Six hundred years ago today, Czechoslovakian reformer Jan Hus (1369-1415) was martyred for his faith. Roughly one hundred years before the arrival of Martin Luther, Jan Hus was preaching that the Bible alone was his authority. Hus had been drawn to the writings of another early church reformer from England, John Wycliffe, who championed the idea that Christian doctrine should be founded upon Holy Scripture and not the vague speculations of man.
As a priest, Hus vigorously opposed the sale of indulgences and corruption within the church. People obtain forgiveness for their sins through true repentance, not from giving money to church officials. Needless to say, there were church leaders who were not happy with Hus’ message. Under the false pretense of offering safe conduct, Jan Hus was lured to the Council of Constance where he was tried for heresy, found guilty, and burned at the stake.
His last name in Czech, “Hus,” literally means “goose,” and the story of his martyrdom is where we get the phrase “your goose is cooked.”
I could not understand for what cause they had burnt so great a man, who explained the Scriptures with so much gravity and skill.
Most people have forgotten about this little known reformer, who hailed from a part of the Czech republic named “Bohemia.” Hus was thus the original “Bohemian,” an early pioneer of today’s evangelical Christianity, with the emphasis on the final authority of the Bible for Christian belief and practice. If you value having a high view of Holy Scripture, you would do well to remember Jan Hus today.
Professor Ryan Reeves at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary gives a 30-minute, partial lecture on the life and contribution of Jan Hus. The legacy of Jan Hus continued on in Bohemia among the so-called “Hussites,” who resisted the hegemony of medieval, politicized Roman Catholicism. Yet as Reeves soberly points out, even movements that seek to elevate a high view of Scripture can splinter and disintegrate when certain factions develop that effectively split over relatively obscure theological points and get a little weird and crazy. In fact, things got so bad after Jan Hus died, that the legendary Joan of Arc wrote a letter threatening to bring her armies into Bohemia in order to straighten things out.
The lesson here? Keep your focus on the supreme character of Holy Scripture, but make an attempt to sincerely listen and learn from those who might share different opinions from yours about Biblical interpretation, lest you go off the deep end all in the name of supposedly “defending the Bible.”
Boy, we sure need this message today!