The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, August 25, 2023

1595 – Anglicanism at a Crossroads

In my last essay I demonstrated that contrary to the view sometimes put forth by overzealous Low Churchmen of a Reformed-in-the-continental-sense bent that our English branch of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church affirms her Protestantism in a Calvinist as opposed to Lutheran way in her reformed Confession, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, these instead are worded in such a way as to side with neither Wittenberg nor Geneva absolutely on the controversies between the two with the result that while on the matter of the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper they lean towards Calvin without excluding Luther, on the matter of Predestination they lean towards Luther without excluding Calvin.   On several other matters – prioritizing the truths confessed in the Catholic Creeds over other doctrines, retaining the Apostolic episcopacy rather than adopting a presbyterian government (some Lutherans, such as the Swedish, are like us in this regards, others, such as the German, who were unable to retain the episcopacy, did not adopt the Genevan model), the normative principle (what is not forbidden by Scripture is permitted) over the regulative principle (what is not commanded by Scripture is forbidden) – Anglicanism, as confessed in the Articles is far closer to the Lutheranism than to Calvinism.


An interesting response to this came in an online Anglican group.   The matter of the Lambeth Articles of 1495 was raised and the person who brought it up seemed to think that this document invalidated my entire argument by providing an official Anglican declaration that Article XVII (On Predestination and Election) is to be understood in the most Calvinist way possible.   What made this response so interesting was that the answer to it was so obvious – the Lambeth Articles are not official Anglican doctrine.   They were denied royal assent twice, first by Queen Elizabeth I, then by King James I at the Hampton Court Conference of 1604.    Thank God for the divine right of kings!   It was not a matter of the monarchs refusing out of personal theological prejudice to allow the Church to teach what she wanted.   At the same time as the events leading to the drafting of the Lambeth Articles the first volumes of a lengthy treatise defending the Elizabethan Religious Settlement against the arguments of Calvinists who wished to overthrow said Settlement and introduce something more radical and less Catholic appeared in print.   The way in which this treatise was subsequently embraced by Anglicans of every party demonstrates that Queen Elizabeth and King James knew what they were doing in not allowing a narrower, much more rigid, interpretation of the difficult doctrine of predestination than that which appears in Article XVII to be imposed on the English Church.


The wisdom of the royal judgement in not allowing the Lambeth Articles to become the official doctrine of the Church will become all the more apparent as we look at the history of how this would-be addendum to the Articles of Religion came to be.  


The Lambeth Articles indirectly testify to the fact that Article XVII of the Thirty-Nine Articles does not require those who affirm or subscribe to it to accept the interpretation of predestination that is taught in the Lambeth Articles.   If it did, there would have been no need for strict Calvinists to draw up the Lambeth Articles and try to make them enforceable upon the clergy.  


The Most Reverend Matthew Parker had been chosen to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury upon the accession of Elizabeth I in 1559 and he was consecrated and installed in that office in December of that year.   Contrary to lies spread by the Jesuits, this was done properly by four bishops at Lambeth Palace, preserving the Apostolic succession, not in some untoward way in the Nag’s Head Tavern.   Nor are the arguments against the legitimacy of his Apostolic succession raised by Roman Patriarch Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae (1896) valid but that is a subject for another time. One of his first accomplishments was the revision of the Forty-Two Articles, written by his predecessor Thomas Cranmer and briefly made the official doctrine of the Church of England in 1552 at the very end of the reign of Edward VI.   These were revised into Thirty-Nine Articles in the Convocation of 1563, with much of the work of revision being done by Parker himself.   While a couple of changes had to be made before the Articles received royal assent in 1571 for the most part the Thirty-Nine Articles were what they would ultimately be in 1563.   The following year John Calvin died.


John Calvin’s death removed what had up to then been the chief restraint preventing the Genevan school from running to seed on the doctrine of predestination.   It seems strange to think of it that way today, when Calvin’s name is virtually synonymous with predestination, but compared to those who came after him he was quite moderate on the topic.   Like Dr. Luther, he was strongly influenced by St. Augustine of Hippo, who in the early fifth century led the orthodox Church in condemning the heresy of Pelagianism (the denial of Original Sin and assertion that the human will unassisted by God’s grace can move towards God).   In defending Augustinian orthodoxy, at least as he understood it, in On the Bondage of the Will (1525) his answer to Erasmus, Dr. Luther had taken a strong view of predestination that was very similar to that of Calvin’s.   It did not have as important a place in his theology as it did in Calvin’s, however, just as in Calvin’s theology predestination was not near as important is it would become among Calvin’s followers.   While later in his life Dr. Luther continued to regard On the Bondage of the Will as his favourite of his own writings, he clearly saw the danger of fixating on the doctrine, especially if it is considered apart from Jesus Christ and the Gospel, and warned against this danger, reminding people of the difference between what God has revealed to us and what He has kept hidden, and that it is inadvisable to focus on and speculate about the hidden things (he argued this at length and in several places in his Lectures on Genesis).   In the larger Lutheran tradition predestination and election are affirmed only of those who will ultimately be saved, there is no teaching of reprobation to damnation.  Jesus is proclaimed as having died for all, with the Grace He obtained for all on the Cross brought to man in the two forms of the Gospel, Word and Sacrament.  Faith, the sole means of receiving the Grace so brought to man, is itself formed in the human heart by the Grace contained in the Gospel, again Word and Sacrament, without any contribution from our own will.  The Grace in the Gospel is sufficient to produce saving faith in all, but resistible, so that salvation is entirely of God, damnation entirely of man.   Dr. Luther and his tradition took care that the doctrine of predestination not be taught in such a way as to either undermine the assurance of the Gospel or encourage licentious behaviour.  


In John Calvin’s writings, while predestination has a larger role than in Dr. Luther’s, it is by no means the doctrine to which all other truths must be subordinated that it often seems to be in the teachings of many of his followers.   In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, he devotes four chapters to it, towards the end of the third (out of four) volume. The third volume is about salvation, following after the first, which is about God the Creator, and the second, which is about God the Redeemer.    He turns to election in this volume, only after extensively covering Grace, Faith, Regeneration, Justification, Assurance, the Christian Life, and Christian Liberty.   It is very much a subordinate doctrine, that he derives from the sovereignty, omnipotence, and omniscience of God, but without the puerile manner in which some who bear his name today taunt those who do not believe exactly the way they do with the accusation that they preach too small a God, then wonder why nobody else is impressed with their “my God is bigger than your God” type arguments that sound like nothing so much as a boy in the schoolyard telling his playmates “my dad can beat up your dad”.   He expresses the same concerns about the abuse of the doctrine as Luther and from his Institutes it appears that his pastoral counsel to someone troubled by an undue fixation on predestination was almost identical to Luther’s, that is, look to Christ as revealed in the Gospel, not to the hidden councils of God.   Later Calvinists had trouble doing this because of their doctrine that Jesus died only for the elect.   The closest Calvin came to teaching this doctrine was in his remarks on 1 John 2.2 in his Commentary on the Catholic Epistles.  That was published in 1531.   In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, published two years later, his remarks on the most beloved and comforting words in all of Scripture, the familiar sixteenth verse of the third chapter, exclude all possibility of a Limited Atonement interpretation: “And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers.   Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favour of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life”.


Article XVII, both as Cranmer had originally written it in the Forty-Two Articles, and in the slightly edited form in which it stands in the Thirty-Nine Articles, speaks of predestination only in reference to the saved not the lost.   In this, it affirms what the larger Lutheran tradition affirms, without affirming what appeared to have been Dr. Luther’s position in 1525 but what the Lutheran tradition and possibly Dr. Luther himself in his later years moved away from, and what the Lutheran tradition would explicitly reject in the Formula of Concord six years after the Thirty-Nine Articles were adopted by the Church of England, that is double predestination.   Double predestination is rejected in paragraphs three and four of Article XI of the Formula of Concord, the only Article in all of the Lutheran Confessions on the subject of Election.   There is no Article on election or predestination in the Geneva Confession of 1536, or the Gallican (French) Confession of 1559, the only Confessions written in whole or in part by John Calvin himself.    It appears in the Second Helvetic Confession, however which was written by Heinrich Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor, shortly before Calvin’s death, and published shortly after.   In the Three Forms of Unity of the Reformed Church, the Heidelberg Catechism written by Ursinus in the same year that Parker was revising the Articles of Religion makes no mention of predestination, unsurprisingly perhaps in that it is a Catechism, that is to say, intended to be introductory and basic.  In the other two, however, Article XVI of the Belgic Confession (1561) is on Election, with the weak form of the doctrine of reprobation affirmed and the Canons of Dort (1619) are entirely in defense of the doctrine of Double Predestination.   This shows how the doctrine became much more important in the Calvinist tradition as it developed.


The Anglican Article XVII neither affirms reprobation like the Calvinist tradition, nor positively rejects it like the Lutheran tradition in the Formula of Concord.  What it does affirm about predestination is much more Lutheran than Calvinist though.   The second paragraph begins by saying that it is a comfort for the godly.   This, however, is only true if we heed the advice of the final paragraph.   Here, Parker’s revision of Cranmer’s original, was perhaps unfortunate.   Cranmer wrote “Furthermore, although the Decrees of predestination are unknown unto us, we must receive God’s promises in such wise as they are generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture, and in our doings, that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.”   The italicized portion was removed in the Thirty-Nine Articles.   It is stronger in the original wording, but the meaning still stands in the revised version, and it is identical to the advice given by Dr. Luther in his Lectures on Genesis, that we should not concern ourselves with what God has not revealed to us, His secret counsels from all eternity, but with what God has revealed to us in the Gospel.


Cranmer in 1553 and Parker ten years later could not have known the direction that the Reformed tradition would take after Calvin’s death, but they seem, like Dr. Luther, to have recognized that predestination is a doctrine that can easily take someone who runs with it into any number of ditches, and to have written Article XVII to guard against this possibility.   The Most Reverend and Right Honourable John Whitgift would have been well-advised to follow the lead of these his predecessors.   He seems to have attempted to do so at first but in 1595 committed the blunder of signing off on a document that, had it received final approval, would have imposed an interpretation of predestination on Article XVII that was more extreme than could be found in any then-extent Calvinist Confession.   Ironically, his intent in so doing was to restore peace to the campus of Cambridge University, where he himself had been a professor earlier in his career at the beginning of the Elizabethan Age.


The man who had upset the peace at Cambridge was William Barrett, who was the chaplain of Caius College at Cambridge University.   On 29 April, 1595, Barrett gave a sermon from the pulpit of St. Mary’s Church, in the course of which he blasted the Calvinist doctrine of predestination and asserted that predestination and reprobation were based on human holiness and sin respectively.   The main target of his attack, however, was the more basic doctrine of assurance of salvation.   He denounced as arrogance, the confident assurance of one’s salvation.   This raised a ruckus and he was immediately brought before the Vice-Chancellor of the University, who chewed him out.   Unrepentant, the heads of the various colleges were brought in, and they joined in denouncing him, so he was forced to make a retraction on 10 May.   He came across as somewhat less than sincere in his retraction which did not satisfy the academic authorities.  As a matter of fact the heads of the colleges went to the Vice-Chancellor demanding his expulsion.  At this point the affair was brought by both sides to the attention of Archbishop Whitgift who asked Hadrian Saravia, a prebendary at Gloucester Cathedral and a member of Cambridge’s rival Oxford University, and Lancelot Andrewes who was his personal chaplain at the time, for their opinions on the matter.  Their opinion was that while Barrett wasn’t entirely in the right, the Cambridge authorities had gone too far in forcing that retraction on him.   The Archbishop, satisfied with this opinion, sent a message to the Cambridge authorities dressing them down and reminding them that they could discipline a chaplain for speaking against the Articles of Religion but not for speaking against whatever was currently in vogue in Geneva.   He then made the grave mistake of assigning further investigation to William Whitaker, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge.

This was a mistake because Whitaker was the man against whom Barrett’s sermon had been directed in the first place.   Whitaker had himself given a sermon on 27 February against “those who assert universal grace” by which he meant Peter Baro, who was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity.   Baro was originally from France, like Calvin he had studied law and then he went to Geneva to study theology under Calvin.  He was ordained into the ministry by the Reformer himself.   When the Huguenots (French Calvinists) faced persecution in France in the 1570s, he fled to England where he was appointed to one of what were then the only two endowed professorships of divinity at Cambridge, which he had held for twenty one years at the time this controversy broke out.   In the meantime, like Beza’s student Arminius, he had moved away from the strict view of predestination that Beza had been working to make stricter.   Whitaker had held the other endowed professorship in divinity for almost as long, having been appointed to the post in 1580.   He had also been appointed Master of St. John’s College in 1586, and about the time Archbishop Whitgift asked him to look into the Barrett case, was made a canon of Canterbury.   He very much seemed to be a man on the rise at the time of this controversy.   In part this was due to his scholarly achievements.    His scholarship was acknowledged, even by Cardinal Bellarmine against whom his magnus opus, Disputations on Holy Scripture, was written, to be second to none.  The other part was due to his being protégé of both Whitgift and Lord Burghley (William Cecil – Elizabeth I’s Lord High Treasurer, spymaster, most trusted adviser, and basically, although the office was not yet created, Prime Minister).   He was also, however, the most extreme Calvinist among the Church of England’s clergy at the time, outside of the Puritan faction.   Needless to say, the theological differences between the Regius and the Lady Margaret Professors of Divinity, had led to the formation of bitterly rival factions in the school of divinity.   Whitaker accepted the task of investigating Barrett from Whitgift but, although he himself had been the target of Barrett’s sermon, it was not Barrett he was interested in so much as Baro.


Whitaker gave Barrett a questionnaire full of questions designed to elicit answers from the man which would enable Whitaker to accuse him to Whitgift, not just of Arminianism, a word that had barely made it to the English shore at this point in time, but of the far more serious charge of popery.  Usually Calvinist accusations of popery against those who did not agree with their view of predestination were nonsensical slurs but in this case it seems to have been justified.  After these events he left England and joined the Roman Church.  Whitaker sent Barrett’s answers, with his own commentary, to the Archbishop and then, in September, the Vice-Chancellor and college heads wrote to Whitgift asking for a final ruling, and permission to discipline Barrett.   Whitgift, wanting neither to let Barrett off on the points where he seemed to be supporting Romanism nor to force him to agree with the entire recantation that the Cambridge authorities had drawn up, asked Barrett to give an account before him at Lambeth Palace in November.    The other members of the tribunal were Richard Fletcher, Bishop of London, and Richard Vaughan, who had been chosen as the next Bishop of Bangor but would not be consecrated and installed until the following year.  Whitaker and Humphrey Tyndall, the President of Queen’s College and Dean of Ely, were sent along as the representatives of the Cambridge authorities.   The matter of Barrett was fairly easily disposed of – he agreed to another recantation.  Then Whitaker handed the Archbishop a set of nine Articles, clarifying in the sense of significantly narrowing, the Church’s position on predestination, and asked him to make it binding on the clergy.   This would have opened the door to his having Baro ejected from his seat at Cambridge.


Whitgift, after consulting with the Archbishop of York, made with the other bishops on the tribunal a few revisions to the Articles and then signed them on 20 November.   One consequence of this has been that Archbishop Whitgift, the staunch anti-Puritan, has ever since had a reputation for being a far stricter Calvinist than he actually was.   Here are the Articles in the form in which they were signed:


1.      God from eternity hath predestinated certain men unto life; certain men he hath reprobated.

2.      The moving or efficient cause of predestination unto life is not the foresight of faith, or of perseverance, or of good works, or of any thing that is in the person predestinated, but only the good will and pleasure of God.

3.      There is predetermined a certain number of the predestinate, which can neither be augmented nor diminished.

4.      Those who are not predestinated to salvation shall be necessarily damned for their sins.

5.      A true, living, and justifying faith, and the Spirit of God justifying [sanctifying], is not extinguished, falleth not away; it vanisheth not away in the elect, either finally or totally.

6.      A man truly faithful, that is, such a one who is endued with a justifying faith, is certain, with the full assurance of faith, of the remission of his sins and of his everlasting salvation by Christ.

7.      Saving grace is not given, is not granted, is not communicated to all men, by which they may be saved if they will.

8.      No man can come unto Christ unless it shall be given unto him, and unless the Father shall draw him; and all men are not drawn by the Father, that they may come to the Son.

9.      It is not in the will or power of every one to be saved.


Whitaker returned to Cambridge to prepare for the prosecution of Baro.   He caught a cold on the way home, however, which developed into a fever, and two weeks after the publication of he Lambeth Articles he died.   Before he died he met with his other patron, Lord Burghley, who among his many other duties was Chancellor of the University, and discussed the matter, most likely expecting Cecil’s support.   The Lord High Treasurer, however, recognized immediately the threat to the peace of realm and Church that the “Lambeth Articles” posed and went directly to Queen Elizabeth with the news that Whitgift had essentially held an unofficial Convocation behind her back in which he had added to the Articles of Religion in such a way as to force a narrow interpretation of a contentious point on them.   Queen Elizabeth summoned Whitgift to appear before her and her Privy Council to answer for this illegal behaviour, for which he could do nothing but apologize and beg her pardon.   Whitgift received her pardon – but the Lambeth Articles were vetoed.   Baro was allowed to finish his term and retire peacefully, and the queen appointed John Overall to the Regius Professorship vacated by the death of Whitaker.   Overall was a young clergyman, born the year of the queen’s accession, and ordained only four years prior to his appointment to Cambridge.   Later he would work with Lancelot Andrewes on the translation of the Authorized Bible, a few years after which he was consecrated Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield before being translated the very end of his career and life to the See of Norwich.   He was already known to be a moderate on the matter of predestination in 1595, however, and it was for this that he was chosen as the replacement of Whitaker. 


The Lambeth Articles, although originally drafted to narrow Anglican orthodoxy to a strictly Calvinist position on predestination, in the modified form in which Whitgift signed them, still left room for non-Calvinist interpretations.   The second Article, while affirming “the good will and pleasure of God” as the sole cause of predestination to life, makes no such statement about reprobation and, indeed, the fourth Article by asserting that those not predestinated to life will be damned “for their sins” places the cause of their damnation, and hence their “reprobation”, in themselves rather than God.   The ninth Article, of course, can be affirmed by any Augustinian, for not only is it true that “it is not in the will or power of every one to be saved” it is actually “not in the will or power of any one to be saved” because salvation does not come from the will or power of the one saved but from God Who does the saving.   “With man it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God” as our Lord put it.   None of the Lambeth Articles asserts the most problematic of the doctrines that would be adopted by the Synod of Dort in response to the Arminian Articles of Remonstrance in 1619, the anti-Scriptural and blasphemous doctrine of Limited Atonement, that Jesus died only for the elect.   This is why the fifth Article can assert “A man truly faithful, that is, such a one who is endued with a justifying faith, is certain, with the full assurance of faith, of the remission of his sins and of his everlasting salvation by Christ.”   This assertion is inconsistent with the idea that Jesus died only for he elect.   Justifying faith is faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Gospel.  The Gospel is not a revelation of what God has done in secret, into which category fall election and predestination.   It is a revelation of what God has done for mankind out in the open for everyone to see, by the giving of His Son Jesus Christ, Who made Atonement for dying for the sins of the world, then rose again from the dead.  The difference between “historical faith”, which does not justify or save and “saving faith” or “justifying faith” is that the person with “historical faith” sees in the Gospel only events that are some place, some time, distant and unconnected to himself, while the person with justifying faith sees in the Gospel the message that “Jesus died for me” which information is absent from the Gospel if Jesus died only for the elect, and indeed, if Jesus dies only for the elect, the information about whether Jesus died for any particular individual will not be available this side of the Last Judgement, so what is asserted in the fifth Lambeth Article is utterly impossible if Jesus died only for the elect.   Indeed, assurance is difficult to square with the concept of double predestination.   The early Dr. Luther managed to do so, as did John Calvin, but this was because both men recognized that it was unwise to dwell on what God has not revealed, His secret counsels, but must direct our faith towards what God has revealed in Jesus Christ.


One who did not follow them in this was William Perkins.  Perkins was born in the last year of the reign of Mary, studied at Cambridge University, and remained a fellow of Christ’s College at Cambridge until the year before the controversy that produced the Lambeth Articles.  He was a Puritan, considered a moderate in that he was neither a separatist nor a rebel, but was very severe in his Calvinism.   He died almost twenty years before Limited Atonement was formulated but he accepted Theodore Beza’s supralapsarianism, the form of extreme Calvinism that started the chain of events that led to Dort.   He developed the doctrine of “experimental predestination” for when his obsessive preaching on predestination caused people to ask the question “am I one of the elect”.  In this he advised people to make use of a practical syllogism – everyone who believes is a child of God, I believe, therefore I am a child of God – that separated assurance from the direct look of faith.  Worse, he told them to look for evidence for the second premise, if they doubted their faith was the saving kind, by looking inward for the fruit of sanctification.   This didn’t work out too well in his case.   His biographer Thomas Fuller records that he died “in the conflict of a troubled conscience”.   Perkins’ writings were more influential than any other Puritan of the Elizabethan Age on subsequent generations of Puritans and this problem of dying in the conflict of a troubled conscience recurred over and over again.   There were also cases of people living in the conflict of a troubled conscience because of this doctrine and being driven mad by it.   William Cowper, the Olney poet and hymn writer, is a classic example of this, although to be fair, the evidence suggests that given his extremely melancholic temperament he might have ended up the same way no matter what doctrine he had been taught.   


The example of Perkins, and the subsequent generations of Puritans who followed him in this, if not in his moderation with regards to making further reforms to the Church, demonstrates how an overemphasis on predestination undermines in practice the assurance of salvation that it is supposed to bolster.   For a good example of how the doctrine can be taught without having this negative effect see the second to last chapter in Getting Into The Theology of Concord  (1977) by Robert D. Preus.   The book is a commentary on the Lutheran Confessions and under the heading “Predestination and the Election of Grace” Preus, who was president of Concordia Theological Seminary at the time, explained that it was a doctrine that was only to be introduced after one had already been assured of salvation through faith in the revealed Gospel, in order “to give him even greater certainty and assurance of God’s grace”.   Preus recounted his own professor’s explanation of predestination as meaning merely “everything God has done in time to save us and make us His children and preserve us in the faith, He determined in Christ to do for us in eternity.”   Understood this way, the doctrine is not the threatening source of uncertainty that it has been when overemphasized as it has been in much of the Calvinist tradition.   In the Canons of Dort (1619) Perkins’ view of assurance replaced that of Calvin (found in Article XI of the Geneva Confession of 1536, Articles XVIII, XIX, XX and XXII of the Gallican Confession of 1559, and the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, chapter xxiv, paragraph 5) as the official Calvinist doctrine in the twelfth article under the first head (Divine Election and Reprobation – in Dort, the points are ordered ULTIP rather than TULIP):


Assurance of their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God’s Word—such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.


The Lambeth Articles were brought to the Synod of Dort and read out in the deliberation there.   Although they affirm a strong view of assurance of salvation, and the occasion of their drafting was Barrett’s sermon attacking assurance – Saravia and Andrewes advised Whitgift that Barrett had only denied the impossibility of those justified by faith falling from grace, asserted by Calvinism but not in the Articles of Religion, rather than their present assurance of forgiveness and justification, while his accusers maintained he had denied both -  they can therefore be regarded as a step in the direction in which Calvinism was moving, away from the solely outward look to the objective truth of the Gospel of Lutheranism and early Calvinism to the inward look of Puritanism/Dort.   It is therefore, most merciful indeed, that by the grace of God, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I prevented them from becoming an official addendum to the Articles of Religion.


Those who wish it were otherwise often claim that the Lambeth Articles represented a consensus of the leading clergy of the Church of England at the time.  This is hardly the case.   Archbishop Whitgift was by no means as harsh a predestinarian as his signature on these Articles might suggest to some.   It is now time to consider another protégé of Whitgift’s who the year before this controversy had published the first four volumes in a defense of the Elizabethan Settlement against those who wished to reshape the Church entirely in the image of Geneva, a defense that gained such wide acceptance that Anglicans of all parties would in the future claim its author as one of their own.


Richard Hooker was born five years before the accession of Elizabeth I and through the patronage of John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury and author of an Apology which defended the reformed Church of England against Romanist attacks on the grounds of arguments drawn from the Church Fathers, studied at Corpus Christi College in Oxford.   He became a fellow of the College in 1577 and was ordained a priest two years later.   In 1585, Elizabeth I, on the advice of Archbishop Whitgift appointed him Master of the Temple, an unusual title for the senior priest of an unusual Church, the Temple Church, which ministers to the Inner and Middle Temple Inns of Court, in what was originally the headquarters of the Knights Templar.   The Reader of the Temple, that is to say, the assistant clergy, was at the time, Walter Travers.   Hooker and Travers were kin by marriage – Travers’ brother was married to Hooker’s sister, the relationship between the two clergy is usually, if not entirely accurately, described as that of cousins-in-law – but in very different places theologically.   Travers was a Calvinist of the type who thought that every Church everywhere needed to resemble in theology, practice, and order the Church in Geneva, in other words, a Puritan.   He had been ordained in Antwerp by Thomas Cartwright, who unlike his contemporary William Perkins was not a moderate, as evidenced by a) his ordaining someone without the episcopal authority to do so, and b) his doing so abroad where he was living in semi-exile (he returned the same year Hooker was appointed Master).   Indeed, his Puritanism was so extreme that even Edmund Grindal, the most Puritan-friendly of the Elizabethan Archbishops of Canterbury, denounced him as a nut.   Archbishop Whitgift, correctly insisted that Travers needed to be re-ordained, but Travers refused.   He then wondered why the queen passed him over for the senior position at the Church and gave it instead to his in-law who already had something of a reputation as an opponent of Puritanism.  Why, indeed.


The arrangement at the Temple was that the Master, Hooker, would preach in the morning, and the Reader, Travers would preach in the afternoon.   Travers’ sermon would take the form of a rebuttal of the sermon given in the morning.   While this would have been inappropriate anywhere else, it does seem sort of fitting in a parish where the congregation was made up mostly of lawyers.   Indeed, they managed to carry on in this way without it disturbing their personal friendship.   Then, a year later, Archbishop Whitgift finally had enough and ordered Travers to cease and desist.  Travers appealed this decision to the Privy Council and as part of his appeal accused Whitgift’s protégé, his own cousin, Hooker of heresy.

The basis of the accusation was a series of three sermons on the book of Habakkuk that Hooker had delivered in March of either 1585 or 1586 – there is conflicting evidence as to which year – that he later published as a pamphlet under the title “A Learned Discourse of Justification, Works, and How the Foundation of Faith is Overthrown”.   In these sermons, Hooker articulated the doctrine of justification by faith on the basis of Christ’s merits alone and identified several errors of the Church of Rome in relation to this subject.   He distinguished between justification and sanctification, and defended the Protestant position that the former, the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer, is not based upon the latter, the righteousness that manifests itself in the believer as faith works through love.  The faith that justifies, however, is faith in Jesus Christ, not faith in the doctrine of sola fide, and since the Roman Church confesses faith in Jesus Christ as expressed in the orthodox Creed, neither that faith nor the justification that comes through it is necessarily overthrown by the errors of Rome.   It was this last point that twisted Travers’ knickers in a knot.   It translates into the idea that somebody is not necessarily going to Hell just because they are a member of the Roman Church.   To the twisted and paranoid mind of the Puritan that was tantamount to saying the Reformation was a mistake and we should all bow before the Roman Patriarch.


Archbishop Whitgift, although unwilling to openly endorse the idea that not everyone in the Roman Church is lost, tacitly did so by sticking to his guns on Travers, and not disciplining Hooker.   In this he was supported by the Privy Council which removed Travers from the position of Reader altogether.   Hooker continued as Master of Temple until 1591 when, seeking a less public position so as devote time to writing his treatise, he became rector of the small country parish of St. Andrew’s in the village of Boscombe, again through the patronage of the Archbishop.   The first four volumes of his Of The Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie were published about a year before the controversy in Cambridge.   Eventually the work would include four other volumes, bringing the total to eight.


Hooker’s Lawes are best thought of as being to Puritanism, what his first patron, Jewel’s Apology was to the Church of Rome, that is to say, an answer to their attacks on the Church of England and the status quo of the same that had been established in the Elizabethan Settlement that employed the language of the attackers.   Jewel had defended the orthodoxy and Catholicity of the Church of England, including her Protestant positions, with citations from the Church Fathers.   Hooker defended the Anglican Church from the very Scriptures the Puritans claimed as their sole authority.   While Hooker also appeals to tradition and reason, these are very much subordinate lower rungs on his hierarchy of authority with Scripture clearly at the top.   Hooker uses tradition and reason very effectively in support of his main argument which over and over again is that the Scriptures do not support the radical changes the Puritans were demanding because the Scriptures do not say what the Puritans think and claim they say.


The Lawes are not an eight volume takedown of the doctrine of predestination.   It is not the Puritans’ soteriology that is Hooker’s focus but their ideas concerning Church Government.   This ought to be evident from the title of the work.  Ecclesiastical Politie (Polity) means Church Government.   It is not William Perkins whom Hooker is concerned with so much as Thomas Cartwright, the arch-presbyterian mentor of his relative Travers.   Specifically, it is the Puritan claim that the Scriptures contain not merely everything necessary for salvation, as Article VI declares, everything necessary to answer any question that might arise, including the one true model of Church government and organization (the Genevan, even though this could be found nowhere on earth before the sixteenth century) and a complete set of instructions as to what can be done in Christian worship to which nothing can be added that is not sinful, idolatrous, and blasphemous, that he systematically dismantles.   He patiently makes his case, first laying the foundation with a discussion of the nature of laws in general in the first volume, which leads into a refutation of specific Puritan claims that occupies the rest of the first four books, the ones published before 1595.   In the fifth book, published in 1597, which is as long as the first four combined, as he examines Scripture readings, sermons, music, Sacraments, liturgy and basically everything that is today summed up in the word “worship” and demonstrates through an extended defence of the normative principle that the established Anglican way of doing these things is not contrary to Scripture, he begins to segue from answering the claims of the Puritans into setting forth the positive case for the status quo of the Elizabethan Settlement of Religion that will occupy the remainder of the work.   In making that case, while he rests ultimately upon the authority of Scripture, he does not do so in the same manner as his opponents, he does not mirror their attitude of thinking there is only one way of doing everything.   Instead, having shown that episcopal polity, liturgical worship, royal patronage, etc., not to be in violation of Scripture but to be positively beneficial, he argues that all these should be retained unless their opponents can meet the burden of proof in arguing for their elimination, which they have failed to do. 


Although it was the Puritans’ demand for changes in the structure, organization, and practices of the Church that Hooker answered in his Lawes rather than their narrow doctrine of predestination, the basic conservatism of his arguments provided the Church with an alternative path to that which Whitaker wished her to take with the Lambeth Articles.   Just as the Puritans insisted that there was only acceptable form of Christian worship, the Genevan, the stricter school of Calvinists, Puritan or not, insisted that there was only one way of understanding the doctrine of predestination, that which they attempted to impose on the Church in the Lambeth Articles, and which would eventually narrow further in the continental Reformed tradition into that espoused at Dort.   The Articles of Religion, to which clergy of the Church were required to subscribe, affirm predestination, but only in a more general way.   They do not exclude an Anglican clergyman from holding to the narrower view of Whitaker’s Articles, but neither do they require it.   There was no need to impose a narrower view.   Predestination is mentioned in the Scriptures, but only on a few occasions, and not in such a way as to justify the claim that only the strict Calvinist interpretation is acceptable.   In the book of Romans, for example, St. Paul brings it up in precisely the way Dr. Preus talked about.   First he shows that all people, Jew and Gentile alike, have sinned and therefore cannot be justified before God by their own works, then he talks about how God has justified by His Grace those who believe in Jesus on account of the redemption He accomplished by His propitiatory death.   Having established that believers have peace with God through their Saviour Jesus Christ, he urges them to live righteously because through their union with Christ in baptism, they died to sin with Him in His death, and now live to God and righteousness in the newness of His resurrection life.   This leads into an acknowledgement of the ongoing struggle with sin, which the Law is powerless to assist the believer in, which is followed immediately by the encouragement that the Holy Ghost provides what the Law cannot, and it is only then, in this context that predestination is raised to strengthen this assurance and encouragement, by telling the Roman believers that what God is doing in them He will see through to completion because He planned it from before the world and that no power exists that break our union with Jesus Christ.   The idea of predestination, in this context, should not give rise to speculation about God arbitrarily deciding so-and-so will be saved and so-and-so will be damned, and the language that some might take in this sense in the following chapters is clearly talking about the present state of nations, Jews and Gentiles, rather than the final destiny of individuals.   Indeed, as if to avoid dogmatic speculation about the nature of predestination, the Apostle places foreknowledge before predestination.   This does not have to be taken in the Arminian way – I do not understand it that way myself – but it is a good reason to be careful in flinging the word “heresy” around about views other than strict Calvinist double predestination.   Heresy is a departure from the basic truths of the faith, primarily those confessed in the ancient and universal Creed, and these are truths that are clear and open revelation in Scripture, central to the message of Scripture, and not things that get a mention in Scripture but with the details left to the unrevealed secret things of God, into which it is unwise to pry.   Therefore, from Hooker’s basic conservative principles, we can deduce that it was very wise indeed of Elizabeth I, to not allow a narrow formulation of the doctrine of predestination to become official doctrine in the Church.   In taking the path represented by Richard Hooker, rather than that represented by the Lambeth Articles, Anglicanism made the right choice at the crossroads of 1595.


  1. Any decision made by a queen is to be thrown out for I suffer not a woman to teach nor usurp authority of a man, so queens are never to rule alone but only to be the wife of a king. Ruling queens are an abomination to God and a plague on the Brits. Its why Muslim Pakis now rule Britain.

  2. Keeping the so-called "historic" episcopacy is the mistake. It leads to lazy liberal clergy. As long as they get to keep larping in their dagon mitres they don't care about anything else except their standing with the secular government.

    Its very similar to the tenure system at university. Its the model that tenure came from after all. Once you get tenure (become a bishop) you can do whatever you want. This is how Rome ended up in apostacy and why the Reformation was needed. And its why the Epicopalians and now Canterbury has ended up in apostacy as well. Monarchical Episcopacy leads to apoastacy pure and simple.