John Wycliffe's story—relevant for today

By Wycliffe College
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The film "John Wycliffe Morningstar," produced by Trinity Digital Ltd., was released on Reformation Day—October 31. 

Wycliffe College partnered in the production of this docudrama because we believe that the story of our namesake—the fourteenth-century scholar, priest, theologian, Bible translator, and reformer John Wycliffe —still has relevance for today. The film’s director, Murdo Macleod (MM below) participated in an email interview with Wycliffe College Communications Director, Patricia Paddey.

Q:        Tell us a little about your faith journey and why you created Trinity Digital Film.

MM:     I grew up in a Christian household and the concepts of sin, heaven, hell, and the cross were ingrained in me from infancy. I always believed that this was the way the world was, but it was only later, when I was a young teenager, that I put my trust in Christ personally. Going through high school and university and then film school, I was always a bit of an outsider. How much of this was due to my Christianity and how much to my personal idiosyncrasies is difficult to decide. I was certainly always grateful for the friendship of other Christians within these communities, and especially for the comradeship of another Christian filmmaker in film school.  

Trinity Digital is the name of my production company, launched in 2015 with my first feature-length documentary “Knox.” This was about the Scottish Reformer John Knox, and more information can be found on our website The idea behind Trinity Digital is to create films of cinematic quality that explore Christianity or look at the world from a Christian perspective. The latest of these films is my second feature documentary “Morningstar” - – which looks at the life of John Wycliffe.

Q:        Why is John Wycliffe's story relevant for audiences today?

MM:     Today’s Christians didn't pop out of a vacuum. Each of us was led toward Christ by another Christian, either directly or indirectly. These men and women in turn were led to Christ by those who had gone before them. There is therefore a chain of human relationships connecting each contemporary Christian back, step by step, to the apostles. This chain, sadly, is often forgotten, and we think about our faith in terms of our own experience and the writings of the New Testament without an appreciation of the millions of lives God has impacted between then and now. I think it can be a strong boost to our faith to hear the stories of the Christians of the past and appreciate what God has done through them.

John Wycliffe is of interest for many reasons. It's not just for his pioneering work on Bible translation, nor for the way he inspired an anti-establishment missionary movement. He stands at a crux in history, as the Morningstar of the Reformation, as a sign of what was to come. As one of our interviewees puts it: “He came in the darkest days of the church. And the fact that God would send someone and would send his Spirit in these darkest days is proof that God never left.”

Q:        What was your greatest inspirational finding as you researched and wrote the script for the film?

MM:     Wycliffe was a philosopher as well as a theologian. He was fascinated by the way the world worked. He advocated a position called medieval realism, which I found rather baffling when I first encountered it, but which gave me a new appreciation for the world after studying it a bit deeper. I probably wouldn't be able to express it as Wycliffe would, but to me, it means that God did not just create atoms and molecules and then stick them together in various ways to form the created universe. God also created other things that exist on a different level. He created the concept of a circle, or the colour green, or the idea of laughter. He even created the idea of creation. Wycliffe saw these as God's blueprints, used in the creation of the physical universe around us. For me, this allows me to see God's fingerprints in parts of life that I had never thought of as “creation.”

Q:        Tell us about some of the challenges you encountered during production.

MM:     We had a lot of adventures, including the Director of Photography's car exploding. (Fortunately, he jumped out in time.) The biggest challenge was on the final day of the drama shoot when the next-door pub began to hold a Dubstep concert at noon, with the intention of continuing till midnight. Their speakers were clearly turned up to 11, as the whole studio wall was vibrating like a drum and the car alarms in the car park were going off with the impact of the sound waves. We had no option but to continue shooting without sound, and some of the crew spent most of the day wearing earplugs. It's surprisingly difficult to direct a crew when people are wearing earplugs, but the noise levels were dangerous to health. Up until halfway through the editing process, you could still clearly hear the dubstep backing music on some of the drama shots.

Q:        What do you hope will be the key takeaway that audiences will leave with after screening the film?

MM:     My hope is that audiences will be interested to discover more about this Bible that got Wycliffe so enthused and that they would read it and discover God's Word for themselves.

Q:        What would you say to people to encourage them to see the film?

MM:     Wycliffe's name is known today, but his story is largely forgotten. This is a shame because it's a fascinating and exciting story, and I hope the film does a certain amount of cinematic justice to the drama of his life. But it's one thing to know what happened, and another to understand why. We really want to dig into what made Wycliffe decide to translate the Bible and what motivated him in his work. I know I am biased, but I think we have ended up with a film that’s both entertaining and educational, and that stretches our minds to look at the world, and the Christian faith, in a new and bold way.

Q:        How can people see the film?

MM:     We are now going on tour with the film around the UK and arranging for screenings in different towns and cities. The film itself will be available online, on DVD, and on broadcast channels. You can get all the latest information on where to watch the film at