Archive for January, 2011

I was reading through Mark Galli’s article on Archbishop Thomas Cranmer which appeared in the 1995 Church History (Issue 48), entitled “Courage When It Counted.”

The title is appropriate. Cranmer was many things: a bright theologian, an ardent reformer, and a liturgical genius. But he was also opportunistic, politically savvy, and at times disappointingly servile to his King. The Church is not to be blamed for looking back on his life with a bit of confusion.

What can be said is that when all was lost and his fate was sealed, Cranmer was inspiring in his final moments, expressing his commitment to his convictions and the movement he was instrumental in shaping in England.

From Galli’s article:

Rushing to the Fire

The morning of March 21, 1556, broke with dark skies and fierce rain. At 9:00 a.m. Cranmer was escorted from his cell. As he left, he said to his jailer that if anyone doubted his recantation was sincere, his signed recantation would leave no doubt, and he handed the 14 copies to his jailer. But hidden in his shirt were both the Catholic and Protestant versions of his final speech.

The rain meant the formalities that were to precede the burning had to be moved indoors to St. Mary’s Church. The procession chanted psalms as it slowly moved through the rain to St. Mary’s. At the church, Cranmer was led to a stage facing the pulpit. There, clothed in a square cap and ragged, thread-bare clothes, he was required to stand and listen to Henry Cole, provost of Eton at Oxford, preach.

Cole spoke of Cranmer’s crimes and of God’s mercy but also of the need for Cranmer’s death—to recompense the death of John Fisher decades earlier. Tears steamed down Cranmer’s anxious face as Cole preached. Cole looked at Cranmer and concluded, “I pray you, Master Cranmer, that you will now perform [what] you promised long ago, namely, that you would openly express the true and undoubted profession of your faith.”

Cranmer knelt with the congregation in prayer; then he rose and put off his cap. He drew out a piece of paper and began to read. He thanked the people for their prayers and exhorted them in four points: to care less for this world and more for the next, to obey their sovereigns out of the fear of God, to do good to all people, and to be concerned for the poor.

Then he said, “And now, forasmuch as I am come to the last end of my life, whereupon hangeth all my life past and all my life to come … I shall therefore declare unto you my very faith how I believe, without any color or dissimulation.”

His opening words were those of the Nicene Creed, and those immediately following started off as expected but then took a turn: “I come to the great thing that troubleth my conscience more than any other thing that I ever said or did in my life, and that is setting abroad of writings contrary to the truth, which here now I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death and to save my life if it might be—and that is all such bills which I have written or signed with my own hand since my degradation, wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for if I may come to the fire, it shall be first burned.”

Loud murmurs sped through the congregation, but Cranmer continued, “And as for the Pope, I refuse him as Christ’s enemy and anti-Christ, with all his false doctrine. And as for the sacrament—”

One of the dignitaries shouted at him to stop. Cranmer boldly continued, saying that his writings “teacheth so true a doctrine of the sacrament that it shall stand at the Last Day before the judgment!”

Cole shouted out, ordering Cranmer taken away. Cranmer was dragged from the stage. But it was Cranmer as much as the friars who rushed to the stake because they had a hard time keeping up with him. When they reached the stake, the friars threatened him and warned him to repent, but Cranmer knelt on the bare ground and prayed. Then he rose, put off his outer garments, and finally stood in a long shirt that touched his bare feet, his long, white beard reaching to his chest.

He clasped the hands of friends who stood nearby and bade them farewell. He was bound to the stake with a steel band around his waist. The fire was kindled at his feet, and quickly the flame leapt up. Cranmer stretched out his right arm and hand into the flame and held it there as he said, “This hand hath offended.” Only once did he withdraw it to wipe his face, and then he returned it until it had burned to a stump.

He stood straight as long as he could, ringed in fire, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” He then collapsed and was consumed in flame. Rain continued to fall softly, and gently cleansed his ashes.

Rightly, he is remembered in our prayers with Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley on October 16th.

Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servants, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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Martha at Carolina Inn

Yesterday Martha had a bridal show at the Carolina Inn. Chapel Hill Magazine included her on their blog.

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From a letter written by Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, to his sister.

“…I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was – how to get it out. He was rich truly, but I was poor; He was strong, but I weak. I knew full well that there was in the root, the stem, abundant fatness, but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As gradually light dawned, I saw that faith was the only requisite – was the hand to lay hold on His fulness and make it mine. But I had not this faith.

I strove for faith, but it would not come; I tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fulness of our precious Saviour, my guilt and helplessness seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief was I felt the damning sin of the world; yet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith, but it came not. What was I to do? When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter…was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. (I quote from memory):

“But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.” As I read I saw it all! “If we believe not, he abideth faithful.” I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said, “I will never leave thee.”

“Ah, there is rest!” I thought. “I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has not He promised to abide with me – never to leave me, never to fail me?” And…He never will.

Nor was this all He showed me, nor one half. As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in wishing to get the sap, the fulness out of Him! I saw not only that Jesus will never leave me, but that I am a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. The vine is not the root merely, but all-root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit. And Jesus is not that alone – He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh the joy of seeing this truth! I do pray that the eyes of your understanding too may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.

…it is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Saviour, to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and your left poor? or your head be well fed while your body starves? Again, think of its bearing on prayer. Could a bank clerk say to a customer, “It was only your hand, not you that wrote that check”; or “I cannot pay this some to your hand, but only to yourself”? No more can your prayers or mine be discredited if offered in the name of Jesus (i.e., not for the sake of Jesus merely, but on the ground that we are His, His members) so long as we keep within the limits of Christ’s credit – a tolerably wide limit!

The sweetest part…is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me, for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things, or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money and brings me his purchases. So if God should place me in serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in places of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that HIs resources will prove unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me.

(h-t to rabbitroom)

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Gibson – Atonement

Dr. Edgar Gibson’s Commentary on the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England (Methuen & Co. London, 1904) is a very helpful resource. Dr. Gibson thoroughly examines each article and includes controversies related to how they were articulated. He also does a commendable job of contextualizing the articles within The Great Tradition (i.e. the first five centuries of the Church).

For example, for the second article, he spends quite some time discussing the intricacies of The Atonement. Here’s an excerpt:


These considerations may prove helpful in meeting
some of the most obvious objections which are brought
against the doctrine. It may not be possible out of the
various notices of the Atonement in Scripture to form a
complete and consistent theory that shall be entirely
free from all difficulty. Nor is it necessary that the
attempt to form such a theory should be made. From
time to time various” schemes” have been advanced, and
explanations offered which have been more or less widely
accepted by divines. But none of them can claim the
formal sanction of the Church as a whole. That which
perhaps has been the most widely held of all is the
patristic theory that by the fall Satan gained a “right”
over man, and that man could therefore only be released
by a satisfaction of Satan’s just claim. According to this
view the death of Christ was regarded as the” price” or
” ransom” paid to Satan to satisfy his claim. It has
been said that S. Iremeus was the first to suggest this
view, which is further developed by Origen, and that it
is the common explanation of the necessity for the death
of Christ, which prevailed for nearly a thousand years in
the Church, till the days of S. Anselm, in whose work
Our Deus Homo, it is for the first time expressly and
unreservedly rejected. (p.154)


I highly recommend this resource for anyone interested in Anglican theology and it’s a must-get for anyone pursuing Anglican orders.

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Before Writing a Sermon
O God the Holy Spirit, Who enlightens the minds of your children; send down upon me I pray, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, to lead me into all truth, that I may so feed the flock committed unto me with the words of eternal life, as with them, to attain to that place where, with the Father and the Son, You live and reign forever, One God, world without end. Amen.

On Writing Sermons
O God in whom peace abides from age to age, give me now a quiet mind and a listening heart, that the word you would speak in this church you would make known to me, and that the will you would reveal to your people here you would lodge in my soul this day and for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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This is the fact of the Atonement. Through Christ crucified men of all ages have been brought into union with God. The Gospel is in the first instance a
proclamation of facts, the invitation to share the pardon and peace won by the Cross of Jesus Christ. At the same time, Christians have quite rightly sought to understand the meaning of the Atonement. As rational beings we are bound to think about what interests us most. Hence the attempts to interpret the saving work of Christ in terms of human life and thought. Such attempts are necessary that the Atonement may make its deepest appeal to the whole of our nature. Just because it is a revelation of God, shedding light both upon the character of God and upon the needs and nature of man, we must strive to grasp the truth that it reveals and bring it home to ourselves.

E. J. Bicknell, Theological Introduction to the 39 Articles. (1887), p. 82.

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In the words of St. Irenaeus:

“As a man caused the fall, so a man must cause the restoration. He must be a man able to sum up (recapitulare) all the human species in Himself, so as to bear the punishment of all, and to render an obedience that will compensate for their  innumerable acts of disobedience.”


Jaroslav Pelikan in the Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) writes:

“Irenaeus’s doctrine of recapitulation can be read as the most profound theological vindication in the second and third centuries of the universal Christian ideal of the imitation of Christ.  For Irenaeus, the imitation of Christ by the Christian was part of God’s cosmic plan for salvation which began with Christ’s imitation of Adam. The Logos assimilated himself to man and man t0 himself in his life and passion. After his incarnation he passed through every stage of human growth, hallowing each and redeeming each by “being made for them an example of piety, righteousness and submission.” The disobedience of the first Adam was undone through the complete obedience of the second Adam, so that many should be justified and attain salvation” ( p.145)

For Irenaeus then, the Atonement was not an exchange that occurred only at the cross. It began with the “Easter of the Incarnation” in Christ’s condescension to take on human flesh in order to redeem it. However, it was indeed the obedience of his passion, which on the tree of the cross undid the damage done by the tree of disobedience.

According to Pelikan, the early fathers wrote strikingly little on the meaning of the death of Christ. However, what has been preserved through the liturgies of the early church reveals how they understood what happened on Calvary. From a very early date, the concept of Christ’s death as a sacrifice was clearly connected to and articulated in the Eucharistic liturgies.

It seems clear that the early Christians emphasized the resurrection of Christ as the significant moment of salvation. So great was that emphasis in the soteriology of many church fathers that the definition of salvation through Christ’s victory over man’s enemies has been called the “classic” theory of the atonement. To be sure there are other ways to talk about the atonement but CHRIST AS VICTOR was more important in orthodox expositions of salvation and reconciliation than has been realized in the West. In this theory, Christ was the champion of mankind, doing battle with Adam’s conqueror and vanquishing him.

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