The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi

English 145: “If you had been listening to these stories in 1300, what would you have concluded from them is the way to gain eternal life?”

“The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi” were written in order to share some of the notable works that St Francis performed during his time, and also included several stories of the other brethren in his convent. He was born into a wealthy family, and lived a normal life of the average rich young man, which included setting off to war. But that excursion was cut short when a vision sent him back to Assisi, where he began to feel convicted of his sins and, in order to do penance, he resolved to give up ownership of material things and to enter the line of work I like to term as “evangelistic begging”. He abandoned house and business in order that he might preach about God and spread the word about the life of poverty, and simply relied on the people of the towns he entered to give him sustenance.

His ministry grew to gigantic proportions – He founded the Orders of the Friars Minor, Third Order of St Francis, ands the Order of St Clare. At first, he only had twelve followers – but as he continued to spread the word about the glory of a life in poverty, many more people, often rich, joined the brotherhood. Women were directed to the women’s convent, under the order of St. Clare, one of St. Francis’ earlier converts.

In “The Little Flowers”, he and his disciples are quoted for many speeches and beliefs, most of which used the act of “penance” (which included fasting, praying, wearing uncomfortable garments, etc), and the life of extreme poverty (living in a convent, but when out on the road, relying on the whims of the people for sustenance and shelter), as a ways to become the holiest of men. In the book, there was no concept of Christ’s sacrifice as paying for their sins – instead, the Friars Minor appeared to believe that merely by fasting, praying, discussing holy things, and living a self-abusive life in poverty, would eventually cause them to be regarded as saints and give them access to the Kingdom of heaven.

Many key stories do not discuss the issue of “repentance” – the only specific changes that converts made to their lifestyle was to enter the convent – a structure of man-made rules and traditions. Although the main rule of the Order of St Francis was “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps,” they could not show those who did not wish to give up everything they had, how they could be saved. In the story of the town of Gubbio, the St. Francis established the Third Order of St Francis, a more relaxed order for those who still needed to dwell in one place, and attend business – but it is still not said how these people attained their salvation and there is no mention of Jesus. This concept of “salvation through Christ and Christ alone” is not mentioned in the book.

Reading through the stories, I noticed several recurring themes.

1. The Friars Minor were not to question or even wonder about why St Francis made certain decisions. In fact, the curious thoughts in their minds were considered to be thoughts put there by the devil! (This is a problem, because, if the friars could not understand how the St Fracis made his decisions, then how would they know how to make decisions in the future?)

2. The life of poverty was glorious, and made sinful men holy. (Scripturally speaking, the word “holy” is mistranslated. At it’s root, the Hebrew word actually means “set-apart”. Nowhere in scripture does it state that living a life of poverty would “make you holy” … in contrast, the only lifestyle that God said would “set his people apart from the nations (state reference)” was the lifestyle of following the Law of God. The Israelites lived very different lives from the nations around them and were “set apart”, because of the blessings of obeying the Law.)

3. St Francis , and his closest followers, such as Brothers Ruffino and Bernard, were holy men. St Francis closest followers were considered to be the most holy men since the apostles. (I confess, I have a hard time accepting that these men were equal, or even ‘close’, in holiness set-apartness when compared to the apostles. One fundamental difference between the apostles and the followers of St Francis, was their preaching. The apostles preached Jesus, God, Law, Salvation, Grace, and Love. The Friars Minor preached Penance, Abstinence, Tradition, Poverty, Sainthood, and Passivity.)

An issue resides in the rules of the convent. The Bible only says to avoid certain meats – however, the Fransiscans were not to eat ANY meat. The Bible said not to have a love of money – the Fransiscans abandoned money altogether. The Bible stated not to commit adultery or abominable sexual relations – the Fransiscans set up certain boundaries for biblical marriage itself, saying that those devoted to a husband or wife cannot be fully devoted to Christ and the Church.

The Fransiscan lifestyle may fit some people, but to say “obeying these rules makes you holy” is to side with the Pharisees of old. The traditions of the Friars mirrored the purpose of the trradition of the Phariesses – redefining holiness, in their eyes, a better definition. But holiness needs no new definition – the definition of “set-apartness” will always and forever involve being different from the the nations, in obedience to God’s commands.



Week 2 – Flood and Causation

When Noah was around 600 years old, Yahweh Elohim of the universe told Noah to do something crazy. He had looked upon the mankind which had multiplied and he saw that it was evil and perverse and sinful.  Noah was the only righteous man on earth, so God would spare only him, his wife, his three sons, and his son’s wives.

Yah hated the depravity that his created humans had become, and he regretted making them. So he was going to bring a great Flood upon the earth, that would wipe all of the evil that existed. In order that Noah and his family would live, Yah told them to build an ark that would contain all that he was to save – seven of every clean animal, two of every unclean animal, and seven of every kind of bird. (One interesting thing to note about the clean vs. unclean animals is that even though the first definition of clean vs. unclean animals is commonly referred to as being during the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, we know that Noah, at least, knew the definition.)

Before the flood hit the land Noah loaded all of the animals and himself and his family into the ark he’d built. On the seventeenth day of the second month (of the Hebrew calendar), during the 600th year of Noah’s life, water flooded the whole earth, and Yah shut them in. And everyone – EVERYONE – died, all but those who were in the ark.

The waters were mighty upon the earth for 150 days, and eventually the ark rested on Mount Ararat. After over a year of being in the ark, Yah told Noah and his family to come out.

As we have already established, sanctions are the direct results, or consequences of a decision. In this case, many decisions. All of mankind had turned away from Yahweh, and the Bible says that every thought was evil. That’s pretty evil! So in this case, the sanctions for the peoples’ sins was death – immediately.

This was a completely legitimate punishment. Yah had given his people a chance, and they let him down by sinning against him and his law. And it has probably been said millions of times, YHWH hates sin!! So in order that the law be upheld, he needed to dole out punishment. The main idea that Yah needed to show was that they had broken covenant with him, which is a big deal!

After Noah and his family left the ark, Noah offered Yah a lot of sacrifices, one of each clean animal! And Yah was pleased with the aroma (and likely with the heart of thanks that Noah had) and he put a rainbow in the sky to symbolize his covenant with Noah. In Genesis 9:8-17, Yahweh tells Noah about his covenant – that he would never again flood the whole earth, and would remember that promise every time he saw a rainbow. The rainbow has since then come to represent other things, but for me it will always represent Yahweh’s promise to Noah.


Hierarchy in Genesis

Is hierarchy important? Should we allow people to be in power over us? Do we have power? What should we do with the power we have? What can we do wrong? What is the result of our doing wrong?

Let us begin with the elements of a Worldview. Our worldview affects every action we make, every word we say, every step we take.

1. God – Sovereignty
2. Man – Authority
3. Law – Command
4. Causation – Sanction
5. Time – Inheritance

(I retrieved the material for the above from Dr. Gary North.)

God is sovereign. He created the world, he created man, and he created the law. The first command God gave was “Do not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

Sovereignty is the highest position of authority possible. God is at the top of the food chain. Any power or authority man has, he has because it was given to him by God. God can take it away if he wants to, or if man oversteps his bounds and assumes authority that was not given to him.

If you’re an oldest sibling like me, you will identify with this example. I am the only girl among three younger brothers. I have sovereignty (parents) to deal with my brothers if they do something against the law (of our home.) But I have not been given authority to deal with my brothers. Only my parents have that authority. MY authority is to protect myself, provide boundaries around MYSELF. (ie, don’t come into my room without asking, don’t hit me, etc.)

But I am banned from bossing my siblings around (ie, don’t touch that, don’t say that word, come load the dishwasher, etc.) UNLESS I have been left IN authority. Namely, as a babysitter.

Another example, directly relevant to the account of the Fall, begs for mention. (Disclaimer: This is not a true example!!! 😊) If my sovereignty (parents) tell me I can go anywhere in the house, but I cannot go into their bedroom, then I have to stay out of their bedroom, because they gave me a LAW. A law that I need to follow. If they tell me that if I go into their bedroom, I cannot live in their house, then they are giving me a CAUSATION. A sanction. The penalty for going into their room would be leaving the house.

Now we have Adam and Eve classified. They are authority, because they have been GIVEN authority. What do they have authority over? The animals, and the plants, and all on earth. But God has authority over them, because he is Sovereignty. And the law was the command from God to man, that man would have to obey, or else there would be a penalty. A CAUSATION.

And Adam and Eve violated the boundary of the law, by choosing to listen to the voice of the Nachash (commonly translated as “serpent” but also meaning “shining one”) instead of God. Therefore God gave them the penalty of their sin – life outside the garden. Adam was promised hard work and toil to bring his food and life out of the ground. Eve was promised that her husband would rule over her and that she would have pain in childbirth. And the Nachash was promised a curse … and future destruction.

Some people, including myself, have wondered why God created the Nachash if the creation would lead man astray. The truth I found in Dr. North’s video is that the creation went astray, and led other creation astray. This is the issue of free will. God can’t create robots and be happy about it. He wants a real relationship, with two willing parties, who aren’t just following his laws because they have to … They need to WANT to.

Finally we come to Time. Time corresponds to Inheritance because an inheritance is a result of two things – what you did in the time you had (your life) and what you did with the things you accomplished and acquired. Adam and Eve left both figurative and literal inheritances.

The figurative inheritance they left was … their sin. The results of their sin: hard work, pain in childbirth, a man being over his wife.

The literal inheritance they left was … their descendants, each with a sin nature. But God chose to use Adam and Eve’s descendants to someday bring someone onto the earth to save all the nations of the world from the wages of sin: death. That man would be God’s own son, Jesus, known to the Hebrews as Yeshua.

Stay strong in the Word, y’all!