic peoples conquered the former Roman Empire in the West (including Europe and North Africa), shoving aside ancient Roman traditions in favor of their own. The negative view of the so-called “Dark Ages” became popular largely because most of the written records of the time (including St. Jerome and St. Patrick in the fifth century, Gregory of Tours in the sixth and Bede in the eighth) had a strong Rome-centric bias. A good read on the History Channels website is “6 Reasons the Dark Ages Weren’t So Dark”

            The Middle Ages: AKA Early Medieval period in the Christian west circa 800-1300. As the church climbed in the leadership vacuum of in the west during the dark ages this led to quite a disagreement on who the actual pope was. The Western Schism or Papal Schism as it is called was a split within the Catholic Church which lasted from 1378 to 1417. Three men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope. Driven by politics rather than any theological disagreement, one in southern France and two in Rome.  the schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414–1418). For a good read on this I suggest Christianity Today’s article titled “1378 The Great Papal Schism”. As we call these ages Dark and middle I like to point out again that many great advances came to pass in the human condition, it is just that as progressive moderns we often look down our noses at the past not realizing that just because they lacked some of our technologies and suffered plagues, war and stife, does not mean they were not as intelligent if not more intelligent than we are today.

            Renaissance:  or Late Medieval period in the Christian west circa 1300-1700. Is regarded by most historians as the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages and modern history. It started as a cultural movement Florence Italy in the Late Medieval period and later spread to the rest of Europe, marking the beginning of the Early Modern Age. It was a time when all forms of art, architecture, Humanism, Science, Music, Religion began grow and flourish in many cultures. Leading to the age of enlightenment beginning in the 1600’s. but we will save the enlightenment for another lesson. I thing we will kick things off next month with the Reformation in 1517.

Till then
In Christ Pastor Portier