Wycliffe and Lollardy
During the 1300s or the Dark Ages as we might call it, the Church headed by the Pope was the centre of power. The hierarchical ordering of the clergy and the nobility occupying the highest position and the common people occupying the lowest status is unbending. Understanding the role of John Wycliffe in the reformation of the Church is imperative. In a sense, John Wycliffe paved the way for later reformations of men like Martin Luther and the Puritans.
John Wycliffe spent much of his years in Oxford, obtaining a master of arts and a doctor of divinity. He was a theologian, a lay preacher and a rebel in the Roman Catholic Church. His ideas on Lordship and Church wealth, expressed in his book De Civili Dominio caused his first condemnation in 1377 by the pope Gregory XII. Before the invention of the printing press, the common people could not afford the Bible because it was costly and that the Bible was available for ecclesiastical use only. Besides, the common people could not read Latin and some most of them were illiterate. The only source from which they could learn the scriptures were from the Church. The people were dependent on their religious leaders for spiritual knowledge and instructions. According to Wycliffe, the Church used this as a weapon for subjugating the common people, keeping them in the dark for decades. During the middle ages, English was the language of the common people while Latin was the language of the clergy and French the language of the court. Wycliffe believed that every Christian should study the Bible and stated in his book On the Pastoral Office that, “Christ and his apostles taught the people in the language that was best known to them. Why should men not do so now?”
Wycliffe’s convictions proved to be convincing and inspiring. He was one of the earliest opponents of papal authority influencing secular power. Wycliffe argued that the scriptures are the authoritative centre of Christianity and that...
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