Jay Rogers
Jay Rogers

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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

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
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
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

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
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!

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Frank Schaeffer Will You Please Shut Up! (Book)

High Quality Paperback — 200 pages

A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism

Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner

The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.

Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.

Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.

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A Revival Account: Asbury 1970 (DVD)

What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?

Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!

“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l

Running Time: 40 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.

Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!

Running Time: 130 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

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Why Creeds and Confessions? (Book)

High Quality Paperback — 219 pages

Foundations in Biblical Orthodoxy

Driving down a country road sometime, you might see a church with a sign proudly proclaiming: “No book but the Bible — No creed but Christ.” The problem with this statement is that the word creed (from the Latin: credo) simply means “belief.” All Christians have beliefs, regardless of whether they are written.

Yet a single book containing the actual texts of the most important creeds of the early Church will not often be found. Out of the multitude of works on the evangelical Christian book market today, those dealing with the creeds of the Church are scarce.

Why Creeds and Confessions? provides a foundation of biblical orthodoxy as a defense against the false and truly heretical doctrines advanced by the spirit of this age.

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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.

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