For those who are acquainted with history – not the edited history of some people who abhor the truth – but the actual Medieval history of Europe, the name “Albigenses” shines like a lighthouse into the Dark Ages. And it should also resonate like a trumpet to all of its children today – “You too can bring glory to Christ in the midst of a dark and Satan-controlled world.”
There is a little town in Languedoc, of Southern France, called Albi, but it was formerly was known as Albiga. In some ways it might be compared to Coeur d’Alene. Today it is just about the same in size and population. And it is nestled against the Midi-Pyrenees Mountains – not the Alps which are further east, but a smaller and lower range of mountains. It grew up on the edge of River Tarn, just as Coeur d’Alene lays on the edge of the lake. But here is where the similarities end. For a long time, Albiga became the focal point for the defense of the Truth and a shelter for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. A small community, far away from the great centers of the world – Rome, Alexandria, Jerusalem – was a beacon to the rest of the world.
God particularly blessed Albiga.
Mosheim declares that from the beginning of the 11th century to the middle of the 13th Paulicians began migrating from the Balkan Peninsula to this place in France. Apparently the local governor gave to them his protection. As we saw last week, the “Paulicians” arose in eastern Turkey about the middle of the 6th century, struggling to remain alive in the midst of persecution from both Eastern Catholicism and Roman Catholicism. But God gave them a benefactor who permitted and encouraged their migration to Thrace – Macedonia. In Eastern Europe, they spread to Romania and along the Adriatic Sea across from Italy where Albania is today. They also migrated up the Danube River into Central Europe and then down into Southern France. They were called “Paulicians” from their deliberate attempts to follow the writings of the Apostle Paul. It might be said that we could be called “Paulicians” for the same reason. But at the time there was one significant difference between their situation and ours. In contrast to our ecumenical, all-embracing liberalism, for those people to follow Paul meant overt rebellion against the Catholics who created their own doctrines and religion, saying it was based on Peter.
Another term applied to those people as they began to settle into the Albiga valley was “Cathari.” Historians may divide and separate those names, but that is only for convenience sake. The Donatists and Montanists were essentially the same in doctrine, but they were different in geography and local history. They were both, along with yet others, who were called “Cathari” from the 4th and 5th century onward. Similarly, God’s people have been charged with being “Anabaptists” ten centuries before it was applied by the Protestants to a specific group. The Encyclopedia Britannica says of the Albigenses – Their “descent may be tranced with tolerable distinctness from the Paulicians.”
What did they believe?
As we have said before, the Catholics had been accusing them of Manichaeism for centuries. One of the reasons fo this was due to their attempts to live pure lives – they were “Cathari.” The Manichaeists followed a pagan philosophy where the world was divided into good and evil – darkness and light – between which there was a constant battle. True Manichaeism denied what the Bible revealed about creation and the fall of man. It denied the sovereignty and authority of Jehovah over creation. Those people denied the deity of Christ and the necessity or possibility of the new birth. They were heretics of the highest caliber. But for the most part they tried to live above what they considered to be “evil.” They were moral without having a Biblical basis for their morality. Now, let’s stop and think about this for a moment – But don’t WE also believe in the realities of both good and evil? Don’t’ we believe that there is a holy God who is opposed by an evil Devil? Don’t we struggle to live clean, moral lives in the midst of society’s filth? When society’s predominant religion cares little for purity, and her priests are among the most immoral people in society, he who tries to live a holy life according to the teachings of Christ and Paul, will be called a lunatic – a purist – a Manichaeist. One of the reasons for the growth and popularity of Albigensian people was the fact that “their preachers corresponded with their words.” The Protestant Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia says, “The Roman Catholic church, so far as it still could be said to exist in (that part of) the country, had become an object of contempt and derision.” because of the decadence and sin of her priests.
The Catholics charged the Albigenses with rejecting marriage. If you heard that I rejected marriage, you might assume I believe in “free love” and open immorality. But in the case of these Paulicians and Cathari, the charge must be interpreted according to the people making the charge. The Catholics believed that only their church had the authority to solemnize marriage – to them it was a sacrament – a means of grace. Anyone who covenanted to live together as a married couple without official church approval was considered to be unmarried. It was said that the Abigenses rejected marriage – but the charge was false. They believed in the purity and permanency of marriage more strongly than the Catholics, but they didn’t go to the Catholics for their licence to marry. This is not my opinion, because it comes right out of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
They were also accused of denying baptism with the same corrupt logic. Remember that the enemy was flooding the world with his lies about these people, and the reality and truth were rarely surviving – but truth is a very hard thing to kill. The Albigenses were observing the ordinances according to the Bible, while their enemies were not. To the Catholic a denial of infant baptism was a denial of baptism. Robinson quotes another saying, “The Abigenses do esteem the baptizing of infants as superstitious.” Armitage avows that they did not believe in baptismal regeneration – they practiced believer’s baptism. And running parallel with that, the Lord’s supper was a commemoration of the death of Christ – it was not a means to salvation.
Another charge against these people, which again sounds evil, was in fact a good thing. They refused “the oath.” In our society, an oath is intended to secure veracity – “the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth.” But in the Middle Ages, it was a device designed to secure loyalty – faithfulness to the homogenous religious government. Before Constantine, an oath of allegiance to the Emperor, as god, was demanded of all citizens. During the days of Decius, for example, men were required to sign an official affidavit attesting to their loyalty to the imperial religion. And after Constantine that practice continued, but then in involved the new religion. Those who refused to sign were ostracized, punished and executed. But of course, God’s people refused to make that oath, and they suffered the consequences. (By the way, that kind of oath was required in many of the colonies of North America for a while.)
(Do you think that our ancient forefathers would have said, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”? Might not those old saints would say that our allegiance belongs only to Christ. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” Our hearts should belong to the Lord alone.)
As the Inquisition began, one of the Catholic’s simplest tools was the oath. At the Council of Toulouse in 1229, very near the town of Albiga, it was decreed – “In order that… heretics may be the more readily exterminated and the Roman faith the more speedily planted in this land, we decree, that you shall …. make all males above fourteen and all females above twelve to abjure all heresy and besides promise with an oath that they will defend the Catholic Church and persecute the heretics. All those who after such abjurations shall be found to have apostatized… shall be punished as apostates deserve.” Verduin says, “It is no wonder that the ‘heretics’ deprecated the oath as an institution.”
In church government, the Albigenses were Baptists. “Their bards or pastors were every one of them heads of their churches, but they acted on nothing without the consent of the people…” “Their ritual and ecclesiastical organization were exceedingly simple.” In fact, their worship and church government were so simple that the Romish churches couldn’t see any church at all.
Jones says in his chapter on the Albigenses – “They said a Christian church should consist of good people; a church had no power to frame any constitutions; it was not right to take oaths; it was not lawful to kill mankind; a man ought not to be delivered up to the officers of justice to be converted; the benefits of society belong alike to all members of it; faith without works could not save a man; the church ought not to persecute any, even the wicked; the law of Moses was no rule for Christians; there was no need of priests, especially of wicked ones; the sacraments, and orders, and ceremonies of the church of Rome were futile, expensive, oppressive, and wicked. They baptized by immersion and rejected infant baptism.”
What is the Albigensian legacy?
Whatever it is, it is written in blood. J.T. Christian says, “In the year 1130 they were condemned by the Lateran Council; by that of Tours in 1163, and mission after mission was sent among them to persuade them to return to the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Henry, in 1180, employed force. Pope Innocent III published a crusade against them. Says the Historian Hume: The people from all parts of Europe moved by their superstition and their passion for wars and adventures, flocked to his standard. Simon de Monfort, the general of the crusade, acquired to himself a sovereignty of these provinces. The Count of Toulouse, who protected, or perhaps only tolerated the Albigenses, was stript of his dominions. And these sectaries themselves, though the most inoffensive and innocent of mankind, were exterminated with the circumstances of extreme violence and barbarity.”
In the second crusade, the first city captured was Braziers, which had some forty thousand inhabitants. When Simon de Monfort, Earl of Leicester, asked the Abbot of Ceteaux, the papal legate, what he was to do with the inhabitants, the legate answered: “Kill them all. God knows His own.” It is said that 60,000 died in those first few months, but the slaughter went on for twenty years. Town after town was taken, pillaged, burnt. Nothing was left but a smoking waste. Religious fanaticism began the war; rapacity and ambition ended it. Peace was concluded in 1229, but then the Inquisition finished the deadly work.
And yet the work was never really finished, because the Papal wrath could not douse the flames of truth. The Albigenses continued to serve the Lord as well as they could while hiding. Many fled to the mountains and lived among the Waldensians. The Paulicians and Cathari of France were not officially called Albigenses until they were condemned by Roman council in 1254. But, as we have seen, they existed long before then – and they continued after then. In fact they grew up and prospered while at the same time the Waldenses were living in the Alps between France and Italy only a few hundred miles away. Over time they met together, mutually strengthening one another.
“We live,” says Everwin of Steinfield, “a hard and wandering life. We flee from city to city like in the midst of wolves. We suffer persecution like the apostles and martyrs because our life is holy and austere. It is passed amidst prayer, abstinence, and labours, but everything is easy for us because we are not this world.” Lea, an expert on the Inquisition, has sai “no religion can show a more unbroken roll of victims who unshrinkingly sought death in its most abhorrent form in preference to apostasy than the Cathari.”
But then there is the observation of Lord Macaulay. According to Wikipedia Thomas Babington Macaulay was a British historian and politician. His books on British history have been hailed as literary masterpieces. The article said that he was wedded to the idea of progress, especially in terms of liberal freedoms. This man said, “‘The Albigensian heresy’ brought about the civilization, the literature, the national existence… of the most… enlightened part of the great European family.” Jarrel says that the Albigensian congregations established local schools and charitable institutions, whereas the state church did nothing but devour the resources of every region they possessed.
Judging from the facts of history, I think that it would be an honor to be called an “Albigenses.”