Thomas Cranmer: On the comfort of the Lord’s Supper

20 12 2011

I was fortunate enough to recently acquire the complete works of Thomas Cranmer, along with several other wonderful original documents of the English Reformation such as the works of Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Thomas Becon (Cranmer’s personal chaplain) as well as many other original letters of the English Reformation to and from the Lutheran and Genevan Reformers.  Slowly working through Cranmer’s writings, particularly those on the Lord’s Supper has been a tremendous blessing. 

All men desire to have God’s favour, and when they know the contrary, that they be in his indignation, and cast out of his favour, what thing can comfort them?  How be their minds vexed!  What trouble is in their consciences!  All God’s creatures seem to be against them, and do make them afraid, as things being ministers of God’s wrath and indignation towards them, and rest or comfort can they find none, neither within them, nor without them.  And in this case they do hate as well God, as the devil; God as an unmerciful and extreme judge, and the devil as a most malicious and cruel tormentor.

And in this sorrowful heaviness, holy scripture teacheth them that our heavenly Father can by no means be pleased with them again, but by the sacrifice and death of his only-begotten Son, whereby God hat made a perpetual amity and peace with us, doth pardon our sins of them that believe in him, maketh them his children, and giveth them to his first-begotten Son Christ, to be incorporate into him, to be saved by him, and to be made heirs of heaven with him.  And in the receiving of the holy supper of our Lord, we be put in remembrance of this his death, and of the whole mystery of our redemption.  In the which supper is made mention of his testament, and of the aforesaid communion of us with Christ, and of the remission of our sins by his sacrifice upon the cross.

Wherefore in this sacrament (if it be rightly received with a true faith) we be assured that our sins be forgiven, and the league of peace and the testament of God is confirmed between him and us, so that whosoever by a true faith doth eat Christ’s flesh and drink his blood, hath everlasting life by him.  Which thing when we feel in our hearts at the receiving of the Lord’s supper, what thing can be more joyful, more pleasant, or more comfortable to us?

Thomas Cranmer, Cranmer’s Works edt for the Parker Society Vol I pg 80-81





The Heart and Soul of Anglicanism: The Martyrdom of Ridley and Latimer

20 12 2011

Below is an account of the martyrdom of Ridley and Latimer.  Note Ridely’s remark at his last meal, that it was a “marriage feast.”  That is, Ridley is having a banquet before the bride of Christ meets her husband.  Read the whole account of the Marian persecutions here.

Dr. Ridley, the night before execution, was very facetious, had himself shaved, and called his supper a marriage feast; he remarked upon seeing Mrs. Irish (the keeper’s wife) weep, “Though my breakfast will be somewhat sharp, my supper will be more pleasant and sweet.”

The place of death was on the northside of the town, opposite Baliol College. Dr. Ridley was dressed in a black gown furred, and Mr. Latimer had a long shroud on, hanging down to his feet. Dr. Ridley, as he passed Bocardo, looked up to see Dr. Cranmer, but the latter was then engaged in disputation with a friar. When they came to the stake, Mr. Ridley embraced Latimer fervently, and bid him: “Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it.” He then knelt by the stake, and after earnestly praying together, they had a short private conversation. Dr. Smith then preached a short sermon against the martyrs, who would have answered him, but were prevented by Dr. Marshal, the vice-chancellor. Dr. Ridley then took off his gown and tippet, and gave them to his brother-in-law, Mr. Shipside. He gave away also many trifles to his weeping friends, and the populace were anxious to get even a fragment of his garments. Mr. Latimer gave nothing, and from the poverty of his garb, was soon stripped to his shroud, and stood venerable and erect, fearless of death.

Dr. Ridley being unclothed to his shirt, the smith placed an iron chain about their waists, and Dr. Ridley bid him fasten it securely; his brother having tied a bag of gunpowder about his neck, gave some also to Mr. Latimer.

Dr. Ridley then requested of Lord Williams, of Fame, to advocate with the queen the cause of some poor men to whom he had, when bishop, granted leases, but which the present bishop refused to confirm. A lighted fagot was now laid at Dr. Ridley’s feet, which caused Mr. Latimer to say: “Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light up such a candle in England, as I trust, will never be put out.”

When Dr. Ridley saw the fire flaming up towards him, he cried with a wonderful loud voice, “Lord, Lord, receive my spirit.” Master Latimer, crying as vehemently on the other side, “O Father of heaven, receive my soul!” received the flame as it were embracing of it. After that he had stroked his face with his hands, and as it were, bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died (as it appeareth) with very little pain or none.

Well! dead they are, and the reward of this world they have already. What reward remaineth for them in heaven, the day of the Lord’s glory, when he cometh with His saints, shall declare.





The Heart and Soul of Anglicanism II: The Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer

20 12 2011

Below is an extended account of the trial and martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.  The account picks up with his imprisonment and degradations and includes his famous recantations, where he repented of his previous reformation convictions.  Nevertheless, as the account shows, Cranmer recovered his Gospel convictions at the hour of his death.  His language about the Pope may be offensive to modern ears, however it must be remembered that for Cranmer, as for many of the Reformers, the Pope was thought to have instituted many practices that undermined the free grace of God in the Gospel.  This doesn’t lessen the forcefulness of the language, however it does put it in context.  Read the whole account of the persecutions that took place during “Bloody” Mary’s reign here. Read the rest of this entry »





Rob Sturdy: Thomas Cranmer’s Sacramental Theology and Engaging Postmodern Nihilism

20 12 2011

 This paper principally deals with Thomas Cranmer’s sacramental theology and its special benefit in engaging postmodern nihilism. Thanks to the folks at Trinity Church for letting me pursue advanced academic studies and a special thanks to Colin Burch for providing editorial review.

For several centuries now the philosophical worldview of the Enlightenment has been the dominant defining and structuring element in the West.  At its core, it can be described as essentially secular or rigidly materialistic.  Here secular, or rigidly materialistic, means “nature is all there is and all basic truths are truths of nature.”[1] Thus the secular worldview dictates that the deepest experiences of being a human such as embodied life, self-expression, sexuality, aesthetic experience, human political community, etc., are natural phenomenon and can only be explained naturally.  It has been noted, however, that explaining such complex phenomenon purely in materialistic terms devalues and delegitimizes the phenomenon themselves.  As Douglas Wilson, in a recent debate with Christopher Hitchens, noted, if love, hate, the yearning for justice, equality etc. are purely natural phenomenon, they have no more legitimacy than a chemical reaction in a can of Coca-Cola.[2] Milbank, Ward and Pickstock argue in their introduction to Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology that it is this devaluing of complex phenomena that has created the “soulless, aggressive, nonchalant, and nihilistic” materialism of contemporary society.[3]

In an attempt to reinvest the material world with some legitimacy and meaning, theologians in the Anglo-Catholic stream of the Church of England have put forward the theological framework of participation, which essentially posits that a phenomenon has ultimate meaning to the extent that it shares some of its traits and derives them, albeit imperfectly, from God.  And though the proponents of Radical Orthodoxy argue that only transcendence expressed through participation can uphold these complex phenomenon “against the void,”[4] Radical Orthodoxy nevertheless fails on a number of points to safeguard the concreteness of such things as embodied life, gender, temporality, etc., thus leading those who share the concerns of Radical Orthodoxy to seek an alternative solution.

One alternative to Radical Orthodoxy within the Anglican Tradition can be found in the Reformed doctrine of the extra-Calvinisticum, which gives expression to Thomas Cranmer’s sacramental theology.  Cranmer’s sacramental theology is similar to Radical Orthodoxy’s doctrine of participation on a number of points; nevertheless, there is at least one significant point of departure.  That point of departure is the extra-Calvinisticum, a Christological doctrine often narrowly associated with its namesake, John Calvin.  Briefly put, the extra-Calvinisticum is the theological conviction “ that the immutable God became man without diminution or loss as regards any of his attributes” joined with the conviction that the “existence of the second person of the Trinity et extra carnem.” [5] To put it more simply, the extra holds to the ubiquity of the divine Word, the local presence of the physical body of Jesus contained in heaven, while emphasizing the unity of the two in the person of Christ.[6] This paper will argue that Cranmer’sextra-Calvinisticum gives shape to his sacramental theology in such a way that it succeeds in safeguarding the very interests of Radical Orthodoxy.  This will be demonstrated by a critique of the shortcomings of Graham Ward’s essay “Bodies,” followed up by an analysis of Thomas Cranmer’s Answer to Stephen Gardiner Concerning the Sacraments.  If Cranmer’s sacramental theology can be shown to succeed where Radical Orthodoxy has failed, the usefulness of a long dead and oft neglected theologian can be revived to engage postmodern nihilism at its most critical shortcomings. Read the rest of this entry »





John Wesley on Stewardship

20 12 2011

Below is an excerpt from Tyerman’s biography of John Wesley.  I often wrestle with how the Gospel should play out in my finances, particularly as I look at the great abundance of that God has blessed us with.  I often wonder how I can cling to things when Christ so graciously released his life on my behalf.  I found the story below especially convicting.  How does God’s extravagant gift on the cross translate to us giving extravagantly?

“One cold winter’s day, a young girl, whom the Methodists kept at school, called upon John Wesley in a state nearly frozen, to whom he said, ‘You seem half-starved; have you nothing to wear but that linen gown?’  The poor girl said, ‘Sir, this is all I have.’  Wesley put his hand in his pocket, but found it nearly empty.  The walls of his chamber however were hung with pictures, and these now became his accusers.  ’It struck me,’ says he, ‘will thy Master say, “Well done thy good and faithful steward?”  Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money that might have screened this poor creature from the cold!  O Justice!  O Mercy!  Are not these pictures the blood of this poor girl?’  To say the least, this story shows the intense conscientiousness of the man, and his dread of spending anything upon himself that might have been spent properly on the poor.”

Tyerman, The Life and Times of John Wesley vol I pg 71





William Tyndale: The Gospel = “That which maketh a man’s heart glad and maketh him sing, dance and leap for joy”

20 12 2011

Sometime in the 1520′s, William Tyndale published his “Pathway into the Holy Scripture,” which was a brief introduction to how to read the Bible.  Tyndale had to write this because he had of course translated the Bible into English and people were beginning to read it.  As a Pastor, I found this little tract (approx 36 pages) introducing people to the Bible to be immensely valuable.  What I was most taken by however, was Tyndale’s description of the Gospel.  It had me dancing in my chair, which I think is what Mr. Tyndale intended.  I thought about updating the language but I have left it as is.  Enjoy! 

Evangelion (that we call the gospel) is a Greek word and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy:  as when David had killed Goliath the giant, came glad tidings unto the Jews, that their fearful and cruel enemy was slain, and they delivered out of all danger:  for gladness whereof, they sung, danced and were joyful.  In like manner is the Evangelion of God (which we call gospel, and the New Testament) joyful tidings; and as some say, a good hearing published by the apostles throughout all the world, of Christ the right David; how that he hath fought with sin, with death, and the devil, and overcome them: whereby all men that were in bondage to sin, wounded with death, overcome of the devil, are, without their own merits or deservings, loosed, justified, restored to life and saved, brought to liberty and reconciled unto the favour of God, and set at one with him again: which tidings as many as believe laud, praise and thank God; are glad, sing and dance for joy.

This Evangelion or gospel (that is to say, such joyful things) is called the New Testament; because that as a man, when he shall die, appointeth his goods to be dealt and distributed after his death among them which he nameth to his heirs; even so Christ before his death commanded and appointed that such Evangelion, gospel or tidings should be declared throughout all the world, and therewith to give unto all that (repent, and ) believe, all his goods:  that is to say, his life wherewith he swallowed and devoured up death; his righteousness, wherewith he banished sin; his salvation, wherewith he overcame eternal damnation.  Now can the wretched man that knoweth himself to be wrapped up in sin, and in danger to death and hell hear no more joyous a thing, than such glad and comfortable tidings of Christ; so that the cannot but be glad, and laugh from the low bottom of his heart, if he believe that the tidings are true.





Anglicanism and the New Calvinism

19 12 2011

Below is an excerpt from an essay written by Michael Milton, President and Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte N.C.  The essay “The Once and Future Calvin” is an interesting read although at times the author’s fawning adoration of Calvin and the New Calvinism might make you a bit quesy, like when your buddy gushes on and on about his new girlfriend.  Nevertheless, the exerpt below is an informative few paragraphs on the influence the “new Calvinism” is having on the worldwide Anglican Communion, particularly those influenced by African Anglicanism.  Of the notable “Calvinists” listed below you’ll notice Archbishop of Uganda Henry Luke Orombi, who made the trip all the way from Uganda to Geneva to celebrate Calvin’s 500th anniversary.  You’ll also notice that the author does the unfashionable thing (unfashionable since the current Anglican theologcial scene is dominated by Anglo-Catholics), and notes the great extent which Calvin’s theology had on the formation of the Anglican prayerbooks as well as the 39 Articles of Religion.

Indeed, English speaking Christianity is seeing a great resurgence of Calvinism it may not look like what we are used to, it may not pass muster with most of our faculty at RTS, or at Covenant or Westminster but it is surely under the larger umbrella of Calvinistic movements. And who is to say that what starts out in one way may not end up looking another way? At least you would grant me that the germ of John Calvin’s theology is there: the doctrinal, cultural and even pietistic shades of this great man’s catholic Christianity.

But is the “future Calvin” heartier than only these hopeful movements in an otherwise bland and even broken evangelical Western Christianity? Calvinism, as it did when the magisterial Reformer was on the world stage, is spreading to other places in our own generation; and one of those places is the new Canterbury. We know that John Calvin and Martin Bucer and John Knox all had a significant part to play in the formation of The Book of Common Prayer. And we know that the Church of England’s Thirty Nine Articles of Religion are part of the doctrinal and confessional bedrock for our own Westminster Standards. Today, in the midst of the collapse of the Episcopal Church in the USA, a phoenix is rising. Splintered now into groups like CANA and AMIA, Anglican Archbishops like Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda and Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Gregory Venebles of the Anglican Southern Cone of America are all faithful Thirty Nine Article of Religion leaders and are emerging as confessional leaders in this nation and in the West. They all view America as ground for evangelism and their movements are growing. And this is the new Canterbury in our midst. The old Canterbury still exists, but is more the bastion for Western, secularized, Enlightenment-ridden religion. The new Canterbury has a robust devotional life; an early church-like fire that is causing the Gospel to spread through church planting and through revitalization work in old Western nations like ours, as well as in older Colonial forms that need reviving. This is the new Canterbury. And as Calvinism impacted the old Canterbury, so it is providing the theological engine for this tremendous movement in our generation. In our own seminary, we are meeting even now to form an Institute for Anglican Studies to help meet the growing need to provide theological education and vocational preparation for this movement.

As we consider what God is doing in America through the Calvinistic Anglicans, we must also look to England. For not only is the New Canterbury coming, but also the “ancient-future” York is already here! In England, we can behold the current Archbishop, John Sentamu, of Uganda, holding up the historic Prayer Book faith of J.C. Ryle. Indeed, in Sentamu’s inaugural sermon, the Anglican Archbishop pointed to the writings of Michael Ramsey of Canterbury from 1960:

“He was speaking of the stupendous missionary century that saw the wonderful spread of Christian faith in Africa and Asia by missionaries from these islands, and compared it to the spiritual decay in England. He longed for the day in England when the Church would learn the faith afresh from Christians of Africa and Asia. He ended his address by saying, ‘I should love to think of a black Archbishop of York, holding a mission here, and telling a future generation of the scandal and the glory of the Church.’ Well, here I am.”

Powerful. And unstoppable.

We can expect more of this Anglican Calvinistic health in the world in days to come. Who would have thought that an increasing number of Latimer’s and Ridley’s and Ryle’s sons would be leading the way, on fire with the doctrines of grace, in the 21st century? But who would have thought that the continuing Episcopal Church in America and the Church of England in that “green and pagan” land would be led by Africans and Asians and South Americans to revive a truly Calvinistic Prayer Book movement? This is a work of God in our midst. And it is wondrous in our eyes.

read the whole essay with footnotes by clicking here