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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Question for Biblical Creationists, Sydney Anglican Diocese and Church of England - "Why Were Our Reformers Burned?"

Why were our Reformers burned?

The question was raised by Bishop J. C. Ryle in his book "Light From Old Times" published in 1890. In fact, he devoted a whole chapter to the question.

In general, those Reformers burned at the stake were resistant to the Church of England going back from where it came - to Roman Catholicism. The time was the reign of Queen Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Arragon. Mary (or "Bloody Mary") had been brought up a staunch Roman Catholic. Upon ascendancy to the Crown she set about bringing down all that had been achieved by the Reformers.

It was not enough to change the order of services, reinstate the Mass, banish foreign Protestants from England and prohibit the writings of key Reformers. From early 1555 Protestants were targeted and, under threat to life, were ordered to recant principles of the Reformation. There was staunch resistance and, while statistics vary, a conservative count shows 288 Protestants were burned at the stake between 1555 and 1558 for refusing to recant.

In his chapter "Why Were Our Reformers Burned?" Bishop Ryle looks at leading Reformers of the day to answer the question for all. John Rogers, Anglican Minister in London; John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester; Rowland Taylor, Rector of Hadleigh; Robert Ferar, Bishop of St David's, Wales; John Bradford, Chaplain to Bishop Ridley; Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London; Hugh Latimer, once Bishop of Worcester; John Philpot, Archdeacon of Winchester; Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; are each examined.

Each may have had additional charges pertaining to the Reformation laid against them but, according to Bishop Ryle, "The principal reason why they were burned was because they refused one of the peculiar doctrines of the Romish Church. On that doctrine, in almost every case, hinged their life or death. If they admitted it they might live; if they refused it, they must die."

The doctrine in question was the real presence [transubstantiation] of the body and blood of Christ in the consecrated elements of bread and wine in the Lord's Supper."

If the Reformers declared that our Lord Jesus Christ was bodily present in the bread and wine they would live. If they refused they were burned by faggot.

In an act he later regretted, Thomas Cranmer recanted but such was the hatred of his enemies toward him that they went ahead with his burning. This afforded Cranmer a glorious opportunity to triumph for he withdrew his recantation and thrust the hand with which he signed the recantation into the flame while uttering the words "This unworthy right hand." He then steadily lifted his left hand toward heaven. Bishop Ryle also provides as a footnote a comment attested by Soames and other historians that "when the fire had had burned down to ashes, Cranmer's heart was found unconsumed and uninjured."

Transubstantiation or Real Presence - why were the Reformers so dogged in rejecting it, even to death? After all, isn't the Gospel all that matters and isn't Romans 10:9 ("That if you confess with mouth, 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.") a summary of that Gospel? Isn't it possible that Jesus Christ, our Creator in Spirit and Flesh could somehow be bodily present in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper - remember when amongst His disciples he turned a small amount of bread into a multitude of bread and, on another occasion, turned mere water into fermented wine. Couldn't He do something mighty and beyond earthly understanding with the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper? Why get hung up on a point such as this? Wouldn't it have been better for peace and harmony to just accept the doctrine of Transubstantiation or Real Presence? To accept it meant survival and the opportunity to go about the nation sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Doesn't this make sense?

Bishop Ryle provides the answer to all the foregoing questions on page 45 of his book:

"Whatever men please to think or say, the Romish doctrine of the Real Presence, if pursued to its legitimate consequences, obscures every leading doctrine of the Gospel, and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ's truth. Grant for a moment that the Lord's Supper is a sacrifice and not a sacrament ... [and all the contingencies of the Real Presence]- You spoil the blessed doctrine of Christ's finished work when he died on the cross. A sacrifice that needs to be repeated is not a perfect and complete thing. - You spoil the priestly office of Christ. If there are priests that can offer an acceptable sacrifice to God besides Him, the great High Priest is robbed of His glory. - You spoil the Scriptural doctrine of the Christian ministry. You exalt sinful men into the position of mediators between God and man. - You give to the sacramental elements of bread and wine an honour and veneration they were never meant to receive and produce an idolatry to be abhorred of faithful Christians. - Last, but not least, you overthrow the true doctrine of Christ's human nature. If the body born of the Virgin Mary can be in more places than one at the same time, it is not a body like our own, and Jesus was not 'the second Adam' in the truth of our nature." [emphasis mine]

So there you have the reasons why Reformers were prepared to die. There were legitimate consequences of the doctrine of the Real Presence which obscured every leading doctrine of the Gospel while damaging and interfering with the whole truth of Christ Jesus.

Would the people of influence in the Church of England today and the Sydney Anglican Diocese have the conviction and courage of the Reformers to resist, to death, the doctrine of the Real Presence or Transubstantiation? If talk means anything, I suspect those in Sydney Anglican Diocese would be saying "Yes" at this point. I don't know enough about those in the Church of England to comment on how they would respond.

Let me now make life a little uncomfortable for those same people.

For most of your Christian life you have taken all means to avoid Biblical Creationists who first gently called you back to Scripture concerning the Creation account but who, on occasions, have become antagonistic at your repeated avoidance and failure to relate. Biblical Creationists are one with the Reformers on the subject of the Creation account because both have read Genesis 1 as implying each of the six days of Creation were of 24 hours and the age of the earth amounts to something near 6,000 years.

You have become selective in your reading of Scripture and selective in those who you listen to on the subject of the Creation event. Having admired and given assent to those Reformers who resisted the odious doctrine of the Real Presence to point of death, are you selective in how you apply the criteria of those Reformers when it comes to the subject of the Creation event?

Theistic Evolution, which you hold dear, is an odious doctrine. By embracing that doctrine - you spoil Christ's finished work of Creation completed as "very good" on day six as Gen 1:31, Gen 2:2 and Ex 20:11 make clear (John 5:17 refers to God working continuously post-Fall and cannot be applied here). - You spoil Christ's office as Creator by applying to Him a faltering, dead-end, mutation and death filled process of Creation. You rob Him of His glory as Creator. - You spoil the doctrine of authority of Scripture (or Word of God) by exalting sinful men to knowledge of origins to subjugation of the inspired writing of Moses. In so doing you engage in idolatry. - Last, but not least, you overthrow the true doctrine of the righteousness of Christ by asserting He created by causing the weak to suffer and die for the strong (natural selection) which is a complete reversal of His nature expressed in Law, Teaching, Redemptive Work and Person. In your doctrine, death is not an enemy which invaded the created order through sin. It is simply an outworking of the Nature of Christ before and after Creation and therefore no reason for Him to take on flesh to redeem the Creation by dying on the Cross.

With appropriate adjustment for your offence I repeat Bishop Ryle: "Whatever men please to think or say, the [worldly doctrine of Theistic Evolution], if pursued to its legitimate consequences, obscures every leading doctrine of the Gospel, and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ's truth." [emphasis mine]

The Reformers saw the doctrine of the Real Presence as heresy. The same charge applies to the doctrine of Theistic Evolution. This then gives cause for some tough questions:

1) Isn't the Gospel, in all its strength, something more than a simple, tract-like presentation that is commonly offered today?

2) Would Biblical Creationists today be prepared to resist, to the point of death, the doctrine of Theistic Evolution?

3) Would the Sydney Anglican Diocese or the Church of England be prepared to persecute or sit idly by while the world persecuted, to the point of death, Biblical Creationists who by another label are "fundamentalists"?

4) How long will the Sydney Anglican Diocese and the Church of England give succour to practitioners of the heresy of Theistic Evolution?

Neil

7 comments:

John said...

Excellent, Neil. And I'm sure Ryle would approve if he were alive.

sam drucker said...

Good one Neil. Really leaves Theistic Evolutionists without a theological leg to stand on.

Eric said...

Neil. Thanks for such a well put piece. I've been away from the keyboard for a while, which is pretty obvious...health and family priorities...oh and too much work for my pleasure, but I'm pleased to come back to our blog to see this entry.

I fear that the SADs have become so narrowed on a one-dimensional faith that they fail to take the whole counsel of God into thier hearts. But I hope that does not persist!

neil moore said...

Thanks fellas. I should imagine J. C. Ryle would be opposed to Theistic Evolution were he alive today because he was against evolution in some of his writings that I have seen. However, he was a Gap Theorist and this error can be a softener to evolutionary thought.

Nevertheless, truth is truth and even if people, such as many SADs today, slide into odious doctrine of Theistic Evolution there must be faithful people prepared to rebuke them.

We and others on other sites, by the Grace of God will go on in the Name of the LORD.

Neil

Jase said...

Well done. This is excellent.

neil moore said...

Thank you Jase. It doesn't take much delving into the history of the Church to find the same sin expressed in different ways and the faithful in the Church having to stand, at pain, in defence of the truth of God.

Neil

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