A Bohemian Goose and a Saxon Swan
by James J. S. Johnson
Of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:38)
The ministry of God’s messengers sometimes reminds me of geese and swans, but why?
To explain why those two birds (the Goose and the Swan) remind me of God’s messengers, some background information on waterbirds, combined with some European history, is necessary. (See the earlier posting titled “Birdwatching in Iceland”, and notice especially the coverage of geese and swans.)
A Bohemian Goose (Jan Hus).
Many of this website’s readers are already familiar with the Christian Reformer and martyr, Jan Hus (a/k/a John Huss), for who the Hussites were named. Jan Hus was a Christian Bible scholar and teacher, in Bohemia (e.g., Prague), a land that today is called the Czech Republic. Jan Hus was a Roman Catholic priest whose studies of the Holy Bible led to him to protest against various unbiblical doctrines and practices that dominated the ecclesiastical politics of his generation. Until he was stopped, Jan Hus taught the Holy Bible’s doctrines (like John Wycliffe, whose writings Hus had studied) to the Bethlehem Chapel congregation (of about 3000 worshippers), in Prague. Hus also taught as a Bible professor at Univerzita Karlova (i.e., Charles University) in Prague.
But how is it fair to call Jan Hus a “Bohemian goose”?
The persecution and trial (for “heresy”) of Jan Hus, a “kangaroo court” by today’s Due Process standards, ended in his execution as an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church – Hus was burned to death on July 6th of AD1415. Since his family name was “Hus”, which means “goose” in the Czech (Bohemian) language, it was said that the Church of Rome had “cooked a goose”. [See church historian Ken Curtis, “John Hus: Faithful unto Death”, posted at http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1201-1500/john-hus-faithful-unto-death-11629878.html.]
Yet an interesting detail of Jan Hus’s last day on Earth is reported by an eye-witness, and corroborated by historical sources close in time to the historic event. (The reports contain slight differences in details, as authentic history accounts do.) Although Jan Hus’s accusers used “foul mouth” curses, Jan Hus could be said to have had a “fowl mouth” when he warned of the future:
With such Christian prayers, Hus arrived at the stake, looking at it without fear. He climbed upon it, after two assistants of the hangman had torn his clothes from him and had clad him into a shirt drenched with pitch. At that moment, one of the electors, Prince Ludwig of the Palatinate, rode up and pleaded with Hus to recant, so that he might be spared a death in the flames. But Hus replied: “Today you will roast a lean goose [i.e., Hus], but hundred years from now you will hear a swan sing, whom you will leave unroasted and no trap or net will catch him for you.”
[Quoting from hostile witness Poggius Florentini, Hus the Heretic, Letter 2 (an eye-witness account written to Leonhard Nikolai), page 60, quoted in Pastor Tom Browning’s “The Goose that Became a Swan” (Arlington Presbyterian Church), pages 6 & 19, at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/browning/Lesson2.pdf.
The gist of this historic account is substantially corroborated by the research provided in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which recounts:
When the chain was put about him at the stake, he said, with a smiling countenance, “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for my sake, and why then should I be ashamed of this rusty one?” When the fagots [i.e., pieces of wood] were piled up to his very neck, the duke of Bavaria was so officious as to desire him to abjure. “No, (said Huss;) I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.” He then said to the executioner, “You are now going to burn a goose, (Huss signifying goose in the Bohemian language:) but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil.” If he were prophetic, he must have meant Martin Luther, who shone about a hundred years after…
[Quoting from martyrologist/historian John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Chapter 8, (first translated into English during AD1563), as quoted in Pastor Tom Browning’s “The Goose that Became a Swan” (Arlington Presbyterian Church), pages 6 & 19, posted at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/browning/Lesson2.pdf] *The slight differences in reported detail may result from translation/paraphrase limitations, and/or may be due to Hus making his prediction more than once, during his last hours, using slightly different words. Soon after a coin was minted, paraphrasing Hus’ strange prediction.
What could this mean?
Did a “swan” arise in place of the cooked “goose”, a hundred years later?
A Saxon Swan (Dr. Martin Luther).
From the region of Germany once called Saxony (or “Saxland”), came Dr. Martin Luther, the colorful leader of Germany’s Protestant Reformation and translator of Germany’s “Luther Bible”. After studying law (without completing law school), Martin Luther became a Roman Catholic priest. After earning four university degrees, that last being a doctorate in Bible, Dr. Luther became troubled by the clash between what the Bible itself taught versus what most of the religious officials taught. Like Hus, his personal studies of the Holy Bible led him to protest various unbiblical doctrines and practices (e.g., the ecclesiastical sale of “indulgences”) that dominated the ecclesiastical politics of his generation.
But how is it fair to call Martin Luther a “Saxon swan”?
On October 31st of AD1517 – 103 years after Hus was burned at Constance — Dr. Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses onto the door of the Wittenberg church, effectively firing a theological “shot heard ‘round the world” (to borrow a phrase from the American Revolution).
Although Luther’s friends warned him that Luther might be burned at the stake, like Hus (i.e., “cooked like a goose”), Dr. Luther continued to preach and teach what he believed to be the Bible’s teaching about God, truth, authority, salvation, faith, marriage, and many other important topics. And Luther’s own commentary includes his opinion that he fulfilled Jan Hus’s dying declaration:
However, I, Dr. Martin, have been called to this work and was compelled to become a doctor, without any initiative of my own, but out of pure obedience. Then I had to accept the office of doctor and swear a vow to my most beloved Holy Scriptures that I would preach and teach them faithfully and purely. While engaged in this kind of teaching, the papacy crossed my path and wanted to hinder me in it. How it has fared is obvious to all, and it will fare still worse. It shall not hinder me. In God’s name and call I shall walk on the lion and the adder, and tread on the young lion and dragon with my feet. And this which has been begun during my lifetime will be completed after my death. St. John Huss prophesied of me when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia, “They will roast a goose now (for ‘Huss’ means ‘a goose’), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing, and him they will have to endure.” And that is the way it will be, if God wills.
[Quoting from Martin Luther, in Lutherʹs Works (Vol. 34, Page 103-104). Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999 (from Dr. Martin Luther’s Commentary on the Alleged Imperial Edict Promulgated in the Year 1531, After the Imperial Diet of the Year 1530), as quoted in Tom Browning’s “The Goose that Became a Swan” (supra), page 19, posted at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/browning/Lesson2.pdf ] Ironically, the word “swan” etymologically connotes one who makes a sound, and the strong voice of Martin Luther would be heard, magnified by the newly invented movable-type printing press.
What an exciting time (and place) it was, during the Protestant Reformation (in Europe)!
What about today?
Jan Hus and Martin Luther were both spiritual pioneers who fearlessly championed God’s truth to a world dominated by hostile opponents.
Jan Hus was “excommunicated” and executed, being burned at the stake – as a “cooked goose”.
Martin Luther too was “excommunicated”; however, he was neither boiled nor burned. In fact, Dr. Luther married a good wife, raised many children with her, taught his family and others in his home and in various churches, pioneered new traditions in sacred music and Christian education, translated the Bible into German, wrote books and booklets (often demonstrating a merry and satirical wit), etc., — and eventually he died of natural causes.
Both Hus and Luther are appreciated by those who value the “sola Scriptura” principle (i.e., Scripture alone is the final authority) of the Protestant Reformation. Unsurprisingly, those who reject the Bible as the ultimate truth authority are often severe critics of both Jan Hus and Martin Luther (illustrating the saying that a man is known not only by his friends, but also by his enemies!).
Pioneers for God’s truth receive opposition nowadays as well, albeit on a less grand scale and in less dramatic confrontations than the “goose cooking” of AD1415 or Wittenberg’s 95 Theses of AD1517. Many who pioneer God’s truth in uncharted (worldview arena) territories will never be as famous as Jan Hus or Martin Luther, yet their brave efforts – swimming against the tides of popular idolatries — are well-known to the God they serve. The ongoing persecution that they suffer is expected, of course, because Paul forewarned us that “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2nd Timothy 3:12).
One modern example of a godly truth pioneer, persecuted for promoting God’s truth, is electron microscope scientist Mark Armitage. Mark researched, photographed using SEM (scanning electron microscope), forensically analyzed, and published his observations of soft tissue located within the horn of a Triceratops dinosaur. Mark’s published micrographs and paleontological analysis of the Triceratops bone cells (within the dinosaur’s stretchy soft tissue) proves that the Triceratops was not so old – because such soft tissue cannot last intact and stretchy for the “millions” of years that evolutionists imagine.
In May 2012, Mark Armitage … uncovered one of the largest triceratops horns ever found in the Hell Creek Formation [in Montana], a legendary stack of fossil-bearing rocks that date to the last days of the dinosaurs. Armitage drove the horn back home to Los Angeles, California, where his microscopic examination revealed that it contained not only fossilized bone but also preserved layers of soft tissue. “They were brown, stretchy sheets. I was shocked to see anything that was that pliable,” he says. In February 2013, he published his findings in Acta Histochemica, a journal of cell and tissue research (M. H. Armitage and K. L. Anderson Acta Histochem. 115, 603-608; 2013). Two weeks later, he was fired from his job at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), where he had managed the biology department’s electron and confocal microscopy suite. Now he is embroiled in a long-shot legal fight to get his job back. In July , his lawyers filed a wrongful-termination suit claiming that religious intolerance motivated the dismissal: as a young-Earth creationist, Armitage says that finding soft tissue in the fossil supports his [Bible-based] belief that such specimens date to the time of the biblical flood, which he puts at about 4,000 years ago.
Quoting Christopher Kemp, “University Sued by Creationist”, Nature, 515:20 (Nov. 6, 2014).
[Regarding the news reports about Mark Armitage’s lawsuit, see http://www.afajournal.org/archives/2010-present/2014/october/issues/evolutionists-get-thin-skinned-over-dinosaur-tissue-discovery.aspx and http://www.worldmag.com/2014/07/trumpeting_a_dinosaur_horn. For Mark Armitage’s Christian testimony, see https://answersingenesis.org/ministry-news/ministry/the-things-that-are-not/ .]
On a more personal note, Mark Armitage told me, once, when he visited Dallas, that dug-up dinosaur bone finds are overpoweringly stinky — smelling detestably foul, apparently, due to the rotting organic material that was not fossilized. (The forensic implications of that are obvious to any honest forensic scientist – such dinosaurs lived centuries or millennia ago, but not millions of years ago.)
Like those who opposed Hus and Luther, Mark Armitage’s dinosaur tissue research and analysis conflicts with and contradicts the dogma of his detractors.
Dr. Randy J. Guliuzza.
A similar report – of truth-promoting resilience under censorial persecution — could be given for another Biblical creation pioneer, Dr. Randy Guliuzza (M.D., M.P.H., P.E.), a scientist who is both a medical doctor (having done surgery in Iraq, while serving the U.S. Air Force) and professional engineer (having served the U.S. Navy as an engineer), with a Bible college foundation (Moody Bible Institute).
Dr. Guliuzza has been persecuted and disparaged by theistic evolutionists (and even by compromised creationists) because he has debunked “natural selection” as a bogus phrase invoked to accredit geophysical “magic” for selectively “favoring” or “disfavoring” life-forms in competition. [For more about this creation science controversy, see Dr. Guliuzza’s science articles posted at
- http://www.icr.org/article/natural-selection-not-natures-design; etc.]
Analytically and comprehensively, again and again, Dr. Guliuzza has consistently shown that the definitional reality of Darwin’s sophistic phrase “natural selection” is mere “magic words” shibboleths – see http://www.icr.org/article/unmasking-evolutions-magic-words.
In response to a careless bashing of Dr. Guliuzza’s critique of “natural selection” sophisms (by a mystical “genes-in-magic” advocate), Dr. Guliuzza published a 3-part rebuttal, with point-by-point refutations of his detractors. [See Randy J. Guliuzza, “A Response to ‘Does Natural Selection Exist?’: Creatures’ Adaptation Explained by Design-based, Organism-driven Approach, Parts 1, 2, & 3”, serially posted at: https://answersingenesis.org/natural-selection/response-does-natural-selection-exist-part1/ — followed by https://answersingenesis.org/natural-selection/response-does-natural-selection-exist-part2/ — followed by https://answersingenesis.org/natural-selection/response-does-natural-selection-exist-part3/ .] In short, Dr. Guliuzza’s refutations (cited above) illustrate how to apply the Biblical mandate of Proverbs 26:4-5 (see “How Do We Answer Fools?” — posted at http://www.icr.org/article/8354 ).
All of this may sounds fairly technical (and some of it is), but the bottom line is that inanimate “nature” cannot “select” anything or anyone. Only a being with an intelligent mind, decision-making powers, and some kind of preferential values (which provide a basis of choosing, from available options, one outcome as more valuable than another) can “select” anything or anyone. [See my article on “Bait and Switch”, posted at https://www.icr.org/article/6538/.]
In other words, only God can – and only God did — create creation (including you and me), and He told us (in Genesis) how and when He did it.
And, despite what 1st Timothy 6:20 calls “science falsely so-called” (such as popular myths that accredit Earth’s biodiversity to an imaginary god-substitute called “natural selection”), God intelligently, volitionally, and judgmentally did all of the “selecting” needed to pre-program all biological lives (including our own) to “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the Earth”. Since God did all the creative “selecting” He should be given credit for doing so.
But until the time comes when all knees bow to God and His truth, and all tongues confess that the Lord Jesus is the Creator-Lord of all, we can expect to see persecutions of God’s messengers – some of them famous (like Hus and Luther) and some of them not-so-famous (like Mark Armitage and Randy Guliuzza).
Like the prophets of old, the obligation is the same – tell God’s truth to those who have “ears to hear”, and don’t let unpopularity or persecution censor God’s message. Don’t expect applause from worldly-minded people, whether they be theists (like the Pharisees) or atheists (like many evolutionists). The world is not worthy of God’s message, so it gives no welcome to God’s messengers.
Of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:38)
The goal, of course, is the live as witnesses for God’s truth, with the courage and commitment of the Bohemian Goose and the Saxon Swan.
Dr. James J. S. Johnson (shown here with Chaplain Bob Webel, a bird-watcher in St. Petersburg) believes in the God of the Bible (not in Darwin’s god-substitute labeled “natural selection”) as biodiversity’s omni-intelligent “selector”. No stranger to forensic science, Jim frequently teaches forensic evidence analysis to Texas lawyers, and is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Also no stranger to birds, Jim previously taught ornithology and ecology-related courses at Dallas Christian College.
- Birdwatching In Ireland (Part I)
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