Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version



Published in The Medieval Theologians, edited by G. R. Evans (Blackwell, 2001), pp. 334-354. Copyright © 2001 Blackwell Publishers. Used by permission.


John Wyclif’s place in the history of Christian ideas varies according to the historian’s interest. As scholastic theology, Wyclif’s thought appears an heretical epilogue to the glories of the systematic innovations of the thirteenth century. Historians of the Protestantism, on the other hand, characterize him as a pioneer, the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” acknowledging his theology and the Lollard and Hussite movements associated with it as forerunners of sixteenth-century change. It has been difficult to understand Wyclif as a man of his age because the late fourteenth century itself is easily viewed as a period of transition from “Late Medieval” to “Early Modern.” Recent scholarship has helped to change this by showing how the decline of systematic Thomism and Scotism, the developing Ockhamist Moderni movement, and a vibrant Augustinianism contributed to form an atmosphere in which Wyclif’s theological innovations were a recognizable, albeit unorthodox, expression of the period. The beginning of the fourteenth century saw a shift in the practice of theology, from the magisterial Summa to an interest in terminist analysis of specific theological problems. Theology had become “mathematized,” reduced to a set of problems soluble through examination of the concepts involved. Ockham’s Moderni movement is most associated with this methodological shift, and most theologians of the period, whether philosophical Ockhamists or not, embraced it. Robert Holcot and Adam Wodeham are among the best-known analysts of terms, concepts, and propositions associated with understanding the divine nature and attributes, and the psychological elements of human willing, loving, and enjoyment relevant to merit and grace, among other problems.

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