04 December 2006


iggybacking on the theme introduced here by Spurgeon yesterday, I want to say a word about the Lollards today.

OK, this is actually a not-very-subtle way of sneaking one of those confounded this-is-where-I-am-right-now-type posts in the back door, because today Darlene and I are in the English midlands, and we visited St. Mary's parish church in Lutterworth, where John Wycliffe served as rector in the fourteenth century.

On Dec. 28, 1384, Wycliffe had a stroke while leading a service here and was carried out on his chair through the diminutive door in the photo at the left. He died three days later.

Wycliffe was a consummate scholar and churchman, so it may seem ironic that the movement he inspired was a campaign led by lay preachers without formal education, known for the simplicity and directness of their preaching, and who operated outside the established church. The Lollards were one of the bright spots of late medieval church history, and they laid the foundation for the Protestant Reformation in England. You can read about them here or here.

Wycliffe, of course, is known as "the Morning Star of the Reformation." He was a harsh critic of priestly and ecclesiastical corruption and an early advocate of practical and theological reform in the church. He was the first to call the Pope "Antichrist." He taught predestination, opposed the doctrine of transubstantiation, and above all, believed the Bible should be translated into the vernacular. His translation, based on Jerome's Vulgate (the only source text Wycliffe had access to), was the first-ever English version of the Scriptures.

Wycliffe and the Lollards created so much trouble for the Pope that in 1415 (30 years after Wycliffe's death), the Roman Catholic Council of Constance condemned him as a stiff-necked heretic on 267 counts, ordered his books to be burned, and formally excommunicated him. They decreed that his bones should be exhumed from their resting-place in this parish church, burned, crushed, and scattered in the river Swift (a tributary of the River Avon).

Twelve years later this decree had not yet been carried out. Pope Martin V was enraged by this and personally ordered that the bones of Wycliffe be dealt with immediately according to the Council's wishes. That order was dutifully carried out in December 1427 by the toadying Bishop of Lincoln, Richard Fleming, who had actually been one of Wycliffe's earliest students.

Wycliffe is disinhumed,
Yea, his dry bones to ashes are consumed,
And flung into the brook that travels near;
Forthwith that ancient Voice which streams can hear
Thus speaks (that Voice which walks upon the wind,
Though seldom heard by busy human kind):
As thou these ashes, little Brook! wilt bear
Into the Avon—Avon to the tide
Of Severn—Severn to the narrow seas—
Into main ocean they,—this deed accurst,
An emblem yields to friends and enemies,
How the bold Teacher’s Doctrine sanctified
By truth, shall spread throughout the world dispersed.
William Wordsworth
Many of the Lollards were made martyrs as well, but they continued their ministry underground. The speed with which the Reformation overtook England is owing in large part to their faithful work.

May their tribe increase.

Phil's signature


Kay said...

And amen. Always fills me with joy to see the heritage that my land has been given in the providence of God.

Tom Chantry said...

Interestingly, the Lollards continued to have their reputations abused long after their persecution ended. I was told once (though I can't prove it) that Shakespear's famed drunkard, Sir John Falstaff, was based on a historical character whose reputation was scandalously attacked because he was known to have financially supported the Lollards.

Phil Johnson said...

An interesting fact I did not mention, Tom, is that one of Wycliffe's first criticisms of church corruption had to do with the endowment of Chantries—private chapels a la Mel Gibson—which Wycliffe considered a vehicle for simony. So the derivation of your surname is linked to his history, in a backward sort of way.

PS: That pulpit in the above picture has carvings that date back to the 14th century and are believed to be part of the very pulpit Wycliffe would have used. You won't see many pictures of me standing in Anglican pulpits, so savor this one.

Phil Johnson said...

PPS: Libbie, Darlene is pained to be this close to you geographically and still not be able to meet you in person. We're praying for you, though.

Kay said...

Cheers, Phil, it's much appreciated. It was good to chat with Darlene and your good self. And there's always next time :-)

DJP said...

Don't feel bad, Libbie.

They never visit me, neither.


Kay said...

Of course not Dan, you wave swords around and jump about in pyjamas... ;-)

DJP said...


So THIS is how rumors get started.

Besides, a sword is no match for a well-wielded meat chub.

Kim said...

DJP and pajamas in the same sentence... TOO MUCH INFORMATION!

Kim said...

DJP and pajamas in the same sentence... TOO MUCH INFORMATION!


Please bring Darlene back to North America soon. I miss her!

Douglas McMasters said...


Lutterworth--Been there, done that, but didn't get that T-shirt.

Glad you enjoyed the trip there--steels the heart.


Silly Old Mom said...

Can anyone indulge a homeschool mom's request for a *well-written* biography of Wycliffe for kids? I've seen some titles here and there, but I don't know about the quality.

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

silly old mom,

I don't have any books to recommend, but the Wycliffe page on my site might be a place to start for more information.

I have a few links including a really good one from greatsite.com, as well as an excerpt about Wycliffe from Foxes Book of Martyrs.

God bless,

Tom Chantry said...


The sad fact is that a "chantry" as more than just a private chapel: it was typically a private chapel for the singing of masses for the dead! How this became a family name no one seems able to say, but it is about as embarrassing a derivation for my name as I can imagine! Oh, well, God has strange ways of keeping us humble.

slf said...

Interesting post.
Thanks Phil!
Enjoy your trip!


Carla Rolfe said...


I just loved this post. Church history is something that just captures my attention in a way history in school never did.

Funny thing is, while I read this post, little Ruthie was standing behind me and when your pic in pulpit came up she giggled and said "Papa! is that you!?".

Kev just laughed. She thought that was her papa in that pulpit. He only wishes (like me) we could travel over there and visit the places our reformed ancestors once lived and preached.

Thanks for posting this - and I'll second Kim's request that you bring Darlene home soon, we miss her!


Martin Downes said...

You should give us a post of the top ten historic pulpits that you have stood in/preached from some day.

When you do be sure to include the one in Sandfields, Aberavon.

T-Shirt Ninja said...

Another reason why Wycliffe is my HOMEBOY!

FX Turk said...

First of all, Dan doesn't own any TeamPyro gear, and Libbie does. And it cost international shipping to get it to her. And Dan has never visited me, so who's kidding whom?

But that said, I didn't know they let people dressed like Phil is dressed in that picture anywhere near Bristish pulpits. Clearly, he had to use the Jedi Mind Trick to get that close to Wycliffe.

FX Turk said...

And in reference to Martin's comment, Phil Johnson could be the Rick Steve of Protestant European tourism.

Google "Rick Steve" if you don't get that joke.

DJP said...

Frank — two words:


Ebeth said...

How about a photo of Phil in that shirt in Spurgeon's pulpit? Doug, can you make that happen?

Douglas McMasters said...


That one might be tough, but if anyone can do it, Phil can.

Perhaps we can get a picture of Phil in that shirt at Hampton Court Palace where the puritans made their petition to King James in 1604.

granttheslant said...

Hi Libbie

Yes joy for the heritage but great sadness for the present.

Ebeth said...

Fine alternative, Doug.

LeeC said...

Tom Chantry said...

The sad fact is that a "chantry" as more than just a private chapel: it was typically a private chapel for the singing of masses for the dead! How this became a family name no one seems able to say, but it is about as embarrassing a derivation for my name as I can imagine! Oh, well, God has strange ways of keeping us humble. "

Heh, my last name is Craven....

Of course it's a long and historied name, we are not sure of it's origins, but still....

Thanks Phil,
The Lollards are one of my favorite history studies.

Solameanie said...

Imagine the pope's discomfiture when Wycliffe's dispersed, burned bones are reconnected and resurrected in a glorified state by the Master Himself.

Phil, I envy you (if that is possible to do in a non-sinful sense). The UK is one of the few places on earth I'd love to visit purely from a heritage/historical perspective. If you get a chance while there, go see Snowdonia.

May the Lord bless your ministry there.

FX Turk said...


All I'm saying is that Libbie owns TeamPyro stuff, and Phil does, and I do, and Pecadillo does.

That's all I'm saying.

DJP said...

...and yet my face is on some of it.

That's all I'm saying.

donsands said...

Didn't they dig up John Huss's bones and burn them also? Or maybe I've had the wrong saint all along.

UK67 said...

Somebody please explain what Kevin Johnson of ReformedCatholicism.com is talking about here:


He's critical of Phil's post, but I can't tell what really he is getting at. Something is really bothering him about it though.

FX Turk said...


I'm noit going to read Kevin Johnson until he starts taking his meds. Sorry. There's no reason to read Kevin Johnson except to pity him.

Martin Downes said...


I take it that there is a little history behind the swipe at Phil.

Doug said...

This is from Kevin Johnson's blog:

"In truth, this sort of unbalanced presentation of history only advances the agenda of a groundless gnostic-like MacArthurite spirituality and evangelical excess but what it fails to do is get to the truth of the matter."

One major question: How can he connect gnostic-like and MacArthurite in the same sentence?

Rhology said...

It's Rick SteveS.

UK67 said...

Reading the thread of comments over there at ReformedCatholicism.com they seem to be a more intellectually pretentious version of the Boar's Head Tavern. In their case they also seem to be too prideful to join the Roman Catholic Church so they sit the fence and make fun and complain about the Protestant side solely.

UK67 said...

It seems Kevin Johnson has now deleted his critical post about Phil Johnson's Wycliff post.

(As I write this the post is no longer there. If it pops up again then disregard this comment, but it's not there now.)

Martin Downes said...

So it has