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The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women - Part 1

In this series, I will examine the ways that some people have misread Knox’s most well-known and controversial work by framing it in terms of postmodernist sentimentality and feminism. If you are already well up to speed on John Knox, the history of the Scottish Reformation and have read his First Blast, you might want to read on ahead to part 3, in which I critique the recent American Vision article.

Part 1: Background and Timeline

If you have read any one thing of John Knox, it is likely The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. At about 40-pages, it is lively, readable and continues to be as controversial as it was when it was first published in 1558. This polemical pamphlet was not an attack on all women, but aimed specifically at the “monstrous” or “unnatural” regimes of Mary Tudor in England, with sideswipes at Mary of Guise in Scotland, and her young daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, who was being groomed in France to take the throne.

Knox was not a misogynist who believed that women were inferior to men. Rather he was dismayed at the unprecedented appearance of two Roman Catholic ruling queens in Scotland and England, both of whom were hostile to the Protestant movement. To Knox, this was evidence of the judgment of God on the two nations. Most Reformed theologians of his day agreed with him, although few were as strident as the fiery Scotsman. His purpose in using loaded words to vilify these “Jezebels” was political as well as theological. He not only wanted to depose the “three Marys,” but execute them as tyrants if they did not repent. His widely distributed prophetic tract was dangerous because it amounted to treason.

A recent biography of John Knox by University of Edinburgh professor Jane Dawson offers a much different portrayal of the Reformer acting in a tender and respectful way toward women. On one hand he’s defiant and incendiary toward his enemies, but on the other hand, hopeful for their salvation, as one reviewer described beautifully.

Scotland has a problem with John Knox. His is a contested legacy, with part of the country seeing in him an intransigent killjoy and bullying misogynist, whose ideas ground the dour into Scotland’s soul…. Very few people nowadays read Knox’s prose – and most will know only the notorious First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women – but his History of the Reformation ushered in a new kind of historical writing: personal, indignant, sometimes sarcastic, utterly committed…. [T]he major elements in Knox’s life – his conversion from Catholic priest and canon to Protestant reformer under the influence of George Wishart; his enslavement on a French galley; his dealings with Calvin in Geneva; his return to Scotland; and his clashes with Mary Tudor, Mary Guise and Mary Queen of Scots – enabled the Reformation.

Knox’s experience in Geneva led to a double focus in the Reformation. It has to do with one’s own spiritual struggles and beliefs, but it needed to be grounded in political actuality…. [O]ne of the paradoxes of Knox’s career is the establishment of a national church out of “resistance groups,” which thought of themselves as a beleaguered remnant…. Although the stereotype of Knox is of an inflexible individual whose self-confidence sheers into self-righteousness, new sources reveal a far more conflicted man, often uncertain of his calling and prone to depression. His reliance on his wives, his “Edinburgh sisters” and particularly the friendship of Christopher Goodman has perhaps been underplayed in previous biographies. That Knox evidently struggled makes him more heroic rather than less (Book Review of John Knox by Jane Dawson).

Who was John Knox?

There are numerous good resources that more fully describe the life and work of Knox in Scotland. Rather than compile a lengthy biography here, I have put together a few quick primers in articles and videos I have produced.

Models for Reformation: John Knox

Models for Reformation: Covenantal Lawsuits – Church of Scotland

Models for Reformation

The following video clip from Ron Avil explains Knox’s importance as a Scottish “Founding Father” of the United States of America.

The United States of America 2.0: The Great Reset is a short booklet that shows how civil resistance to tyranny has a long tradition in Reformed theology – from Calvin, Knox, Cromwell, the Puritans to the time of the American Revolution. Understanding this model is of vital importance today since our Founders designed our Constitution to be an instrument of frequent peaceful revolution and defiance to federal tyranny.


The United States of America 2.0: The Great Reset (Book)

High Quality Paperback — 40 pages of dynamite!

Revival, Resistance, Reformation, Revolution
An Introduction to the Doctrines of Interposition and Nullification

In 1776, a short time after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were assigned to design an official seal for the United States of America. Their proposed motto was Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. America owes its existence to centuries of Christian political philosophy. Our nation provided a model for liberty copied by nations the world over.

By the 21st century, we need a “Puritan Storm” to sweep away the Hegelian notion that the state is “God walking on earth.” We need revival and reformation in full force to vanquish the problems that plague us as a nation — from government controlled healthcare — to abortion on demand — to same sex “marriage.” This booklet gives a primer on our founders’ Christian idea of government and examines how the doctrine of nullification was woven into the Constitution as a safeguard against federal tyranny. It concludes with the history and theology of civil resistance. A Second American Revolution is coming with the Word of God growing mightily and prevailing! (Acts 19:20).

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I also recommend a video teaching series about John Knox by Bruce Gore.

Scotland’s Forgotten History is a more lengthy treatment of the results of the Scottish Reformation. This is an important documentary because it highlights the fact that the work accomplished by John Knox led to one of the greatest spiritual awakenings in history that paralleled the Puritan movement almost a century later.

Iain Murray’s book, The Puritan Hope, uses quotes from numerous source documents to show that hardly a family in Scotland was not affected by conversions to Christ during this later revival in the 1600s.

John Knox by Jane Dawson is a recent work of scholarship that has been called the definitive biography of John Knox. She makes use of unpublished manuscripts to paint a much different picture of the Reformer than the popular caricature.

As the Father of the Scottish Reformation, he is notorious for being the author of The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. In this new biography, Jane Dawson sets out, not so much to overturn this impression of Knox, but to show that there was more to him than this. She tells us that new material has recently been uncovered amongst the papers of Christopher Goodman, a fellow Reformed preacher and long-term friend of Knox. This material, she suggests, throws a different light on his personality, while changing some of the facts known about his life (Amazon Book Review).

Thus the popular impression of Knox is colored by misperceptions, as are our own American Puritans and even the great Jonathan Edwards, who is more remembered for his “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon, than for his writings on the Great Awakening, Freedom of the Will and his missionary work among Native Americans. But if you have a heart for revival and spiritual awakening in your nation, you will be greatly inspired by John Knox the more you learn about him.

The Scottish Reformation – Historical background

The best way to summarize the Scottish Reformation is to begin with a timeline of Knox’s life, which I have compiled from various sources, including Christian History Magazine and Dr. Marcus Serven.

John Knox Timeline

EARLY YEARS
c. 1505 – Date of birth in Haddington is uncertain; the traditional date is 1505; most modern historians have 1514
1536 – Knox graduates from University of St. Andrews and is ordained a priest; John Calvin publishes the first edition of Institutes of the Christian Religion
1540 – Knox becomes a notary (minor legal official) and a tutor
1542 – Mary Queen of Scots is born and becomes Queen of Scotland when James V of Scotland dies; she spends most of her life in France while Scotland is ruled by regents, including later her French Catholic mother, Mary of Guise
1543 – Knox is converted to Protestantism
1545 – Knox becomes associate and bodyguard to George Wishart
1546 – Wishart martyred; Cardinal Beaton murdered; Protestants at St. Andrew’s Castle put under siege
1547 – Knox flees to St. Andrew’s Castle; preaches his first Protestant sermon; the Castle falls; imprisoned as galley slave in France for 19 months
INTERLUDE IN ENGLAND
1549 – Knox begins pastoring in Berwick, England; establishes his popular preaching reputation in Protestant England and as a royal chaplain during the reign of the child king, Edward VI; Protestantism becomes established in England
1550 – Knox meets Mrs. Elizabeth Bowes and her daughter Marjory
1552 – Knox moves to London; disputes practice of kneeling at Communion; refuses to become bishop of Rochester
1553 – Knox forced into hiding when Catholic Mary Tudor becomes Queen of England and begins her bloody persecution of Protestants
EXILE IN EUROPE
1554 – Knox flees to France, and then Calvin’s Geneva; then to Zwingli and Bullinger in Zurich; pastors an English congregation in Frankfurt; the Catholic Mary of Guise becomes queen regent of Scotland
1555 – Dispute over the liturgy forces Knox to Geneva; pastors an English congregation there; returns to Scotland secretly; weds Marjory Bowes and does missionary work
1556 – Knox condemned for heresy in Scotland; returns to Geneva with wife and mother-in-law
1558 – Knox writes The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, advocating rebellion against ungodly rulers; Mary Tudor dies and Elizabeth I becomes English queen and solidifies Protestantism there; in Geneva, Knox begins to work out his theory of a “godly revolution” and the resistance of tyrants through Calvin’s doctrine of the Interposition of Lesser Magistrates; helps to translate the Geneva Bible


John Knox arrives in Geneva

LATER YEARS IN SCOTLAND
1559 – Knox returns to Scotland; preaches sermon condemning “idolatry”; it leads to a rebellion
1560 – Mary of Guise dies; Reformation Parliament adopts Protestant “Scots Confession”; Knox’s wife Marjory dies
1561 – Catholic Mary Queen of Scots returns to Scotland; Knox helps write First Book of Discipline; Knox ministers at St. Giles’s in Edinburgh; first interview with Mary Queen of Scots
1564 – Marries Margaret Stewart
1565 – In July, Mary Queen of Scots weds Lord Darnley; confers on him the title of “King Henry”
1566 – James VI (the future king of England and Scotland) is born to Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley
1567 – In February, the Earl of Bothwell murders Lord Darnley (King Henry); on May 15th, Mary Queen of Scots weds the Earl of Bothwell to public outrage; in August, Mary Queen of Scots is deposed by the Scots General Assembly
1568 – Mary, now the deposed Queen, escapes her captivity by fleeing to Elizabeth I in England expecting her cousin to help her regain her throne; a long series of intrigues ensues ending with Mary being convicted of treason against Elizabeth and executed in 1587
1570 – Civil War breaks out in Scotland; a bullet is fired through Knox’s dining room window
THE END: ST. ANDREWS AND EDINBURGH
1571 – In July, Knox moves to St. Andrews due to the Civil War that has broken out; Knox finishes compiling material for his History of the Reformation in Scotland
1572 – In August, Knox returns to Edinburgh and resumes preaching at St. Giles; on November 24th after hearing his wife Margaret read aloud John 17, “Where I cast my first anchor,” John Knox dies in his bed at Edinburgh

Knox’s Role in History


Knox preaching at St. Andrews

John Knox’s role in the history of Scotland, let alone his influence on the English and American Puritan movements, was monumental. In fact, Knox ought to be considered one of America’s founding fathers. He was the fourth most important among the magisterial Reformers after Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. Though he was Calvin’s student, it has been argued the Knox himself was more consistently covenantal than his teacher. Though he was by no means perfect, he altered the course of history for the better.

- To be continued …

Your comments are welcome!

Textile Help

Dr. Francis Schaeffer - How Should We Then Live? (DVD)

Special Two-Disc Set!

After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.

Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.

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God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

Download the Free Study Guide!

God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.

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Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:

1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?

Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.

Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!

Running Time: 240 minutes

Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.

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The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981

Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.

The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.

“… a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine

Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese

Running Time: 28 minutes

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Go Stand Speak (DVD)

With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?

Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?

Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?

These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


The United States of America 2.0: The Great Reset (Book)

High Quality Paperback — 40 pages of dynamite!

Revival, Resistance, Reformation, Revolution
An Introduction to the Doctrines of Interposition and Nullification

In 1776, a short time after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were assigned to design an official seal for the United States of America. Their proposed motto was Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. America owes its existence to centuries of Christian political philosophy. Our nation provided a model for liberty copied by nations the world over.

By the 21st century, we need a “Puritan Storm” to sweep away the Hegelian notion that the state is “God walking on earth.” We need revival and reformation in full force to vanquish the problems that plague us as a nation — from government controlled healthcare — to abortion on demand — to same sex “marriage.” This booklet gives a primer on our founders’ Christian idea of government and examines how the doctrine of nullification was woven into the Constitution as a safeguard against federal tyranny. It concludes with the history and theology of civil resistance. A Second American Revolution is coming with the Word of God growing mightily and prevailing! (Acts 19:20).

$7.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information

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