Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I read a blogpost recently on how Thomas Cranmer -- the Archbishop of Canterbury who was at the center of the English Reformation -- appropriated the doctrine of jusification by faith for the English church. Where Luther found the doctrine to a balm of relief for his conscience stricken soul, Cranmer found the doctrine to be an engine for holiness. In justification, one learns that God loves and accepts sinners (that would be people like you and me). This love and acceptance from God is the basis for the trust that enables one to give one's self fully to God.

Ashley Null, an Episcopal priest from Kansas writes the following:

Cranmer’s thinking went something like this. A sense of duty, the fear of punishment, even guilt for failure - none of these have the power to enable us to make lasting changes in our behavior. The only way to say “no” to sin permanently is to love God more. Consequently, only true love for God in a Christian’s heart will produce a life marked by good works. But how does one kindle a love for God that is stronger than one’s own self-centeredness? That, of course, is the heart of the matter.

According to the Bible, we love God because he first loved us. As a result, Cranmer realized that the key to a godly life is appreciating how much God loves us. And that’s where Luther’s teaching on Paul comes in. Cranmer decided that only knowing God loves us, as we are, a mixed bag of good and bad impulses and intentions, only being assured of salvation despite our ongoing shortcomings because of his incomprehensible love shown on the cross, only that kind of divine gracious love can ever inspire in fallen humanity the deep abiding love for God which leads to real lasting repentance. In Luther’s teaching of free and certain salvation in Christ, Cranmer at last found a clear and compelling description of the wonderfully unconditional love of God for unworthy humanity.

Therefore, at the heart of Anglicanism is a protestant confidence in the power of God’s prodigal love to fulfill the catholic vision of making all things new, including the wayward human heart.


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