Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Life of Thomas More

"The Life of Thomas More" (Peter Ackroyd) - I touched previously on why this was a painful book to read.

But the most painful part was extracting the theology of the thing.

The facts are pretty clear cut:
  1. Henry VIII declared the independence of the Church of England (following the Pope's refusal to grant him an annulment with Catherine)
  2. There followed an edict to swear an oath of loyalty to the King as the head of the Church of England - which More refused to sign (claiming it was contrary to his conscience)
  3. More was eventually tried for treason, and executed for the same
It's easy to read this into a context of martyrdom - executed for refusing to act contrary to one's conscience.

But, things are not so cut and dried.  Is Servetus a martyr because he was executed for his beliefs?  He denied the Trinity, which most would interpret (via 2 John) that he did not know the right Christ and did not have the Father.

So, the question is - did More die for the right thing?  And, if he died for the wrong reasons, was this a simple error on his part ("dying a stupid death" as might be said), or was it worse - the final act of the self-righteous?

What worries me is the proclamation - what are we saying.  The best is to die for the proclamation that Jesus Christ paid the price for sin, that we can be made right with God through trusting in Him and what He did.  That we will turn from sin and forsake it.

Ackroyd sums up More's life on page 400:
"He embodied law all his life, and he died for it."
Where is the Gospel?  Where is the forgiveness of sins?  Where is the finished work of Christ?

On page 402 (regarding the disposition of his items):
"He gave into [his wife] Alice More's keeping his hair shirt and scourge"
More wore a hair shirt nearly continuously his adult life.  It served to chafe and aggravate his skin.  I don't think anyone today does such a thing - it is entirely foreign to our thinking (similarly, the scourge was for whipping himself).

Could this be done in a godly fashion?  Maybe.  The problem is, it detracts from the finished work of Christ.  It can be seen as "I must pay the price".

That's the overview.  I will cover at least one more topic later.

No comments: