Read His Words Before Ours!
Throughout Christendom, God has always held forth His torches of truth. He called out faithful men to pull drifting doctrine back to the cross-centered gospel while addressing the questions of their time with truth, grace and clarity. He ignited them through the Holy Spirit to use their giftings to reach their world for Christ. Buried in the ashes of decadence, power grasping, and apostasy that marked the church of the Middle Ages, lay those glowing embers of pure, authentic faith.
One of those glowing coals of Christendom is Augustine of Hippo. Though he lived in the Age of Antiquities, Augustine was clearly a man ahead of his time. Considered by many as the first medieval man, his life and ministry form the bridge between the Age of Antiquities and the Early Middle Ages.
His astounding intellect was put to use with stylus and parchment as a prolific author on subjects ranging from deep doctrinal issues to human sexuality. His ability to clearly articulate doctrinal issues like original sin, the atonement, grace, predestination and the freewill of man are unmatched. His countless writings also form the foundation for many theologians and philosophers including Anselm of Canterbury, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and even theologians of modern times. Because Augustine wrote abundantly throughout his life, his writings show an evolution of thought. This explains why theologians ranging from Catholics to Evangelical Protestants quote widely from the anthology of his works. For example, his writings on the Eucharist and Sacraments still form much of the doctrinal stance in Catholicism, while his writings upon grace, the atoning sacrifice of Christ and original sin are popular among even modern-day Protestants.
As a young man, searching for something to fill his restless spirit, he took a deep-dive into religion and scholarly pursuits. In the course of time, he crossed paths with Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, whose kindness and clear teaching led Augustine to Christ. Confessions is the story of his conversion to Christianity. Following his conversion, Augustine returned to North Africa and took up the monastic life where he continued to write abundantly.
In the age of Augustine, Rome was in decline as a superpower and was overrun by the Visgoths. Many saw the downfall of Rome as the end of civilization and were certain the Apocalypse was imminent. Barbarian tribes marauded their way across Europe leaving bloodshed, famine and disease in their wake. Augustine’s work, City of God, assured Christians that, despite the upheaval around them, God’s kingdom could never be destroyed.
The Middle Ages was a time marked by the Catholic Church rising in prominence as the unifying force in the West. As power coalesced in the crown and the church hierarchy, so did the pull of spiritual apathy and moral decadence. Just as Christ sends His church into any era to answer the resounding questions and right its wrongs, so He sent the church into the Middle Ages. The questions burned in the hearts of the devout and whispered in the stone-walled monasteries:
“Is this truly the gospel-centered life?”
“How does what I see and hear around me match with Scripture?”
“What does Christ and His cross call us to—really?”
Anselm of Canterbury was also a man of astounding intellect and is most noted for his philosophical treatises and so-called ontological argument. In Proslogion, he articulates through logic, the existence of God. With human reason held in high regard, Anselm answered the call of his age with both human reasoning, philosophical prowess and theological integrity.
Unlike bishops before him, Anselm refused to acquiesce to the pressure of the crown. Although the King of England continuously sought Anselm’s sanctions for his corruption, his attempts failed. William II expected the church to serve under his authority and as an extension of his administration. Anselm’s refusal caused sharp division, and the on-going demands grieved him deeply. As a result, Anselm twice appealed to the Pope to be relieved of his post. The Pope refused and William II banished Anselm from England. During his exile, he wrote one of the most important treatises in church history— Cur Deus Homo (Why the God-Man?) In this work, Anselm articulates the need for the incarnation, once again making his appeal through logic.
Francis of Assisi is best known as the founder of the Franciscan Order and for his love of nature, celebrated in his work Canticle of the Sun. However, the incongruity between the Church and the teachings of Scripture grieved him. Wealth and apathy filled the church at large, yet the apostles called for simplicity and obedience to the teachings of Christ. His grievances sparked action that became radical obedience to the teachings of Christ. Though never ordained as a priest, he often preached five times daily. He taught commoners of a personal relationship with Christ. He also taught his followers to pray in their native tongue rather than in Latin, both foreign ideas in that era. Many of the Franciscan Brothers traveled widely, preaching this gospel of personal relationship with Christ, prayer, simplicity and service, fanning the flames of revival across Europe. In a culture gone stone-cold through religion, where personal relationship with Christ and personal prayer were radical concepts, God sent this humble servant. By preaching truth and simple obedience Assisi challenged his world, pointing many to Christ, and making an impact even today!
In every age, whether following the fall of a super-power or in an era riddled with moral corruption where spiritual indifference and cold religion run rampant, God preserves His flickering flames of genuine believers. These true followers always burst back flame as they obediently choose Christ over their comfort zones.
The word of God is still alive, active and powerful!
As often as the Holy Spirit comes like a rushing wind,
igniting the glowing embers of the faithful,
the flames of revival can burn through us once again.
God is still on His throne and the gates of hell cannot prevail against His Church.
Will you carry His torch of truth into your everyday?
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!