Bible-Believing Christians Opposed and Overcame the Inquisition

Luther at the Diet of Worms, by Anton von Werner, 1877

Atheists point to the Inquisition as an example of religious abuse. (It absolutely was!) But they never seem to notice how the Inquisition was overcome. It wasn’t because atheists took a strong stand against their evil. No! It was because Bible-believing Christians opposed the false and blended teaching of the medieval Roman church. The penalty for their stand was often death in the flames, but love for Jesus and his PURE truth made them courageous.

Because of the influence of Greek philosophy on the Catholic Church, the concept of purgatory (which was based on Greek thought as found in Plato’s Republic) was abused by Catholic leaders. When Pope Leo X needed money to build St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, he sent out a Dominican monk named Tetzel to collect money through the selling of indulgences. This practice was based on the idea that there was an account of excess good deeds that had been performed by the saints which a person could purchase in order to get their loved ones out of purgatory where they were painfully paying for their sins. Tetzel’s motto was: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs!”

Tetzel may not have known it, but a young monk named Martin Luther was watching, and because he had read the Scriptures, Tetzel’s lie enraged him so much that he wrote up Ninety-Five Theses (ninety-five arguments) against the practice of indulgences and pounded it on the door of the Wittenberg Church. This courageous act of protest (“protest” is the root word for Protestant) caused an uproar—especially in a society living under the authority of the Inquisition—and because of the newly-invented printing press, Luther’s arguments could now spread like wildfire throughout Europe.

There were forerunners to Luther who also had conflicts with the doctrines of the Catholic Church. John Wycliffe, who is called the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” would be one of the first to oppose the corrupt Catholic religion of the medieval era. He was a priest and a scholar at Oxford University, so he was able to read the Scriptures. The main argument of Wycliffe was that the Bible was the only reliable guide to truth, and that Christians should rely on the Scriptures, rather than on a pope, as the ultimate authority in spiritual matters. Wycliffe had friends in high places, so he was protected from the Inquisition’s flames. His followers, the Lollards, on the other hand, were not spared.

John Huss, a dean at the University of Hague, was influenced by Wycliffe’s arguments. He stressed the importance of Scripture as the sole authority for the church and thought that popes or cardinals were wrong to create doctrine that was contrary to the Bible. He also made a statement about the condition of the Roman church by hanging pictures of the pope in all his rich clothing next to the image of the poverty-stricken Christ. As a result of his outspoken criticism of the Catholic Church he would be called before the Inquisition. Foxe described how Huss tried to answer a question that was put to him during his trial:

As he was about to open his mouth, all this mad herd began to cry out upon him, that he had not leisure to speak one only word. The noise and trouble was so great and so vehement, that a man might have called it a bruit of wild beasts, and not of men, much less was it to be judged a congregation of men gathered together to determine so grave and weighty matters. (1)

The crowd that was acting like beasts wasn’t an angry mob of commoners—it was the council of cardinals and bishops! Huss refused to recant on his views, so he was arrested and burned at the stake. It was in this atmosphere that Luther fearfully took his stand.

Luther was a priest; therefore, he had access to the Scriptures. It was on their authority that he stood when he was called before the Inquisition. He was commanded to denounce his writings and recant his position. He was sweating and trembling as he stood before the council, but his measured response would forever change the history of the world.

Unless I am convinced by scripture or by clear reason—for I do not trust the pope or church councils, since everyone knows they can make mistakes and contradict themselves—I am bound by the scriptures I have quoted. My conscience is held captive by the Word of God [emphasis added]. I cannot and will not recant anything, because it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. (2)

With these courageous words, the whole corrupt foundation of the Roman Catholic religious monopoly would begin to crumble and its powerful stronghold on the Western world would be broken.  Luther’s movement, known as the Protestant Reformation, would split the church.

After many Catholics began converting to Protestantism, the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand II wanted to impose Catholicism on unwilling Protestant territories. The Thirty Years War that resulted was one of the worst religious wars ever fought. Over eight million people died. It was reported that even the land was ravaged by the war and could no longer produce a harvest.

Many decades of death and destruction finally culminated in a series of treaties called the Peace of Westphalia. It allowed for each territory to determine its own religion, and for any person who believed something different from each state’s official religion to be guaranteed a level of spiritual freedom, essentially crushing the power of the Catholic Inquisition.

The rallying cry of the Reformation was “sola scriptura!” (Scripture alone!) The blessings that resulted from the spread of the pure gospel are incalculable. It led to advances in education (so the Bible could be read), religious freedom and toleration (so that an Inquisition could never happen again), a newfound respect for honest work (since whatever a person did [not just religious activities] could be done for the glory of God), the destruction of the power of the priesthood (since each individual believer could gain access to God on his/her own), to political freedom (so that a church/state theocracy might not rule again), and to the growth of science (since the stronghold of Catholic/Aristotelian philosophy was no longer a source of scientific truth).

Luther, who had a radical conversion when he discovered that the grace of God came only through faith, and not through dead religious works, loved the precious Word which taught him that truth. So, when atheists say that Christians burned people at the stake, I want to encourage Christians to argue:

Yes, people who called themselves Christians burned people at the stake, but these “Christians” weren’t faithful to the Scriptures. They corrupted the teachings of Christ with philosophy and man-made traditions. They didn’t rightly divide the Word of truth. They disobeyed the Bible. And it wasn’t atheists or secularists who stopped the cruel flames and torture of the Inquisitors, it was men and women of God, courageously giving their lives in faithfulness to Jesus and his wonderful Word, who finally brought down the stronghold of the Inquisition.

Notes:

  1. John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Pittsburgh, PA: Whitaker House, 1981), 110.
  2. Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1978), 141.

17 Comments

  1. unsurprisingly, every Christian claims they and they alone are “bible believing”, and have done the same horrors as each other. Diana and her anti-catholic vitriol are full of lies as usual. Protestants tortured and killed Catholics, Jews, native peoples, etc, too. They enjoyed slavery and knew their god did too since the bible has that no slave should ever seek their freedom.

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    1. Hi Clubschadenfreude, long time no see. 🙂This is why I delineate Bible-believing Christians from those who add to the Bible and create a new blended version of Christianity. The Bible never fails, but the Bible PLUS papal decrees, PLUS polygenism, PLUS Greek philosophy, etc…have caused massive suffering. “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” -Proverbs 30:6

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      1. Yep, you, like every other Christian, claims that they and they alone are the “bible believing” ones. Alas, you can’t show this to be the case any more than the other Christians you don’t like. You all add to the bible and all ignore the parts you don’t like. You pick and choose the laws you want to follow or force on others and ignore the rest.

        Greek philosophy is in your bible, Diana. The term “logos” was used by the Greeks to mean the divine long before Christians.

        Your religion has caused massive suffering. It is always amusing to see you try to claim that only Catholics tortured and killed people for their religion.

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      2. I never say that “only Catholics tortured and killed for their religion.”Michael Servetus was burned at the stake by the Calvinists. The New England witch hunts happened under the Puritans. Slavery was under the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists. Nazism was supported by the Lutherans.

        I also acknowledge that the apostles wrote about and referred to both the Logos (John 1:1) and the unknown god (Acts 17:23). The apostles were arguing that Jesus was their Logos. Paul told the people at Mars Hill that the Hebrew God was their unknown god. Paul never blended Greek philosophy with the Christian faith. In fact, in the letter to the Colossians he warned against being taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”- Col. 2:8

        My entire website documents the ways in which those who corrupted the faith with other “truths” such as philosophy, science, or extra-biblical sources—in contrast to those who didn’t add to the Word and are now considered so many of our heroes.

        Maybe you should poke around my website a bit. It’s always best to know your opposition before you attempt to attack them.

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      3. “I never say that “only Catholics tortured and killed for their religion”

        I’m sorry, I was wrong. You didn’t specify Catholics, you lumped them in with Christians who don’t agree with you.“The Bible never fails, but the Bible PLUS papal decrees, PLUS polygenism, PLUS Greek philosophy, etc…have caused massive suffering.”

        Yep, logos is in the bible and it is greek philosophy which you claimed isn’t there. The authors of the gospels added greek philosophy. Aren’t those supposedly written by the apostles and inspired by your god, Diana? Paul made a false claim on Mars Hill and contradicted what Christ supposedly said. Are you a Paulian or a Christian?
        You have no idea what corrupted your bible, Diana. You have indeed decided that the parts you don’t like “must” be corruptions. I have “poked” around on your website. You are pretty amusing when you cite Isaac Newton as a “brilliant mind” since he was an anti-trinitarian Christian. “The Faithful Church is the church that stood on the Bible as God’s Word. They didn’t compromise the truth. They loved not their own life, even unto death. They were the HEROES of history. “ Yep, one more church made up by a Christian who thinks that only her version is the right one. You’ve invented a church so you can pretend that Christianity hasn’t been a horror throughout history, by trying to claim that those Christians “really” weren’t Christians.

        Nothing like trying to revise history like all groups who have done horrors have tried to do.

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      4. Just because the Bible mentions Logos doesn’t mean it incorporates Greek philosophy—any more than mentioning Baal or Satan means it incorporates those beliefs.

        Isaac Newton was a believer. The debate over the Trinity is a complicated one—even more so hundreds of years ago. But Newton wrote his Principia to encourage people to believe in God. He wasn’t an unbeliever. I’m the first to admit that Christianity failed. I don’t pretend they didn’t commit horrors. What I try to understand is how that happened—and in my analysis of history over the last two decades I can say consistently that it happened because some people who carried the name of Christ also brought into the church extra-biblical “truths.”

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      5. the bible uses the term logos as the greeks did and incorporates it. That is not the case with the terms Baal or Satan.

        Newton is a heretic per trinitarian Christians. Is the trinity the truth?

        your supposed “analysis” of history tries to make believe that you have some “pure” form of Christianity. There is no such thing.

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      6. This is true. Christianity is always in a debate over the meanings of words. Even Jesus asked in Luke 10:26, “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” The dispute over what the Bible says or means will always go on, but bringing in a completely foreign source into the debate and giving it more authority than the Bible always leads to human suffering.

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      7. And funny how your god is utterly silent. The humans just climb over each other like a bucket of crabs, each insisting that only their version is the truth, and not one being able to show this is correct.

        The bible is a failure, Diana. You have no idea how it is to be understood. You don’t even need other things to be brought in.

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      8. Oh Clubscadenfreude, if there were no Bible, there would be no source of truth to fight off the slave traders, nothing to give courage to those who opposed the Inquisitors, no hope for any mama who lost a child, or source of wisdom for those who designed our Constitution. Can’t you open your eyes to the goodness that has come from those who love the Word? The hospitals, the soldiers who fought tyranny, those who defended the least in society, like Pastor Von Bodelschwigh who used his body to block the Nazis from taking the children in his orphanage away to death. Do you know how many Christians ended up in Soviet gulags just because they lovedJesus? Why are they always attacked and led like lambs to the slaughter? What was so bad about Jesus? Can you find no beauty in him? Are you only able to see the tares and not the wheat? I pray that your eyes will be open and you will experience the grace of God. He loves you. Why are you so hard toward a person who paid the penalty for your sins in the universal court system? Be tender-hearted for a bit and try to see faith from a different perspective. ❤️

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      9. And diana chooses to ignore her bible. Funny how her bible works with slave traders, encouraging that no slave should ever seek freedom. “18 Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. 19 For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20 If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. “ 1 Peter 2

        Or is your bible lying, Diana?

        The bible also says not to resist evil, so no opposing inquisitors “38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5

        Bible lying again?

        The bible is not mentioned in the constitution and directly contradicts it. “13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority[a] does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.” Romans 13

        Shucks, more lies?

        Mama who lost a child? Might want to wonder about David and his son and that mother, You know, the child that your god killed for no fault of its own. One has to wonder, Diana, if you would be fine if your god killed one of your children or grandchildren, for someone else’s action. Are you that selfish to accept it?
        Hmm, those soldiers in hospitals who were harmed fighting against those people your god says it puts into power (no exceptions mentioned at all)? You mean those soldiers who suffered amputations and funny how no Christian can heal them as promised? Those Christians who had God is with us on their belt buckles in Nazi Germany? Those ones?

        Yep, Christans have been persecuted and surprise, this god does nothing at all about it. Now, why is that, Diana? This god supposedly had no problem in freeing the Israelites from slavery (it didn’t), but it leaves people to rot in Russia and North Korea? No plagues and magic for them, such a pity.

        Christians are told to be lambs led to the slaughter, see above.

        There is nothing beautiful about an imaginary being who kills everyone who disagrees with it. Sorry, Diana, I don’t worship murderous lunatics. There is no love when this being works with Satan, and releases it after it kills everyone who isn’t an appropriate Christian. Hmm, who does Satan have to corrupt, Diana? Yep, the Christians who are left. Must suck being thrown under the bus by this god.

        There is no “sin”, Diana. That’s a sickness invented so you can sell your “cure”. That cure doesn’t exist either. I am tenderhearted and know that children and other people shouldn’t be lied to about your sadistic fantasies of hell.

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      10. There are so many ways to respond to your arguments, Clubschadenfreude. The articles on slavery, the Nazis, and the Old Testament law immediately come to mind, but I guess it wouldn’t matter what I present or how I plead, you can only see God and the Bible as sources of evil. I’m not sure how your life went down that pathway, but I wish the best for you-and will continue to engage with you for as long as you want.
        -Diana

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      11. ‘Just because the Bible mentions Logos doesn’t mean…..”. Uh, yeah it does. Paul invented Christianity, not Jesus. Paul was a Greco-Roman that lied about a being a Pharisee, which if you ask any Rabbi (and I have discussed this with a few Rabbis, BTW) is an absolute falsehood. Paul doesn’t seem to know anything about Pharisaic Judaism at all and there’s almost no way he studied under Gamaliel either. Paul was raised in Tarsus, one of the largest centers of Greco-Romano thought and philosophy, which is how he came up with his idea for a “new” hybrid Judeo-Mystery dying-and-rising cult of which there were many. Jesus would have thought of him as a gentile dog.

        You should spend a lot more time learning about the Bible; not reading it, per Se, but learning how it came about before you invest such much of your faith in it. I’m nit saying this with condescension but as genuine advice. That you aren’t aware of the enormous amount of influence of the Greco-Romano world in the develop of Christian scripture begs the question of your faith. I’m sure you’re completely unaware of the fact that Yahweh & El – the two names or references of the Hebrew god in the Bible – are both very ancient Canaanite gods that were worshipped in Canaan a thousand years before the arrival of the Israelites in the Near East. there is nothing new about this, it’s been known for decades.

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      12. This is the best part of the “Religious vs Atheist” argument; the religious are the blood-thirsty, murderous, group of psychotics to ever walk the Earth. Satan must just be delighted that religion was put on this Earth; it’s making his work so much easier!!

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      13. Huh? You “delineate between” wha? The entire bible has been edited Tiamat and time again. Yes, the Catholics were – probably – the worst of these offenders but I’ve got news for you; you wouldn’t know what in the Bible was “original” if your life depended on it since we do not have a copy of an “original” Bible, especially the Christian scriptures. The Christian canon has been changed over and over again in real, meaningful ways. But, even of you just considered those changes made by scribes making copies of copies of copies of copies, on and on, you would still never be able to discern what was the original canon! Consider that there are over 32,000 variations of Christianity in the world; over 1,200 just in the United Stated alone! Which one is the correct one, do you know? Does ANYONE know? I seriously doubt it, especially since Jesus was a Jew and lived his entire life as such right down to his supposed burial. Furthermore if it weren’t for Napoleon – a “devout” atheist and Papacy-hater – Christians would probably still be killing each other to this day. When Napoleon conquered Italy one of his first actions was to shut down the Office of the Inquisition.

        Funny how nothing seems to incite violence like religion!

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