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John Wycliffe - Essay Example

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John Wycliffe, an English theologian and philosopher of the 14th century, is considered to be one of the earliest reformers of Christianity and a forerunner of the Reformation. Wycliffe life spans one of the most complex and controversial periods controversial in European history: the opening of the Hundred Years War, the Black Death, increasingly tense conflicts over matters of papal provisions and taxation (Gilchrist, 1969: 158)…
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John Wycliffe
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Download file to see previous pages Until recently the importance of Wycliffe's teachings and ideas for England that was experiencing critical times at his day has been widely neglected. The common view is that Wycliffe's legacy exerted certain influence on the Reformist movement only a century after his death, while his impact on theology, social life, philosophy and politics of the 14th century England does not receive appropriate attention. The fact is that Wycliffe was involved in a number of happenings in philosophy, science and theology that occurred in his day. These happenings laid foundation to the subsequent flowering of science, art, and literature known as the Renaissance, and Wycliffe's contribution to these developments deserves to be studied more deeply and systematically.
Although Wycliffe as a priest supported the idea of a papacy for most of his life, his late views of the church were rather close to the doctrines of contemporary religious institutions. Thus, he considered the church to be the congregation of the predestined, believed in the priesthood of all believers and rejected the traditional doctrine that the clergy were synonymous to the church claiming they were also laymen as any other believer (Parker, 1965: 36). Moreover, Wycliffe also argued that popes can make mistakes and take wrong decisions because only God is flawless, while even the most righteous pope is also a layman (McLaughlin, 2000: 4).
These challenging views found their reflections in the doctrines of lordship, dominium and the state of grace formulated by Wycliffe during the political phase of his career. The doctrine of Dominium postulates that man had had full lordship over the world before the Fall, and Christ restored it through his death on the cross. However, he restored the lordship not to the clergy alone: the lordship is restored to all the believers whom truly shared the passion of Christ. The entailing conclusion that those who share are in a state of grace and thus have lordship over the world undermined the lordship of clergy and church greatly.
The assumption that the origin of lordship and authority was truth coupled with the supposition that even popes make mistakes led Wycliffe to conclude that if the church takes bad wrong decisions, its authority vanishes. The real danger of such views for the church became apparent when John of Gaunt, a civil leader, seized the temporalities based upon Wycliffe's doctrine that "If the church fail in its duty, the temporal lords may rightly and lawfully deprive it of its temporal possessions; the judgment of such failure lying not with the theologian but with the civil politician" (Poole cited in McLaughlin, 2000: 5).
Wycliffe's attitude to the concepts of forgiveness and salvation also contradicted the established doctrine of the church. He claimed that salvation could be achieved only by sincere faith: "Trust wholly in Christ; rely altogether on his sufferings; beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation (McLaughlin, 2000: 5). Wycliffe questioned the concepts of confession and disapproved of the practice of selling indulgences and other ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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