Thursday, February 23, 2012

New George Wishart Graduate Scholarship Strengthens Ties between Princeton and Aberdeen

The announcement of this new scholarship hit my e-mail yesterday morning, and I must say that it is happy news. Anything that promotes theological scholarship at quality institutions like those in question here is cause for celebration, indeed. So for those of you thinking of making the jump from New Jersey to Scotland, be sure to factor this into your decision-making process. I wonder: will they make it retroactively effective for those PTS transplants currently studying in Aberdeen? Perhaps that’s something folks should lobby for.


In any case, I’m also glad that they named this scholarship after George Wishart. Wishart was an important early figure in the Scottish Reformation. This is especially interesting to me at the moment because I’m doing a concurrent unit on the Scots Confession in an introductory theology class that I’m currently teaching. If not for Wishart, history likely would not have John Knox. And if not for John Knox (regardless of what you make of him, or how big of a role you think he played), the reformation in Scotland might well have followed Lutheran or Anglican lines rather than Reformed lines.

I linked above to Wishart’s Wikipedia page--Wikipedia being a good place to start, but no place for academic scholarship (just in case that isn’t already perfectly clear; I teach undergraduates now, I have to say these things…). In this particular case, the bare-bones entry for Wishart is basically accurate. But never fear, gentle reader, for I am here to put more interesting meat on these bare bones.

It was Wishart’s preaching in the early 1540s that drew Knox soundly into the reformational orbit. The two men were roughly the same age, and they seem to have developed something of a close bond. Knox was one of a close circle that accompanied Wishart on his preaching excursions, and Knox frequently walked at the front of the group carrying (conspicuously) a claymore (not a small sword) as a deterrent. Consequently, it came as a great blow to Knox when Wishart was condemned and burned at the stake for heresy. This event seems to have traumatized Knox a bit, and one suspects that this experience lies behind his vehement reaction to Bloody Mary Tudor and (when added to his Bloody Mary experience) goes some distance in explaining his intractable stance toward Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (i.e., he was deathly afraid that she would take the other Mary’s tack).

Wishart thus casts quite a long if indirect shadow on the Scottish Reformation through his preaching (which attracted Knox and laid an important evangelical foundation) and the sacrifice of his life in martyrdom. It is thus fitting that a scholarship be created in his name to ease the sacrifice required of others to study theology in Scotland today.

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1 comment:

Justin said...

Sweet - we need some more Princetonians around here - otherwise I'll just continue to assume you're all sci-fi fans who used to work for Veggie Tales.