On This Day, 30 March 1533, Thomas Cranmer Consecrated Archbishop

Thomas Cranmer Consecrated Archbishop
Thomas Cranmer
MANY CHURCHMEN would have jumped at the chance to become Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest position in the English church. When Archbishop William Warham died in August 1532, King Henry VIII’s choice of a successor was Thomas Cranmer. However, Cranmer was not consecrated until this day 30 March 1533, seven months later. Partly, this was because Cranmer was in Germany on the king’s business when news of the appointment came. Mostly, however, it was because Cranmer dawdled, hoping the king would change his mind.

He knew he was walking into trouble. Henry was bent on getting an annulment of his marriage to his queen, Catherine. Catherine had borne him no male heir, although she had given birth to a daughter, Mary. The king suspected his marriage was under a curse because of incest, since Catherine had originally been the wife of Henry’s older brother Arthur before Arthur’s death. The pope, under obligation to Catherine’s nephew, Emperor Charles V, would not grant an annulment. Cranmer suggested that the universities could just as well settle the question of incest as the Pope. Henry swore Cranmer had “the right sow by the ear,” and sent him with a delegation to the continent to win support for an annulment.

Soon after he finally became archbishop, Cranmer granted Henry his divorce from Catherine. In so doing, he made an enemy of Mary. Meanwhile, he conducted himself under the theory that the king was the earthly head of the Church of England. Acting on the king’s shifting whims, Cranmer often appeared weak. For instance, he ruled Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn lawful and six months later ruled it unlawful.

Nonetheless, Cranmer edged England in the direction of the Reformation. He convinced Henry to place English-language Bibles in all churches, implemented a liturgy in English, and drafted a reform of the canon laws. He seldom balked at the king’s whims, although he testified against Henry’s Six Articles and pleaded for the lives of Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher whom Henry wanted to execute. His twists and turns kept him alive under Henry while the royal wrath destroyed many others. Henry even saved Cranmer’s life from one plot, playfully appointing him head of a commission to examine himself.

When Henry’s son Edward VI came to the throne, Cranmer continued to advance Protestantism in England, developing new doctrinal standards and issuing the Book of Common Prayer. When it became obvious Edward was dying, Cranmer joined those who wanted to make Lady Jane Grey, Edward’s Protestant cousin, the new queen rather than the staunchly Catholic Mary (Edward’s half-sister).

Mary ascended the throne despite the opposition. She executed Lady Jane and charged Cranmer with treason and heresy. Faced with the stake, Cranmer recanted his Protestant opinions. When he discovered that he was going to be burned to death anyway, he publicly shifted back to Protestant views, saying, “As for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy and Antichrist, with all his false doctrine.” He held the hand that had signed the recantation in the flame, burning it off and calling it “This unworthy right hand.” His last words, repeated several times, were “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Other Notable Events
1942
Death in Burbank, California, of Anne S. Murphy, author of the hymn “Constantly Abiding.”

1899
The steamship Stella strikes some rocks in a fog while sailing to Guernsey. Mary Rogers, a cheerful, kind, and hard-working stewardess, supervises the escape of a large number of women and relinquishes her own lifebelt to the last of them, giving up her place in the lifeboat. Raising her hands to heaven she cries, “Lord, have me!” as the ship sinks beneath her.

1876
Death, in California, of James L. Breck, a successful Episcopal frontier missionary and educator.

1858
Dudley Tyne speaks to a noon rally of five thousand in Philadelphia, taking as his text, “Go now ye that are men and serve the Lord.” He declares that he would rather lose his right arm than fail to deliver God’s message to his listeners. Deeply moved 1,000 men respond to his solemn words. Two weeks later one of his arms is ripped from its socket in an accident, infection develops, it has to be amputated, and in a few days more he will die. His last words will be “Stand up for Jesus father and tell my brethren of the ministry to stand up for Jesus.” This dying exhortation will inspire the hymn “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.”
1858
Death of Johannes E. Gossner, evangelist and founder of a mission society.

1735
The impious Howel Harris changes course, becoming a leading Welsh revivalist.
1555
Bishop Ferrar is burned at St. David’s at Carmarthen, the chief town of his former diocese, condemned for violating his vow of chastity. After preaching against Roman Church forms he had been imprisoned by Mary and refused to be reconciled with Rome, saying that he had taken an oath both to Henry VIII and Edward VI never to admit the papal supremacy.

606
(Probable date) Death on Mount Sinai of John Climacus, an Eastern hermit, author, and abbot. He had authored the popular book Scala Paradisi (The Ladder of Divine Ascent). Twelve centuries later, Danish philosopher-theologian Søren Kierkegaard, writing under the pseudonyms Climacus and anti-Climacus, will parody this work, loathing any suggestion that humans can ascend to the divine under their own power.

James White, Calvinist Apologist, Debates Austin Fischer, Author of “Young, Restless and No Longer Reformed”

Here is the debate.

White is fairly typical of the reformed folk that I have crossed paths with at Westminster Seminary and otherwise. There is a rush to heresy! There is also the final reply to all other arguments – God has the right to define himself and does not submit to human definitions or requirements. For the reformed this seems to be the end of all arguments. I listen to quite a bit of White’s stuff on his internet program, The Dividing Line. He speaks for the harder edges of reformed theology and therefore has the tendency to “go for the throat.” He calls it like he sees it. There is some value there, and it is a reminder that the Christian worldview is not “of this world.” Us “squishy evangelicals” need to be in dialogue with those from this corner of the family.

Fischer is simply taking the line Roger Olson does – ultimately the God of Calvinism cannot meet the requirements of any usual definition of “good.” Recognizing the validity of the argument that we don’t get to define God, Olson at the same time is concerned that the God of Calvinism is so far away from what we call good that we end up with a God who does what we would in any human situation call evil. So the question is how the God of Calvinism is recognizably good? It is clear that God is able to save people, from the reformed perspective, that he does not save. To say that he does not save them “for his own glory” takes us into some very ambiguous moral territory. How can this be called good? Like Martin Luther’s God, the God of the reformed is the “hidden God” – he gives to us his revealed will but then there is his hidden will of decree by which he ordains whatever comes to pass, which includes evil. In what sense is this good? It certainly is not good in any usual sense. We must be clear at this point. God does not just permit evil – he ordains it, according to Calvinism. As Olson points out, as hard as it sounds to the Christian ear, this view makes it hard to distinguish between God and the devil.

I don’t think James White really ever gets this point or feels compelled to respond directly to it. He goes into the “who are you to judge God?” mode, per Romans 9-11. But the issue remains. If God does that which in any usual situation we would call evil, we end up with a sovereign God, for sure, but not a God who can love the good. Apart from all the exegetical arguments, the psychological weight of this problem weighs very heavy on us. As John Wesley responded, whatever the Bible means it cannot mean that. I think Wesley was right.

World Vision Changes Reverses Its Position on Hiring People in Same-Sex Marriage – My Response

I have been tracking World Vision’s announcement that it planned on hiring employees who are in same-sex marriages and then its reversal just a couple of days later. My responses to this are several.

1. I am glad that you reversed your policy change and as a Christian organization representing the healing of Christ decided to be in union with historic Christian sexual morality. Like Al Mohler I receive your apologies.

2. Unlike Al Mohler the breach from my end of things remains, and this for several reasons:

1. WV’s initial rationale was so thoughtless and simplistic that I wonder what else WV can’t get. It wasn’t just about WV’s conclusion. It’s how they got there that is deeply troubling. Apparently the kind of serious theological and biblical thinking necessary for such an important issue is absent from the Board, especially if it can be convinced within two days that something they considered for months is so readily reversed.

2. A two day reversal does not pass the smell test. There are many other reasons than a biblical/theological reinterpretation that suggest themselves to me for this too quick reversal, reasons that cloud the issue. The primary one is donor relations. I have been doing church and parachurch ministry for 40+ years. There is hardly a parachurch organization in existence that can withstand a major donor revolt. I have witnessed on a regular basis extreme tortuous contortions by organizations to keep the existing donor base happy. Of course, I cannot say that this in fact happened with WV. That it is a likely scenario is too present to simply reject out of hand.

3. Now it will take time to renew confidence in WV, to believe that their commitment to biblically defined marriage and therefore to the authority of Christ is genuine. I will take the time it takes to renew that confidence. In the meantime I choose to give to relief agencies that “get it” and do not weaken the moral strength of the church at the very time when it is immersed in the struggles over marriage issues in our culture.

The reality at the moment is that many ministries within the church will no longer be able to assume that past conditions will apply as culture wars heat up on same-sex marriage issues. Churches and Christian organizations have to be ready to take a hit, sustain a wound, decrease in popularity, and financially struggle in order to be faithful to the authority of Christ. One can only imagine the kinds of pressures Christian colleges are under. We have already seen what happens to Christian organizations on secular campuses.

I know that our hearts are not about sexuality but about Christ. But the reality is that to be faithful to Christ we must speak about more than Christ, learning along the way how to do so in a manner that keeps the Good News at the center. Let the World Vision episode be a morality tale for all Christians. Sometimes you have to choose.