Successful revolutionaries are few and far between. Any idiot can start a revolution, and many do. A few even succeed in gaining power. Very few have a long lasting impact which reshapes a country for generations, leading into centuries.

KNOX Poster Web 2 Landscape

Lenin didn’t, his revolution lasted a mere 70 years. Mao’s revolution, which gained power in 1949, is vanishing before our eyes. The revolution in Scotland led by John Knox shaped a nation for centuries, right up until the recent past.

Today Knox, probably the most important Scot who ever lived, is either ignored or scorned in his native country. Seen as a caricature Knox is known, if at all, only as the author of A First Trumpet Blast Against The Monstrous Regiment of Women and the beardy guy who was nasty to that nice Mary Queen of Scots. In 1978 Edinburgh Council was forced by public opinion to change the proposed name of a set of steps leading from the Mound to Princes Street in the heart of the city from John Knox Steps to Playfair Steps. Knox, who was instrumental in planting the seeds of democratic freedom in Scotland, was too controversial a figure for modern tastes.

When Knox was born Scotland was the equivalent of a Third World country, only without the aid from conscious stricken developed countries. One Spanish nobleman who antagonised the king was given the utterly humiliating punishment of being sent as ambassador to Scotland. Yet less than two centuries after the death of Knox Scotland was the intellectual capital of Europe. Seventeenth century Scotland had five universities, compared to the much larger and wealthier England’s two.

An ardent Protestant totally committed to the spread of the gospel of grace Knox was a Reformer and revolutionary rather than a theologian. His sole contribution to theological advance was his argument for the right to overthrow tyrants. This argument is so potent that in 1953, as a young lawyer on trial for armed attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago in Cuba, Fidel Castro cited Knox in his defence.

Trinity Digital, an independent film company based in Scotland, have made Knox a feature length documentary fronted by Scottish actor Phillip Todd which explores the journey of this revolutionary Reformer from Catholic priest to passionate Protestant. As well as the deep commitment to the gospel which shaped Knox’s life we gain an insight into the humanity of the man who shaped a nation. From galley slave to face-to-face confrontation with an absolutist monarch, Knox experienced life.

An important independent film Knox can be found at


4 thoughts on “KNOX

    1. There is no ‘possibly’ about it. The only hope the church in the West has is a God sent spiritual revival leading to the reformation of the church. Tinkering is not enough, the complacent mindset which sees holding back the advance of secularism for a moment as a major victory whilst turning a blind eye to major doctrinal error has to be swept away.

  1. A very timely reminder of the importance of John Knox, not just to Scotland, but to the modern world. I haven’t watched the new documentary on Knox yet but intend to do this over the next couple of weeks. I can recommend Jane Dawson’s book entitled simply, John Knox. It does give some fresh insights into the man and his relationships, especially to the women and children in his life. This is a side to Knox which is often misrepresented or ignored in preference to the stereotype of the heartless, scheming political manipulator who committed the gravest of all crimes – he made Queen Mary cry.
    Knox was a man who lived through persecution and witnessed the brutality of the age, both in seeing friends burned alive at the stake and in serving 18 months on a French Galley. This latter was equivalent to a death sentence and it is a testimony to Knox’s faith that he was able to keep his own and companions’ spirits up during this time.
    Typically, the Church of Scotland was almost silent in the 500th anniversary year of Knox’s birth. The tone of the CoS hierarchy, of course, was set by the Moderator, Lorna Hood, who hosted an evening of food and drink for “influential” women in Scotland under the title, “A monstrous regiment of wimmin.” This served not only to mock Knox but also to show the lack of understanding and sympathy for a key historical figure whose care for and understanding of the female gender was not in keeping with the repressed position of women at the time.
    There is no doubt John Knox was used as an agent of change and revival in His Church in Scotland. He is portrayed as a political fixer by his enemies but his writings are full of the warmth and love he had for Christ and which he demonstrated through his service to his country.
    Certainly he had faults, and Jane Dawson does not shirk from showing these to us. But for me her book excels in showing the spiritual side of Knox’s life and his deep commitment to our Lord and his Word.

    1. Thanks for pointing out Jane Dawson’s book which is a good companion and counterbalance to Jasper Ridley’s more political ‘John Knox’, probably my favourite history book.

      Any one wanting to know the human side of his life should read Knox’s Letters. There we meet a pastor who had incredible compassion.

      I’m afraid Lorna Hood’s way of celebrating the 500th anniversary of Knox’s birth revealed both the prevailing historical ignorance and the determination to shrink everything into a very narrow, politically correct view of the world. Never mind his impact on Scotland and the English speaking world, he made Mary greet.

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