The Morning Star: John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe lived from the year 1330 until his death in 1384. He lived in a time of great error and brought a light that would shine throughout the centuries. He is called the Morning Star of the Reformation affectionately because he began to return to the Scriptures and recover the gospel that the church had lost.

He was a sickly man and thin, good health apparently always far from him. Yet he had a keen mind and an honest and open character. He was very outspoken about abuses that he saw and would not stand for error or falsehood. He studied theology at Oxford and gained notoriety for his lecturing, then became the religious advisor to the King of England. The King had his own reasons for wanting Wycliffe there, mainly as a way to try and usurp power from the Pope.

As the years went on, Wycliffe espoused and wrote books on the doctrines he believed and was unearthing. These include:

–          The Bible is the only source of authority upon which teachings can be made and all the teachings of the church must be judged by it. All Christians should read the Bible, so all should have it in their own language.

–          The Church was not an organisation, but instead the whole body of the elect, predestined from eternity to salvation in Christ. It consisted of all believers in all lands, therefore it was a spiritual body known to God alone.

–          The Pope was a human creation. By the end of his life, he believed all Popes were antichrist.

–          At communion, the bread and wine did not physically become the body and blood of Christ, but instead did so spiritually.

Wycliffe was especially popular during the early period of his ministry, but as his views became more and more radically opposed to the church he lost a lot of support. In his last three years alive he and his followers began the process of translating the Bible into English from the Latin. This was completed after his death.

Wycliffe died in 1384, yet the Church posthumously declared him a heretic and 34 years after his burial, dug up his bones and burned them and threw the ashes into a river. His followers became known as the Lollards, loosely meaning “mumblers” supposedly because they loved to read the Bible and would mumble as they did so.

In the subsequent years the Lollards would be brutally tortured and martyred for their beliefs, forcing them to go into hiding. Though Wycliffe did much and his followers after him, true freedom was still a century or so away.

Tomorrow we will look at Jan Hus.

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