The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Church History: The Life and Impact of Scottish Reformer John Knox


REFORMATION BIBLE COLLEGE




THE LIFE AND IMPACT OF SCOTTISH REFORMER JOHN KNOX




CHURCH HISTORY 102
PROF. ADAMSON



BY
THOMAS BOOHER


SANFORD, FLORIDA
23 FEBRUARY, 2012






            John Knox was the preeminent Scottish reformer during the 16th century and helped bolster Protestantism in Scotland, earning him the nickname “The Trumpet of the Scottish Reformation.”[1][2] Little is known of his early life, but it is believed that Knox was born in Haddington, which was seventeen miles from Edinburgh. Because he was not from a rich family, Knox had few career options available to him. His choices were to become a priest if he showed enough intellectual acumen, or to revert to farming with his father.[3] Fortunately, he showed that he was a quick learner and had a penchant toward biblical studies.[4] To earn a little money he worked as a priest at a young age and also helped tutor the children of two wealthy noblemen.[5] He went on to study reformed theology at St. Andrews, where reformers had recently begun teaching.[6]
            Precisely when Knox converted to Christianity is unclear, though it is certain that he had done so by early 1543. Around that time he began taking a more open stand for the Christian gospel and even became the bodyguard for George Wishart.[7] Some accused Wishart of trying to kill Cardinal Beaton, a ruthless prosecutor of the reformers and emissary to Scotland.[8] Beaton’s men eventually arrested Wishart, and Knox was prepared to go to death with him, but Wishart refused, saying that one death would suffice for the cause. Then, in March 1546, Wishart was burnt at the stake in the presence of Cardinal Beaton.[9] Knox went into hiding, but came out and took refuge in St. Andrew’s castle in 1547 after five men, outraged from Wishart’s murder, killed Cardinal Beaton.[10]
            At this time, Knox was appointed preacher, something he accepted begrudgingly. He preached his first sermon on Daniel 7:24-25 and proved to all that he was ready to attack the Roman Catholic’s corrupt system and teachings at its core.[11]This is when he became the main mouthpiece for the reformation in Scotland.[12] For a time Knox and the reformers in Scotland could teach and proclaim in relative safety since England and France both were going through difficult times. Soon, however, France was able to send a strong army to the castle and the Protestants could not hold out. Knox and company surrendered, but France, in violation of terms of surrender, sent Knox and his compatriots to the galleys for nineteenth months of rigorous labor.[13]At length King Edward VI of England released Knox, and Knox then became a pastor and married Marjorie Bowes in England.[14]
            Soon danger allayed comfort once more as Edward VI died and Mary Tudor, “Bloody Mary,” took the throne of England.[15] For five years she mercilessly persecuted Protestants, sending many to their deaths. She also returned church to Roman Catholicism and re-instituted Mass, much to the vexation of Knox.[16] This made things unsafe for Knox, and he once again fled in January 1554 as advised by his friends. Knox remarked that the troubles in England were twice as severe as the troubles in Scotland.[17]
During his exile, Knox wrote a work titled The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, and directed it particularly at Mary Tudor, but she died soon after he wrote it and her less austere sister, Elizabeth, took the throne. Nonetheless, Elizabeth took offense to the book, since the anti-feminine sentiments applied equally to her, and thus what should have been a natural alliance between Knox and Elizabeth was squandered.[18]
Over the next five years Knox dawdled between Frankfurt and Geneva. He first went to Geneva to work with Calvin, but English refugees in Frankfurt soon summoned him to be their minister. He did not stay long there either, for his views of worship conflicted with the English, so he returned to Geneva, unsatisfied with the reforms of England.[19] After a brief return to Scotland in 1556, he became the minister of the English speaking congregation in Geneva, and said that the church there was the most reformed since the time of the last apostles.[20] It is here and at this time that Knox wrote the aforementioned book against Bloody Mary.
In 1560 John Knox returned to Scotland. The Reformation was in full swing, but tensions between Catholics and Protestants remained. In August Knox and a handful of other men drew up the Scots confession of faith and presented it to parliament, who approved it within a week. This brought three changes: the abolition of the jurisdiction of the pope, the condemnation of all practice and doctrine opposed to the reformed faith, and forbidding the celebration of the Catholic Mass.[21] Knox also helped form a National Reformed church in Scotland.[22]
Conflict arose once again, as Mary Queen of Scots returned from France after her husband had died on the condition that she would not re-institute the forbidden Catholic Mass. She agreed not to, but went back on her word upon arrival and did her best to promote Catholicism in Scotland.[23]Mary’s downfall came from her secret marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, who had murdered her husband Lord Darnley. Knox had five meetings with Mary Queen of Scots, lambasting her marriages, which at one point caused Mary to cry in front of him.[24] Mary was then convicted of conspiring with Earl of Bothwell of the murder of her own husband, and was forced to abdicate in 1567. She was put to death in London in 1587.[25] From this time on, Knox was able to teach and preach in relative safety, with none to harangue, until his death in 1572.
The impact of John Knox cannot be over emphasized. His church polity laid the groundwork for Presbyterianism.[26] He established the Book of Discipline, the Book of Common Order, and the Scots Confession in his new church.[27] Knox even wrote a complete history of the reformation in Scotland in his book The Reformation in Scotland.[28] We remember Knox for an unwavering resolve in the midst of danger, and fiery, uncompromising preaching at an urgent time. Mary Queen of Scots said she feared Knox’s prayers more than his blunt preaching.[29] Perhaps Sherwood Eliot Wirt speaks most precisely of Knox when he said:
Gentler spirits have lived in Christendom, More gracious messengers preached the Word of Christ without a-dinging the pulpit, But God knew what He was doing when He chose you to build His church. He knew the temptations to compromise, the dulcet voice pleading in tears the soft hand of scheming sovereignty. You were keen as steel, as deaf as ice: God’s man for God’s work in God’s time.[30]








New Words Used:
(Definitions gathered from thefreedictionary.com)
Penchant: A definite liking; a strong inclination
Begrudgingly: To give or expend with reluctance
Compatriot: 1.) A person from one’s own country. 2.) A colleague.
Dawdle: To move aimlessly or lackadaisically.
Allay: To reduce the intensity of; relieve.





[1] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day, Prince Press ed ed. (Peabody: Prince Press, 1999), 81
[2] Professor Adamson, “John Knox and the Scottish Reformation” (lecture, Reformation Bible College, Sanford, FL, February 17, 2012).
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day, Prince Press ed ed. (Peabody: Prince Press, 1999),, 81
[6] Biography of John Knox: John Knox - (1514-1572), Scottish Reformer, in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/knox?show=biography (accessed February 23, 2012).
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Professor Adamson, “John Knox and the Scottish Reformation” (lecture, Reformation Bible College, Sanford, FL, February 17, 2012).
[10] Ibid.
[11] Biography of John Knox: John Knox - (1514-1572), Scottish Reformer, in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/knox?show=biography (accessed February 23, 2012).
[12] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day, Prince Press ed ed. (Peabody: Prince Press, 1999), 81
[13] Ibid., 82
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Professor Adamson, “John Knox and the Scottish Reformation” (lecture, Reformation Bible College, Sanford, FL, February 17, 2012).
[17] Ibid.
[18] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day, Prince Press ed ed. (Peabody: Prince Press, 1999), 82
[19] Professor Adamson, “John Knox and the Scottish Reformation” (lecture, Reformation Bible College, Sanford, FL, February 17, 2012).
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Biography of John Knox: John Knox - (1514-1572), Scottish Reformer, in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/knox?show=biography (accessed February 23, 2012).
[23] Ibid.
[24] Professor Adamson, “'For Christ's Crown and Covenant': The Scottish Presbyterians” (lecture, Reformation Bible College, Sanford, FL, February 17, 2012).
[25] Ibid.
[26] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day, Prince Press ed ed. (Peabody: Prince Press, 1999), 83
[27] Ibid.
[28] Professor Adamson, “'For Christ's Crown and Covenant': The Scottish Presbyterians” (lecture, Reformation Bible College, Sanford, FL, February 17, 2012).
[29] Ibid.
[30] Ibid.
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