These symptoms are found by the application of the law of Christ, which is, for instance, the Sermon on the Mount, or the sending of the disciples – all kinds of laws and ideas which are dangerous in an organized hierarchical church. From the criticism of the hierarchy, Wyclif revises the doctrines of the Church and its relationship to the state. This also has a long tradition. In England there was, since the 12th century, a movement represented in the name of the so-called Anonymous of York, a man who wrote for the king, making the king the Christ for the British nation. There was an anti-Roman tendency towards a British territorial church, similar to the Byzantine situation, where the king and the highest bishop of the English church are not identical but are at least spiritually the same thing. The king is the Christ, he is in hymns and in pictures depicted as the Christ, namely the Christ for the nation, as Constantine in Byzantium as the Christ for the whole Eastern church. Now these analogies are preparations for the revolt of the crown of England against the Pope. This revolt did not yet happen, but it was prepared.
Wyclif posed two forms of human domination, the natural or evangelical domination, which is the law of love; and the civil domination, which is a product of sin and a means of force for the sake of the bodily and spiritual goods. So we have on the one hand the natural law, which according to classical tradition is always the law of love, and all that it includes. This is the law which should rule. And then there is unfortunately also needed the civil domination, which is necessary because of sin, which uses force and compulsion as inescapable means in order to maintain the goods of the nation, bodily and spiritually. The first law, the law of love, is sufficient for the government of the Church, since the Church is the body of the predestined; there, force is not needed. Its content is the rule which Jesus had given, namely the rule of serving, And sometimes when I hear how, in Rotary clubs and other institutions in this country, service is the ultimate principle – which actually means the most ruthless business competition, but which is called “service” – then I feel that even in such deviations from the law of love, a reverence is still made to the law of love in such a kind of phraseology. And we shouldn’t underestimate this.
It is always good if the wise bows to virtue by dissimulating that it is wise. And this is somehow present in such a terminology.
In any case, for Wyclif the law of Christ is the law of love, which expresses itself in service. From this follows, for him, that the Church must be poor; it must not be the economically and politically ruling Church, but it must be the Church which is poor, the Church as it was anticipated by the radical Franciscans and originally by Joachim di Fiore, whose effect becomes visible here again.
But now the whole of the Church is not holy. And so a mixed domination occurs and is something which is a consequence of sin. But for the actual Church, this actual element is determining. Therefore the wealth of ministers is inadequate. It is an abuse which must be removed and, if necessary, by the power of the kings. If the Church answers with excommunication, then no king should be afraid of this because it is impossible, he says, to excommunicate a man except he has firstly and basically excommunicated himself. And the self-excommunication of a Christian is his having cut the communion with Christ.