Church History Post 3

As you reflect on all that happened politically in England and Scotland, how was the Church involved? What do you think are some of the pros and cons to the involvement?

Given the basic assumption of the time that the state and church are to hold the same beliefs, the intertwined story is itself a surprise to my own sensibilities. The history of the reformation in England lends itself to dramatic twists in the story, as well as much frustration over the way in which the state intervened in Christ’s body.

As it benefited the desire and ambition of the monarch the gospel was prospered. So, when Henry VIII saw fit to disregard the Pope, the suppression of Luther and Wycliffe was lifted and the gospel spread rapidly. In fact it was Henry VIII’s desire to have multiple marriage that represented the various periods of freedom for the gospel in England. Thus, the different children’s loyalties varied according to the legitimacy of their mother’s marriage, the reformers either prospering or being persecuted.

Despite the fickleness of the royalty, the Church seemed to persist with clear vision of her goal. Obviously some clergy kept their posts simply by switching doctrinal badges when it was useful. Yet the degree to which the gospel took off when allowed to do so indicates that the Church never lost sight of the gospel.

One lasting effect of the times of governmental favor was the book of common prayer and the idea that what the Church does is to be common to all parishes and dictated by the monarch. I believe this sets the stage for the Non-Conformist and Puritan (if they are any different) clash with the Anglicans. Still it seems that the Church of England is bound to the crown in an unhealthy way, but I am not sure if that relationship has changed at all.

Scotland’s story seems just as dramatic with the Lords capturing the castle of St. Andrews, Knox’s capture and time in slavery etc. Yet, what seems to have happened in Scotland that didn’t in England was the constant confrontation (however stormy or calm) between the lead reformers and the monarch. Of course, Knox was only able to do what he did because all the people and Lords were behind him. Yet that tension between the Church and the State is what interested me the most.

Much of what we believe today is spawned materialism and evolutionary theory mixed with some good old capitalism. The belief is that it is possible to rule and govern with only objectively true assumptions. The problem is that even a completely secular government is determined by its own set of assumptions on the nature and metaphysic of man, his place in the world, what man is meant to do on earth etc. So to have a secular government is a small step from another monarch, since both are biased.

Yet, as much as I would like to reject secular rationalism and its attempt to establish some objective basis for law, I cannot admit that the State and the Church have nothing to do with each other. I hate the ways that the Church is led into heresy, ease and capitulation because of rulers who annex the Church. Yet, I have to admit that Luther, Knox and the British Reformers couldn’t have succeeded without the Lord opening political doors. Again, as much as Henry VIII is a great example of how the gospel can prosper under a good ruler, he is equally an example of the Church needing to be free of the reach of the ruler. Luther’s two kingdom’s view looks very appealing on this topic (though not so much in other areas).

So I am left in a tension and acknowledge the co-dependence of the Church and the State. The glorious part, however, is that the Church ultimately has Christ as her hope and trust.

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