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

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.

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

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.”
Death of Johannes E. Gossner, evangelist and founder of a mission society.

The impious Howel Harris changes course, becoming a leading Welsh revivalist.
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.

(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.

Debates Between Steve Chalke and Andrew Wilson You Need to View

Here is the site with the debates, each about 30 minutes.

Steve Chalke, a major presence in the Evangelical movement in Britain, some years ago came out against penal substitution as a way to explain the Cross of Christ. This is the view that the Jesus sacrificed himself to the wrath of God against sin in my place. Chalke called this view “divine child abuse.” After he wrote these words, he found out what “abuse” was all about as the Evangelical community rose up to both challenge and reject this characterization of the Cross.

As is almost always the case, Chalke opened the curtain on significant changes that were taking place in his hermeneutical closet, like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren have also done. They essentially reject the wrath of God as unworthy of a loving God. This means they must also take the next step of rejecting the infallibility of the Bible. Which also means they move toward affirmation of same-sex marriage. Which also means……  And which also means……

By the time this process is over with, if it is really in any sense over, there is no historic stream of Christianity left over. Bart Ehrmann is the most well-known morality tale on this one, at least at the level of the academy. Rob Bell is Evangelicalism’s most recent example on the larger stage of the American church. By the way, here is Rob Bell debating Andrew Wilson, who is featured in the debates with Steve Chalke, on homosexuality. Rob clearly isn’t even interested in the debate. In his words, homosexuality and the movement toward same-sex marriage “just is.” It’s the way the world works. He is dismissive of the whole thing and careful exegesis seems to be a waste of time to him. He is simply not interested in what any specific text says.

All of this is being worked out in Evangelicalism right before our eyes. Our former hip leaders are baling in bunches as they stand under the bright lights of cultural expectations and tsunami-like inclusiveness that rejects the “narrow way” to which Christ points. It’s painful to witness their self-torture as they try to keep up their former fame as they try to diminish what brought them to the party in the first place. In cases like Bell there is the necessary rejection of eternal punishment for sin. Under his hand hell is turned into purgatory and results in the full purgation of all people. He points out that some within the Christian Tradition, such an Origen and George MacDonald, that have believed the same, realizing, of course, that this doesn’t even come close to expressing the historical consciousness of the Church.

It seems that the genesis of much of this trajectory begins with their rejection of the wrath of God against sin and sinners. It is this very wrath which demands penal substitution, not only as a metaphor for Christ’s work on the cross but as the very reality of the thing itself. In other words, it is no metaphor at all. It is not just a way of speaking about the cross. It is what is happening on the cross.

I agree with John Wesley that the primary teaching of Holy Scripture is the love of God toward sinners. I also agree with Wesley that this is where our preaching starts. In this I digress from the NeoPuritans who begin with the sovereignty and holiness of God who is wrathful against sin. Wesley’s insight is that following the declaration of the love of God the Law of God in its holiness can perform its best work. Folks like Bell, McLaren and Chalke seem to me to strike the right note but don’t follow up and fit it into the right chord. The one note doesn’t stand on its own.

Penal substitutionary atonement is at the heart of the Good News. One cannot veer off very far from true Christianity if this is believed and preached. Where it is fenced in by a thousand qualifications or outright denied the trajectory is away from biblical Christianity. This is not just a doctrinal deduction but seems to be to have empirical proof. To deny it leads to all other kinds of doctrinal adjustments which, domino like, topple the Gospel.