Remembering Thomas Cranmer

On “The Reformation21 Blog” the Historian penned the following remarks on March 22, the 450th anniversary of Thomas Cranmer’s death: “Not to derogate from anything Rick [Philips] says about the need for principle, but the situation in the 1550s was a bit more complicated than just clear-sighted Christians being tried for their faith. Arguably both Cranmer and Lady Jane Grey were guilty of treason—Cranmer was tried as such; and their theological views were at best only partial causes of their deaths—deaths which the politics of the time, and their involvement, made inevitable; and many who perished in the flames of the 1540s and 1550s were far from four-square Protestants; while others, who were thoroughly orthodox but not high-profile players in the rather sleazy politics of Edward’s reign, live peaceably during Mary’s time. And many, many others simply flip-flopped with the policy of the time.”

Was amazed by these remarks, coming as they do from The Historian. It was 1555-1558 when the vast majority of the Protestants were martyred for their faith, nearly 300 by recent account. The vast majority of them died for their convictions that the core doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church were unbiblical and abominable to God. While there are some reasons to raise queries about Cranmer, and even here The Historian is far too hard on him, the vast majority of these men and women died for the simple conviction that the Lord Jesus alone is Saviour and that faith alone in him saves.

Edward VI’s reign from 1549 to 1553, while yes highly politicized, was the period in which the Reformed faith took deep hold in England and that through Cranmer’s reforms, especially his 1552 Prayer Book. It is far too important a period to be simply written off as a time of “sleazy politics.”

Finally, when Cranmer was put on trial, yes, undoubtedly there were political reasons, but, in a sense, the English Reformation was being put on trial in his person. Or more accurately in his person and that of Ridley and Latimer, who were martyred in 1555, the English Reformation was being tried. And when God enabled them to endure to the end, the English Reformation was vindicated.