Two Books on JOHN KNOX: adult novel & non-fiction biography
THE THUNDER, a novel on John Knox, "Douglas Bond does a smashing job, ...a great novel for anyone who likes history... simply an amazing tale told exceptionally well." Reformed Perspective Journal (reviews)
THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX, profile biography with RT (Ligonier) "Bond has captured the very essence of this remarkable model for reformational ministry.” George Grant
RADIO INTERVIEWS on both books
THE THUNDER now available in Dutch (winter 2014)
1547. John Knox, ‘de donderende Schot’, leeft in een turbulente tijd. Het corrupte, Rooms-katholieke Schotland is vol avontuur en gevaar. Knox wordt vogelvrij verklaard, vlucht met een groep gelijkgezinden naar een kasteel, wordt overmeesterd door de Franse tegenstanders en zit maandenlang als roeislaaf op een Frans galeischip. Toch blijft hij vasthouden aan de onvervalste Bijbelse waarheid, zelfs als de Schotse koningin Mary er alles aan doet om hem te doden.
Brit named "Knox" has no idea who John Knox was...
While leading one of my Church History tours with young adults, I stood in front of John Knox's home on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and asked several people if they knew who Knox was and if he was good for Scotland. The very first fellow that I talked to was named "Knox" but had no idea who the real Knox was or why there was a house museum for him on the Royal Mile. Here's the video clip:
While leading a Church History tour in Scotland the summer of 2011, we stood in Knox's house, where he died, and read from the final chapter of THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX, which I had written in the same room the year before. Sort of a coming full circle on the research, the writing, and the sharing Knox's life with others today. In John Knox's home listen in as I talk about Knox's life and read from The Mighty Weakness final chapter written in his home.
THE THUNDER, a novel on John Knox
Listen to an audio excerpt:THE THUNDER, a novel on John Knox
Reader review: "Douglas Bond is one of the favorite authors in this home, and, I must say, he has done it again! The Thunder is one of the best books that I have read yet, and through it's pages I was spiritually humbled and challenged." Rebecca Knox, blogger at Rebecca's Hearth and Home
“In his latest novel, The Thunder, Douglas Bond deftly escorts us into the sixteenth-century world of John Knox through the eyes of a young student—an ideal means of letting the reader observe and experience the life of Knox firsthand. Bond’s careful use of language suited to the time period allows for a seamless flow from narrative to the actual text of Knox’s powerful sermons, while rich, descriptive passages paint a vivid picture of Scotland and England during the Reformation. The spiritual aspect of the story is richer still, inviting the reader to wrestle with the Gospel truths Knox so fearlessly preached. A fine work, honoring the memory and message of the Thundering Scot.”Liz Curtis Higgs, best-selling author of the Lowlands of Scotland series
"Douglas Bond tells an incredible story that is little known today: God's grace at work in the life of John Knox and the struggle for the Reformation in Scotland. "The Thunder" is historically informative and spiritually inspiring, as well as highly enjoyable and fast-paced. Here is unfolded the life of a man filled with the grace of Christ and made courageous by his faith in God's Word. "The Thunder" is a book that believing fathers will want their sons to read -- in fact, it is an ideal book for fathers to read to their children. "The Thunder" is a gripping novel sure to stir the faith of anyone who longs to see the triumph of God's Word in our own time."
Richard Phillips, pastor and author of THE MASCULINE MANDATE
Knox's 500th birthday Scotland Tour, Summer, 2014--blessed time!
Endorsements of Knox biography (RT)
Dr. George Grant, pastor of East Parish Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, had this to say about the book:
“In the compass of this small volume, Douglas Bond somehow manages to corral all the mysterious paradoxes of John Knox: the thunderous pulpit and the closet intercessions, the soaring intellect and the humble home life, the boldness and the meekness, the might and the weakness. In other words, Bond has captured the very essence of this remarkable model for reformational ministry.”
Dr. T. David Gordon, Professor of Religion and Greek, Grove City College
"Another volume appears in The Long Line of Godly Men Profiles, this time a profile of John Knox by Douglas Bond. To this very interesting book about a very interesting man, Douglas Bond brings his compelling narrative style, honed in his previously-written novels. The Preface (“A Weak Man Made Mighty”) sets the tone for the volume, as Bond demonstrates in a variety of ways how God took Knox’s several weaknesses to make him one of the Reformation’s strongest figures. Citing Knox’s greatest strength in his submission to Christ, Bond then traces “power” in Knox’s life, whether it be power of prayer, pen, or predestination, or power in Knox’s preaching. For those wondering if the Pauline mystery of strength-in-weakness could become true for them, Bond’s portrait of Knox will prove as edifying as it is instructive."
Ian Hamilton, Minister, Cambridge Presbyterian Church, Cambridge, England
"I am delighted to recommend Douglas Bond's latest book, "The Mighty Weakness of John Knox". Douglas Bond has written many, mainly children's, books on sixteenth and seventeenth century Scottish church history. He writes with the passion of a man who believes that the church today needs, for its spiritual good and sanity, to learn about the church of yesterday. In choosing to write a book on John Knox, Doug Bond has done the church today a great service. Knox was the towering figure of the Scottish Reformation. In many ways he was a reluctant hero, conscious as he was of his own weaknesses. However, as the title of the book makes plain, Knox's sense of weakness was overwhelmed by his sense of God's greatness. Indeed, as Doug Bond shows us throughout his book, it was Knox's constant sense of his own weakness that enabled the Lord to use him so mightily in his service. When Knox was asked to account for the wonderful success of the Scottish Reformation, he replied, "God gave his Holy Spirit in great abundance to simple men". Read this book. Learn from this book. Thank God for men like John Knox. Above all, pray that God would raise up like-minded and like-hearted men in our own day, and once again give his Holy Spirit in great abundance to men who are deeply conscious of their own weakness".
(Ian's off-the-record response to RT endorsement request: "I will be delighted to do this, on two counts: First, Doug Bond is a good friend of many years. Second, John Knox has been a good friend for many more years!")
Dr. David P Murray, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
"Though I love John Knox, I rarely enjoy reading about John Knox. Most biographers leave me feeling like a pathetic worm beside this mighty lion of Scotland. But, to my great surprise, this book lifted my spirits and even inspired me! Why? Because Douglas Bond has captured and communicated the secret of John Knox's power - a genuinely felt and openly confessed weakness that depended daily and completely on the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Mighty weakness! What an encouraging message for all worms who want to be lions!"
Order a signed copy of THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX for yourself or for a friend.
THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX, Reformation Trust
Greg Bailey, Executive Director of Publication with Ligonier Ministries publishing house, Reformation Trust, asked me at the Ligonier conference in Seattle, October, 2009, to consider writing a biography for their Long Line of Godly Men Profiles series, with General Editor, Steven Lawson. The book profile on the life of John Knox is entitled THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX (click to listen to chapter one). This is a new genre for me, and a newpublisher, and I've enjoyed writing it very much. While in Scotland in April, 2010 I was able to do some boots-on-the-ground research for the Knox Profile. To release April 15, 2011.
And in rather rapid succession, I researched and wrote another biography for the Profile series, THE DOXOLOGICAL GENIUS OF ISAAC WATTS (click to listen), to release with Reformation Trust (Ligonier) September, 2012, proposal accepted,contract signed, advance paid, and manuscript complete.
- Listen to Bond's Key-note address on JOHN KNOX at 2009 Reformation Faire, Peoria, Illinois
- Join this site and watch for new audio and video clips on Knox and Scotland coming up after I return from leading the Spring, 2012 Covenant High School historical studies tour in Scotland, England, and Normandy.
Excerpts from THE THUNDER, a novel on John Knox
Dead Bishop’s Castle
I was born in a castle. Hugh Douglas, Laird of Longniddry, was my father, and the only home I had known was the Douglas ancestral keep. Yet it makes too free with veracity to call it a castle. It was not a proper castle, one queens and fine ladies strut about within. In truth, it was a damp, smelly, crumbling fortified house, more akin to a vertical stone casket than a lavishly appointed bishop’s castle.
Here in late April, 1547 I found myself—for good or ill—hemmed in by the fortification of St. Andrews Castle, a proper castle, a veritable palace bedecked for a bishop, now a dead bishop. Much of the luxury of the place, so it seemed, had died with him. Cowering behind the crenellation that day, I mentally attempted to calculate the thickness and stoutness of the stones that made up the dead Bishop’s battlements facing the town. I breathed shallow so as to avoid the full force of the pinching odors of amassed humanity that hung palpably in the air.
The town rumbled with activity: shouting men, bawling oxen straining at their carts laden with timber and stone, and with victuals for the soldiers, spades and barrows, and laden with other things—cannons, barrels of gunpowder, ball, shot, and the like—ordnance, I’d heard it termed. Above all, there were the shouts and cries of men. My shallow breathing, in truth, came less from the stench and far more from gnawing anxiety at the deadly preparations surrounding me and St. Andrews Castle.
With a shudder, I turned my back on the cacophony and eased myself away from the scene. Crossing the paving stones of the inner-court of the castle, I mounted a narrow stairway that led up to the battlements of the dead bishop’s castle jutting into the North Sea.
As I climbed, I tried to divert my eyes from the blackened stones of the blockhouse that contained the Bottle Dungeon. My abhorrence for enclosed places sent a shudder down my frame. The place was a veritable hell hole, a constricting cavern into which condemned prisoners were lowered on a rope, there they crouched amongst the putrid filth of former occupants, surrounded by the foul scratching and gnawing of rats, there to await the rack or the stake. For Mr. Wishart, as I had often heard, it had been the stake.
I broke into a run on the last few treads, leaving the dungeon behind me. Through a notch in the wall, I squinted into the distance where the gray water met the gray skyline. I’d heard talk that the Queen Regent had petitioned the French to send their navy, thereby hemming us in by both land and sea.
Since first hearing of her scheme, I often studied that horizon, my mind troubled. But as with other days, I saw no ships bearing toward St. Andrews in the grayness—not today. Perhaps they would not come. Navies were in much demand these days, so I had been told. Perhaps the French were occupied with busting down other castles, too busy for St. Andrews.
Inching my feet forward, and steadying myself with my hands against the stone battlements, I eased closer to the edge. With my eyes clamped shut, I breathed in the salty air and listened to the foamy shying of the surf. I felt a lurching of my insides as I forced my eyes open and looked down the castle wall direct into the sea. My fingernails clawed the stone edge. A gull hovered in the breeze above me, wings spread wide in flight but going nowhere. It mocked me with its screeching. Far below, and surrounding three sides of the castle, the frigid North Sea pummeled the walls. In the backwater of that pummeling, the sea churned like boiling tar in a vast caldron. My stomach did much the same.
For an instant my heart halted—so it seemed--and then thundered back to life. I nearly sank to me knees in fright.
“George, where’ve you been?” asked my brother. “And do be tending of your eye balls, lad. They’re a-bulging out of your head again. I swear, one of these days you’ll be making them so wide and gogglee they’ll come a-popping out of your sockets like when farmer McAllister is wringing the necks of his chickens and--”
I’d heard this all before and cut him off. “Francis, if you do that sort of thing again, I’ll end up tottering clean over the battlements and splitting my crown on them rocks. And if there’s anything left of me, I’ll be drowned and battered in the sea. It’ll be all your doing, Brother.”
”And eaten by a haddock,” he added, clamping me on the back in what he intended to be a good-natured gesture, but one that I felt nearly launched me over the wall. “You’re always fretting yourself, George. Eyes goggling out of your head. That’s your problem.”
There was no denying of what he said. For weeks now I had felt myself in a perpetual state of fretfulness.
“Now, you must come along with me,” he continued. “Master Knox’ll be expecting us in the chapel for our lessons.”
“There’s time,” I said.
“Which is what you always say,” said Francis. “Which is why you’re always late.”
“I’ll not be late.”
This being besieged was all a game to my brother Francis and Alexander Cockburn our childhood friend and fellow student. To me it was no game. Dutifully, I began following him down the narrow stone stairs.
“Why did they do it?” I blurted after him.
Francis stopped and turned slowly toward me. He heaved a sigh. “If you don’t ken the answer to that, you’ve gone daft. ‘Why did they do it?’ you ask. They did it because fornicating Cardinal Beaton was a monster. His vows of chastity notwithstanding, his holiness fathered no less than seven bastard offspring. If anyone in God’s universe had it coming to him, Beaton did. That’s why they did it.”
He scowled and shook his head. “Counted what?”
“His… well, his offspring?”
“Brother, there you’ve gone and clean missed the point again,” he said....
Order a signed copy of THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX for yourself or for a friend.
Review of THE THUNDER, a novel on John Knox (P&R, 2012)
Book Review: THE THUNDER, a novel on John Knox, by Douglas Bond (P&R, 2012)
A Two-for-one review by bloggers John and Rebecca Knox
REBECCA KNOX’S REVIEW
In The Thunder, a novel on John Knox, Douglas Bond has done it again! Bond has long been at the top of the list of favorite authors in the Knox home. Shortly after discovering our own Scottish roots and ancestry (Knox really is our surname), and being absolutely fascinated by them, we discovered and read Mr. Bond's Crown & Covenant Trilogy, (the first, Duncan’s War now being made into a movie) followed by his Faith & Freedom Trilogy.
When The Thunder was released, we devoured it. What I love about Mr. Bond's writing is the way he weaves meticulously researched, historical fact and fiction together in such a way as to create a rich story line that brings to life people, places, and times that we might have known very little about otherwise. Perhaps as a result of the many church history tours he leads, Mr. Bond's writing transports us to other times and places, inviting us to delve in and learn more for ourselves, further enriching our family learning experiences.
I will take the risk of appearing to over praise; The Thunder truly is one of the best books that I have ever read, and through its pages I was spiritually humbled and challenged. Bond tells the incredible story of God's grace in the life of John Knox and the struggle for Reformation in Scotland. The Thunder is "...historically informative and spiritually inspiring, as well as highly enjoyable and fast-paced...," wrote Richard Phillips, pastor and author of The Masculine Mandate.
Told from the perspective of a young student, one who is resolved to protect Knox at all costs to himself, Bond's thrilling biographical novel provides a look at the harrowing life story of a timid man who is, literally, transformed into a giant of the faith. One who goes down in history and is known to this day as “The Thundering Scot.” The novel reveals Knox as a man filled with the love of Christ and made courageous by his faith in God's Word. Families everywhere should read this book--all the better if they read it aloud. The Thunder is a deeply spiritual novel that is sure to stir the heart and faith of anyone who longs to see God's Word triumph in our world today—how fitting to read it on the 500th commemorative year of Knox’s birth in 1514.
JOHN KNOX’S REVIEW
In The Thunder, Douglas Bond has, again, created a singular masterpiece of storytelling, which thoroughly captivates the reader from chapter to spellbinding chapter. The meticulous, historical research results in a vivid and explosive depiction of the life and times of John Knox, sixteen-century Scotland, and continental Europe amidst the wildfire of the Reformation period. Only a well-traveled modern American author with Scottish roots and a true love and understanding of the theology of Presbyterianism in Scotland, could have succeeded in portraying the dangerous and desperate society in which John Knox found himself in the mid-16th century.
Furthermore, Bond's The Thunder, accurately brings to its readers a vitally important time and place sometimes obscured or ignored by present day church historians, many of whom are honestly unaware of. By weaving historical fact with altogether-believable fictional scenarios, Bond’s novel reaches a potentially wider audience, while never sacrificing the truth of the history. Many educators should find The Thunder to be a valuable resource for introducing this period of European history in a classroom setting or in the homeschool.
In addition, The Thunder presents much needed and informative facts regarding the origins of the Geneva Bible of which Knox was instrumental in producing. Obviously, Bond knows that both teachers and students of early U.S. History can never fully comprehend the events leading up to the America Revolution without a firm grip on the Scotch Reformation of which John Knox was the key player.
EVEN PASTORS AND THEOLOGIANS BENEFIT FROM FICTION
As viable historical fiction, The Thunder, is a perfect example of an important literary genre often overlooked, or virtually disregarded by serious scholars of theology--to their own detriment. Recent studies conducted by Professor Gregory Bern, and a team of neuroscientists at Emory University, have concluded that reading great fiction has both short and long-term social and educational benefits for everyone, a fact appreciated by readers of classic literature for centuries, and more recently rediscovered in The Great Books approach to curriculum in Christian education and widely within the Christian homeschool community.
Among other roles, church leaders are educators to their flocks, and should therefore equip themselves for effectiveness by every legitimate means to carry out that God-ordained responsibility. For that reason alone, pastors, elders, and theologians (avid readers of non-fiction) who've previously been reluctant to embrace historical fiction and imaginative literature should seriously reconsider the reasons for avoiding this literary genre. having confronted that personal prejudice, an excellent place to start is Douglas Bond's The Thunder, a novel on John Knox (P&R, 2012). Learn more at www.bondbooks.net
P&R Publishing, 2012, 400 pages
Reviewed by Jon Dykstra, Reformed Perspective Journal
John Knox turns five hundred this year and I can't think of a better way to mark the occasion than to read Douglas Bond's biographical novel of the man. All I knew of Knox before reading this was that he was supposed to be the Scottish John Calvin. But after The Thunder I think a better comparison might be some combination of action hero and Scottish Elijah.
His first notable foray as a Reformer was as a bodyguard, wielding a two-handed sword in protection of a preacher. He was then ordained himself, and shortly thereafter imprisoned and sent to a French galley to row for almost two years. And when finally freed, though the trial left a permanent impact on his health, Knox then made a habit of speaking Truth to power, chastising the regent of England, encouraging the child King, Edward VI, and then admonishing Mary, Queen of Scots as well as her mother, the Dowager Queen Mary of Guise. This was a guy, weak though he was in body, who would not back down!
So that's the man, but what about the novel? Douglas Bond does a smashing job, telling the tale from the perspective of one of Knox's students. This device allows Bond to tell one near unbelievable tale after another about his principle figure, but make it all believable by having the young student also marvel at the spiritual might of this Reformation giant.
This is a great novel for anyone who likes history, older teens through adults, and simply an amazing tale told exceptionally well.
A Reader comment on THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX
I just wanted to thank you for your writing. I had heard a little bit about Knox before, but after reading your book, "The Mighty Weakness of John Knox" I was driven to tears. I actually had to put the book down for about a month half way through because of the inadequacy I felt. When we think of the Luthers, the Calvins, and the Pauls we already assume that we will not measure up. We have already accepted the fact that these giants and heroes were quite remarkably chosen of God. But the thing with Knox, as I gathered from reading your book, is that he was so ordinary and yet fearless. He was just an average guy who would stand for the Gospel at all costs. His prayer life, which anyone can work on in the Spirit, was deep and strong. How can a person not feel that they should be more devoted to Christ compared to him. Also, I am a 25 year old student at Boyce College (online though, I live in San Antonio) so seeing that he got started so much later was comforting. I have been reading your novel, "The Thunder," about him as well lately. I'm about half way through so far. I just wanted to thank you for making such a man of the faith come alive in such a way. I know that this note may be kind of "awe shucks," but learning about him has really given me a sort of hero of the faith to look to.
My original proposal synopsis:
Knox's life is a furiously exciting one and would connect to my C&C trilogy, especially as I would use the historical character, and author of Old Hundredth, William Kethe, as my lens to Knox [decided against this because there was too much history known that made it impossible for him to be my continuous lens to Knox throughout his adult life]. It would follow Betrayal well, which I'm told is selling well.
The Thundering Scot, comes of age in turbulent, corrupt Scotland in the 16th century. Body guard of George Wishart, Knox finds himself a wanted man, besieged in St. Andrews Castle, siezed by the French at its fall, made a galley slave, released, then made fiery preacher of Reformation in Geneva, Frankfurt, and later his beloved Scotland. Intrepid before the lovely Mary Queen of Scots, Knox is unflinching before assassins and death in his stand for the gospel of grace in Christ alone.
Set in turbulent 16th century Scotland, the story opens with young John Knox taking up a two-fisted broadsword in defense of George Wishart, fugitive of Cardinal Beaton, who has accused Wishart of attempting to assassinate him. The action rises as Wishart is betrayed and arrested, imprisoned in the infamous bottle dungeon of St.Andrew's Castle, given a mock trial, convicted, and burned in a slow fire, the Cardinal looking on from his velvet cushioned window seat in the castle. Knox is caught up in the zealous rage of the Scottish supporters of Wishart, many of them new converts to Christ. The castle falls. Men are executed. Knox is made a galley slave where he suffers extraordinary deprivations for 19 months. Released, he is invited to join the English Reformers, offered a bishopric and a pulpit in London.
Knox develops impassioned preaching skills, early converts being his future mother in law and wife. When Edward VI dies and Bloody Mary begins her Protestant purge of her new realm, Knox flees to Calvin's Geneva (overlapping episodes will hint of The Betrayal). Trained, equipped, inspired, Knox returns for commando preaching in Scotland in 1555, staying one step ahead of Bloody Mary and the Queen Regent of Scotland, both intent on having his blood. Many converted to Christ. When Mary dies, Knox returns to Scotland in 1559, writes the Scots Confession 1560, comes to blows with French royal troops supporting young Mary Queen of Scots, finally triumphs with Parliamentary support of Reformation. Preaching, decrying public sins, standing boldly before murdering and immoral monarchs, assassins make attempts on his life, Knox at last prevails in Christ, dying in 1572.
Order a signed copy of THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX for yourself or for a friend.