I like this guy. There aren't a whole lot of English Lutherans. I'm not one either. However, my ancestors are from Suffolk, and I professed the Lutheran faith, taught in Scripture and correctly stated in the Book of Concord, when I was 46. Close enough. At least to really admire Robert Barnes.
I. Who Is Robert Barnes And Who Are The English?
Robert Barnes was born about 1495 in Lynn, formally Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England. Norfolk, Suffolk; the North folk and the South folk of East Anglia, once its own kingdom, named after ourselves, the Angles, named in turn from where we came, Angeln, or Anglia in the international language of the day, Latin, in the modern state of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, way up North damn near, er, just South of Denmark.
Before us, a Brythonic tribe called the Iceni lived in the area. Who are the Brythons? A Celtic tribe whose land it was before we, the Saxons, the Danes, the Vikings and yet more starting piling in. It's from them that we get the word Britain, British, etc. The Romans invaded Britain in 43 BC, called the place Brittania, and as they did in many places left the local stuff pretty much alone so long as they obeyed the Roman governors. Despite revolts here and there, including the great one by the Iceni queen Boudica, they held out until about 400 AD. That's when the Saxons from Germany moved in, uninvited, the bleeders.
We were invited. The Iceni ended up pretty much wiped out, but in 433 the Brythons asked us if we'd like to come over and settle since things were getting a bit sparse, and help against the Picts too. How about that -- in a world history of pretty much conquer and re-conquer everywhere, we were invited to come! We're all like that -- look at the irenic tone that steps back from controversy, the staid measured writing style, for which I am known throughout the Lutheran blogosphere. About 520, the North folk and the South folk united to form the Kingdom of East Anglia, one of seven kingdoms that emerged in what would become the United Kingdom.
East Anglia is called such to this day as a region of England, generally also including Cambridgeshire to the West and often Essex to the South too. Anglia is the root of the words England and English for the whole thing and its language, East Anglian or not.
Lynn, in Norfolk, shows its Celtic origins in that the name simply means "lake" in Celtic. Robert Barnes was born there, and went to Cambridge for the university there, where he was associated with the Augustinian friars, same as Luther. Ah Cambridge; seems that in 1209, some Oxford scholars upset at the hanging of two Oxford scholars for murder went to the school there and turned it into a university, the second oldest in the English speaking world. Ah, the pure pursuit of learning, when academic freedom also included no prosecution for murdering and raping locals. Call it academic immunity. Well, at least there actually is a bridge over a river Cam.
II. So How Does An English Guy End Up Reading A German Reformer?
Anyway, Barnes also hung out at the White Horse Tavern, aka White Horse Inn, in Cambridge where starting about 1521 groups met to discuss Luther and his thought, including Thomas Cranmer, Miles Coverdale, William Tyndale, and others. Because of their interest in the ideas coming from Germany, the group got the nickname "the Germans". Damn, wish I was there.
In 1523 he graduated Doctor of Divinity, or Divinitatis doctor, from Cambridge. At Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1525, Barnes preached an openly Lutheran sermon, at St Edward's church in Cambridge. He was brought up on charges, examined by Thomas Cardinal Wolsey -- a Suffolk boy, from Ipswich -- Lord Chancellor to the King, Henry VIII, and ended up being sent to jail in 1526.
He escaped two years later, made his way to Antwerp and then Wittenberg, where he met Luther and was his house guest. I'm guessing they spoke Latin to each other. Maybe he learned German, like me, hanging around with the fellas. Damn, wish I was there too. While there, as Luther noted in his work to be mentioned below, he used neither his title nor his name, enrolling simply as Antonius Anglus (there's the Angle thing again).
In 1536 he was able to return to England, working as a liaison between the English government and Lutheran rulers and churchmen in Germany. In 1535 they sent him back to Germany, to get Lutheran support for Henry's efforts to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon and Henry's vision of reformation in England. He didn't get it, and Henry never forgot it. Catherine of Aragon was really Catalina de Aragon. What does this mean? (If you're Lutheran and ain't laughing, oh well.)
III. So Why Was An English Guy Reading A German Reformer A Big Deal?
Oh boy here we go. Now Catalina was married to Henry's older brother Arthur, who was supposed to become king, being the first son of Henry VII, but he died before his dad (predeceased him, if you like it put that way) so Henry became the heir. This was a big deal. Henry VII claimed descent from the legendary King Arthur and said his son to be would restore the glory days of the equally legendary Camelot, and thus named him Arthur. And to bolster his kingdom against the French by an alliance with Spain, just recently united under Isabela I de Castilla and Fernando II de Aragon, a marriage was arranged when Arthur was 2 between him and their daughter Catalina.
Henry VII had another problem too. None of the other European monarchs recognised him as a real king -- you know, by birth. He became king by his victory over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Hill in the "War of the Roses", between the House of Lancaster, which he as Henry Tudor led, and the House of York, of which Richard III was the last English king, since he not only lost the battle but was killed in it. Well hell, Richard had become king by taking power from his nephew King Edward V, who was just twelve and, um, disappeared after Richard took power, but they were born to this stuff so it's OK. Henry Tudor wasn't.
Not only that, his great grandfather on his mother's side, guy named John Beaufort, was a bastard. No, not that kind, born out of wedlock. Now John's dad, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, was indeed the third son of Edward III, but he did not lock in wed with John's mother, Katherine Swinford his mistress of some 25 years, until after John and three other kids were born, and even at that she was his third wife. Which made the kids legitimate, but not eligible for the throne because they were not legitimate by birth.
So here's Henry Tudor with his claim to the throne, all other claimants from the House of Lancaster dead in battle, murdered, or executed, resting on military victory, with an illegitimate ancestor by birth, and not on the male side of his ancestry. That's why all the stuff about jumping over all that to the legendary King Arthur. And also why Catalina as queen would make the House of Tudor accepted as for real by all the other kings and queens. Catalina was actually of descent from the House of Lancaster, named after Catherine of Lancaster, her great grandmother and a legitimate daughter of John of Gaunt and his wife Constance of Castile, who was his second wife but that's OK as his first, Blanche, died of the Bubonic Plague two years before they were married, so there's a wrap on that.
Catalina had all the cards to make everything OK. Not only that, she was enormously well though of in all respects: highly educated, devoutly Catholic, privately critical of many of the moral abuses and superstitions the Lutherans condemned but had no time for Luther or the Lutherans, was a lay member of the Franciscan Order -- a secular tertiary, meaning a lay member of the third order, the first being friars (OFM, Order of Friars Minor, there ain't no friars major, the phrase is from "little brothers" or fraticelli translated into Latin) and the second nuns (OSC, Ordo Sanctae Clarae or Poor Clares, from St Clare, a female follower of St Francis) -- and praised by such notables as Erasmus, who called her a defender of the faith, and Thomas More, who said she was also a complete and total babe, or words to that effect.
After a long-distance relationship by mail, Arthur and Catalina finally met on 4 November 1501 and were married 14 November 1501 at St Paul's Cathedral in London. He didn't know Spanish and she didn't know English, and even when they tried the international language of the day, Latin, that didn't work due to differences in pronunciation! Then they both get sicker than hell, most likely from the deadly "sweating sickness" that swept England from 1485 to 1551 and hasn't come back since. She recovers, but he dies on 2 April 1502 and that blows the whole thing all to hell.
IV. I'm Henery The Eighth I Am.
It gets worse. Now Henry VII has two more problems! One is, with Arthur dead after not even five months of marriage, he would have to pay back Catalina's dowry, but he needed the cash! What's a dowry? Serious stuff in those days. No it was not part of a woman being bought and sold like a commodity. Quite the opposite, a dowry was meant to insure her well being and provide an incentive against mistreatment of her. It provided money toward the establishment and maintenance of the new household, and, there being no "life insurance" at the time, provided for their support should he die, since the dowry remained hers, not his. A woman without a dowry might have a problem getting a husband, and you know what, that is what the original Santa Claus, St Nicholas, was all about tossing money into stockings -- to provide poor girls a dowry that their fathers could not, so they would find husbands and not end up prostitutes or in the slave trade; it wasn't just something for fun to open on 25 December!
Plus there's the legitimacy that Catalina's descent brought, but, when her mother died, Castilla (Castile) passed to her older sister, Juana la Loca (Johanna the Mad) so that diminished somewhat Catalina's desired cred since she was now just a king's daughter. Nonetheless it was decided that she would marry the new heir Arthur's younger brother Henry, five years younger than she, though Henry VII had second thoughts. The marriage was put off, officially to allow young Henry to grow up a bit, hell he was only 10 at the time, but really because it solved the giving back the dowry problem. Henry VII died on 21 April 1509, and Henry VIII and Catalina were married 11 June 1509.
But more problems. In Roman Catholic canon law (church law) a man cannot marry his brother's widow. For you canon law freaks, and others uncomfortable with my sometimes offhand style of discourse, this is called the impediment of affinity. But given sufficient power and money, and church laws being church laws but not divine laws, one can get what one wants; like Sister Sarah said in Two Mules For Sister Sarah, by Clint Eastwood, the pre-eminent theologian of our time, "The church has dispensations". The Pope at the time was Julius II, who gave himself some unofficial dispensations, shall we say, having illegitimate children, one who survived being Felice, after whose birth he married her mother (Lucrezia) off to the majordomo of his cousin's (a Cardinal) household. All quite openly, hell, she's in a painting by Raphael. Well, like Sister Sarah said...
Henry VII got the dispensation from Julius II, mostly because Catalina's mom La Reina Isabela was leaning on Pope Julius to give it too, and in support of the case for it Catalina said she and Arthur never bopped (oh sorry, said that the marriage was never consummated). Actually Henry, being at this point a widower, could have married her himself, and did give some thought to marrying somebody and having more male heirs.
Now whyzat, what's wrong with the younger Henry? The thing is, Henry soon to be VIII was not brought up to be king, Arthur was, and Henry was educated for a church career, to probably end up Archbishop of Canterbury -- you didn't think being a bishop in state churches from the old Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church in the West and the Eastern Orthodox in the East, had a damn thing to do with with being an overseer (translated bishop) in the Christian church, or was anything more than a state office, I hope.
So Catalina and Henry, now 17 and she 23, were married 11 June 1509, and on 24 June 1509 (Midsummer's Day, btw) were crowned king and queen (queen consort actually, meaning a queen who is married to the king but the king is the ruler) of England in Westminster Abbey. King Henry VIII.
V. How the Catalina Thing Played Out.
Catalina proved an exceptional queen. Even before her marriage, she had been the Spanish ambassador to England, the first woman in Europe ever to hold an ambassadorship. In 1513 Henry made her regent (ruling in his absence) when he went to France on a military campaign, and Catalina went downrange herself , leading the army though pregnant against the invading Scots (holy crap, over a millennium before, the Brythons asked us to move in and help them with the Picts, and they're still invading, persistent bleeders!) and won. She also commissioned a book, The Education of Christian Women, it being a novel idea at the time that women, Christian or otherwise, be educated. And she was conversant with the great scholars Erasmus and Sir Thomas More. Even Cromwell, who hated her, said if she weren't a woman she could have gone up against any of the great heroes of history.
But that wasn't enough. Catalina was pregnant six times: a stillborn daughter in 1510; a son, even named Henry, who died in 1511 after 52 days; another son who died at birth in 1513; yet another stillborn son in 1514; then in 1516 a healthy baby but who was a girl (this would be Queen Mary, oh hell ya); and in 1518 another girl who died though. Looked like she couldn't even give birth to the wrong sex right.
Henry began to think his marriage was cursed because it had been wrong in the first place. Leaning on Leviticus 20:21 he began to think the prohibition in the Law against a man marrying his brother's wife, with the consequence that they be childless, was the basis of what was happening, and therefore old Julius II even though pope could not legitimately grant a dispensation. So he took the case to the then current pope, Clement VII.
Well, there's some problems with that. For one thing, Catalina always maintained her marriage to Arthur was not consummated. She rejected appeals to quietly become a nun. To top it all off, the pope, Clement VII, following the Sack of Rome, the one in 1527, was the prisoner of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, yes, the same one to whom the Augsburg Confession was presented in 1530, but who also doubled, as Carlos I, as king of Spain, and was Catalina's nephew. So there was some doubt he would side with Henry against Aunt Cathy, shall we say, or allow the pope to do so.
Not to mention, though I am about to, that about 1521 Henry started bopping Mary Boleyn, one of Catalina's maids of honour and otherwise Mrs William Carey. No, not Anne, Mary. Right along with all the Biblical high principles and stuff. Hey, used to be only kings and royalty and bishops got to do this kind of stuff and get away with it, now we all do, so no finger-pointing!
In 1535 Barnes (remember him, this post is actually about him!) was sent back to Germany in hopes he could get his Lutheran friends to side with Henry about the annulment. Didn't work. Emperor Charles sided with Aunt Cathy, and so for that matter did Luther himself. So did such otherwise different men as More and Tyndale. Hell, even Henry's sister Mary Tudor sided with the queen! So Henry turned to he whom he had earlier avoided, Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, for the appeal.
Old Tom, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor to the king and created cardinal by Pope Leo X in 1515, worked like hell to get the annulment. He argued that the pope could not overrule the Bible, assuming of course Henry's case fit the Bible's scenario, back to the whole consummated thing. He argued the wording of the dispensation was faulty, but, guess what, a properly worded version turned up in, guess where, Spain! Finally he argued that the decision, he being papal legate in England and all, should be made in England, and of course he knew which side he would take. The pope took that one, in 1528, but said he would send a second legate too from Rome, who took his sweet time getting there and getting things going.
Wait, there's more! Remember Mary Boleyn? She was at the royal court and began an affair with Henry about 1521 and it lasted about 5 years. She was already good at affairs, having had several in France including one with the King of France, Francis. Somewhere along the line her sister, less attractive but more ambitious and intelligent, Anne, caught the king's eye, but Anne was not about to be any old mistress like her sister had been, she held out for the whole pie, queen. Which made getting the annulment all the more imperative. Man, would to-day's diocesan RC marriage tribunals been handy then!
Well after all the delays the pope decides Henry may not marry until the Great Matter, as it was called, was settled in Rome, not England. Wolsey took the fall for that decision, Anne getting him ousted from government office in 1529. But old Tom fought back, and tried secret arrangements with Catalina and the pope to have Anne forced into exile from England. But he was found out and, though he remained Archbishop of York, was arrested for treason and would have been executed except he got sick and died in 1530 on his way to London to face trial.
Wolsey was replaced as Lord Chancellor by Sir Thomas More, Catalina gets banned from the court and her rooms given to Anne, and when the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, William Warham, died, in the finest tradition of apostolic succession, Anne had the Boleyn family priest Thomas Cranmer, made the new Archbishop of Canterbury. The pope wasn't too keen on this, but after the King of France leaned on him a bit -- more apostolic succession -- he relented and gave the pallium, a sign of a bishop's special affinity with the pope, to Cranmer.
It all went downhill pretty fast after that. Cromwell gets the Law of Supremacy, which recognised the final authority of the king over the church in England, passed in Parliament, More resigns over it, Henry and Anne wed secretly, Henry meets with the King of France to get his support for the marriage, Anne gets pregnant, the couple is publicly married 25 January 1533, on 23 May 1533 Cranmer in church court rules the marriage between Henry and Catalina was no marriage at all because it was invalid (that's what annulment is, not divorce, a recognition that no marriage in the sacramental sense ever took place because the marriage rite was done under invalid conditions, hence null, hence the term annulment) and on 28 May rules Henry and Anne are validly therefore truly married, on 1 June Anne is crowned Queen of England and on 7 September Queen Anne gives birth! To a daughter, oh MAJOR oops!
Nonetheless Parliament enacts the Act of Succession of 1533 (hell of a year, that) recognising Anne's, not Catalina's, children as legitimate and heirs, and in a sign of things to come, repudiates any appeal to any foreign authority of any kind (guess who that means) and high treason punishable by death to publish any such things. Yeah, my kingdom is not of this world indeed!
Judas, Parliament even made it a matter of praemunire facias -- holy crap what's that, well, it's bogus mediaeval Latin for a bogus mediaeval English idea that it is treason to appeal to any authority beyond the king re the church in England, from which acts the sheriff does (that's facias) a warning (that's praemunire). Praemunire actually means to fortify, but the word was mistaken for the correct Latin for warning which is praemonere, the ancestor of the word premonition. Bad Latin for a bad idea.
Henry warn't no Lutheran. In 1521 Henry VIII published Assertio septem sacramentorum, A Defence of the Seven Sacraments, which he had shown to Wolsey and then expanded as an attack on Luther's De captivitate babylonica of 1520, a key influence on me, and dedicated it to Pope Leo X, who in turn named Henry Fidei defensor, Defender of the Faith, on 17 October 1521. But after Henry decided he was head of the church in England in 1530, Pope Paul III revoked the title and Henry was excommunicated, but the English Parliament restored it, and the English monarch to this day remains Supreme Governor of the Church of England, formally above the "Archbishop" of Canterbury.
Prince Charles said in 1994 he wants the title changed to Defender of Faith, not the Faith. Well, rock on Church of England/Anglican Communion.
Hell, Pope Clement blew a gasket at that, excommunicated Henry and Cranmer, said Cranmer's annulment decision was itself null and broke off relations with England. Anne miscarries in 1534 and by year's end Henry is trying with Cranmer and Cromwell to figure a way to dump Anne without having to go back to Catalina. Then what the hell but Catalina dies, Henry and Anne rejoice, death breaking the bond of marriage, Anne's pregnant, and -- MAJOR MAJOR oops, miscarries with a baby boy on, guess what, 29 January 1536 the very day of Catalina's funeral. I ain't making this up and didn't read it in a Dan Brown novel either. Who needs that when the truth is way weirder!
VII. And Next?
Well hell Henry is bopping a lady in waiting at court named Jane Seymour (no, not the actress) anyway, and hell yes, death ends any claim of marriage, so whadya know but charges of infidelity and treason are brought against Anne, she's arrested along with five guys, including her brother, accused of schtupping her, they are executed and five days later, 19 May 1536, so is Queen Anne. The next day, Henry and Jane are engaged, and ten days after that, are married. Wow. An Act of Succession says now Jane's kids are first in line for the throne. Jane gets pregnant and gives birth to, guess what, a baby boy (who will be Edward VI)!
Problem solved? Nope, she also gets an infection in childbirth and dies on 24 October 1537. Henry gets his long desired son but loses his queen, whom he always afterward thought of as his true wife and next to whom he is now buried in Windsor Castle.
Now it would be easy to put this all down to attitudes towards women, but that would be to read it as if it were happening now. Yes, that was part of it, but only part. We saw above, at least I hope we did, I went on about it enough, that civil war and legitimate occupancy of the throne had kept England in a state of civil war at home and in problems abroad for years and years, and Henry had that much on his mind, also that he not leave such a situation behind when he died. Having an unquestioned heir and ruler, at home and abroad, was a really big deal. Henry had exactly the same problems his dad did, just with different details.
Of course they were centuries from knowing it is the father who determines the sex of the child!
VIII. Number Four and The End For Barnes.
Well a guy's gotta move on, right? So Cromwell starts thinking this Anne of Cleves would be a hell of a good idea as his next wife, even gets a guy to go paint a portrait of her to convince Henry. Why her? Well, Anne of Cleves is really Anna von Juelich-Kleve-Berg. That's near Düsseldorf; wherezat, it's the dorf -- village -- near the delta of the Düssel for crying out loud, a tributary of the Rhein, oh sorry, Rhine. Anna was the daughter of the Duke there, John II, and was promised at age 12 to be the wife of Francis I, Duke of Lorraine, but Cromwell thought she'd make this hell of a wife for Henry since Protestant German allies would help if the Catholics invaded England, so Barnes, with his German connexion, was involved in helping with that, and it happened.
Henry was not all that into the idea, hoped Cromwell could find a way out, but there was too much at stake in alliances with the Germans for that, so they were married 6 January 1540 by bleeding Cranmer himself, but there was no consummation of the marriage and by Summer Henry wanted out. The Duke had ticked off the Holy Roman Emperor and Henry did not want to get into that either. So Barnes was asked to help in the annulment of Henry's marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, and an annulment was granted on the basis of the contract with Francis and there having been no consummation, which, in more contemporary language, means no sex. Anna went along with it all and fared pretty well in contrast to Henry's other wives, and for going along with annulment she lived out her life relatively well, not to mention in the former home of the Boleyns, Hever Castle, which was given to her.
But those involved with setting the marriage up didn't fare so well. Henry already had refused to accept Lutheran theology, the Six Articles of 1539 effectively renounced Lutheranism and affirmed Roman practices considered abuses by Lutherans. The Six Articles affirmed 1) transubstantiation, 2) communion in host only, 3) clerical celibacy, 4) vows of chastity, 5) private masses, 6) auricular confession, private confession of sins to a priest.
Then the annulment in 1540 also worked against Barnes. He preached against Bishop Stephen Gardiner (another Suffolk boy), active in the enforcement of Catholic doctrine, in the Spring, was forced to recant, then recanted his recant and professed the Lutheran faith, for which he and two others were burnt alive for heresy under the Six Articles, along with three others for treason for denying royal supremacy over the church, on 30 July, 1540.
In Germany, Lutherans and Catholics alike were shocked and outraged. Luther took Barnes' final confession of faith, translated or had it translated into German, wrote a preface to it himself, and published it later that year (1540) as Bekenntnis des Glaubens.
IX. What Happened To The Other Guys and Everyone Else.
Cromwell was executed 28 July 1540, two days before, by beheading in the Tower of London. Thomas Cranmer, who would become the first non-Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, who believed in the right of the king to determine the faith of the nation and all its people, which makes it hard when you go back and forth between Catholic and "Anglican" monarchs, recanted his recantation of his recantation, whatever, and was burnt at the stake 21 March 1556 under the Catholic Queen Mary.
Remember Mary, that's Catalina's daughter! Wanna know the kicker? After all this long story coming from an enormously complicated matter of the legitimacy of and succession to the Tudor line of kings of England, Henry ruled for just short of 38 years and left only three heirs of either sex and within about ten years of his death on 28 January 1547 all three of them came to the throne -- Anne Boleyn's daughter becoming Elizabeth I and as we saw Jane Seymour's son becoming Edward VI -- and not a one of them left an heir! Not a one! Elizabeth I was the last Tudor on the throne. And she never even married! All that for nothing.
Through secret negotiations Elizabeth arranged for the House of Stuart (or Stewart) to take over a combined England and their original Scotland. Man, the Scots again. And we (Angles) were asked to come there and keep them out way back when. Now they're the royal line of the whole damn place! Well, not really, the Stuarts aren't real Scots, they're Normans from Brittany in France who arrived in Scotland after the Norman Conquest of England. The last Stuart was Queen Anne, who died 1 May 1707, and the English again turned to the Germans to solve things, with the House of Hanover taking over and lasting until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.
Victoria's son, by patrilineal (from the father) descent, which rules in such things, Edward VII, is of the house of his father, Prince Albert, the house of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, Englished to Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, but which adopted the much more English sounding name Windsor during World War I, German descended monarchs on a throne in a war against Germany being too weird. His cousin, who was on the German throne, Kaiser Wilhelm II, thought that was a riot and said he looked forward to seeing Shakespeare's new play The Merry Wives of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha.
The current English royal family is the House of Windsor. There's still Hanovers though, the current head of that bunch being Ernst August V Prinz von Hannover (I ain't translating, it's not hard to work out) who is also the current husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco so maybe he'll end up with a throne or something. I mean, his titles are not recognised in modern England or Germany, but they are in Monaco! And the heir to the English throne, Charles, is through his father of the House of Gluecksburg, short for the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gluecksburg (Schleswig-Holstein, current name of where we Angles came from!) in turn a branch of the biggest baddest ones of the all the House of Oldenburg, who have been or are on the thrones of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Russia (yeah the Romanovs), Greece and looks like the British Commonwealth one of these days.
After Charles will come the absolutely delightful William and Catherine, currently the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, dear old Cambridge.
X. What We Can Learn From This Now.
Notice something? Ain't no reformation going on here, just getting the church to baptise, as it were, matters of state, church and state being all part of one thing. From the Assertio of 1521 to the Six Articles of 1539, it's Catholic as all hell, just with a little jurisdictional modification so the king can get an annulment when he needs one.
One of the most enduring enticements of the descendants from the state church of the Roman Empire, in the West the RCC and those non-Catholic national churches, generally Anglican or Lutheran, which consider themselves to have taken over Rome's function within their jurisdictions, and in the East the Orthodox churches, is the apparent solidity of their continuous existence, presumably then with a connexion to the catholic church of the creeds, the Apostles, and Christ himself.
For a person of a faith not solidly grounded in Christ and the Gospel, this enticement is so strong as to solve or resolve all doubt. For example, the ridiculous John Henry Newman, to the point that his deus-ex-ecclesia shall we say solution to his indecision led him to declare that really there are only two real possibilities, atheism or Catholicism, with those not in either camp either on their way "home to Rome" or not having thought through the implications of not going to Rome.
While faith in Christ can exist in such an environment, what an unnecessary, distracting and complicating encumbrance to it.
Our foray about into the situation in which Robert Barnes lived and by which was ultimately killed is but one of any number of such situations which show this apparent solidity and continuity is but the most appalling and grotesque of shams, rooted in NOTHING WHATEVER of Christ, his Word or his Sacrament, all of that being a self-justifying veneer over which affairs of state played out. Miserable blasphemous parodies of the catholic church which have survived the passing of the states as then constituted which created them.
We needed Barnes then, and we need him now. Happily we no longer live under the idea that rulers are agents of God with the right to choose the religion of their people. Barnes himself struggled to find his way between the political reality of this idea in his time and spreading the Gospel in reforming Christ's church. In England, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, with which the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is in fellowship in the International Lutheran Council, is the heir of Barnes' work in England.
Yet, in this freedom now, Christianity, the church in general, and our beloved synod in particular veer between the same two poles of those times, namely, on the one hand the attractive exterior in which the errors of Rome and the Orthodox are couched, and on the other, the different but no less attractive exterior in which the errors of Calvinism and the Reformed are couched, most recently in American "evangelicalism".
Our beloved synod is greatly beset by this. May the works and example of Robert Barnes help and strengthen us as they did Luther in our Bekenntnis des Glaubens, our confession of faith, holding to the Word rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered, and steering our course so as not to crash on the rocks under the influence of either of these siren songs, which unlike those of Greek mythology, are quite real.
From the last words of Robert Barnes, DD, martyr, on 30 July 1540:
Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven.
(Quoted from "The Reformation Essays of Dr Robert Barnes", Neelak S Tjernagel editor. Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1963. Republished 19 October 2007.)
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