The martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, from an old edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Oh my, where to begin? Let us first go back in tyme:
In the 1552 Prayer Book's
"ORDER FOR THE ADMINISTRACION OF THE LORDES SUPPER,
HOLYE COMMUNION. "
We beg to prepare ourselves for communion as follows,
ALMIGHTIE God, father of our Lorde Jesus Christe, maker of all thyngs, Judge of all men, we knowledge and bewayle oure manyfolde synnes and wyckednes, whiche we from tyme to tyme moste grevously have committed, by thoughte, woord and dede, agaynst thy devine Majestie: provokyng most justely thy wrath and indignacion agaynste us: we doe earnestlye repente, and be hartely sory for these our misdoynges: the remembraunce of them is grievouse unto us, the burthen of them is intollerable: have mercye upon us, have mercye upon us, moste mercifull father, for thy sonne oure Lorde Jesus Chrystes sake: forgeve us all that is past, and graunt that we maye ever here after serve and please thee, in newnesse of lyfe, to the honoure and glory of thy name: Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
or for those of you who spell "indignacion" this way, "indignation,"
Almighty God,(BCP Rite 1)
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker of all things, judge of all men:
We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness,
which we from time to time most grievously have committed,
by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty,
provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.
We do earnestly repent,
and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings;
the remembrance of them is grievous unto us,
the burden of them is intolerable.
Have mercy upon us,
have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may ever hereafter
serve and please thee in newness of life,
to the honor and glory of thy Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
According to today's sermon by our rector, Cranmer got it wrong in the highlighted "provokyng most justely thy wrath and indignacion agaynste us," because the portrait of a wrathful God is wrong, and this vision of the Lord has done tremendous harm to individuals as well as to post-reformation Christianity as a whole. I shook my head in disbelief as I listened to the reasoning behind this remark. Somehow or another, the people who left "The Wisdom of Solomon" out of many Protestant Canons are also to blame. According to the rector the reading from today's lessons would have solved the problem of God's wrath and indignation for inumerable people.
Those old men in the starched collars did this to us! After all, they left us:
The Westminster Confession (1647). Chapter 1 § 3: "The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings."(Bible-Researcher.com)
And Article VI (BCP p. 868)
"And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:" (listing of the Apocrypha)And what in today's reading from the apocrypha leads to the rector's conclusion? Here is the text we heard:
Because God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things so that they might exist;
the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them,
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
For righteousness is immortal.
(Notice the big gap here, skipping to the end of Chapter 2)
for God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.
There we go with missing verses again! As I have mentioned before, I think we are getting a carefully selected, edited, and spliced version which is misleading to us Bible novices.
I think a liberal mind could really get around that wholesome generative forces idea, and it certainly stands in sharp opposition to Cranmer's "...manyfolde synnes and wyckednes..." so maybe that is what the rector was getting at.
To be fair, let's read the expurgated text:
But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death;
considering him a friend, they pined away
and made a covenant with him,
because they are fit to belong to his company.
What, you mean some reject God and are to die? We can't tell the pewsters that, it might sound like "provoking" God.
And we left out this huge swath of chapter 2,
For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
‘Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.
For we were born by mere chance,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been,
for the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts;
when it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.
Our name will be forgotten in time,
and no one will remember our works;
our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,
and be scattered like mist
that is chased by the rays of the sun
and overcome by its heat.
For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow,
and there is no return from our death,
because it is sealed up and no one turns back.
‘Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,
and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.
Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no flower of spring pass us by.
Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.
Let none of us fail to share in our revelry;
everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment,
because this is our portion, and this our lot.
Let us oppress the righteous poor man;
let us not spare the widow
or regard the grey hairs of the aged.
But let our might be our law of right,
for what is weak proves itself to be useless.
‘Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture,
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.’
Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hoped for the wages of holiness,
nor discerned the prize for blameless souls;
So it was "Reason" that did them in. But isn't "reason" just one of those wholesome generative forces? Therefore things discerned by reason can't be bad. I am afraid the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon would not pass muster in today's more understanding world where we don't talk about ideas or people that way. Today we know that no one is wicked, or blind, and all are blameless because they are, after all, "victims," just like those people in the missing verses were victims of "reason" which led them astray.
Needless to say, I was very confused by today's sermon. To add to the confusion, later in the sermon we were told that there was a part where,
Cranmer got it right!:
O GOD, whose nature and property is ever to have mercy and to forgive; Receive our humble petitions; and though we be tied and bound with the chain of our sins, yet let the pitifulness of thy great mercy loose us; for the honour of Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate. Amen.(1928 BCP Litany)
The highlighted part was what was quoted during our sermon, nobody heard about the "chain of our sin" business. So God's nature and property of mercy trumps all, and the rector used the story of the prodigal son as a defense. We are getting perilously close to hearing the message "If it feels good do it" from the 60's. My only question is this, "Why does God have to show mercy on us if the generative forces (read passions, lusts, sins, etc) of the world are wholesome to begin with?"
If I were to summarise/summarize the theology of the present, I would say, "God does not punish, only forgives, but there really is nothing that needs his forgiveness anyway."
My response to such nonsense is to quote from C.S. Lewis' "The Problem of Pain." In the chapter on Divine Goodness, he writes of "an analogy full of danger" (pp 39-42), the analogy between God's love for man and a man's love for a woman.
"When we fall in love with a woman, do we cease to care whether she is clean or dirty, fair or foul? Do we not rather then first begin to care?...Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal. Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the beloved...Of all powers, he forgives most, but he condones least..."
"...You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the 'lord of terrible aspect', is present: not in a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes."