John Wycliffe was an English theologian, scholastic philosopher, priest, a reformer of the church, biblical translator and a professor at Oxford University. He left a great impression on the church. The emblem of his doctrine has been carried through the narrow seas to the broad ocean and now his philosophies are spread across the world. He is a well-known personality in Europe because of his opposition to the organized Church's teaching. He is the promoter of the first complete translated English Bible and was one of the front head of the Protestant Reformation. John Wycliffe did not believe in the organized Church thoughts and hence he attacked their beliefs and practices.
Wycliffe was born in Hipswell, Yorkshire, England around the 1320s. He had a large family that was long settled in Yorkshire. His family belonged to the early Saxon origin. He received his early education near his home place. He went to Oxford University in the year 1345. Although he went to this renowned university for his studies, yet he could not complete his doctorate until the year 1372 because of the periodic eruptions of Black Death. However, he was still considered the leading philosopher and theologian of Oxford University. Wycliffe had huge interests in mathematics and science but he indulged himself in studying philosophy, theology and ecclesiastical law. His keenness on his dialectics was appreciated even by his enemies and opponents. He had a good knowledge of English and Roman laws along with native history.
He completed his degree as a junior fellow in the year 1356 from the Merton College, in the field of arts. Wycliffe shared transparent views on the society rather than asking people to believe in what the Church said or what the other writers believed. He considered the ongoing poor condition of the society as the indictment of unworthy clergy, unlike the other writers who believed the condition as a judgment of God on sinful people. The performance he showed in the colleges and the society made him the head of the Canterbury Hall. And he was appointed that position by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself. Wycliffe became a graduate in theology in the year 1369 and in 1372, he completed his doctorate. Two years after his doctorate, in the year 1374, he received the crown living of St. Mary's Church that he kept with him till death.
John Wycliffe believed in Scholasticism, which is the learning system of medieval times. He is a very controversial figure in history. He is considered as the first reformer, who fought almost alone against all kinds of medieval wickedness of the society. He became a priest but he used this position in order to stand against the corruption that the Catholic Church was involved in. In order to replace the church's discredited authority and make the actual law of God visible and available to all the people who can read and write, John started to translate the Bible. It is, therefore, he also started to preach and this preaching led to the formation of his followers, the Lollards. He widened his knowledge in the fields of scripture and started to write more about his conflicts with the teachings and offerings of the Church. He commented against the doctrine of transubstantiation and challenged indulgences. The confessionals were repudiated by him. He stated that Christ never ordered private confession and the apostles never used this. The church however totally went against him and stated that his translations made the scriptures vulgar.
Wycliffe was very well acquainted with the ecclesiastical politics and he studied the proceedings of the King of England, King Edward I. He helped them by forming a model stating the procedural methods in regards to the questions relating to worldly possessions and the Church. There are many such sentences in his book on the Church that highlight and recall the 1274 Commission Institution that was the basic cause behind the problems of the English clergy. He stated that the example of Edward I must be engraved in the minds of the government of his time and the main reason should be the entire ecclesiastical establishment reformation. He showed similar enactments in case of ecclesiastical politics of Edward III, on which he had great knowledge and which are reflected transparently in his political life. Wycliffe entered into his political life with his renowned work on the "Civil Dominion". According to him, the Church was involved in sinful acts and hence it was liable to give up all the properties that it owned, which would lead to the disinvestment of the properties of the Church. According to him, the clergy should live in poverty.
The preaching of Wycliffe theologically represented a firm belief in predestination. This belief enabled him in declaring an elect's invisible church with those predestined to be preserved and saved in comparison to the Catholic Church that was visible. According to him, there is one Universal Church, outside of which there will be no salvation. He stated the scriptures to be as the only reliable source of truth regarding God and that all the Christians must know Bible in detail rather than listening to the speech given by the popes and the other assistants. He believed that papacy had no scriptural justification.
John Wycliffe, therefore, was an early reformer who is best known for his translation of the Bible and for his critics against the Catholic Church. He is famously called "The Morning Star of the Reformation". The morning star is not a star in reality and it is actually the Venus that is visible even though the darkness dominates the horizon. Wycliffe contributed a lot during these dark situations of the society and hence the name has been given to him. John died on 30th December 1384, after suffering from two strokes. Although his bones were burnt and the ashes were put in the River Swift, after his death, still his reforming efforts were clearly visible and bright like the morning star.