On July 6th 1415, a man by the name of Jan Hus (or Jon Huss) was executed by the Roman catholic church for heresy. Although he was a short and husky theologian, he is often portrayed as a tall and striking figure, due to the level of impact he has had on the Czech people and the world. He not only set the stage for the great Reformation 100 years later, through Martin Luther, he also helped develop the Czech orthography (which is probably why it is so hard to speak!). But what he stood for is one of the many reasons why we are living and breathing where we are today. If you can imagine a world where the Bible was only written and preached in Latin, and the governing authority was equal to the religious authority, this is the world that Jan Hus made his mark on history.
The views we carry today did not spontaneously come into existence, and for modern philosophers and theologians, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Jan Hus was no different. Through the works of John Wycliff, Hus was prompted to preach in his own language, which was a big no-no under the Roman system at the time. This gave the people an understanding of the faith they professed, and with Hus' stand against papal corruption the people began to realize that God has given them a priestly authority in their own right and that Scripture is the ultimate authority over the church. While Martin Luther was known to mock Rome for their selling of indulgences, Jan Hus was equally against this idea, noting Wycliff,
"Trust wholly in Christ; rely altogether on his sufferings; beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness."
Of course preaching such things would cause a stir, but Hus wanted to defend his position, and was given an opportunity to freely present his case before the counsel of Constance. Unfortunately, they did not live up to their word, but instead proceeded to interrogate and accuse him of heresy without question. In his last letter, 10 days before he was burned at the stake, he wrote,
"'If I had written anything wrong, I wish to be told of it.' Whereupon the presiding Cardinal said, 'As you want information, take this: you should retract and obey the decision of fifty doctors of the church.'"
In other words, "You do not deserve a reason why you are wrong, you simply must obey."
Things have not changed much today in this respect. When opposing views are exchanged in the marketplace of ideas, those who disagree are often belittled as a caricature or a straw-man, and then the attack moves forward (see any news 'debate' on TV). The idea itself is misrepresented and the new more easily demonized view is burned alive. One of the many things that Reformation figures, like Hus, have taught us is that we are not to blindly walk according to the traditions, but to test our faith and see whether it corresponds to reality. This takes boldness in the face of opposition, but it also takes a diplomatic stance if we truly want to do the sometimes difficult work of weighing the arguments equally. Hus wrote,
Seek the truth, hear the truth, learn the truth, love the truth, speak the truth, hold the truth and defend the truth until death.
If truth is the foundation by which we can rightly live and operate as image bearers of God, then we should seek it at all costs, even to the death, knowing that Christ has made death obsolete for those who are His. By standing for truth, you never know how you might impact the course of history.