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John Knox (1514-1572) was born in Haddington, Scotland, and received his education at St. Andrews where he first encountered Christian theology. From here, he became a pivotal figure in the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, placing his beliefs in Presbyterianism, a branch of Protestantism. Knox’s main criticism of Catholicism its belief in purgatory, or a halfway point between Earth and Heaven where a person has an indefinite amount of time to atone for the sins that he committed in his life. Protestants believe that each Christian has been imbued with the love of Christ, who died for all of our sins, and hence every believer has the right of passage to heaven. The existence of purgatory for Catholics suggests that Christ’s death did not atone for all of our sins, something with which Knox severely disagreed. Knox specifically believed in Presbyterian theology, which emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the necessity of believing in Christ's grace. Presbyterian churches had significantly different structures than Catholic churches. While the Catholics believe that the Pope is the visible replacement of Christ as the head of the Church, Presbyterianism pertains to the idea of Church government, of a hierarchy of ministers and elders, with all elders being equally ranked. These people represented and governed various local congregations.

Knox was more extreme than others in the Church of England with regard to the reformation of the Roman Catholicism, and Disagreements with other members lead to his exodus from England in 1553, when he began to travel throughout Europe. Knox eventually became the pastor to the first Puritan Church in Geneva. In 1560, John Knox’s contribution resulted in the declaration of Scotland as Protestant by an act of Parliament, forming the National Reformed Church.

Carlyle, who mentions John Knox in passing to support his claim that the world has entered a mechanical era, argues that ideas of the abstract, of spiritual religions and individual morality, have been replaced by concepts of the physical, the tangible, when he says, "This is not a Religious age. Only the material, the immediately practical, not the divine and spiritual, is important to us . . . Our true Deity is Mechanism." Carlyle argues that the world has broken down into cause and effect; people now ask the question of how things are done, how things are produced, rather than seeing the beauty of the spiritual nature of things. Knox gained fame when he abandoned original, spiritual Christian theology and gave his significant contribution to the fight for a more mechanical, set structure in the Church. Carlyle would argue that this approach makes zombies out of the followers of religion; they worship in a specific way, with a set structure, rather than just devoutly worshipping God.


John Knox.” Wikipedia. 3 December 2009. Web. 8 April 2010.

ÒCarlyle, Thomas A Brief BiographyVictorian Web, 1988. Web. 8 April 2010.

Biography of John Knox.” Web. 8 April 2010.

M'Crie, Thomas. “Life of John Knox.” Philadelphia, Presbyterian board of publication, 1905.

Cody, David. “Presbyterianism.” Victorian Web, 1987. Web. 8 April 2010.

Presbytarianism.Wikipedia. 6 April 2010. Web.

Mclintock and Strong. Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper and Brothers, 1881.

Last modified 5 April 2010