No you have not read the title wrong. Over the past year or so I have had the fun and privilege of taking many of the visitors to Forterocca and OM Italy on a brief tour of a few of the Waldensian sites in this amazing valley.
During these visits I have recounted the story of how the followers of on e Pierre Waldo came from their humble beginnings near Lyon in the late 1100s and settled in this valley. Here they underwent immense continuous brutal persecution for their faith in Christ. I often recount the incident in their history when they heard news of the Reformers and sent messengers to bring them back to the valley to discuss this new faith.
Over a period of a few weeks the Waldensians discussed this ‘new’ faith with the reformers and then informed their guests that they would now become part of this reformed movement.
To my ears at least this sounds incredulous! Although I must say very biblical – they were testing everything against God’s word – which is how we are instructed to determine false doctrines and teaches.
The history of the Waldensian believers leaving this valley and spreading the gospel of Christ around Italy, Europe and the world is something I love to tell. Of course they were not the only movement who spread God’s word in Italy but they were one of the earliest and most consistent. Some even claim that perhaps Luther first heard the true gospel from Waldlensians!!
On one of these tours with some friends from the USA we were discussing the spiritual reality of the believing church in Italy today. As I was describing the patchwork of bible believing church presence in Italy a compared to most of Europe I was struck by something which I had never considered before.
Could it be that the Reformation did not come to Italy in the same form as it struck other parts of Europe – where churches were destroyed, cultures were changed and basically the foundation of society was ‘reformed’??
When I look at the Roman church in Italy I see a still strong structure which holds people in its grip. Okay you say but then it does that in other countries surely? Yes it does however the Roman faith and doctrine is so culturally embedded in the blood and mind of Italy that it sometimes impossible to distinguish Italian culture from Roman church culture.
A kind of tongue in cheek example of this may be found in the phrase which is often used when describing the authority in the evangelical churches in Italy. They say ‘every church has its own little pope’
This may sound like a bit of a joke however it is often found to be true. Don’t get me wrong – there are many good God-fearing men who lead Italian churches and I thank God for them.However there is a tendency to this ‘pope’ like authority. This is exaggerated by many of the believers who reinforce this by their blind obedience to these leaders.
This is a point of view which I have which comes from my brief experience here and I am happy for you to disagree with me.Especially on points of church history of which I am not a scholar.
However apart from the church leaders example I would suggest that in general the culture and life of Italy is still pre-Reformation in its essential character.
If my theory is even somewhat correct I believe that this means that the Reformation has still to arrive in this country. Incredible as this may sound I am happy as I know that it is coming. I can feel a groundswell of (especially) young believers in Italy who are no longer willing to listen to false doctrines and bullying leadership and who do not consider it a sin to work with someone from a denomination which has a different viewpoint.
They want to see Christ lifted high and their country transformed by the gospel of love and liberty. They want to see people freed from the slavery of superstitious saint worship – which the Bible calls idolatry – and see their children and friends worshipping the risen Christ.
A new day is dawning
Anew age to come
When the children of promise
shall flow together as one.
I may have misquoted this song but the sentiment is what I am feeling I these days – and it is IMMENSE!!