John Wycliffe – Part 1
John Wycliffe was one of the firebrands of Church history. Known as the “morning star of the Reformation," John Wycliff preceded Luther, Calvin, and Knox by almost two hundred years.
The Youthful Wycliffe
Except for the year of his birth, 1320, not much is known of the young Englishman until he received his doctorate from Oxford in 1372. After receiving his degree, Wycliffe was thrust into prominence by being granted a professorship and becoming a leading scholar at the university.
The Salad Days End
Any quiet scholastic days he might have had were short lived. A debate erupted regarding who had God given the right to rule over men, and how is that right to be exercised. Wycliffe dove headfirst into the debate by arguing that the civil government had the divine right to correct the abuses of sinful church leaders. According to Wycliffe, the civil magistrate even had the right to seize the corrupt churchmen's property.
Wycliffe, though, was just getting started. His message of reform included the following:
- Wealth had corrupted the church; he called for a return to the poverty and simplicity of Apostolic times
- The pope was the antichrist and should not have the temporal (i.e., political) power to rule over men
With regard to the aforementioned Wycliffe wrote, “Christ is truth, the pope is the principle of falsehood. Christ lived in poverty, the pope labors for worldly magnificence. Christ refused temporal dominion, the pope seeks it.”
- Transubstantiation (i.e., the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ) was a false doctrine
- The Bible, not the church, is the only rule for faith
As a consequence of his calls for reform, Wycliffe was expelled from his teaching post. Then, in 1377, Pope Gregory XI condemned Wycliffe’s doctrines and writings and called for his arrest. Wycliffe, however, remained unmolested due to the protection of influential friends.
To be continued . . .