But there was another movement of importance for this situation, namely the movement of criticism of the Church. These movements are present in the sectarian movements and are present in the lay movements at the end of the Middle Ages.
The greatest of the critics of the Church is, theoretically, Occam, who fought for the German national state against the universal monarchy of the pope. But the most effective is Wyclif of England. Wyclif radically criticized the Church as it existed, from the point of view ?f t e ay movment; from the point of view of the lay movement, from the point of view of the lex evangelica , the evangelical law, which is in the Bible; he translated it; and he fought against the hierarchies with the support of the national king. There already the relationship between the king of England and the pope became very precarious. The pope did not succeed in inducing theking to persecute Wyclif and his followers.
Finally the hierarchy came to an end in the revolutionary movement of the Reformation. The territorial Church which was prepared long ago under the prince, or in society, became the form of the Protestant churches, Territorialism was prepared in the Middle Ages, but now the pope and the whole hierarchy disappeared, and now the situation was this: The Church had no backbone any more, it was mere spiritual groups, and it needed a backbone. So the prince became, not only as in England the Christ for the people – (the king), for instance, up to today, is the one who decides (cf.. the Book of CommonPrayer) – but in the German churches the prince received the title of “highest bishop,” which simply means that he replaces the hierarchical sacramental bishops, and becomes the highest administrator within the church, as a lay member at the same time; he is the predominant lay member who can keep the church in order. So the Protestant churches became subjected to the earthly powers, and are in this problem even today. In Lutheranism it was the relationship to the princes and their cabinets and authoritarian governments. In the Calvinist countries, e.g., and in this country, it is the socially ruling groups which are decisive for the church and give it its administrative backbone.
This is again a sweeping run through the Middle Ages. You must keep this development in mind and understand it. And don’t use the phrase “the fight between Church and State”, etc – this is very misleading.
I come to the last sweeping statement about medieval Church history perhaps the most important of all, from the point of view of the actual religious life – namely, the sacraments. Now if we come to the discussion of the sacraments, we must forget (as Protestants) everything we have in our immediate experience of the sacraments.
In the Middle Ages, sacraments were not things which happened at certain times a year,and to which one went and one didn’t know what to do with it; and which one regarded as a comparatively solemn act, but one was not very clear why. – In the Middle Ages the sacraments are important. The preached word need not necessarily accompany it. So people like Troeltsch called the Catholic church the greatest sacramental institution in all world history, and have understood all sides of the life of the Middle Ages, and even the present-day Catholic church, from the point of view of the sacramental basis. So I don’t speak now about something which just happens to be in the picture and therefore must be mentioned along with the rest, but I speak of the foundations of the whole medieval thinking, You remember that I said, in contrast to some other great periods in Western history, the medieval has one problem only, and this one problem is the basis for all other problems, namely, to have a society which is guided by a present reality of a transcendent Divine character, This is different from the period in which the New Testament was written, where the salvation of the individual soul was the problem.