Question: What is the reformation view of the apostasy?

Table of Contents

Question: What is the reformation view of the apostasy?

Muntzer: "the Christian church lost its virginity and became an adulteress soon after the death of the disciples of the apostles because of corrupt leadership"

Early Anabaptist Thomas Muntzer believed that

the Christian church lost its virginity and became an adulteress soon after the death of the disciples of the apostles because of corrupt leadership, manifested in the predominance of a clergy who cared more for the amassing of property and power than for the acquiring of spiritual virtues.[1]

Reformer Sebastian Franck believed that the

outward church of Christ was wasted immediately after the apostles because the early Fathers, whom he calls ‘wolves’ and ‘anti-christs’, justified war, power of magistracy, tithes, the priesthood, etc.[2] [That they are wolves] is “proved by their works, especially [those] of Clement [of Alexandria], Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Chrysostom, Hilary, Cyril, Origen, and others which are merely child’s play and quite unlike the spirit of the apostles, that is, filled with commandments, laws, sacramental elements and all kinds of human inventions.”[3]

Wesley: "It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were common in the church for more than two or three centuries"

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, lamented that the Christian had apostatized from the gospel that Christ and the apostles had taught, had lost the spiritual gifts that they once enjoyed, and had returned to heathenism, having on a dead form remaining:

It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were common in the church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the emperor Constantine called himself a Christian, and from a vain imagination of promoting the Christian cause thereby, heaped riches and power and honor upon Christians in general, but in particular upon the Christian clergy. From this time they almost totally ceased; very few instances of the kind were found. The cause of this was not as has been supposed because there was no more occasion for them because all the world was become Christians. This is a miserable mistake; not a twentieth part of it was then nominally Christian. The real cause of it was the love of many, almost all Christians, so called, was waxed cold. The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens. The Son of Man, when he came to examine His Church, could hardly find faith upon the earth. This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church because the Christians were turned heathens again, and only had earth a dead form left.[4]

Church of England: Officially affirmed that the so-called Church and the whole religious world had been utterly apostate for eight centuries or more

In the Church of England Homily Against Peril of Idolatry we read:

So that laity and clergy, learned and unlearned, all ages, sects, and degrees of men, women, and children of whole Christendom—an horrible and most dreadful thing to think—have been at once drowned in abominable idolatry; of all other vices most detested by God, and most damnable to man; and that by the space of eight hundred years and more.[5]

The Book of Homilies dates from about the middle of the sixteenth century; and in it is thus officially affirmed that the so-called Church and the whole religious world had been utterly apostate for eight centuries or more prior to the establishment of the Church of England.

American Protestants: "we must not expect to see the Church of Holy Scripture actually existing in its perfection on the earth"

In a work prepared by seventy-three noted theologians and Bible students, we read:

...we must not expect to see the Church of Holy Scripture actually existing in its perfection on the earth. It is not to be found, thus perfect, either in the collected fragments of Christendom, or still less in any one of these fragments....[6]

Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, prominent American Baptist clergyman and author, described the condition of the Christian churches of the first half of the twentieth century in these words:

A religious reformation is afoot, and at heart it is the endeavor to recover for our modern life the religion of Jesus as against the vast, intricate, largely inadequate and often positively false religion about Jesus. Christianity today has largely left the religion which he preached, taught and lived, and has substituted another kind of religion altogether. If Jesus should come back to now, hear the mythologies built up around him, see the creedalism, denominationalism, sacramentalism, carried on in his name, he would certainly say, 'If this is Christianity, I am not a Christian.'[7]

Notes

  1. Muntzer, “Sermon before the Princes” (Allstedt, 13 July 1524), in Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, ed. G.H. Williams (Philadelphia, Westminster Press 1957): 51 (103-4).
  2. Franck, Letter to Campanus, in Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, ed. G.H. Williams, (Philadelphia, Westminster Press 1957), 51:151-152.
  3. Frank cited in Daniel H. Williams, “The Corruption of the Church and its Tradition”, in Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1999): 148–149 (103-104).
  4. John Wesley, cited in Wesley's Works, Vol. 7, 89:26, 27.
  5. Church of England, Homily Against Peril of Idolatry (Date). off-site
  6. Dr. William Smith, Smith's Dictionary of the Bible (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1896).
    Note: Dr. Smith is not connected with Joseph Smith or the Church.
  7. Fosdick cited in Daniel H. Williams, “The Corruption of the Church and its Tradition”, in Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1999): 101–131.