John Wycliff

John Wycliff (1320-1384) was a priest and a professor at Oxford whose ideas were precursory to those of the later protestant reformers. He believed in the idea of predestination, in which it has already been determined in the mind of God whether or not a soul has been saved. He said that a person’s works determine if he is among the elect, or destined to hell. John Wycliff was very anti-property and pro-state, believing that the Church should not have the right to own property, and if it would not give up any property it did own, it should be confiscated by the state. He also said that when a person commits a mortal sin, he loses all rights to any property he owns, because all men are vassals of God, and all property is God’s property, so when we offend God we lose stewardship of His property.

John Wycliff attracted the support of the government, which would benefit greatly from confiscated Church property. He also attracted support from the anticlerical party (which later abandoned him because his views went too far). With the outbreak of the Great Revolt in 1381 (in which the peasants revolted against the landowners), the government simply could not afford to support someone with anti-property ideas, and John Wycliff was thrown out of Oxford along with his supporters by king Richard II. If not for the Great Revolt, John Wycliff probably would not have been abandoned by the government, and it is possible that the protestant reformation would have started over a century earlier.


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