Characters behind the English Reformation

Five English Reformers - J.C. Ryle

Well, since I have a couple of hours to go before my plane to London begins boarding, and as I am sitting at a table looking out over the staging area (at least around my gate) at the Frankfurt International Airport (I won't write in German, despite being in Germany, but then again my German isn't all that good) I thought I might kill some time writing about the English Reformation (namely because it has been a while since I read this book so I cannot quite remember who the particular reformers were, though I suspect that they were all martyred, since the English Reformation was quite a bloody affair).

I am sure (I hope) you know about the Reformation in England, which was basically politically inclined. Where the Reformation on the continent tended to have a spiritual trend to it (namely the understanding justification by faith, and the fact that Rome was losing grip on its control of the spiritual life of Western Europe) the English reformation tended to be a struggle between the church and the state. Namely Henry was not actually interested in reforming the church, rather he was interested in taking control of England from the hands of the church.

Up until that time the final arbitrator in anything that England did (and in fact most countries in Western Europe) was Rome. However a dispute arose simply because Henry wanted an heir and the marriage of convenience with his first wife was not working out (namely because she was not producing children). From looking at Henry's progeny, I sometimes wonder if the problem was him, and not the women that he married (though in those days if a woman was not producing children it was always the woman's fault, despite the fact that it might actually be than man who is shooting blanks).

It appears though that Henry could have gone along with the church, particularly since he was called the defender of the faith due to his attacks against Luther (mind you I got the impression the last time I was in England that the English don't particularly think much of Henry VIII). However, we note that when he did break away from the church it was on his own terms, and not that of the bishops (though many of them were also beginning to agitate for a break from Rome and an introduction of the doctrines as espoused by Luther (and Calvin). I guess half the reason that the clergy wanted a reformation was because (as I suspect) they had become sick of that rule that they were not allowed to marry.

In those days it was not a question of being able to go to a different church if you did not like the teaching of the church you were attending, and it was also not as if you could plant a church with a more biblically based teaching. In fact it was illegal not to go to church (and it remained that way despite the reformation, though things began to change in that regard in the late 18th and early 19th centuries) and if you even thought of drifting from the official line (as happens with a lot of sects these days) you could land in hot water. The power of excommunication was a powerful tool, that is until people realised that the Pope couldn't take your salvation away from you.

Anyway, I think I will leave it at that because I might wander about the airport a but more than spending huge amounts of time on my computer – and since I am in Germany, I should go and get a beer.