For several weeks now my family have been studying the English royal dynasty of the Tudors and in particular Henry VIII. Those of you who know anything about this period of time in British history will know that it was highly unstable, England being on the cusp of the Catholic to Protestant changeover. Court life was characterised by intrigue, murder, adultery, greed and self-advancement, and those who were a part of it were soon corrupted by it or lost their heads - literally.
I am a great advocate of the teaching of history, and lots of it. As one theologian remarked, those who do not learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat their mistakes. One set of questions I ask myself whenever I am looking at a piece of history is this: Where was God in all this? How did He manifest Himself in spite of apostacy and lawlessness? If you look carefully enough at the lives of the individuals on the stage of history, you will find plenty of evidence that He was working. And one thing you soon discover is that He was no respector of denominational or theological borders, let alone of persons (2 Chr.19:7; Prov.28:21; Ac.10:34; Rom.2:11; Eph.6:9; Col.3:25; 1 Pet.1:17).
As you look at the lives of those we know anything about, say, in the days of King Henry VIII, you discover one very important thing: that righteous men and women were not confined to just one of the essentially three main denominations of that time: Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran. Mind you, Anglicanism was not clearly defined at that time, being essentially a mutation of Catholicism - a Catholic Church in which the Pope was replaced by Henry VIII. In the early days Catholics and Lutherans were equally persecuted, incarcerated, tortured and burned at the stake by a tyrant king whose sole interest was seeking legitimacy for his adultery with Anne Boleyn.
Of the six wives of Henry VIII there is little doubt that at least three of them were noble and virtuous women: Catherine of Aragon (Catholic), Jane Seymour (officially 'Anglican' but probably secretly Catholic) and Anne of Cleves (Lutheran). Two of these he divorced (Catherine and Anne) and one died shortly after childbirth (Jane). The most notorious, and probably most akin to his own wicked nature, was Anne Boleyn who played the unorthodox historical rôle of being the raison d'être for England's severance from Rome. Thus it could be argued, with some justification, that England became Protestant (a marginal improvement on Catholicism) and at length libertarian because of an evil King's infatuation with a promiscuous woman.
Most Messianics, sadly, have problems seeing how anything 'good' could come out of any form of Christianity, Catholic or Protestant (or Orthodox). What they need to remember, though, is that it was Yahweh who permitted a millennium of Catholicism in Europe and half a Millennium of Protestanism in that part of Europe which threw off Rome's yoke, whether for spiritual reasons (Germany) or adulterous ones (England). In all this period of time, in spite of heresy and antinomianism (lawlessness), it was still possible to trust in Messiah and live a virtuous life. It is, needless to say, a totally absurd proposition that no one was saved during this time or that the Jesus whom they knew was a counterfeit Messiah. We must accept both that Yahweh knows the heart of every man and woman, and what he or she would do in an ideal (Messianic Israelite) situation and why it is He ordains people to be born when and where they are. And we must accept that while men's image of Christ may at times be flawed owing to wrong teachings, that this does not prevent the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) from workimng on hearts and reaping good fruits. The goal is, after all, first, the salvation and perfection of each individual soul through trusting in the merits of the blood of Christ and moral rectitude. The collective salvation of Israel is for a better (millennial) day. And even if the Messianics were totally doctrinally correct (they are as infected with heresy as Protestants and others are) that would not in itself guarantee a right heart.
None of us is completely doctrinally correct...yet. Some may be more correct than others. However, our salvation is not merely a function of whether we have arranged data correctly in our brains or not but is primarily whether or not we are trusting and clinging to the Son of Elohim. If salvation were absolutely a function of doctrinal correctness then I dare say that no single human being would be saved for the pure and simple reason that no two human beings have identical theologies!
This does not mean, of course, that theology is unimportant or that we should not pursue it - we should and must in order to be in right pattern. Indeed, we are commanded to be echad or one in all things. In the meantime, we should be circumspect and careful in how we judge other believers. Here history teaches us a valuable lesson for in it we can, if we are willing to be unblinded, see how Yahweh works through all kinds of people.
I should add, in saying this, that I am not a liberal or an ecumenical - just a realist. I simply acknowledge that my knowledge of the human heart is not great enough for me to be able to pass judgment or sentence of the relationship others may or may not have with the Messiah. The reign of Henry VIII, and of others like him throughout history, demonstrates only to vividly our fallibility. We must allow people, as Yahweh does, the freedom to choose what they believe, and never force or cajole them. The only licence we have to teach and correct is if someone maintains belief in, and adherence to, the Bible but then invents teachings that manfestly are not a part of it. As believers we are supposed to guide one another but only in a spirit or charity. At times that charity may have to be a little tough but it ought not to be the default mode. True conversion comes through attraction, not compulsion.
The Tutors were colourful but often wicked. Don't be blinded by colour because this will blind you to its sometime companion, wickedness. The truth is often plain. Be content with plainness.
Comments from Readers
"Brother, I am speechless how you manage to always give me the tangible and honest advice in your articles I so badly need for current circumstances and spiritually precarious situations, but I know it is the Power of Yahweh and His Living WORD! Praise be Him and His Son Yah'shua!" (SW, Germany, 23 June 2010).