Examining The Pastoral Ministry Of John Knox -- By: David Saxton

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 04:2 (Jul 2012)
Article: Examining The Pastoral Ministry Of John Knox
Author: David Saxton

Examining The Pastoral
Ministry Of John Knox

David Saxton


It may seem to some that a study on the pastoral ministry of John Knox should be considered Christian fiction. They conclude, without further research, that this fiery Scottish preacher of the Reformation was far more of a fighter than a pastor. After all, did Knox not spend his entire life calling hell-fire down on Queen Mary for her Roman Catholic practices? Unfortunately, the actual pastoral heart and ministry of John Knox has been clouded by an unfortunate caricature of him as an uncontrolled firestorm who upbraided any who would dare disagree with him.

Regarding Knox’s strong preaching and writing against the Roman Catholic practices, such as the Mass, there is no doubt where this preacher stood. In 1550, Knox wrote his polemical treatise entitled, A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Sacrifice of the Mass is Idolatry. Because of his trouble with female Roman Catholic regents, Knox wrote in 1558 his infamous treatise entitled, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. These were bold denunciations against religious compromise, but Knox clearly explained that these renunciations were for the gospel’s sake and based on the authority of Scripture. Writing to the Queen Regent of Scotland in 1559, Knox said,1 “For better, we think, to expose our bodies to a thousand deaths, than to hazard our souls to perpetual condemnation, by denying Christ Jesus and his manifest truth.”2 Because of his strong stand for the truth, Knox was regularly charged with verbal cruelty

or even treason against the queen. William Maitland of Lethington, secretary to Mary, Queen of Scot’s, once accused Knox that “your continual crying…‘The Queen’s idolatry, the Queen’s Mass, will provoke God’s vengeance.’”3 And D. Hay Fleming even explained that “[t]he Queen of Scots…was thoroughly persuaded that Knox was the most dangerous man in all the realm.”4

Yet do strong denunications of gospel error and earnest contending against heresies somehow disqualify a man from also being a gentle pastor of the true flock of God? Could it be that those who feel that Knox was not a loving pastor simply have unbiblical notions of what a pastor’s calling involves? Perhaps critics of Knox have confused pastoral ministry with mere sentimentality. It is this article’s contention that Knox was a warm-hearted, gentle pastor as well as an earnest contender o...

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