Thomas Cranmer

Please post your comments and suggestions for this article.

Comment by was02737 on September 30th, 2008 at 10:39 am

The present article says:
“He [Cranmer] also seems closer to Calvin than to Luther on the concept of sanctification, of works being the fruit of justification (MacCulloch, 342) and on predestination. Thus, “baptism was only a means of regeneration for those who were already elect” (428).”

This statement regarding Cranmer’s views on predestination and the efficacy of Baptism is based on MacCulloch’s opinion (who draws heavily on the often strained interpretations of Cranmer by Dr. Ashley Null on this particular theological point) and is by no means an agreed upon historic fact, though the article presents it as such. Based on Cranmer’s available writings it seems that his mature view on the efficacy of Baptism and the nature of predestination were shaped first and foremost by St. Augustine’s teaching and not by Calvin’s teaching on the matter (and therefore that Cranmer’s apparent views on these points were actually in greater fundamental agreement with the Augustinian Luther than with Calvin).

St. Augustine and Calvin alike held to the certainty of final perseverance for all those “elect” to final Salvation. But St. Augustine differed notably from Calvin in affirming that some who are not “elect” may partake temporarily with the “elect” in the Salvation of Christ (which St. Augustine saw typified in the Scripture by the Weedy and Stony Ground which only partake temporarily in the new life begotten in them through the Eternal Seed of God’s Word-unlike the persevering presence of this new life in the “elect” Good Ground). And in agreement with this distinction from Calvin, St. Augustine affirmed the efficacy of Baptism in all infants, whether “elect” to final perseverance or not.

And again, on these notable points of distinction between St. Augustine and Calvin, namely, of the temporary partaking in saving grace by some who later fall away and the universal efficacy of Baptism in infants, Cranmer’s writings appear to agree with St. Augustine over Calvin*. Thus, as noted above, the substance of Cranmer’s views on these matters seemingly end up closer to Luther (who likewise held to St. Augustine’s view on these points) than Calvin–even though the particular language employed by Cranmer on the issue of Baptism and predestination sometimes follows the Reformed more than the Lutherans (which may lend to confusion on the matter).

And finally, on the issue of predestination, Cranmer’s writings are in agreement with Luther regarding the Universal-versus Limited nature of Christ’s Atonement as a Sacrifice for the sins of all men, rather than only being a Sacrifice for the sins of the “elect.”

William Scott

p.s. *The 1552 BCP is very explicit in affirming the universal efficacy of Baptism for infants (and the particular statement quoted below (and found identically in the 1559 BCP) was noted by other early Anglican Divines as unequivocally enshrining and confirming the doctrine of the universal efficacy of Baptism for infants as the doctrine of the Baptismal Service):
“And that no man shall think that any detriment shall come to children by deferring of their Confirmation; he shall know for truth, that it is certain by God’s Word, that children being baptized, have all things necessary for their salvation, and be undoubtedly saved.”

Comment by ClintonBennett on October 22nd, 2008 at 8:35 pm

Dear William,

Thank you for your thoughtful and well argued comments. I intend to edit the article to take account of your remarks but I am checking sources before I do so.
Clinton Bennett, PhD. History and Biography editor.

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