The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cranmer On My Mind....

I know I wrote an earlier post in which I dissed the the mind behind the Book of Common Prayer as a radical Protestant. Since then, I have read among other things Basil Hall's essay in Thomas Cranmer: Churchman and Scholar, in which he clarifies Cramner's eucharistic theology in terms of distinguishing it from the theology of Zwingli and other reformers. Cranmer did believe, as opposed to pure "memorialists", that Christ is present during Holy Communion for the believer. Also, the assertion that Cranmer wanted a more radical Prayer Book than the 1552 is also not correct. So Archbishop Cranmer, all I have to say is: My bad! You are a pretty swell guy after all!

I don't have a lot of time these days for independent study. Most of my time is spent translating Latin, reading novels for a literature class, and reading about theories for opposing oppressive Eurocentric discourses (African American Studies, I need it for my major). I want to study Cranmer more in depth, however, with the little time I have. Can someone who was the impresario behind a spiritual masterpiece like the Prayer Book really be all that bad? I mean, I stand in church everyday and listen to the prayers he re-worked, re-wrote, and composed outright. So there is something there. Something significant.

Much of my thought has been influenced by Catholic polemics against Protestantism and modern philosophy. Notably, Maritain's Three Reformers, attacking Luther, Descartes, and Rousseau, played a big part in my coming to the conclusion that I knew the disease at the root of the postmodern malaise. Now I am not so sure. Many scholars have shown that Descartes was heavily influenced by St. Augustine and other more ancient sources of philosophy. And do we really want to live in a pre-Enlightenment world where "liberty, equality, and fraternity" are merely aspirations of those at the bottom of a rigidly stratified society?

Do I really want to sink my teeth, then, into Protestant theology to see what I can find? Will I just find what I have always thought: it is the product of an overly rationalized, nominalist philosophy? Will I find something I didn't expect?

Cranmer was no dummy. He didn't just get his ideas from the ether. Peter Martyr was a scholar in Patristics. What drove these men to revolutionize the Church the way they did? Can we be so sure of the answer? I know I can't.

Duc in altum.....

(to be continued)


At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I may ...

Basil Hall (as well as Clifford Dugmore and Peter Newman Brooks) represent one strand of thinking about Cranmer's eucharistic theology (although what they conclude about its exact nature and place on the "Reformation spectrum" differs from one to another), while Gregory Dix and Diarmaid MacCulloch (in his *Cranmer: A Life* [1996]) agree that the more Catholic Anglicans have (to quote MacCulloch) "mined fool's gold" in abundance to edscape the fact that his eucharistic views were "lower" than those of both Luther and Calvin, if (in MacCulloch's view) a tad "higher" than Zwingli's. (And Dix and MacCulloch are about as far apart as one can get on the thelogical spectrum: Dix an Anglo-Papalist; MacCulloch a liberal Protestant Anglican agnostic who was denied ordination to the priesthood in the Church of England after he appeared on a BBC-TV show as one of a number of clergy [himself as a deacon] living in a same-sex "partnership").

It is hard to arbitrate between these views, but one ought at lease to seek out Cyril C. Richardson's lecture/pamphlet *Zwingli and Cranmer on the Eucharist* (1949) which concluded that Cranmer was inconsistently Zwinglian, that is, a Zwinglian on the "Lord's Supper" but a "realist" (unlike Zwingli) as regards baptism.

One aspect of this controversy concerns whether Zwingli's successor in Zurich, Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) had a eucharistic theology that was substantially identical with that of Zwingli, although expressed in very different terms, or whether it occupied a space between Zwingli and Calvin, "higher" than that of the former but "lower" than that of the latter. Dix sees Cranmer's theology (in the 1549 as well as the 1552 Praye rBook liturgy) as identical to that of Zwingli; MacCulloch sees them both as identical to that of Bullinger. On the question of Bullinger's own views, see Paul Rorem's "Calvin and Bullinger in the Lord's Supper" which appeared in two successive issues of *Lutheran Quarterly* in 1988.

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

And yet +++Cranmer's liturgy has been approved and used with the addition of one or two words by the Orthodox Church and Anglican Catholics do likewise (are we to condemn both groups for using this liturgy because we cannot be certain what the author of the prayers believed in his heart of hearts?). In most ways its language is far more realist and clear than the Novus Ordo used in the modern Roman Church, which sounds like luke-warm Presbyterianism or Methodism by contrast. Here it would seem that having the official stance of Transubstantiation helps, even if it is prayed in weak terms.

I have to side with the author of the post on this one, and add that while Dix and MacCulloch may be worlds apart in their ideology they do have one major point in common. They are both poor scholars.

At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"They are both poor scholars."

This may be so, but your ipse dixit won't convince me. I have read almost everything that Dix ever published, and I remain sceptical of your claim: certainly he had strong views, which he expressed in *The Shape of the Liturgy* but it is no negligible thing that so judicious a scholar as Cyril Richardson found for Dix. And as for MacCulloch, pardon me if I say that to term the man who has produced such books as *Suffolk and the Tudors*, *The Later Reformation in England*, *Thomas Cranmer: A Life*, *Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation* and *The Reformation* -- all of them acclaimed by the historians who have reviewed them -- a "poor scholar" seems without proof to be a reflection rather on the critic rather than on the scholar. And even if one would wish to nuance it by making it into "a poor theological scholar, if a fine historian" I would still doubt it, since MacC studied enough theology to be ordained in the Church of England.

And, contrarywise, as regards "poor scholaship" the various errors of scholars such as Peter Newman Brooks (such as his invoking the phrase "true presence" to describe Cranmer's mature views on the Eucharist when the phrase itself is one that Cranmer himself ceased to use after the "great mutation" in his views around 1546 or 1547) or Clifford Dugmore (and in particular grave doubts about whether one can divide Western Eucharistic thought into "realists" [like Ambrose] and "symbolists" [like Augustine] and then use this to shoehorn post-Reformation and pre-Tractarian Anglican Eucharistic ideas into "orthodoxy") have been well presented by other scholars, with the resut that if one is going to use the term "poor scholars" of any group it is pretty clear that the term would better stick to Brooks and Dugmore than to dix and MacCulloch

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Great! Thank you for having this converstaion here. I have much to think about now.

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I posted my first comment here before I had properly perused your blog, which I have done from beginning to end over the past two days.

I visited Holy Resurrection Monastery three or four times in 1996 and 1998, and have fond memories of the place, and of conversations with (in particular) Fr. Nicholas and Brother Maximos (the third monk there at the time was a Brother Luke, whom I really did not have an opportunity to converse with). I assume that that is where you were a monk (for a time) as well. So I feel some connection with you in that respect.

Now, concerning the matter of this exchange, if you wish to pursue it, and as you work in a major university liberary, the thing to do is to read the penultimate chapter of Dix (if you haven't already done so) and then read the intense and witty polemics that followed, in the shape of "Dixit Cranmer" by G. B. Timms in *Church Quarterly Review* in 1946 and "Dixit Cranmer et Non Timuit* in that same journal in 1947. The lecture by Richardson that I alluded to above was an attempted adjudication of this dispute, and had originally the title of "Cranmer Dixit et Contradixit." These are all fun (if one enjoys verbal pyrotechnics) and fruitful to read.

I will admit that I haven't read the piece by Basil Hall to which you alluded. The things by him that I have read have impressed me strongly, and so I would be willing to consider his views with the utmost respect. I do, however, consider P.N. Brooks' book rather muddled, and at least as agenda-driven on Cranmer as was Dix. Dugmore, too; although his two books (of which I can never remember the titles -- one was on Anglican Eucharistic doctrine from Hooker to Waterland and the other on Western Eucharistic doctrine in general) are not muddled in the way Brooks' is, they do contain a definite schematic organizing principle which is at least in part aimed at showing that the more-or-less "symbolic" and more-or-less "Reformed" views that dominated Anglican thinking between 1560 (Jewel) and the 1830s (the Oxford Movement) can be seen as standing, if precariously, within a "Western Catholic" context.

Pax et Bonum! WJT

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