The English Reformation, Cromwell, and Scripture

A few thoughts on the English Reformation and the period that followed (after finishing Cromwell to Cromwell):

  • While I’ve had my eye on Alan Jacob’s biography on the Book of Common Prayer for several months, I think I’m going to bite the bullet after seeing how contentious the book was through out the Tudor/Stuart period. The book was published, required, banned, praised, condemned, forbidden, and used covertly, then restored. My curiosity is piqued.
  • Cromwell certainly wasn’t the first person to take Scripture out of context. But the way he did it was (to me) fairly shocking, especially how he justified military action against the king and the Royalists (as compared to how protestants responded to persecution under Mary Tudor: they stood their ground, but did not see that the Bible justified violent action against the monarch or the state).
  • The above point is an illustration of an idea from Brad East’s The Doctrine of Scripture. I’ll provide a quote below. It’s impossible and not really my place to judge Cromwell and the Puritans, but I wonder if their movement away from the apostles and their successors, is what lead them to use Scripture to validate violent means to an end – particularly when no one else really wanted a fight.

“What is written does not determine its reading; it may be read any number of ways. It is rather the catholicity of Scripture that controls or establishes its clarity. Scripture is katholikos, universal or common, to the church; that is what makes it a kanon, a ruler or measure for the beliefs and behavior of all believers. But it is not Scripture understood in any way–cannonical texts arranged, for example, contrary to the faith passed down from the apostles and their successors–but Scripture as received and interpreted in accordance with catholic teaching that function’s as the norm for the church’s life and mission…reading Scripture with Nicaea and Constantinople as guides is not optional; it is a necessity. To read otherwise is to lead astray. Whereas when Scripture is read with and under and through them, it will shine with dazzling radiance, serving God’s people as God’s word always has: as ‘a lamp to my feet and a light to my path'”

Brad East, The Doctrine of Scripture, p. 128

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