Four hundred years have now passed since England was given the portentous sign of an archbishop dying in flames for evangelical truth, and holding out the right hand that had almost betrayed him as a first victim to the fire. In those four hundred years there have been revolutionary changes in every aspect of the nation’s life, not least the religious. And since no nation can live in a vacuum, they are changes which for good or evil have significance for the world at large. There is every reason, therefore, to ask whether Cranmer still has a message for our twentieth century Christian world, and if so, what form that message will take.
Beliefs Cranmer Valued
Perhaps we can begin with the doctrine of Cranmer. For, after all, it was his doctrine which shaped the rest of his activity. And first we may take into account two or three more formal considerations. Cranmer was a dogmatician, but he was not a dogmatist. He had a mind which was always open to new truth. He took seriously the possibility that he might misunderstand the Word and revelation of God. He was always willing to be taught—so long as the teaching was in the right school and by the right Master. He was sixty years old before he came to understand the doctrine for which he died. And having found it, he did not lose all sympathy for those who had not yet done so. That is why he made his articles of religion as comprehensive as possible within an evangelical and scriptural framework. He was no inquisitor or persecutor. He realized that, to prevent a confusion of voices, the Church needs a confession on disputed issues. But he had no desire either to arrest a conscientious obedience to the Holy Spirit or to disrupt the Church by overly scrupulous definition. ...1
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