The Christian and the Tyrant: Beza and Knox on Political Resistance Theory -- By: Richard C. Gamble

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 46:1 (Spring 1984)
Article: The Christian and the Tyrant: Beza and Knox on Political Resistance Theory
Author: Richard C. Gamble

The Christian and the Tyrant: Beza and Knox on Political Resistance Theory*

Richard C. Gamble

Introduction: Knox in Geneva

The years 1555–1559 found John Knox in Geneva, an exile and pastor. Some have said that this period was the most formative of his life. Certainly he had time to study the Scriptures, reflect upon his earlier thinking, and discuss his ideas with the various Protestant leaders living at that time in Geneva. “In this atmosphere of freedom, constant theological debate, discussion with refugees coming to settle or just passing through, Knox experienced a stimulation he had never known before.”1 Knox was not in the city the whole of the four years; after staying in Geneva only a few months he returned to his homeland, soon again, however, to go back to Geneva (Sept. 13, 1556). From the time of his return with his wife and others to Geneva from Scotland, his life was filled with pastoring the English-speaking congregation,2 made up of those who had been exiled from England and Scotland.

While still in Geneva, Knox received a call to return to Scotland. Since travel was dangerous and his first son had just recently been born, he was reluctant to go and sought out the advice of the Geneva ministers, including Calvin; they urged him to make the trip. After packing and getting as far as the city of Dieppe, he received word not to

* This article was originally prepared for reading at the Spring meeting of the American Society for Reformation Research at Western Michigan University, May 1983.

proceed further because the situation in Scotland had changed since he had first been asked to come. Knox stayed in Dieppe awaiting a reply to his request that he still be invited to come to Scotland. While he was waiting, he had time to reflect upon his political theories in light of the complex religious and political changes and events which were occurring in Scotland. It was in Dieppe that he wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. With no reply forthcoming from Scotland, he decided to make his way back to Geneva.

Upon his return to Geneva, Knox again settled into his pastoral responsibilities and received in the spring of 1558 the great honor of citizenship in the city. Finally with the death of Queen Mary and the succession of Queen Elizabeth, most of the English-speaking congregation departed from Geneva to travel to their homes. This left Knox without a congregation to pastor; he again made preparations for his journey to Scotland, leaving his family behind. Arriving once more at Dieppe, he spent some ti...

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