Thursday, May 11, 2017

Marsiglius of Padua - Defense of the State

After the victory of Philip IV of France over Pope Boniface VIII, those who stood for the power of the government over that of the church, were encouraged to make their case. One of the chief of these was Marsiglius of Padua. Now Marsiglius did have some good things to say. He stated that the Scriptures were the authority (though he said that where people disagreed on what the Scripture meant, it should have been resolved by a general council, making that the final authority). He denied the pope was infallible or the head of the church. He claimed the ultimate authority in both the state and the church as the people, though he saw much of this authority as delegated. He opposed using coercive power to force obedience to God's teachings. And he opposed many of the blatant papal abuses of power.

But he would have put the church almost totally under control of the state. The state would have decided what offices would be in the church other than bishop and deacon, how many of any given office should exist, and, in the final analysis, who would fill them. It would have called and presided over all church councils. No church discipline would have been allowed without the state's permission. The church would have become practically a department of the state and totally subject to it.

What Marsiglius's plan would have done was put the situation back to where the church was being corrupted by the state, being under state control.What was really needed was for both organizations to be independent and to have their own functions. And there needed to be safeguards to prevent either from interfering with the other except in extreme cases where it was really necessary. There should have been no person or group in either whose decisions could not be contested. And the Word of God should have been regarded as the final authority for both. Also, Marsiglius dealt only with the organization and authority of the church and not the deeper doctrinal issues involved. Which may have been just as well, as he seemed to have been focused wholly on the externals. The church was waiting for John Wycliffe and Martin Luther.

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