Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Rise of Western Lawlessness - SAMPLE CHAPTER

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The Renaissance of Classical Philosophy

The two prior chapters recounted the oppression of Europe by Church leaders who were not honest or humble enough to admit that they had ceased from following Christ.  Taking advantage of that Name above all names, they wore it as a cloak for vice.  The papacy profaned that precious Name in exchange for worldly pleasures.  The people were compelled to make sense of this spiritual tragedy by drawing three general conclusions; that God is not able, that the Church must be reformed, or that a false Church had arisen and needed to be replaced by a revived Early Church.  (This third reaction bears similarities to the attitude of today's Emergent Church.)
Christians were left with the quandary of what to make of a Church which had obviously and inexcusably fallen into sin.  They were forced to answer the sensitive question of; "What constitutes the true Church?"  Obviously God, His Christ, and His Spirit could not have failed.  Christ said the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church.  Reformers, like Martin Luther, affirmed that the Roman Church was part of the Universal Church, but that its leadership and practices had missed the mark.  Other groups, such as the Anabaptists, rejected Rome as a false Church.  But all of the major Reformers made a distinction between the masses who attend church and those individuals who have genuinely surrendered to Christ.  This distinction was necessary in order to maintain that the Catholic Church was the continuing Church of Christ and, at the same time, to account for souls in that Church, including its leaders, who had lived like they were sons of the devil.
Because the unfolding of the mystery of lawlessness is our chief interest, this chapter will cover the social and political thought of the late Middle Ages through the Renaissance.  During this period most people were still grounded in the Christian faith, whereas during the Enlightenment many began to fall into Deism.  We will continue to draw on the research and commentary of Philip Schaff through this third chapter of Church History.
The turn of the first millennium without the return of the Lord, along with the unsettling corruption of the Church, gave rise to a movement called Scholasticism.  The schoolmen began to make an extensive study of the sea of writings by the Church Fathers in order to solidify the doctrines of the faith.  The Bible became one of many sources used in this search for truth; thus, the writings of the Fathers were canonized and set on a par with the Scriptures.  Writings from outside the church were also included in scholars' libraries. These included classical Latin and Greek texts.  During the first millennium, these writings were mostly banned because they promoted worldly wisdom and pagan morality.
The ban, which had been placed by the Church upon the study of the classic authors of antiquity and ancient institutions, palsied polite research and reading for a thousand years.  Even before Jerome, whose mind had been disciplined in the study of the classics, at last pronounced them unfit for the eye of a Christian, Tertullian's attitude was not favorable.  Cassian followed Jerome; and Alcuin, the chief scholar of the 9th century, turned away from Virgil as a collection of lying fables.74
At first the schoolmen sided with the papal claims that the apostolic see held authority over the Church and the State.  But the northern nations of the Holy Roman Empire began to look to the classics of antiquity as reasonable alternatives to the violence and chaos caused by a Church which had been high-jacked by the selfish desires of fallen men.  The philosophies of men held the promise of a system that might better the human condition.  This study of the Humanities was even embraced by the churchmen.  People began to reason that God was in control of the spiritual realm, but man was the proprietor over the material realm, and should do whatever he could to make his world a better place.  Soon the Humanists began to estimate the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle to be equal, or even above, Christian ideology.  Thomas Aquinas studied Aristotle and incorporated some of Aristotle's philosophy into his theological catalog, the Summa Theologica.75

Figure 6 - Celestial Orbs in the Latin Middle Ages76

The scheme of the aforementioned division of spheres. · The empyrean (fiery) heaven, dwelling of God and of all the selected · 10 Tenth heaven, first cause · 9 Ninth heaven, crystalline · 8 Eighth heaven of the firmament · 7 Heaven of Saturn · 6 Jupiter · 5 Mars · 4 Sun · 3 Venus · 2 Mercury · 1 Moon

The image above depicts the medieval concept of the universe according to the scheme of Aristotle.  It was believed that the "Primu Mobile" (outer sphere) had its own consciousness, "nous", or Divine Mind; a concept tied to Plato's belief in the Demiurge and the World Soul.  The second book of Dante's Convivio describes the Ptolemaic universe.
"Outside all of these [orbs] the Catholics place the Empyrean heaven, which is to say, "the heaven of flame," or "luminous heaven"; and they hold it to be motionless because it has in itself, with respect to each of its parts, that which its matter desires.  This is why the Primum Mobile has the swiftest movement; for because of the most fervent desire that each part of the ninth heaven has to be conjoined with every part of that divinest, tranquil heaven, to which it is contiguous, it revolves beneath it with such desire that its velocity is almost incomprehensible.  Stillness and peace are the qualities of the place of that Supreme Deity which alone completely beholds itself.  This is the place of the blessed spirits, according to the will of the Holy Church, which cannot lie.  Aristotle, to anyone who rightly understands him, seems to hold the same opinion in the first book of Heaven and the World [i.e. De caelo].  This is the supreme edifice of the universe in which all the world is enclosed and beyond which there is nothing; it is not itself in space but was formed solely in the Primal Mind, which the Greeks call Protonoe.  This is that magnificence of which the Psalmist spoke when he says to God: "Your magnificence is exalted above the heavens."77
He begins by citing "the Catholics," or orthodox belief, as authority for his account of this "abode of the supreme deity," but then goes on to treat the Empyrean as a created thing, "formed in the Primal Mind," and as the motionless cause of motion in the physical universe. If God dwells in this place, the Empyrean resides equally in Him, and the universe at large is encompassed, causally and locally, by the Empyrean. Dante deploys the Aristotelian physics of desire to explain the relationship of the Empyrean to the lesser heavens, yet it is at the same time beyond space, a wholly spiritual realm where blessed spirits participate in the divine mind. Dante seems to emphasize this double status by mingling theological and philosophical language, and invoking Aristotle and the neo-Platonists side by side with the poet of the Psalms.78
The failure of religion's rule over the civil governments of Europe drove the people to contemplate other forms of government.  Through their rediscovery of Classical philosophy they were awakened to the thought that man could design his own ideal society.  Plato's The Republic provided a basic examination of various types of government.
During his life in Athens, Plato witnessed the fall of democracy and the installation of a tyrannical government.  In his Republic, Plato made a critique of various political structures.  Plato believed democracy to be the most unfavorable form of government.  He viewed democracy a great experiment that ended badly.  He concluded that it amounted to anarchy and resulted in slavery.  Athens was the first known attempt by a society to allow the crowd to rule themselves.
Just prior to 500 B.C. Athens became the first democracy in history.  The people had expelled a series of tyrants and established a popular assembly.  The other city-states mistrusted the Athenians and their aberrant form of government, and Athens gave the others additional cause for concern:  Following the expulsion of the Persians from Greece and, soon afterward, from some Greek cities of Asia Minor, Athens founded the Athenian League, a confederation of Greek cities around the Aegean Sea.79  
Recall from Chapter Four that Plato's idea of Justice was an equity or balance between competing elements.  Plato proposed an ideal society with three types of citizens: rulers, auxiliaries, and producers.  Plato's three parts of the human soul were coincidental to his three types of citizens.  The rulers are men whose rational part holds mastery over the other parts of their soul.  The auxiliaries are men driven by their spirit of honor.  And the producers are people who are slaves to their appetites.   Plato says that these characteristics should be recognized in children so that they might be trained in the area for which they are naturally qualified.  Plato's proposed perfect state is, of course, ruled by a philosopher-king.
Plato identified five types of government: tyranny, timocracy, aristocracy, oligarchy, and democracy.  Tyranny is imposed government, established by the tyrant or by an outside party.  A timocracy is a government in which the right to rule is based on the value of the individual in terms of their ability to produce revenue for the community.  An aristocracy is governed by the most qualified members of society - such as the philosophers.  Plato said that a democracy occurs when an oligarchy breaks down and the lowest class, which is driven by immediate gratification, takes control.  The democratic man is obsessed with unnecessary desires and is disorderly.  Because they lack the intellect of the Philosopher, and the Auxiliary's sense of honor, the public will desire to do whatever they want, whenever they please - leading the society to become the slaves to their appetites.
Plato was not eclectic in his disgust with the democratic man. (This explains why democracy was not perceived as a desirable form of government for two thousand years after the Athenian experiment.)  The reason for western civilization to have changed its view can be explained quite simply.  Throughout history, until the Renaissance, the community was perceived as meriting the greatest importance.  People were given recognition by their community based upon how well they could work within that community toward the survival and benefit of society as a whole.  Not until the latter years of the Renaissance did individualism emerge.  It is an interesting observation that this inward focus set the stage for the rise of Deism and Atheism.
The overbearing government by the Roman Catholic Church resulted in the same reaction that Israel had as they fled from the oppression of Rehoboam: "Each of you to your own tent, O Israel!"- II Chron. 10:16 Going to one’s own tent implied more than a redirection of allegiance to a different government.  It expressed a desire by Israel to return to the days before Saul; a regret that they had ever asked for a king.  Individualism was the natural reaction of the people to Rome's unreasonable micromanagement of the Empire.  But the Europeans were accustomed to kings, so their first response was to free their individual nations from the yoke of Rome.
We will now trace the history of reform over time and throughout Europe in order to follow the changes in prevailing attitudes concerning authority and the law.  Pay close attention to the struggle to resolve these two dichotomies: the authority of the Bible vs. the authority of the Church; and, human authority vs. the conviction of conscience.
Those who were closest to Rome were unable to ignore the problems caused by her meddling in worldly affairs.  Italy bore the greatest exposure in the fight between the popes and the kings for control over the Empire.  Consequently, Florence became the incubator of the Renaissance.  Dante Alighieri was born in the mid-thirteenth century and was caught in the midst of these controversies.   The Florentines became divided over the issue of dominance by the Holy Roman Empire, which at that time was controlled by Philip IV of France.  Dante sided with the party who wanted more independence from The Roman Empire, which eventually resulted in his banishment from Florence.  In his work, The Monarchia,80 Dante said that civil and religious authority should be separated.  He believed in the necessity of a potentate with enough authority to keep peace and maintain order.  This organization of society, Dante insisted, was necessary for civilization to thrive.  The happiness of individuals can only be achieved as the greater community is enriched.  The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers the following commentary:
The Monarchia is in its own way as idiosyncratic as the Convivio. Its purpose, foreshadowed in the discussion of empire in Convivio IV, is to demonstrate the necessity of a single ruling power, reverent toward but independent of the Church, capable of ordering the will of collective humanity in peace and concord. Under such a power the potential intellect of humanity can be fully actuated—the intellect, that is, of collective humanity, existent throughout the world, acting as one. For just as a multitude of species must continually be generated to actualize the full potentiality of prime matter, so the full intellectual capacity of humanity cannot be realized at one time nor in a single individual [Mon. 1.3.3–8]. Here Dante adds his own further particularization of this Aristotelian doctrine [De Anima 3.5, 430a10–15], asserting that no single household, community, or city can bring it to realization. The ordering of the collective human will to the goal of realizing its intellectual potential requires universal peace [1.4], and this in turn requires a single ordering power through whose authority humanity may achieve unity and so realize the intention and likeness of God [1.8].   The basis of this argument for empire is evidently the first sentence of the Prologue to Thomas' literal commentary on the Metaphysics, where he declares that when several things are ordered to a single end, one of them must govern, "as the Philosopher teaches in his Politics" [Thomas, Exp. Metaph., Proemium; Aristotle, Politics 1.5, 1254a-55a.]
The second of the Monarchia's three books deals with the great example of Rome, describing the city's providential role in world history, largely by way of citations from Roman literature aimed at demonstrating the consistent dedication of Roman power to the public good, and the conformity of Roman imperium with the order of nature and the will of God. The third book deals with the crucial issue of the relationship between political and ecclesiastical authority. Dante argues on various grounds that power in the temporal realm is neither derived from nor dependent on spiritual authority, though it benefits from the power of the Papacy to bless its activity. These arguments consist largely in refutations of traditional claims for the temporal authority of the Papacy, but the final chapter makes the argument on positive grounds. Since man consists of soul and body, his nature partakes of both the corruptible and the incorruptible. Uniting two natures, his existence must necessarily be ordered to the goals of both these natures [Mon. 3.16.7–9]
Ineffable providence has thus set before us two goals to aim at: i.e. happiness in this life, which consists in the exercise of our own powers and is figured in the earthly paradise; and happiness in the eternal life, which consists in the enjoyment of the vision of God (to which our own powers cannot raise us except with the help of God's light) and which is signified by the heavenly paradise. Now these two kinds of happiness must be reached by different means, as representing different ends. For we attain the first through the teachings of philosophy, provided that we follow them putting into practice the moral and intellectual virtues; whereas we attain the second through spiritual teachings which transcend human reason, provided that we follow them putting into practice the theological virtues, i.e. faith, hope, and charity. These ends and the means to attain them have been shown to us on the one hand by human reason, which has been entirely revealed to us by the philosophers, and on the other by the Holy Spirit . . .
This is Dante's most explicit, uncompromising claim for the autonomy of reason, reinforced by the entire world-historical argument of the Monarchia and constituting its final justification for world empire. Dante here goes well beyond Augustine's sense of the stabilizing function of empire, and eliminates any hint of the anti-Roman emphasis in Augustine's separation of the earthly and heavenly cities. In the final sentences of the Monarchia the temporal monarch becomes, like the aspiring intellect of the Convivio, the uniquely privileged beneficiary of a divine bounty which, "without any intermediary, descends into him from the Fountainhead of universal authority" [Mon. 3.16.15]. Like the Averroistic reasoning of his earlier claim that only under a world empire can humanity realize its intellectual destiny, this crowning claim shows Dante appropriating Aristotle to the service of a unique and almost desperate vision of empire as a redemptive force. But whether we consider the world view of the Monarchia an aberration [D'Entreves, 51] or take it as Dante's straightforward exposition of his views on the relations of secular and religious authority, its categorical definition of the twofold purpose of human life is impossible to explain away. In the Paradiso [8.115–17] as in the Monarchia, to be a "citizen" is essential to human happiness, and the idea of an imperial authority independent of papal control remained fundamental to his political thought.81
Shortly after Dante, another advocate for civil independence arose from the western shores of the Empire.  Just as the remoteness of Rome from the center of Christianity had allowed her to rebel against Constantinople, so England's distance from Rome provided her with the leeway to be the last to submit, and among the first to be stirred by the spirit of freedom.  John Wycliffe has been called the Morningstar of the Reformation.  He is often remembered as a Bible translator, but his greatest impact on Europe during his lifetime was made by his political boldness in contesting against Rome's far reaching tentacles.  Wycliffe's opinion that authority must be questioned or rejected if it acts wickedly, was boldly declared by his words, "There is no moral obligation to pay tax or tithe to bad rulers either in Church or state.  It is permitted to punish or depose them and to reclaim the wealth which the clergy have diverted from the poor."82
In the summer of 1374, Wycliffe went to Bruges as a member of the commission appointed by the king to negotiate peace with France and to treat with the pope's agents on the filling of ecclesiastical appointments in England.  His name was second in the list of commissioners, following the name of the bishop of Bangor.  At Bruges we find him for the first time in close association with John of Gaunt, Edward's favorite son, an association which continued for several years, and for a time inured to his protection from ecclesiastical violence.
On his return to England, he began to speak as a religious reformer.  He preached in Oxford and London against the pope's secular sovereignty, running about, as the old chronicler has it, from place to place, and barking against the Church.  It was soon after this that, in one of his tracts, he styled the bishop of Rome "the anti-Christ, the proud, worldly priest of Rome, and the most cursed of clippers and cut-purses."  He maintained that he "has no more power in binding and loosing than any priest, and that the temporal lords may seize the possessions of the clergy if pressed by necessity."83
With the year 1378 Wycliffe's distinctive career as a doctrinal reformer opens.  He had defended English rights against foreign encroachment.  He now assailed, at a number of points, the theological structure the Schoolmen and mediaeval popes had laboriously reared, and the abuses that had crept into the Church.  The spectacle of Christendom divided by two papal courts, each fulminating anathema against the other, was enough to shake confidence in the divine origin of the papacy.  In sermons, tracts and larger writings, Wycliffe brought Scripture and common sense to bear. . . . As Luther is the most vigorous tract writer that Germany has produced, so Wycliffe is the foremost religious pamphleteer that has arisen in England; . . . .84 
It was in 1381, the year before Courtenay said his memorable words, that Walden reports that Wycliffe "began to determine matters upon the sacrament of the altar."  To attempt an innovation at this crucial point required courage of the highest order.  In 12 theses he declared the Church's doctrine unscriptural and misleading.  For the first time since the promulgation of the dogma of transubstantiation by the Fourth Lateran was it seriously called in question by a theological expert.85
Wycliffe also became aware of the importance of distinguishing between man's philosophy and the truth of God's Word.  According to Schaff, Wycliffe confessed that in his earlier years he had leaned on the classical systems instead of fully relying on the Bible.  John Wycliffe was one of the first politically active Christians to realize that the problem of government should not be solved through the application of pagan principles.
As for the philosophy of the pagan world, whatever it offers that is in accord with the Scriptures is true.  The religious philosophy which the Christian learns from Aristotle he learns because it was taught by the authors of Scripture.  The Greek thinker made mistakes, as when he asserted that creation is eternal.  In several places Wycliffe confesses that he himself had at one time been led astray by logic and the desire to win fame, but was thankful to God that he had been converted to the full acceptance of the Scriptures as they are and to find in them all logic.86
While it is not our intent to cover the history and theology of entire Protestant Movement, it is worth noting why Wycliffe has been called the Morningstar of the Reformation.  Although Wycliffe's writings were banned in England, they made their way into the hands of one of his European contemporaries, John Hus of Bohemia.  Hus translated Wycliffe's writings into Czech and read them from the pulpit.  The Czech nation was the first to reject the Christianity taught by Rome, and to form its own doctrines.  The Bohemian Movement was condemned by the papacy and Hus was burned at the stake.  But the Bohemian Kingdom withstood a series of papal crusades against it and was eventually left to practice its faith as Hussites.   Hus' primary grievances with Rome were over the sale of indulgences and the teaching of transubstantiation.  Thus, Wycliffe's teachings had gained acceptance in Northern Europe long before Luther.  And the Czechs' tenacity also set a precedent that would allow Martin Luther and his nation the ability to defy Rome.
Back in Florence the European Morningstar, Girolamo Savonarola, began around 1490 to condemn the immorality and greed of the province.  He became politically active when the ruling family of the Medici was expelled.  Savonarola spoke out publically against Pope Alexander VI until he was banned from speaking in public.  But he continued to speak out in spite of the ban.  After he was excommunicated he continued to call for reform until at last he was burned at the stake in 1498.  After the Medici family was restored to power, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote the political handbook, The Prince.87 Like his predecessor Dante, Machiavelli was convinced of the benefit of a local authoritative ruler who could defend the province from the dictates of the Empire.
These early responses to the Church's dominance were aimed at establishing even stronger local magistrates who could defend their own territories from the political struggle between the papacy and the kings of Europe.  Because of Europe's faith at this time, they still believed their civil authorities were under God's control.
Wycliffe's call for a national response to reject a corrupted clergy was eventually consummated in the Peace of Westphalia, which dissolved the Holy Roman Empire; thus allowing the sovereign nations of Europe to regain their autonomy.  But first the spiritual monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church had to be broken so that the nations might object to the papacy without the fear of eternal condemnation.  The authority question during the Protestant Reformation will be examined in the next chapter.
The Renaissance was merely the revival of the Humanities.  Not until the Enlightenment did Humanism emerge in its present form.  Platonism and Neo-Platonism were interwoven with Scholasticism during the Renaissance in the hopes that mankind might lay hold of the mysteries of God by using the tools of the Ancient Greeks.  The Church had opened itself up to the doctrines of men when it granted the weight of Scriptures to oral traditions and the writings of the Church Fathers.
The Greek and Latin philosophers, as Paul put it, were merely groping that they might find God.  Yet their murky visions were accepted by the Schoolmen as if they had already found Him.  In their foolishness these Christian theologians opened the door to the belief that all of the nations worship the same God.  The Church sought to gain a clearer understanding of God by merging the Gentiles' darkened image of God with the Bible's revelation of God.  Instead, they further contaminated and diluted the Church's knowledge of God.  Furthermore, the writings of the Fathers and scholars remain bound within the Latin concepts of God to this day.  The God of the Bible is the Creator of all men.  But He has chosen to reveal Himself through the Jews.  God is not the god that all nations worship.  This false doctrine of Universalism is a growing pestilence that is leading the unsaved down the road with those who are the enemies of the cross of Christ.
"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." – Col. 2:8-10

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