Was the Anglican Church Started Because the King Wanted a Divorce?

11 09 2013

This fall the Ridley Institute, the school of theology at St. Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant will be hosting “An Introduction to Reformation Anglicanism.”  This lecture series is pulling from some of the most well regarded Anglican church leaders and scholars in the world.  You can click here for details on the course.  By the way, all the lectures are live.  Below is an excerpt from the course text, prepared by yours truly.  Enjoy.

A typical jibe against the Anglicans is that we were the ones “whose church was started because the King wanted a divorce.”  As can be seen from the previous posts (Click here for Part I.  Click here for Part II) the Reformation was well underway before the King initiated the process that ended in his divorce.  Nevertheless, the King’s “Great Matter” as it was called, was the official reason for England’s break with the Pope in Rome thereby establishing the independent Church of England.  For these reasons, the King’s divorce, no matter how unpalatable, played an important role in advancing the Reformation in England.  Perhaps here we must be content to say with Joseph, “you meant it for evil but God meant it for good” (Gen 50.20).

Henry VIII was the youngest son of Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch of England.  Henry VII had seized the throne from Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, thus ending the political upheavals and uncertainties that characterized the realm during the War of the Roses.  Henry VIII was not born to the throne.  Rather he was second in line to his brother Arthur, who died at the young age of sixteen in 1502.  Only then did Henry become the heir apparent.  Even so, his succession remained for a time uncertain.  The uncertainties regarding his succession were twofold.  The first problem was Henry’s age.  By the time Henry VII died, Henry VIII was only seventeen years old.  English law maintained that Henry could not manage his own affairs until he was twenty-one years of age.  Though he was the clear heir, his young age made him vulnerable in an already tense political situation.  This leads us to the second problem and that was Henry’s tenuous political situation.  It must be remembered that Henry did not come from a long line of English kings.  Henry’s father was the first Tudor king and he became so by violently taking it on the battlefield.  Henry’s claim on the throne was only as strong as his ability to maintain his grip upon it, as the Duke of Buckingham, Edward Stafford, would prove when he secretly plotted to overthrow the King in 1521.  Henry personally investigated the affair and had the Duke executed on May 17th, 1523.

A key to understanding Henry is to understand this fundamental instability that (real or imagined) always lurked behind the scenes.  The first move of stabilizing the young king’s reign was marriage.  Henry was married to Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Queen Isabella I of Castille and King Ferdinand II of Aragon.  The marriage gave Henry powerful political allies in Spain, but the marriage was not without its complications.  Catherine had been betrothed to, and eventually married Henry’s older brother Arthur.  The two had been married for six months before Arthur died.  When the time came to arrange the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine, it was thought that such an arrangement would be prohibited by Church Law.  The problem was Leviticus 18 vs. 16, which reads:

You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.

A more comprehensive reading of the Old Testament concerning such matters would easily demonstrate that the prohibition of marrying a brother’s wife applied only as long as the brother was alive.  The text therefore, was a prohibition against adultery as can clearly be proven by alternative texts where in the eventuality of a brother’s death the surviving brother is commanded to take his brother’s wife, not only to provide for her financially but to bear children on behalf of the deceased brother (See Ruth and Deut 25.5).

In light of the textual ambiguities, the English and Spanish authorities sought a Papal dispensation to overcome the presumed prohibition in Leviticus.  The Papal dispensation was written by Pope Julius II, who having been assured that Catherine did not know Arthur sexually, permitted Henry and Catherine to wed.  There is another text quite important to this matter that comes from Leviticus 20 vs. 21.  The text is essentially the same as that previously mentioned, but it adds a penalty to the sin that is not mentioned in the text from chapter 18.  It reads as follows:

If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.

Some have argued that as early as 1514, Henry had come to believe that his marriage with Catherine was unlawful before God and that he was under God’s curse, since the couple had failed to produce offspring, having experienced multiple miscarriages and stillbirths.  However, in 1516, Catherine gave birth to Mary Tudor (eventually “Bloody” Mary), and Henry’s fears were, for a time, eased.  Henry desperately wanted a male heir to the throne.  The Tudor dynasty was still fragile.  For the good of the realm as well as the dynasty, Mary was a promising sign, but what Henry really needed was a son.

It is hard to determine what rekindled Henry’s fear over the legitimacy of his marriage, but the events of 1519 could not have helped the matter.  As much as Henry agonized over whether or not his marriage to Catherine was lawful, he did not experience the same turmoil of conscience in the multiple affairs he is said to have engaged in.  One affair of great importance to our present subject was his affair with Elizabeth Blount, who sometime in June of 1519 gave birth to an illegitimate child of the king.  What made this child of particular significance was that this child was a boy.  Lady Blount had given Henry a son.

The boy was given the name Henry Fitzroy.  Fitz meaning “son of” and Roy meaning “King.”  Rather than hiding the affair and the child, Henry proudly received the newborn at court declaring him the “Son of the King,” even acknowledging the boy and granting him a peerage (nobility) as the Duke of Richmond and Somerset.  This was the first time since the 12th century that an illegitimate child of the King had been elevated to nobility.  Henry was clearly paving the way for Henry to take the throne, even suggesting that Fitzroy marry his half sister Mary, so that Fitzroy could reign as king.

Perhaps of greater significance to our present narrative however, is that Henry had proven that he was capable of producing a male offspring.  In his mind then, the problem did not reside in himself but was the product of his unlawful marriage to his wife, Catherine.  Henry returned to his study of the scriptural prohibitions in Leviticus and concluded that God was justly angry with him and punishing him for his sin in marrying his brother’s wife.  Henry’s conscience was not eased by the council of his clergymen, one of whom suggested that in the original Hebrew, the curse was not childlessness but specifically the death of sons.

Henry’s string of divorces and absolute cruelty towards his enemies makes it quite easy to cast everything that the man had done in a foul light.  But the early stages of Henry’s divorce deserve a sympathetic reading.  Here is a man whose claim to the throne was fragile and bought with bloodshed.  Men and women who saw the horrors of the War of the Roses, and the pain it brought upon the English people, would have still been alive to tell stories of their turmoil to the young king.  Stability and peace could not be had without a secure monarchy. To secure the monarchy Henry needed a son.  These concerns would be enough to bear down upon any person, but if you add a theological/religious dimension to this struggle, no matter how misguided and ill-informed, the burden would be crushing.  In his mind, Henry was not only dealing with the burden of the nation, he and his wife were being crushed by the wrath of God for their sin and Henry wanted to get out from under the terrible arm of the Lord.  It is telling that Henry’s interest in annulment preceded his involvement with Anne Boleyn by as much as two years.

Henry, a faithful Catholic, initially sought an annulment to his marriage through proper channels.  In May of 1527 Henry sent delegates to the Pope to make his case that the marriage was unlawful.  Henry was held in high regard by the Papacy.  In 1516 he had contributed 115,000 ducats to the Papacy to support Leo’s war against the French (In these days, Pope’s went to war!).  In 1521 he had authored a book against Martin Luther, and for his efforts was pronounced by the Pope to be the “Defender of the Faith.”  He believed in his cause and the theological arguments behind it, but he also trusted in the goodwill of the Papacy that had given him such a prestigious title in Christendom.  Despite Henry’s past support, it soon became clear that the Papacy had no intentions of supporting his annulment.  There is every reason to believe that the Pope would have granted the annulment had Catherine not been the King of Spain’s Aunt.  The Pope could not afford to make an enemy of Spain, who was a powerful ally against the French.

Seeing that there was little to be gained in this matter from appealing to the Pope, an alternative course was suggested by a hitherto underutilized cleric, university professor, and ambassador, Thomas Cranmer.  Cranmer suggested that rather than continue negotiations with the Papacy, why not deploy teams of scholars across Europe to determine the lawfulness of the matter in the universities?  The European universities were stacked with humanists who wouldn’t blindly defer to the Pope, but would seriously investigate the matter in the Bible and in canon law.

Reactions both at home and abroad were mixed.  At home, the reforming humanist William Tyndale severely opposed the annulment on Biblical grounds.  The conservative Roman Catholic, Bishop Fisher, opposed the annulment out of deference to the Pope and mother church.  Across the English Channel, the marriage was opposed by Martin Luther, who had a low opinion of Henry to begin with that was only worsened by Henry’s marital infidelities.  The Swiss Reformers, Oecolampadius and Huldrych Zwingli were more sympathetic to the King’s trials of conscience.  In France, Henry failed to carry the majority of the theologians in Paris, though he did carry many of the most prominent.

What is easy to lose sight of to the modern reader, which would have been the obvious elephant in the room during this process was not so much a matter of whether or not the King had proper grounds for a divorce, but whether or not the Pope had the authority to set aside God’s law.  Leaving aside the tortured interpretation of Leviticus 20 for one moment, it was pointed out by Henry and others that if there was nothing wrong with the marriage in the first place then no Papal dispensation was necessary.  But a Papal dispensation was written, implying that in the church’s judgment the marriage was not entirely without its problems.  If the church had determined that the marriage between Henry and Catherine was forbidden by scripture, then the Pope had no right to set aside God’s law for political expediency This opinion was boldly expressed in the Censurae Determinations, or The Determinations of the most famous and excellent Universities of Italy and France, that it is unlawful for a man to marry his brother’s wife; that the Pope hath no power to dispense therewith.  The title itself is instructive.  To say that it is “unlawful for a man to marry his brother’s wife” was nothing new.  But to declare that the “Pope hath no power” to dispense the prohibition was especially provocative.   In the Determinations, Cranmer (most likely) wrote:

It shall be the duty of a loving and devout bishop not only to withstand the Pope openly to his face, as Paul did resist Peter, because the Pope verily is to be reprehended and rebuked, but also with all fair means and gentleness, and learning, in time and out of time ought to cry upon him to rebuke, reprove, beseech, exhort him that the persons so coupled together may forsake such marriages.

The message was twofold.  The Pope was not above scripture and could not set aside God’s law, no matter how good his reason.  Two, the Pope could fail in his duties to interpret scripture properly, and when he did it was the duty of faithful people to rebuke him.  We’re no longer just talking about divorce, but Cranmer and the other scholars involved in this project had begun a direct challenge to Papal authority on scriptural grounds.

It was not the divorce, but rather the challenge to Papal authority on the grounds that the Pope was not above Scripture which furthered the Reformation in England.  As was shown in the earlier posts, this challenge was not something that originated with Henry’s divorce.  Rather, Henry’s divorce gave the Reformers the chance to advance ideas they had been forming in secret for nearly a decade.  Namely, that no man is above Scripture.  King Henry, his infidelities and his temper remain a black mark on the period.  But good was brought from this evil.  It was through this evil that the English Bible eventually emerged, as well as Gospel centered preaching and Reformation liturgies.  We’ll learn more about these in the coming days.

You can learn more about Henry and the English Reformation by attending the Ridley Institute’s Fall Course.  Click here to register, or talk to your Rector about the possibility of live streaming the entire course to your local church.

 





Who the heck was Erasmus and why should I care? (Or…reading the Bible can be a dangerous thing)

29 08 2013

This fall the Ridley Institute, the school of theology at St. Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant will be hosting “An Introduction to Reformation Anglicanism.”  This lecture series is pulling from some of the most well regarded Anglican church leaders and scholars in the world.  You can click here for details on the course.  By the way, all the lectures are live.

The first lecture in the series is by Gerald Bray, a highly regarded Anglican theologian and historian.  He’ll be teaching on “Erasmus and Tudor Humanism.”  Now if you don’t know who “Erasmus” was, or what “Tudor Humanism” is, then you’re probably more inclined to stay home and watch the Oxygen Network’s new reality series The Real Millionaire Preachers of L.A..  And that would be a shame, because Erasmus has probably played a hugely important role in your Christian life and you may not even know it.

Erasmus was a dutch humanist born in the late 15th century.  “Humanist” in our own day can mean someone who has rejected the claims of revealed religion.  We might even call someone a “secular humanist.”  In Erasmus’ day the term meant something very different.  In the 15th and 16th centuries, a “humanist” was someone who was dedicated to human literature (the philosophy and poetry of the ancient world) rather than the study of theology.  Such scholars were often interested in the ancient languages of Latin, Greek and Hebrew.  In Northern Europe, humanism took on a particularly religious bent where scholars used their newfound skills in the languages to take a fresh look at the texts of the Old and New Testaments.  This was called Christian Humanism.

During the renaissance, if someone said “the Bible” they most likely meant the Latin Vulgate, a Bible translated by a man named Jerome in the fourth and fifth centuries.  Jerome took the Hebrew and Greek texts and translated them into Latin, which was the popular or vulgar (vulgate) language of the day.  Jerome’s translation stood for 1000 years.  When the church discussed matters of faith and practice it was always done in reference to Jerome’s Latin translation, not the original Hebrew and Greek.  

Along came Erasmus (and a few of his friends) and took a fresh look at the Greek New Testament.  One might suppose that reintroducing the Bible and the Biblical languages to the Christian people would be a well regarded service to the Church but this was not always the case.  Some of the clergy in England regarded the study of Greek and Latin as “dangerous and damnable.”  There was a reason that the authorities were so afraid of the Greek New Testament and considered it “dangerous and damnable.”  As scholars across Europe read the New Testament in its original languages what they discovered was that the teaching and practice of the Medieval Church did not always conform to the teaching of Christ in the Bible.  These discrepancies were not minor  and in some instances threatened the very existence of some of the medieval church’s major teachings.

For example, consider Matt 4.17.  Just to more clearly make our point, let’s be good Christian humanists and Bible scholars and consider the text the way Erasmus.  That is, let’s start with the Greek!  In the Greek, the text is as follows:

Ἀπὸ τότε ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς κηρύσσειν, καὶ λέγειν, Μετανοεῖτε ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

Now this is Jerome’s translation from the Latin Vulgate, the official Bible of the Medieval Church:

Exinde coepit Iesus praedicare et dicere paenitentiam agite adpropinquavit enim regnum caelorum.

For the most part, Jerome got it right.  The translation is good.  However Erasmus noticed one glaring problem between the Latin and the original Greek text.  The problem was Jerome’s translation of mετανοεῖτε (metanoiete).  Jerome translated mετανοεῖτε as “do penance.”  Thus, Matt 4.17 read:

From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say “Do penance:  for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

It was Jerome’s translation as mετανοεῖτε that was largely responsible for the Medieval Roman Catholic penitential system, where sinners were commanded by priests to “do penance,” that is to make satisfaction for their sins before God.  By the 16th century the penitential system had become a way for the church to raise vast sums of money by requiring financial satisfactions for sin.  It was not only a bad translation, but it justified an oppressive system that punished the poor and lined the pockets of the clergy.

Erasmus, taking a closer look at the Greek word, translated mετανοεῖτε (meta = change/ noew = mind) as repent, which he understood to be in reference to an inward psychological attitude of sorrow of sin and a turning away from it.  The changing of one little word, from “penance” to “repentance,” removed one of the main pillars of the medieval penitential system.  The English humanist and scholar Thomas Linacre, upon reading Erasmus’ Greek New Testament and accompanying Latin translation noted “Either this is not the Gospel, or we are not Christians.”  Erasmus’ Greek New Testament called the church to repentance and reformation in obedience to the Scripture, turning them away from the faulty and oppressive penitential system of the medieval church.  Erasmus’ translation permanently altered the course of Western Christianity.

Erasmus reminds us that to read the Bible is a dangerous thing.  The Bible is after all “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit” (Heb 4.12).  Just as western Christianity was never the same after reengaging the New Testament after several hundred years, we should not expect to stay the same either.  To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, the Bible is not tame, neither is it safe.  But it’s good and it’s good for you.

You can learn more about Erasmus and the English Reformation by attending the Ridley Institute’s Fall Course.  Click here to register, or talk to your Rector about the possibility of live streaming the entire course to your local church.





Why Should Christians Study History?

28 08 2013

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a pretty significant bias towards the humanities.  I’ve heard it said that scientists can tell us how to clone dinosaurs, but an English major can tell you why you shouldn’t.  At least in that scenario, the humanities seem more useful.  All that to say, I’m biased and that bias will be reflected in this post, so do adjust accordingly.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, simply four reasons off the top of my head for why Christians should engage in the study of history.  They are as follows:

  1. History keeps Christians from being naive
  2. History helps Christians avoid ancient errors
  3. History helps us solve modern problems
  4. History helps us appreciate the work of the Holy Spirit

I’ll talk through each one briefly in the following paragraphs.

History keeps Christians from being naive:

If you’ve been around Christians for more than five minutes one of the things you’re bound to hear is “I’m just a Christian.”  That little statement can be juxtaposed with other Christians who might say “I’m a Presbyterian,” or “I’m a Roman Catholic.”  Perhaps more broadly someone might say, “I’m a Reformed Christian,” or “I’m an Arminian Christian.” Now we can say two things from here.  First, I would suggest when speaking with non-Christians it is preferable to simply say “I’m a Christian” without getting into all the confusing details of denominationalism.  Second, I can also see the reason why someone might want to eschew a denominational or confessional label.  After all, the fact that we must meet in separate buildings, with separate names and distinct theologies is a sad thing.  With the hymnist we can say “Bid Thou our sad divisions cease/ And be Thyself our King of Peace!.”

This longing for unity and disdain for division can compel us to say, “to heck with it!  I’m just a Christian.”  While I understand the sentiment, I would also say that the statement is incredibly naive and at the end of the day unhelpful.  No one is just a Christian.  We all have distinct views on some of Christianity’s biggest questions, questions such as:  What is the Bible?  How are we saved?  What is a Church?  Now here’s the kicker.  Because you have opinions on these questions you’re not simply a Christian.  Your opinions will place you firmly within a historic Christian tradition whether you like it or not.  The problem is, if you don’t read Christian history you won’t even know that’s what you’re doing.  You’ll be frustrated when you talk to people who are aware of their Christian tradition because they can’t just be “simply Christian,” like you are.  But the problem is, you’re not simply Christian.  You just don’t know enough to know better.

History helps Christians avoid ancient errors:

Why could Jesus heal the sick?  It’s because he was God right?  And God can do things that we can’t do, so that’s why Jesus could heal the sick.  Well, not so fast.  The above comes dangerously close to an ancient Christian heresy called Docetism, which said that Jesus only appeared to be a man but he was truly and purely God.  Here’s the problem with Docetism:  if Jesus only appeared to be a man then God has no experience of human weakness and human frailty.  But one of the chief comforts of the Gospel is that God became man, the Word became flesh.  Jesus was fully God and fully man.  Of the many significant things that this implies, one thing is that when we sin God understands the trials we were under because, having taken on flesh, God the Son was under the very same trials yet remained without sin.  Therefore he has sympathy with us in our sin and weakness (Hebrews 4.15).  Docetism denies the Christian the comfort that God sympathizes with his people, even in their sin.

The ancient church spent a lot of time defining orthodoxy (right belief) over and against heresy (wrong belief).  While this may seem like nitpicking over doctrine so that we can “get it right,” as the above example illustrates heresy is a cruel thing.  It was Bishop Fitz Allison who went to great pains to point this out in his book The Cruelty of Heresy (Buy it here).  Reading Christian history helps us learn and identify the heresies of the past so that we won’t visit the cruelty of heresy on ourselves or on others.

History helps us solve modern problems

C.S. Lewis said this better than I will be able to, so I’ll simply quote him in full.  I’ve emboldened the especially relevant points:

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator….

This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology….

Every age has its own outlook. It is especially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books…. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

History helps us appreciate the work of the Holy Spirit:

The Holy Spirit has been at work in the lives of God’s people for 2000 years (and even before that!), not just at Pentecost and last Sunday when your favorite worship song was played.  It’s good for Christians to read about the work of the Holy Spirit in previous generations, how he led the church in truth, how he sanctified the saints, how he strengthened them to endure death, how he emboldened them to preach the Gospel, how he caused them to take up the cause of the poor and the oppressed.  One of the chief benefits for me in reading the lives of Christian saints from the past is to see the ways that the Holy Spirit powerfully worked upon them, that I might ask the Holy Spirit to do the same for me.

All that to say, History is important for Christians.  If you’re an Anglican, or just happen to be a product of the Reformation (if you’re reading the Bible in your mother tongue, you’re a product of the Reformation) there is a wonderful opportunity coming up this fall that you can read about here.  I’m afraid the link does make this little post a bit of shameless self-promotion, but I also hope it will be more than that.  Do read history Christians!  It will do you some good.

If you want a good place to start, how about:

Biographies

Eric Metaxas Dietrich Bonhoeffer

G Marsden Jonathan Edwards

J.C. Ryle Light From Old Times (several short biographies of English Reformers)

Bruce Gordon John Calvin

Peter Toon God’s Statesman: The Life and Work of John Owen

John Bunyan Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (Bunyan’s spiritual autobiography)

Histories

P. Benedict: Christ’s Church Purely Reformed

D. MacCulloch:  The Reformation

J Pelikan’s five volume History and Development of Doctrine (a personal favorite, but no easy read)

The First Christian Theologians edt. by Evans





“Men who were certain they had found out truth, and content to die for their opinions…”

18 04 2013

This Sunday at St. Andrew’s we continue our series on the church with the “Persecuted Church.”  As the logic has gone for the past several weeks, the church is what it is because the Lord is who he is.  We had (have!) a persecuted Lord, therefore we have a persecuted church.  In the West we are fortunate that there is so little persecution of Christians, and of such little consequence, that it is hardly worth mentioning compared to our brothers and sisters scattered abroad.  But it was not always so!  Only a few hundred years ago it cost men and women a great deal to confess the name of Jesus Christ.  Below is their story, written by J.C. Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool.  You should read it.  You should learn it.  If you are an Anglican it is your story and that is all the more reason for some of you to settle in and work your way through the text.

It is fashionable in some quarters to deny that there is any such thing as certainty about religious truth, or any opinions for which it is worth while to be burned. Yet, 300 years ago, there were men who were certain they had found out truth, and content to die for their opinions.—It is fashionable in other quarters to leave out all the unpleasant things in history, and to paint everything of a rose-coloured hue. A very popular history of our English queens hardly mentions the martyrdoms of Queen Mary’s days. Yet Mary was not called “Bloody Mary” without reason, and scores of Protestants were burned in her reign.—Last, but not least, it is thought very bad taste in many quarters to say anything which throws discredit on the Church of Rome. Yet it is as certain that the Romish Church burned our English Reformers as it is that we are assembled in St. James’s Hall. These difficulties meet me face to face as I walk up to the subject which I am asked to unfold today. I know their magnitude, and I cannot evade them. I only ask you to give me a patient and indulgent hearing.

After all, I have great confidence in the honesty of Englishmen’s minds. Truth is truth, however long it may be neglected. Facts are facts, however long they may lie buried. I only want to dig up some old facts which the sands of time have covered over, to bring to the light of day some old English monuments which have been long neglected; to unstop some old wells which the prince of the world has been diligently filling with earth. Give me your attention for a few minutes, and I trust to be able to show you that it is good to examine the question, “Why were our Reformers Burned?”

Read the whole thing here





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 »





D.A. Carson’s and Douglas Moo’s introduction to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

19 12 2011

This short letter has an importance out of all proportion to its size. There is always a tendency for people to think that their salvation (however it is understood) is something that is to be brought about by their own achievement. How they understand salvation may vary, and the kind of achievement they see as necessary may correspondingly vary. But that their eternal destiny rests in their own hands seems a truism, so obvious that it scarcely needs stating. Christianity has often been understood as nothing more than a system of morality, as the careful observance of a sacramental system, as conformity to standards, as a linking up with others in the church, and so on. There is always a need for Paul’s forthright setting out of the truth that justification comes only through faith in Christ. This must be said over against those who stress the importance of works done in accordance with the Torah or any other achievement of the sinner.

The Christian way stresses what God has done rather than what sinners do to bring about salvation. There can be no improvement on the divine action by any human achievement, by way of either ritual observance or moral improvement. The cross is the one way of salvation, and no part of Scripture makes this clearer than does Galatians.

We should not miss the importance of Paul’s appeal to Abraham (Gal. 3:6-29). This takes the reader back to a time when the law had not been given; the covenant established with Abraham takes precedence over the law (3:17). The law cannot annul the promise of God. Those who were forsaking simple reliance on the promise of God were turning from the divinely appointed way and mistaking the real purpose of the law (3:19). If Paul’s Galatian friends would give proper consideration to the example of Abraham, they would see the serious error into which they were falling when they began to rely on the Torah.46 If we read the account of Abraham and his faith in its proper sequence in the unfolding history of redemption, instead of anachronistically assuming, with many Jews, that Abraham must have kept the law, it becomes clear that God’s way has always been the way of promise and faith. This brings Paul to the magnificent thought that all human distinctions have now become irrelevant (3:28-29). Christ came at the appointed time to redeem enslaved sinners (4:4-5), and Paul makes an important point when he says that he did this work of redemption “by becoming a curse for us” (3:13). This is a significant contribution to our understanding of the atonement.

Along with the emphasis on justification by faith in Christ is an emphasis on Christian freedom: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1); believers are literally to “walk in [NIV `live by’] the Spirit” (5:16). Even those who are justified by faith in Christ sometimes find it easy to subject themselves to the slavery of a system. Paul’s words remain the classic expression of the liberty that is the heritage of everyone who is in Christ.

Galatians is a constant reminder of how important it is to understand what the Christian faith implies for Christian living. Even Peter and Barnabas could go astray. Paul does not complain of their theology, but of their practice when “those who belonged to the circumcision group” induced them to withdraw from table fellowship with Gentiles (Gal. 2:11-14). No letter makes as clear as this one does the importance of living out all the implications of salvation through the cross.

read in its original format here