Justification is a pivotal concept in Christianity. Theologically speaking, justification means that a sinner can be redeemed or saved in the eyes of God.

The Harrowing of Hell as depicted by Fra Angelico

Similar ideas abound in non-Christian religions and sometimes differences in opinion have and continue to lead to conflict and death. In Christianity too, the term justification has been the focus of much heated and sometimes fierce debate leading to dire consequences.

For the Protestant Reformers, justification refers to the idea that sinful human beings may be saved by God’s grace alone. The shortened phrase “justification through faith,” that we often hear in religious squabbles more completely means “justification by grace through faith.”

The Catholic interpretation of justification emphasizes a total conversion of the sinner who comes to receive sanctifying grace which is conferred and increased by the sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Many Protestants and especially Christian fundamentalists tend to see some or all of the Catholic sacraments as human fabrications, leaning towards superstition, magic, paganism and the devil. For Catholics, however, the Protestant notion that one may be certain of one’s personal salvation is misguided and, technically speaking, heretical. Anglicans, on the other hand, tend to walk the line between the more hardcore Protestants and Catholics offering IMO a somewhat dry-bones version of Catholicism.

John Wycliffe in a 16th-century portrait – History Today | Pinterest

In The Medieval World, Dorsey Armstrong mentions how John Wycliffe (circa 1320–1384) was one of the first to challenge Catholic beliefs and practices, which in his day were simply ‘Christian’ beliefs and practices because the Protestant Reformation hadn’t really happened yet. Wycliffe forcefully argued that we can have a direct relationship with God without all the ecclesiastical pomp, fantasy, and hypocrisy that he saw within the Church. And in the 14th and 15th centuries, this was a dangerous idea to make public.

It appears Wycliffe died of natural causes but the creepy Christian orthodoxy wouldn’t let him or his ideas rest so easy:

The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a heretic on 4 May 1415, and banned his writings, effectively both excommunicating him retroactively and making him an early forerunner of Protestantism. The Council decreed that Wycliffe’s works should be burned and his bodily remains removed from consecrated ground. This order, confirmed by Pope Martin V, was carried out in 1428.[9] Wycliffe’s corpse was exhumed and burned and the ashes cast into the River Swift, which flows through Lutterworth. (Wikipedia)

As for Armstrong, watching her video reminded me that not all professors are just cheap posers hiding out in backwater universities, using their shoddy academics as a cover for some kind of hostile transnational agenda. Some professors really do have something to say.

Pope Martin V had Wycliffe’s corpse dug up, burnt, and thrown into a river