Cross Points 3.6.22

Truth Conquers All Things

 As Rexanne and I traveled to Prague, Czech Republic in late 2021 to run the Christian library there for 6 weeks (while the directors traveled back to the states for a conference and to raise support for library expansion), people seem intrigued when we tell them that about 80% of Czech people identify as atheists or agnostics. Why is that? More recently you can point to the times when the Nazi’s ruled, the church largely quiet, and then the Communist ruled, preaching an atheistic message. That combined with a gradual decline in Christian faith throughout Europe contributed. 
But you can go back in history even further to see the beginning of this decline. 100 years before the Reformation of Martin Luther (early 1400’s), Jan Hus was a reformer in Prague. He had been awakened by the writings of John Wycliffe of England, who wanted the Bible in English, and who saw the need for reform. Jan Hus (pronounced Yon Hoos) denied that priests had the ability to forgive sin, he didn’t like the sale of indulgences, he questioned if there was a purgatory (as the Catholic Church taught), he denounced bowing to statues and images. Like Wycliffe (and like those of us in the Restoration Movement churches) he believed the Bible should be the sole standard for the church. 
Why would Christians argue with such things? It seemed to be a matter of control and authority for the Catholic Church at that time. They believed God spoke through the Bible, yes, but also through the Pope (as the head of the church) and through tradition (which had a very confusing history within the church). And they tended to put Pope and tradition above the Bible. Hus would not break with the church, as Luther’s followers and others would do later, but he stood firm in his beliefs. 
Two Bohemian radicals, who were reformers themselves, were arrested. To save their skins, they renounce their teachings and aligned themselves with the church against Hus, charging him with beliefs he never held, just to get the authorities to grant their freedom. 
The church invites Jan Hus to a council to defend himself, promised him 

 The church invites Jan Hus to a council to defend himself, promised him safe conduct for the trip, but then arrests him on his arrival. They try him and convict him. He will be burned at the stake. 
Bohemia will rise-up, outraged, and denounce what the Roman church has done. Although no formal separate church is formed, they continue to hold the Pope and Catholic authorities at arms-length in the days to come. Seeds are sown, causing them to move away from the faith they once held. Then comes centuries of Hapsburg rule, forcing Catholicism on the population, followed by the Nazi’s and the Communist’s, a long history of religious stress that impacted the population. 
In June 1413, Hus writes a friend, anticipating the end he will experience, “I hope, with God’s grace, to oppose them until I am consumed by fire.” He would rather die than betray the truth he has discovered, and he then says, “He who speaks truth will have his head broken, but he who fears death will lose the joy of life. Truth conquers all things. He who dies conquers if he is not dominated by iniquity.” 
In 1920 the Czech nation will incorporate into the emblem on their presidential flag: Veritas omnia vincit, which is Latin for, “Truth conquers all things.” In 1999 Pope John Paul II will issue an apology on behalf of the Roman church, saying, “I feel deep regret for the death inflicted on Jan Hus and the wound of conflict and division imposed on the minds and hearts of the Bohemian people.” Nice, but too late. 

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