Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Orthodox and Protestant


Needless to say, such views were ahead of their time.  Or, to put it differently, they were a return to an earlier time before the millennium.

The Age of Division: Christendom from the Great Schism to the Protestant Reformation, by John Strickland

The time is the late fourteenth century. The place was the Christian West.  The views were almost Protestant – proto-Protestant as Strickland puts it.  And the views greatly conformed to a return to Christendom as it was practiced (if not understood) during its first one-thousand years.

The first individual noted is John Wycliffe, calling for…

…the elimination of clericalism; the preeminence of scripture over papal decretals and canon law; the rendering of the Scriptures and liturgy in the vernacular; the repudiation of the doctrine of transubstantiation; the abolition of mendicant orders; the demonasticization of normative spiritual life; and, of course, an end to papal supremacy.

And it is precisely to these views that Strickland notes “a return to an earlier time before the millennium.”  It seems, at least according to Strickland, the proto-Protestant views against various practices of the Roman Catholic Church were quite similar to what was held universally until the Great Schism.

Next came Jan Hus, who endorsed Wycliffe’s criticisms, except for that of transubstantiation (and I will refer, on this specific point, to the work done by Brett Salkeld; it seems to me that this entire topic became most confused when nominalism overtook Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics in the West).

[Hus] declared, in agreement with the early Greek fathers, that the apostles shared equally in their ministries and that Peter was not preeminent over them.

He therefore denied papal supremacy, noting that only Christ could be assigned such status.

In short, many of Hus’s views were simply those of the ancient Church, which continued in the contemporary East to practice conciliarity and reject the innovation of papal supremacy.

Hus further attacked the practice of issuing indulgences, questioning the view that the pope, as Vicar of Christ, could draw on merits amassed by Christ and His saints. 

In 1411, one of three rival popes issued an indulgence to those who would make a financial contribution for a crusade against his enemies.  Hus rallied his supporters in Prague against this.  He cited Scripture in his defense, and attacked the papacy for organizing bloodshed.

In one of his most audacious acts, Hus composed a list of six errors that demanded reform and publicly fixed it to the wall of the church where he regularly preached in Prague.

All were ultimately aimed at the sale of indulgences – the one issue that raised Luther’s 95 Theses to a fame completely unknown to his earlier (and quite unknown and disregarded by the Church at the time) 97 Theses. 

In 1415, Hus was burned at the stake.  His condemnation came at the same Council of Constance that asserted conciliarity against the pope – one of the complaints of these same proto-Protestants.  But it was, ultimately, the financial issue of indulgences that brought on Hus’s demise as well as raised the Church’s ire against Luther (and tore the Western Church apart) one hundred years later.

Hus’s execution brought on a rebellion in his homeland.  Led by Jan Zizka, the forces quickly gained control of the region.  Altogether, five crusades were launched against the “Hussites.”  None were successful.  Ultimately, a settlement was reached, and partial autonomy was achieved for the Bohemian Church.


Anyone want to tackle a Venn diagram that incorporates Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant?  But which factors?  What we agree on?  What we disagree about?  And whose understanding of Orthodoxy or Catholicism do we use – let alone the infinitely impossible task of narrowing down Protestant understanding on such views?

Strickland here paints a picture, on a specific set of issues, where Protestants and Orthodox agree regarding certain practices.  Of course, attending a service at each of these two traditions would leave one confused as to any commonality whatsoever.

Except for, maybe, the Pentecostals….


  1. Wycliffe and Hus are my two favorite characters in church history. William Tyndale would be third. I think it was Tyndale who finished Wycliffe's English translation work and published the first bible in English. He was executed for that. Wycliffe was executed because he died before the Roman church could get to him. So they exhumed his body, burned it and cast his ashes into a river. I think the Thames, but I don't remember. If memory serves me correctly the phrase "your goose is cooked" was originally something church leaders told Hus's followers to announce that he had been burned at the stake.

    To me these are all giants of the faith.

  2. The Orthodox Liturgy and the traditional Roman Catholic Mass are more similar than any Protestant service. And the Orthodox traditionally accepted the 'Pope', the Bishop of Rome, as the first among equals. No Protestant would ever accept this. And take into consideration that both the Orthodox and Catholic exist side by side for over a millennium. Even the Great schism was not necessarily permanent. And finally, no Orthodox would ever agree that sola scriptura was a valid way to determine Christian teaching. Both Orthodoxy and Catholocism are centred around the Apostolic Tradition.

    1. As I suggested, a Venn diagram would be interesting, and complicated.

      In this article, I only noted some commonalities, not a detailed study.

  3. Since it was mentioned, for a short overview of the Orthodox teaching on the Holy Eucharist/Lord's Supper:

  4. BM, I don't remember if you've posted on it, but have you gone into any of the traditionalist Catholic materials, i.e., pre-Vatican II? Catechism of the Council of Trent, the anti-modernist writings by the late 19th and early 20th century popes, etc.? And I don't mean just Augustine and Acquinas, but the actual Church teachings, really a deep dive into the doctrine and precepts of the faith? I'm getting the focus on Orthodoxy is leaving a lot out, particularly when the fight over indulgences, papal authority, and the Great Schism keeps coming up. There's a lot of material and ideas beyond these topics. The legalism of the Church is fascinating, see sedevacantism. Regarding this post, there's doctrinal reasons why the various Protestant denominations drive to "return" to the atmosphere of the Patristic period is erroneous. Please don't take this as me accusing you of anything, and if this study has been done, forgive me for not being up on all of your writings.

    As for the Venn diagram, I'd offer that pre-Vatican II, the Latin Church would have no overlap with the Orthodox Churches and the Protestants with regard to centralization and pluralization. The Latin Church was regular and uniform throughout all of the nations that it preached to. A Catholic could be in anywhere in the world and worship in the same way without issue be they in Europe, Asia, Africa, or North America. The Orthodox by their inception have been divergent based on cultural traditions; the worship of the Greek, Russian, Ukranian, and other Orthodox denominations are all exceedingly different, despite a common rite of worship. The entire goal of Protestantism is plurality; it branches outward by design as opposed to coming together.

    Post-Vatican II, the Latin Church has become more Protestant, to its detriment. It is exceedingly difficult for Catholics to worship in a uniform way outside of his own parish.

    1. Thank you for this comment. No, I have not gone deeply into the traditional Catholic materials - I guess the river just hasn't yet gone in this direction.

      I have read something - I think it dates to the late nineteenth century - stating that a return to Thomistic natural law is necessary. Am I remembering this correctly?

  5. On Hus, read the historical account in "The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and Its Impact on World History" by E. Michael Jones. It might change your mind on how virtuous Hus was.

    I would very willingly read an accurate historical account written by Hus' supporters, but I have never found one.

    1. Can you just tell me what he did wrong? Just one or two things?