Simonetta Carr has done it again. “John Knox” is the seventh installment of her acclaimed “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series (published by Reformation Heritage). Here she sets out to tell the story of John Knox, the great Reformer of Scotland. If you would like to know more about this great series, please check out the Christian Biographies for Young Readers website.
I am always looking forward to new volumes for this series as I am a student of Historical Theology and plan on raising my children with great respect for the Christian heritage and reverence for Church history. I have read Carr’s volume on Anselm of Canterbury (you can read my review HERE), and plan on purchasing the other volumes in the future. The literary content and artwork (by Matt Abraxas) in these books is wonderful, but what is also impressive is the quality of materials used produce them.
Carr begins the book with an introduction that informs the reader of the sociopolitical context in which Knox lived (pp. 5–6). The Protestant Reformation had moved from continental Europe to England and Scotland by way of travelers. The author makes note of one such pilgrim, Patrick Hamilton, who brought the biblical gospel back to his home country of Scotland only to be killed by Roman Catholic authorities. After a few changes in the political landscape, commoners were given access to the Bible and Knox was converted by the preaching of the gospel of salvation through faith alone. (p. 8) Shortly thereafter, the freedoms which the Protestants enjoyed were rescinded (p. 10) and so Knox went to work as a bodyguard for George Wishart, who was a gospel preacher on the run from Roman Catholic authorities. (pp. 11–12)
Wishart was killed, and Knox went to live at St. Andrews Castle (pp. 14–15), where he began his pulpit ministry. The author points out that both Protestants and Roman Catholics shared preaching responsibilities, which I thought was very interesting. According to the author, Knox rebuked a Catholic priest who claimed that Rome was the “true bride of Christ” and preached his first sermon as a response to the claim. “In his sermon,” writes Carr, “Knox explained that Christ is the only Head of the church, and only the Bible has the final say. He also showed how many of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church had been invented by men.” (p. 18)
In 1547, the Scottish government overthrew St. Andrews with the help of France and the Protestants were arrested. John Knox was sentenced to row in the galleys of a ship, and endured severe persecution from his Roman Catholic captors along with the miserable living conditions and grueling slave labor. (pp. 19–24). Two years later, he was released and sent to Berwick, England where he was free to preach under the rule of King Edward VI, a Protestant. Unfortunately, his stay in England was cut short when King Edward died suddenly, leaving his Roman Catholic half-sister Mary Tudor (commonly referred to as “Bloody Mary” for her vicious reputation) to rule the throne. Knox fled to France, and later moved to Switzerland to learn from John Calvin and Heinrich Bullinger. (pp. 25–30)
Knox married Marjory Bowes in Scotland in 1555 before returning to Geneva to pastor a church of English refugees who fled Mary Tudor’s persecution. (p. 31–32) John returned to Scotland at the dawn of the Scottish Revolution to pastor St. Andrews Church, and also served as an army chaplain. When the war was over, Scotland formed a parliament which established the country as a Protestant nation and Knox was one of the men who drafted the Scots Confession of Faith. (pp. 31–42)
Shortly after the death of Marjory, the Roman Catholic Queen Mary Stuart returned to a very Protestant Scotland. Knox was quite vocal about her participation in the mass and they spoke their concerns to each other on a number of occasions. According to Carr, Knox even spoke out about the Queen’s desire to marry a Roman Catholic Prince! (pp. 44–48) This, of course, caused severe hostility between them and marked the decline of the Queen’s rule. When Scottish Nobles forced the Queen to resign the crown, her son James VI of Scotland became the King and Knox preached at his coronation. He continued to preach in his home country until his death in 1572. (pp. 50–54)
Simonetta Carr has written a wonderful little biography of John Knox. I’m a history nerd with a special appreciation for the Reformation, so I am rather biased in my opinion… but she puts a lot of time into researching her subject and likes to include interesting details and side stories, which makes the book an entertaining read for anyone. One example of such is the downward spiral of Queen Mary Stuart. Though it was a sad state of affairs, I was fascinated by the alleged conspiracy to murder her second husband, her imprisonment, and the plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth that resulted in her execution. (pp. 49–50, 60) The author also includes a “Did You Know?” section with additional information relative to the story, as well as a portion of The Scots Confession of faith, which I thought was very helpful in rooting the reader in the historical reality of the book. I really enjoyed “John Knox” and look forward to the release of future volumes.
For more on this subject, please visit the Historical Theology page.
Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK.