Was The Reformation a Runaway Train?

Disinformation is an intentional spread of false or inaccurate information designed to discredit a conflicting information or support false conclusions. Catholicism has perfected this tactic to a tee. As a result, the Protestant Reformation has been caricatured and the Reformers demonized. Rome portrays the Reformation as a runaway train, inspired by wanton lust, arrogance and self-independence in order to justify her apostasy and falsehoods.

Today, a number of well-researched books and Christian websites have cleared up much of the disinformation Catholics are being fed with by Rome’s legatees. But let’s take a look at some examples:

“The Roman Catholic Church was the only Christian Church in existence prior to the Reformation, therefore, if it went into apostasy, then Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church failed”

There are several false assumptions wrapped up in this one sentence. First, what is today called the “the Roman Catholic Church” was not a monolithic system that sprang up from Christ’s apostles (like Athena from Zeus’ skull) retaining a doctrinal continuity for 2,000 years. It was a gradual invasion and taking root of false doctrines all through the centuries that gave rise to it. It took much time and circumstances – often the influence of pagan ideas – for Roman Catholicism to emerge into what it is:

“The magnificent conception of a Catholic church bound together in one organization, one faith, one ritual could hardly have been realized by imagination alone, without the aid of time and circumstances” (James Thompson, Edgar Nathaniel Johnson. An Introduction to Medieval Europe, W. W. Norton & co., 1937, 46).

This is why ancient catholicity and modern Roman Catholicism are as different as chalk and cheese. The fact is, not all Christian churches were part of the Latin church even in the 4th century. The Edict of the Emperors Gratian, Valentinan II and Theodosius of February 27, 380 shows this:

“We order those who follow this doctrine to receive the title of Catholic Christians, but others we judge to be mad and raving and worthy of incurring the disgrace of heretical teaching, nor are their assemblies to receive the name of churches. They are to be punished not only by Divine retribution but also by our own measures, which we have decided in accord with Divine inspiration” (Sidney Ehler and John Morrall, Church and State Through the Centuries, Burns & Cates, 1954, 7).

Even though what these early writings meant by “catholic” is far different from what Roman Catholicism espouses, yet it’s clear that it was because of the “heretics” outside it that the Inquisition was brought up. Bishop Alvaro Palayo, an official of the Curia, also made a reference to these Christians about 300 years before the Reformation:

“Considering the Papal court has filled the whole Church with simony, and the consequent corruption of religion, it is natural enough the heretics should call the Church the Whore” (De Planct Eccl. ii. 28 cited by Ignaz von Dollinger, The Pope and the Council, London, 1858, 185).

Martin Luther also said: “We are not the first to declare the papacy to be the kingdom of Antichrist, since for many years before us so many and such great men (whose number is large and whose memory is eternal) have undertaken to express the same thing so clearly and plainly” (Ewald Plass, What Luther Says, Vol. 1, 36)

When Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail over His church, He was referring to the revelation of Himself which Peter expressed (Matt. 16:18). The gates of hades are powerless against the church as long as she believes and confesses this truth. This is based on Christ’s faithfulness, not an alleged “charism of infallibility.” Jesus was referring to the Church, His Body (all true Believers) in that passage, not an institution.

Roman Catholicism is a departure from Christ and the faith “once handed down” by its denial of the sufficiency of Scripture, the sufficiency of Christ and His sacrifice. So, the promise in Matthew no longer applies to it (Jude 3). The apostasy of the Roman church became full-blown at the council of Trent (16th century) where it codified its false doctrines.

Notably, the Council of Trent wasn’t a linear continuation of the Latin or Medieval church. In fact, the Western church before Trent was more pluralistic in doctrine than the Roman church between Trent and Vatican I. Therefore, one can say there were Christians in the Roman system and outside of it through the centuries. These were the ones who constituted the true Church, not the religious institution.

The only “Christian” groups outside the Catholic Church before the Reformation were heretical. The Albigenses were Manicheans (Dualists) who practiced mass suicide and sexual immorality

In Catholic lingo, a “heresy” is any deviation from a doctrine defined by the Church. Apparently, these Christian movements were judged as heretics, not on the basis of their writings in contrast with Scripture, but for their disagreement with the Roman church (Rome positions itself as the standard of orthodoxy).

For instance, Priscillian, the Bishop of Avila, was falsely accused of “heresy,” immorality and witchcraft and beheaded (along with 6 others) in 385 A. D. whereas 7 of the works he wrote to refute these charges have been discovered in the library of the University of Wurzburg, Germany.

In the same vein, most of the sources accusing the Albigenses of heinous crimes are Catholic works, which may not be reliable. Even when one examines some of them, certain truths still emerge. James Capelli, a 13th century Franciscan lector in Milan wrote:

“The rumors of the fornication which is said to prevail among them is most false. For it is true that once a month either by day or by night, in order to avoid gossip by the people, men and women meet together, not, as some lyingly say, for purposes of fornication, but that they may hear preaching … They are wrongfully wounded in popular rumor by malicious charges of blasphemy from those who say that they commit many shameful and horrid acts of which they are innocent” (Walter Wakefield and Austin Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages, University of Michigan Library, 1991, 305).

Surprisingly, Catholic inquisitors wrote that Albigenses “were condemned for speculations.” Their trial showed they believed “a Christian church ought to consist of only good people … [that] the church ought not to persecute any, even the wicked; the law of Moses was no rule for Christians; there was no need for priests, especially of wicked ones; the sacraments and orders, and ceremonies of the church of Rome were futile, expensive, oppressive, and wicked…” (William Jones, The History of the Christian Church, New York, 1824, 455)

Apart from the Albigenses, there were also the Waldenses, Bogomils and Poor men of Lyons whose few surviving writings showed they were “heretics” to Rome only. Two notable works: History of the Evangelical Churches of Piedmont (1648) by Samuel Morland and An Inquiry into the History and Theology of the Ancient Valdenses and Albigenses (1838) by George Fabler, drew on works dating back to the 13th century indicating that the beliefs of these pre-Reformation groups were similar to those of Evangelicals today.

“It is now clearly known that the Paulicans were not Manicheans” says a historian, “the same thing may probably be said of the Albigenses.” He added, “The Roman Catholic Church sought diligently for excuses to persecute. Even Luther was declared by the Synod of Sens to be a Manichean. The Archbishop Usher says that the charges of Manicheanism on the Albigensian sect is evidently false” (John Christian, The Glorious Recovery of the Vaudois, London, 1857, 1 xvii).

The Reformation was just a revolt from the mystic from Wittenberg (Martin Luther), the logical orthodox from Geneva (John Calvin) and the heterodox rationalist from Zurich (Ulrich Zwingli)

This is a disinformation. The Reformation was not a “revolt” by any means, since the Reformers stood for the same truths that many within and without the Roman church all through the centuries stood for.

Archbishop Agobard of Lyons (779-840) spoke against image worship and the church’s unbiblical liturgies and practices. Bishop Claudius (8th century) rejected Catholic traditions, saints and relic veneration. Peter of Bruys (12th century) spoke against Catholic dogmas and left the priesthood; he was killed for it.

Henry of Lausanne, a monk, who exposed the errors of Rome was arrested in 1148; he died in prison. Berengar of Tours opposed transubstantiation based on Scripture, the church fathers and reason; he was excommunicated.

Men like Jan Hus, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale and Wessel Gansfort stood for the supremacy of Scripture long before the Reformation. Contrary to what Catholics are made to believe, Luther, Calvin and Zwingli were neither loons nor buffoons. They proved their cases by appealing to the church fathers, church councils and reason.

When Luther posted his 95 theses at the door of the church of Wittenberg, he still adhered to some Catholic doctrines (e.g purgatory, Mariolatry etc). His intention was to reform the church from within, not to leave it. But when the Roman church couldn’t prove its ideas from Scripture, but instead excommunicated Luther at the Diet of Worms, he had to leave.

Other lesser-known Reformers were Nicolaus von Amsdorf, Henry van Zutphen, Propst Jakob, Johann Esch, Heinrich Voes and Hess Kaspar. Most of them were killed for disagreeing with Rome. Catholics may have sank too deep to question the tyrannical system of Rome that crushes every voice of dissent, nevertheless, the Reformation was God’s plan to call His people out of an apostate religious system.

The Protestant church was started by King Henry VIII who wasn’t allowed to take an extra wife by the Pope

This remark is quite revealing, though not in the way Catholics intend. Henry VIII was a staunch Catholic who wrote a polemic Assertion of the Seven Sacraments Against Martin Luther (which earned him the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ from the Pope). In 16th century England, the Catholic church was not in the good books of the common people. The priests were immoral; the church owned about a fifth of all property in England and levied heavy taxes on the people.

Then the King wanted an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could marry the more beautiful and perhaps more fertile Anne Boleyn. But Pope Clement VII, pressured by Catherine’s nephew, Emperor Charles V, refused to grant Henry’s wish. This prompted Henry VIII to break with Rome and declare himself head of England’s Catholic Church. This decision was supported by the House of Commons (since popular sentiment against Rome was already high).

“Henry was now the sole judge of what, in religion and politics, the English people were to believe” wrote a historian. “Since his theology was still Catholic in every respect except the papal power, he made it a principle to persecute impartially Protestant critics of Catholic dogma, and Catholic critics of his ecclesiastical supremacy” (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Simon & Schuster, 1950, VI, 529).

It was during Henry VIII’s time that Tyndale was burned at stake for translating the Bible into English. Henry died in 1547 leaving “a large sum to pay for Masses for the repose of his soul” (Ibid, 577). Contrary to what Catholics are told, he wasn’t a Protestant!

The Horror of the Inquisition

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Many Christians today are oblivious of their history. Books have been re-written; facts have been covered up and our generation is kept ignorant.

We need to dig up historical facts for us all to see what lies beneath the facade of Roman Catholicism. One of such skeletons of the past is the Catholic Inquisition.

The Inquisition is a general term for a tribunal or “holy office” operated by the Roman Catholic Church responsible for torturing, imprisoning and executing those who deviated from the church’s beliefs.

The Inquisitions (Roman, Medieval and Spanish) were Rome’s method of suppressing any form of heresy and enforcing allegiance to the Pope.

Many of the-so called heretics were Bible believing Christians who rejected the false doctrines of Rome, looking instead to the Lord Jesus and His Word. The Inquisition was operated for several centuries by the Catholic church and it covered Europe and the Americas.

Pope Innocent III (1160-1216) commanded the archbishop of Auch in Gascony saying:

We give you a strict command, that by whatever means you can, you destroy all these heresies … you may cause the princes and people to suppress them with the sword.” [1]

A Catholic historian explains that: “The binding force of the laws against heretics lay not in the authority of secular princes, but in the sovereign dominion of life and death over all Christians claimed by the Popes as God’s representatives on earth, as Innocent III expressly states it.” [2]

Contrary to the claim of modern Catholic apologists, the Inquisition wasn’t the work of the state, but of the Popes who ruled over the civil authorities. In 1252, Pope Innocent IV issued a bull “Ad Exstirpanda”, decreeing that heretics were to be “crushed like venomous snakes.” It also endorsed the use of torture.

The aforesaid bull ‘Ad Exstirpanda’ remained thenceforth a fundamental document of the Inquisition, renewed or reinforced by several popes. Alexander IV (1254-61), Clement IV (1265-68), Nicholas IV (1288-92), Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and others. The civil authorities, therefore, were joined by the popes, under the pain of excommunication, to execute the legal sentences that condemned the impenitent heretics to the stake.” [3]

The Father of the Inquisition

The Popes got their models for the Inquisition from Augustine of Hippo (354-430). During his time, he contended against the Donatists who believed that the church ought to be separate from the world and consist only of true Christians.

Augustine, however, believed both Christians and non-Christians were to be in the church because the catholic church was God’s kingdom on earth, so she should use the state as her secular arm in dealing with heretics:

Why therefore should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return? … The Lord Himself said, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in [Luke 14:23] …’ Wherefore is the power which the Church has received … the instrument by which those who are found in the highway and hedges- that is, in heresies and schisms are compelled to come in…” [4]

To Augustine, “whoever was not found within the Church was not asked the reason, but was to be corrected and converted.” His legacy of forced conversion and abuse of Luke 14:23 however contradict his other teachings on determinism and irresistible grace.

Thomas Aquinas also said that non-Catholics, could, after a second warning should be killed because “they have merited to be excluded from the earth by death.”

Rather than abolishing this evil, subsequent Popes endorsed it by handing it over permanently to the Dominicans. A Catholic historian wrote:

Of eighty popes in a line from thirteenth century on not one of them disapproved of the theology and apparatus of the Inquisition. On the contrary, one after another added his cruel touches to the workings of this deadly machine.” [5]

The Code of Canon law (333:3) states that: “There is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff”. Once the popes had issued the binding decree, no authority could kick against it.

The Extent of the Inquisition

In 1184, the Synod of Verona made it a law for heretics to be burnt at stake. There were also direct wars against “heretics.” In 1209, for instance, the city of Beziers was taken by men promised by the pope that they would bypass purgatory after death. Sixty thousand people perished in this crusade and blood flowed on the streets. [6]

In 1211, the governor of Lavaur was hanged and his wife was thrown into a well and crushed with stones. Four hundred people were burned alive. The crusaders went for Mass in the morning and afterward continued their slaughter. More than 100,000 Albigenses died in one day.

The 4th Lateran Council (1215) decreed that:

Convicted heretics shall be handed over for due punishment to their secular superiors, or the latter’s agents…Catholics who assume the cross and devote themselves to the extermination of heretics shall enjoy some indulgence and privilege as those who go to the Holy Land” (Canon 3).

In 1229, thirty-two thousand Albigenses were killed and had their properties stolen. There were also “witch trials” as reflected in Pope Innocent VIII’s bull:

Men and women straying from the Catholic faith have abandoned themselves to devils, incubi and succubi [demonic sex partners], and by their incantations, spells, conjurations … have slain infants yet in the mother’s womb, as also the offspring of cattle, have blasted the produce of the earth…” [7]

An awful book, Malleus Maleficarum (Witch Hammer) full of folklore about witches was later written as a guideline on how to detect and execute a suspected “witch” (e.g checking for birthmarks, warts or scars – “the Devil’s mark” – on their bodies). Tens of thousands of people in Europe (mostly women) were fished out and executed as a result.

In 1487, Innocent VIII promised to forgive the sins of those who kill the Vaudois Christians. At Merindol, “heretic” women were pitifully raped and children slain. About 500 women were locked in a barn and set ablaze.

In 1562, Pius IV sent his armies to slay men, women and children, resulting in the massacre of Orange.

After 10,000 French Protestants were massacred in Paris on “St Bartholomew’s Day” in 1572, the French king went to Mass to give thanks (to God?) for all the heretics that were slain. The papal court received the news with great rejoicing and pope Gregory XIII went to the church of St Louis to give thanks. A coin was minted by the pope to commemorate this event. [8]

In Spain, as Paul Johnson points out in The History of Christianity, the Inquisition “became a state instrument, almost a national institution, like bullfighting, a mystery to foreigners but popular among the natives.”

The Spanish Inquisition also targeted tens of thousands of Jews and Moors. Emelio Martinez wrote that “In just one year, 1481, and just in Seville, the Holy Office [of the Inquisition] burned 2000 persons; the bones and effigies of another 2000 … and another 16,000 were condemned to varying sentences.” [9]

Modern Catholic apologists dismiss these historical evidence and claim only 3,000 people died. One even argued that no one died! They have taken an oath of allegiance to defend their “church” at the cost of history and truth.

Torture Instruments

The idea behind the Inquisition was that people separated from the Catholic Church would be lost eternally, so it was better to torture their bodies temporarily now than lose their souls for eternity.

Since heresy was concealed and difficult to prove, different techniques and methods were devised to produce the most torture and pain that would make heretics “confess”:

(a) Rack – a long table on which the accused was tied by the hands and feet, back down and stretched by the rope. This would dislocate the joints and cause great pain.

(b) Heavy pincers used to tear out fingernails or were applied red hot to sensitive body parts.

(c) Heretics were rolled back and forth over rollers with sharp knife blades and spikes.

(d) Thumbscrews were used to dis-articulate fingers.

(e) “Spanish boots” were used to crush the legs and feet.

(f) The “Iron Virgin,” a hollow metal instrument, the size and figure of a woman into which heretics were placed. It had knives arranged in it such that the accused locked inside it was lacerated in its embrace. The Latin words “Glory be only to God” was inscribed on it. [10]

Many “heretics” were choked to death with mangled pieces of their own bodies or faeces. Some had molten lead poured into their ears and mouth.

Some had their eyes gouged out and were forced to jump from cliffs onto long spikes from which they slowly died. Little wonder an anonymous Catholic wrote: “It would be better to be an atheist than believe in the God of the Inquisition.”

“These were real people,” wrote Dave Hunt, “all with hopes and dreams, with passions and feelings, and many with a faith that could not be broken by torture or fire. Remember that this terror, this evil of such proportions that is unimaginable today, was carried on for centuries in the name of Christ by the command of those who claimed to be vicar of Christ.” [11]

Ridpath’s History of the World includes an illustration of the Inquisition in the Netherlands. Twenty-one Protestants are shown hanging from the tree, with a man on a ladder about to be hanged. During these tortures, priests would hold up crosses before the victims in case they wanted to recant.

Similarly, in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, when Francis Gamba, a Protestant, was sentenced to death at Milan, a monk held out a cross to him. He said: “My mind is so full of the real merits and goodness of Christ that I want not a piece of senseless stick to put me in mind of Him.”

For this statement, his tongue was bored through and was burned.

Catholics love to cite the cruelty and intolerance exhibited by the Reformers in the persecution of Anabaptists, trials of heretics, the Thirty Years War or murder of Catholics. This is a tu quoque (“you too”) diversionary tactic.

This is just like a thief defending himself by saying “but others too are stealing.” Evil is evil and it must be denounced wherever it is found.

True Christians do not deny or justify such acts by the Reformers, though they didn’t claim to be infallible like the popes. They invariably imbibed this mentality from their Catholic upbringing, particularly from Augustine, the father of the Inquisition.

Some of the popes that are lauded as “great” today lived and thrived during those times, why didn’t they stop the killing machine? Why did 80 “infallible” popes endorse such grievous cruelty against humanity?

What does the Inquisition tell us about Roman Catholicism? One, it shows us that the pope is not the earthly representation of Christ and is not infallible in faith and morals.

Two, it reveals the nature of the spirit operating in Catholicism – it is not the Spirit of God. Three, it is pointer to the fact that the church of Rome has for centuries displayed the exact opposite of the love, justice and piety which it now try to display.

Recently, Pope Francis, in a letter to the International Commission against the Death Penalty wrote that Capital punishment “does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance … there is no humane ways of killing another person.” [12]

Could he be ignorant of his church’s history of the Inquisition and Crusades?

The Holy Office is now given a re-branded name: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Sadly, many Protestants today have bowed before the same Rome that millions of Believers chose to die rather than succumb to.

The very false gospel of Rome that the martyrs rejected is now deemed “orthodox” by some Evangelical leaders. This is what happens when history has been abjured.


1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Simon and Schuster, 1950, 4:773.

2. J. H. Ignaz von Dollinger, The Pope and the Council, London, 1869, p. 195.

3. Catholic Encyclopedia 8:34

4. Quoted by E. H. Broadbent in The Pilgrim Church, London, 1999, p. 49.

5. Peter De Rosa, The Dark Side of the Papacy, Crown Publishers, 1988, p.175.

6. R. W. Thompson, The Papacy and the Civil Power, New York, 1876, p. 418

7. Quoted in The Dark Side of the Papacy, p. 182.

8. Ralph E. Woodrow, Babylon Mystery Religion, 1966. The Inhuman Inquisition.

9. The Tablet, November 5, 1938.

10. Smith Homer, Man and His Gods, Brown and Co, 1952, p. 286

11. A Woman Rides the Beast, Harvest House: Oregon, 1994, p. 250.

12. The Associated Press March 20, 2015.