The Legacy of John Hus - page 3


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Knowing & Doing

From the Winter 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

The Legacy of John Hus

by Tom Schwanda,  Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College

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 Later he adds, “Wycliffe and Hus seemed to be good subjects with which to begin. They represent the preaching which awakened interest and focused attention upon truths Luther and the others were able to portray during the Reformation times.”7
 Timothy Larsen has also included Hus in his highly regarded reference work, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals (2003). His classification was based on David Bebbington’s well-accepted definition of evangelicals (i.e., conversion, Scripture, cross, and activism) that places the origin for this movement in the 1730s. Though Larsen quickly adds, “Nevertheless, the inclusion of a ‘pre-history’ of evangelical forebears was thought to be useful—those by whose work evangelicals have often been shaped and with whose examples they have identified.” Larsen’s inclusionary decisions were also determined by individuals’ significance of influence, and this “book has been biased towards figures who have had a substantial impact in the wider evangelical movement.”8
 Regardless of this strong Protestant identification with Hus, we must be honest and realize that Hus was certainly not a Protestant! Thomas Fudge, the foremost English-speaking scholar on Hus, articulates it more firmly: “Jan Hus was a medieval Catholic reformer rather than a premature Protestant.”9 Hus held to the traditional Western Catholic teachings on transubstantiation, belief in purgatory, and intercession to the Virgin Mary.10 Yet Hus was a significant reformer and has much to teach the contemporary church about how to live and follow Jesus.

John Hus’s Message for Today

  First, Hus would challenge us to be grounded in Scripture. Writing to his friends in Bohemia the day before he was executed, he declared what was a constant reminder throughout his ministry: “Be diligent in the Word of God.”11 Instead of being diligent, we are often distracted and inattentive to the Word of God. Reading habits of many contemporary followers of Jesus are embarrassing. But our condition is even more disappointing when we compare the behavior of Christians with that of unbelievers and recognize how little observable difference sets us apart. Hus speaks personally that Scripture has been his “foundation and food, by which my spirit is refreshed, that it may be strong against all adversaries of the truth.”12 This is why he hungered after the Word and encouraged his friends to be equally zealous and conformed to its teachings, and always to “stand firmly in the love of the Word of God, and cleave to it with the greatest desire.”13
 Hus would certainly affirm the name of this periodical: Knowing & Doing. Beyond his emphasis on knowing Scripture, he practiced and exhorted “doing” and living out its truth. He wrote to his friends at Prague with great urgency: “I beg you…that you gladly attend the preaching, diligently hear it; and hearing it, understand it; and understanding it, keep it; and keeping it, learn to know yourselves; and learning to know yourselves, know rightly your dearest Saviour.”14 This strong reliance upon hearing the Word created an equal responsibility on preachers, and Hus urged them to be likewise diligent in their preaching. He was deeply grieved during his exile when he was unable to preach and candidly confessed that “I preach the sacred Scriptures––not I, but principally the Holy Spirit.”15

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