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John Knox Debates God's Law, Idolatry and Civil Resistance in the General Assembly of 1564

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Resource Details

Full Title:
John Knox Debates God's Law, Idolatry and Civil Resistance in the General Assembly of 1564
Author:
John Knox
Media:
Digital Download (Adobe PDF)
Searchable:
Yes
PDF Index:
Embedded, Appended
Pages:
42
File Size:
1.76 MB
Publisher:
Still Waters Revival Books

Resource Description

"Perhaps the most thoroughgoing Calvinist," writes W. Stanford Reid (in Christian History magazine, Vol. 5, No. 4), "who took the teacher's (John Calvin--RB) ideas to their logical conclusions, was the Scot, John Knox."

This debate is a perfect example of Knox's consistent Calvinism. In fact one wonders about a person's claim to consistent Calvinism at all if he denies the sovereignty of God in the civil arena (i.e. by denying the applicability of the first table of the law, especially the first two commandments, to the realm of the civil magistrate -- along with their penal sanctions as displayed in the Judicial laws of the Old Testament).

Knox certainly did not shrink back from the binding nature of the law on these points. He even openly proclaimed, in this debate, that the death penalty should be carried out against idolaters "and this was in the context of debating the Queen's Mass and her favoring the idolatry of Romanism.

With boldness like this, it is easy to see why it was said over Knox's open grave, "here lies a man who neither flattered nor feared any flesh." This debate shows conclusively that Knox was a historical theonomist, in the sense that he believed in the continuing binding validity of OT penal sanctions.

Moreover it demonstrates that it is the duty of all ministers to preach that the civil magistrate is bound to uphold the law of God and promote and protect only the one true Reformed religion. Furthermore Knox argued, from the OT, that to tolerate public idolatry is to disobey God and bring a curse upon the land.

Though Knox's Reformation, Revolution and Romanism is his most important political writing, this debate displays the very same principles, as Knox applied them in "the heat of battle," against the queen's secretary, William Maitland of Lethington.

This particular debate, as well as many other large sections, are edited out of The History of the Reformation in Scotland as presently reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust. However, this debate can also be found in SWRB's edition of volume 2 of John Knox's Works or, with contemporary spelling and punctuation, in On Rebellion (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994).

W.S. Reid (Trumpeter of God, pp. 234-235) notes that "the implications of this debate were far reaching" and that "[a]s far as Knox personally was concerned, this debate also marked a turning point in his career."

Also of great importance was the situation that occurred "when Maitland quoted Luther, Musculus, Calvin, and others to support the requirement of absolute obedience, Knox replied that they either spoke in a situation in which they had no power to resist the ruler or they were refuting arguments of Anabaptists who rejected all civil government. Unfaithful rulers could therefore be removed by the people if they had the power to do so. In this position he was supported by John Craig, his colleague in St. Giles, and by most, although not all, of the other ministers" (Trumpeter, p. 234).

As present civil governments continue to promote defiance of the laws of "the Prince of the kings of the Earth," our great King the Lord Jesus Christ, these arguments will become more and more useful, among those who seek to obey the Lord in all matters.


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