Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Overqualified & Unfit

Okay, so not every ancient book is worth reading (certainly not worth buying). John Wyclif may have been the Daystar of the Reformation, but his book On Simony is simply not worth reading. It’s always fun to mine some good nuggets out of an old book, but they are few and far between in this one.

The book is basically a diatribe against the corrupt 14th Century Roman Church. Specifically Wyclif attacks the buying and selling of bishoprics and the like. One aspect that Wyclif is fighting against is the criteria by which priests are chosen. If they were not given preference because of money or influence, then those who have degrees are preferred. But as he points out, a degree does not make one fit for the office.

… and they say that it is the declaration of subsequent popes that a person with the prestige of an academic degree should be preferred. But this does not eliminate the law’s blasphemy or justify the papal statute, since often a degree-holder is no holier or more suitable for the governance of souls. (Wyclif, 67)
After quoting Jerome on the grievousness of making preferential appointments, Wyclif says:

It is clear to me from this text, first, that should a pope or another appoint a bishop not in accordance with the rule that the Apostle gave Timothy, … he sins seriously against Christ. (Wyclif, 90)
And now here is the wonder of God’s sovereignty. On the one hand we have a serious sin against Christ, and yet once the appointment of an unfit priest is made, Wyclif sees this as an act of judgment by God on a sinful community:

Likewise, it is often according to the divine will as punishment for a community’s sin to give it a prelate who is a reprobate, as is evident in the case of Saul who in 1 Kings 8 was chosen by the Lord with his future life in mind, and God said through the prophet in Hosea 13:11 that in his anger he would give him to the people. (Wyclif, 89)
So God appoints to come to pass that which he hates in order that his judgments should be carried out against a wicked and perverse generation. But then again, here is the wonder of the Reformed position; Wyclif fights against this perverse appointing of unfit prelates with every breath even though he thinks it an act of God.

Reformed men never sit back and say, it is the will of God to judge this nation, for we know that it is only his indignation against sin. But he has sent one to redeem us from sin and to make all things right again. So we pray for kings and rulers set in authority over us, and we fight to make things right again (reform), in order that we might see the good hand of God again.

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