Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


MacCulloch, Diarmaid. "The myth of the English reformation." History Today 41, no. 7 (July 1991): 28-35. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed December 14, 2010).


(DPV: Arminians or Laudians and the Tractarians are anti-Reformationists and, surely, anti-Calvinists. MacCullough is right. Our comments will be put in bold.)

"The myth of the English Reformation is that it did not happen, or that it happened by accident rather than design, or that it was halfhearted and sought a via media between Catholicism and Protestantism; and the point at issue is the identity of the Church of England. The myth was created in two stages, first in the middle years of the seventeenth century, and then from the third decade of the nineteenth century - in either case, by a 'High Church' party within the Church: first, the Laudians or Arminians, later the Tractarians or Anglo-Catholics. These parties largely consisted of clergy, with the particular motive of emphasising the structural Catholic continuity of the Church over the break of the Reformation, in order to claim that the true representative of the Catholic Church within the borders of England and Wales was not the minority loyal to the Bishop of Rome, but the Church as by law established in 1559 and 1662."

(DPV: Tractarianism was an "ideological revolution" in Anglicanism. A very strong term for this revolutionary movement of Goth-Romanticism by Newman & ilk.)

"The nineteenth century growth of Anglo-Catholicism amounted to nothing less than an ideological revolution in the Church of England, which involved radically reinterpreting its history. The nineteenth-century Anglo-Catholics were in a good position to do this. They started life as a university-based movement, and they have always kept their university base; their opponents, the Evangelicals (the party which wanted to emphasise the Protestant character of the English Reformation) had also begun in the eighteenth century with a strong presence in the English universities, but they gradually lost it during the nineteenth century just at the time when universities were starting to treat history as a serious undergraduate discipline. The Anglo-Catholics were therefore left almost unchallenged; they did the most creative and interesting research in church history, and they asked the questions which they wanted to ask of their research and drew the conclusions which they wanted to draw. To the extent that the universities took any interest in the history of the Church of England, it was to the Anglo-Catholic tradition that they looked for an academically respectable view of the past."

(DPV: Cranmer, Parker, Grindal, Whitgift, Ridley, Hooper and Latimer "embarrass" the Anglo-Catholic historigraphical tradition. We have been saying that for some time. Good to read this from a scholar and expert in Anglicanism. "Embarrass" the Anglo-Catholics or Old High Churchmen? That is funny, honest and accurate.)

"The ecclesiastical giants of the Reformation under Edward VI and Elizabeth were its leading clergy: Cranmer, Parker, Grindal, Whitgift, Ridley, Hooper, Latimer. All of them have embarrassed the Anglo-Catholic historiographical tradition. Cranmer gets some credit for creating the Book of Common Prayer, but much Anglo-Catholic ingenuity has been expended on trying to explain why his second version of the Prayer-Book is not as important as the first one which he abandoned after an experimental three-year period. Grindal comes off worst, as the 'Puritan' Archbishop, with the implication that such an animal as a Puritan archbishop is an unnatural monster: so the aggressive High Church activist in Queen Anne's reign, Dr. Henry Sacheverell, called Grindal 'that false son of the Church ... a perfidious prelate'. "

(DPV: Note bene Laud's list of senior prelates dubbed "O" or "P." These prototypically Arminian Churchmen and their progency, semi-Pelagianized Tractators, still operate out of their--generally--unexamined assumptions, being "Low Church" in theology.)

"Similarly, the Puritans, who included some of the most able and energctic members of the Elizabethan Church of England, have been shunted off into a siding, seen as not quite fully part of the Church of England. Their crime was to fail in their preordained duty of preserving the Catholic character of the Church of England through the Reformation. This process of redefinition began long ago in the days of William Laud, when he had cast his eye down a list of senior clergy and noted against their names the initials O or P, standing for 'Orthodox' or 'Puritan'. The great divide had already begun to be turned by nineteenth-century Anglo-Catholic historiography into the standard interpretation of the Church's past."

(DPV: Alas, the Church of England was Protestant, Reformed and Calvinistic until Laud, the Arminians, and the "Low Churchmen." Alas, ambiguity, anomaly and compromises have resulted in (M) anglicanism.)

"This rewriting of the Church of England's history was possible because the Church of England's establishment as a Protestant Church was extraordinarily confused: full of ambiguity, anomalies and compromises. The high-water mark of official movement in doctrinal statements and liturgical change in a Protestant direction was reached quite early in the English Reformation: not in the reign of Elizabeth I, who fossilised the official shape of the Church, but in the time of her predecessor but one, Edward VI. However, the conflict which brought this halt was a clash between two varieties of Protestant opinion: on the one hand, Archbishop Cranmer and Bishop Ridley of London, and on the other, John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester."

(DPV: More on the Protestant--and Calvinistic--character of the Elizabethan settlement. This much, there was a strong Calvinistic contingent in England. We cite this quote from MacCullough. It ought be memorized ordinands: "This became the orthodoxy of the English Church from the 1560s into the 1620s, and attempts to prove otherwise have not carried great conviction. Archbishop Whitgift under Elizabeth and Archbishop Abbot under James I were almost as much in the intellectual debt of Calvin as their Puritan critics.")

"We can now be reasonably certain that the situation was in fact precisely the reverse: the government got the Settlement which it intended, and what hesitations there were, were caused by opposition from the other corner: conservative aristocrats and Mary's Catholic bishops. These hesitations were eventually overcome by some fairly ruthless political manoeuvring on the government's part. Whatever the queen's own views, she quickly resigned herself to the inevitability of a thoroughgoing Protestant settlement in 1559, since the only senior clergy prepared to operate a national Church for her were convinced Protestants.

"Where English theologians wholeheartedly embraced Calvinist ideas was in the most important aspect of all: the developed Calvinist understanding of salvation and the way in which it is obtained. In the form of Calvin's ideas developed by his disciples such as Theodore Beza, this meant affirming a strict belief in the predestination of all souls by God to salvation or damnation, without any possibility that human effort could play any part in the process. This became the orthodoxy of the English Church from the 1560s into the 1620s, and attempts to prove otherwise have not carried great conviction. Archbishop Whitgift under Elizabeth and Archbishop Abbot under James I were almost as much in the intellectual debt of Calvin as their Puritan critics; and even the scourge of Puritanism, Archbishop Bancroft, was powerfully affected by the Calvinist tradition. To realise this is to see the extent of the myth of the English Reformation."

(DPV: The Arminians "were popularly seen as promoting an ecclesiastical and theological revolution..." Why? Calvinism has shaped the English Reformation.)

Anglicanism was therefore at best waiting in the wings when Elizabeth died: a synthesis which had not yet been blended from a mixture of conformist jure divino arguments, the rationalism and neo-traditionalism of Hooker and a suspicion of systematic Calvinism. The situation only began changing in the reign of James I. The hour of the Arminians had come; and under Charles 1, they would capture the mind and emotions of the king, together with the leadership of the Church of England. Yet the conscquences were disastrous. The Arminians were popularly seen as promoting an ecclesiastical and theological revolution, and when the secular policies of their allies in government led to national defeat and humiliation, they became the chief scapegoats of national fury. With them tumbled down the Church of England for twenty years.

We are thus left with an Elizabethan church establishment which wanted a Protestant reformation, did its best to adapt the unreformed structures of the Church's government to that end, and put a Herculean and largely successful effort into creating an educated ministry in its own mould. Its beliefs were characterised by predestinarianism, memorialist views on the eucharist, deep suspicion of sacred imagery and a concern with the promotion of divine law within ordinary society. It is true that the Church of England's story is also a tale of retreat from the high water mark of Protestant advance in 1550, when it seemed for a moment as if the work of Reformation would progress towards the standard set by the best Reformed churches of the continent.

(DPV: Arminians and Tractarians have hi-jacked and exploited the Anglican tradition.)

Yet as so often in English history, it was the south and not the north which decided Puritanism's fate. The 1580s saw Puritans intimidated and thrust aside in Whitgift's campaign against them; from the 1590s, a group of churchmen began boldly to enunciate Arminian views which would take the English Church in a very different direction, and which for a brief period in the 1620s and 1630s, succeeded in capturing its leadership. The reaction of the Englishmen who had been nurtured by the Elizabethan Church was to overthrow the government which had allowed such a thing to happen; yet when a version of the 1559 Settlement was restored in 1660, never again was the established Church to prove comprehensive enough to contain the spectrum of Protestant belief which had been possible in the late sixteenth century.

From this story of confusion and changing direction emerged a Church which has never subsequently dared define its identity decisively as Protestant or Catholic, and which has decided in the end that this is a virtue rather than a handicap. Perhaps the Anglican gift to the Christian story is the ability to make a virtue out of necessity; and if destroying the myths about the English Reformation exalts this gift to its proper place, then it is a task worth undertaking.

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