The focus of today’s Round-up is the Rev. Brian Morelli’s essay “Faith like Cranmer,” published in the Spring edition of the Center for Theology, which discusses Thomas Cranmer’s answer to the question “How do we know something is the work of God?”
In the 16th century, the English reformer and Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer was at the center of an incredible cultural, theological, and technological shift in Western civilization. Cranmer’s efforts to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit, as the effects of the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the invention of the printing press were turning Medieval civilization upside down, serve as an example for the church today as it deals with post-modernism, secularism, and the internet.
Cranmer used three criteria to recognize the work of God in any context: 1) the Bible; 2) Tradition, with a focus on the theologians of the early church; and 3) Reason. For Cranmer, the Bible was the primary authority that revealed God’s plan of salvation. Eschewing the Medieval tradition of interpretation of the Bible, Cranmer believed the early church theologians (being closer in time and spirit to the original apostles) provided the best interpretations of difficult biblical concepts. Finally, Cranmer believed a rational analysis based upon logical principles from Renaissance Humanism provided the best way to parse and synthesize biblical ideas and the early tradition of interpretation. Once Cranmer saw agreement between the Bible and early Tradition, he would reason through its implications for the church in his time.
Today, Cranmer’s example calls us to remember the primacy of the Bible, Tradition, and Reason (in that order) in our efforts to discern the true work of God. For whatever reason, the church has not always privileged the Bible or its tradition of interpretation to help guide our own interpretations. We tend to be enslaved to the urgency of now, to be relevant, to be original. But Cranmer calls us to remember the importance of keeping the Scriptures, the history of interpretation, and our God-given minds at the forefront of our work in the church.
Please take some time to learn more about Thomas Cranmer and his spiritual leadership by reading Brian’s intriguing piece.