Full Text for Church History 2- Volume 43 - The Actions of Henry VIII and the English Reformation (Video)

File 43. >> This is a fascinating story, but also a bit shocking. Obviously, Henry's actions resulted in dramatic changes in the structure of the church in England. Did Henry also change the doctrine of the church? >> Nick, you're right. This is a fascinating story. Nor do we want to minimize the significance of the structural changes, if you will. Everybody in England realized that this was a big deal that the Pope was out and the King was in. Most people in England actually acquiesced to these changes, but there were a couple of prominent individuals who did not. One of them was a bishop, John Fisher, who had been supportive of Queen Catherine, and another was Thomas More. Thomas More was a great humanist. He was the author of Utopia, the kind of humanist tract used to kind of critique English society. In the 1520s, however, Thomas More had been a firm opponent of Protestantism. And then when Henry broke with Rome, Thomas More, as well as Fisher and a handful of others, refused to accept the break. As a result, they were put into the Tower of London, and then finally executed for their faith. So we talked about some Protestant martyrs earlier Robert Barnes, William Tyndale but in Thomas More and John Fisher, we have Catholic martyrs for the faith under Henry VIII as well. I also should mention that as a result of his break with Rome, Henry VIII was able to get the divorce that he wanted. His Archbishop of Canterbury, who had actually been appointed when Henry was still in communion with Rome, was a man by the name of Thomas Cranmer, and he's one of those who actually had some authentic Protestant leanings. But at least initially, he was in a position to grant Henry what he wanted that is, the divorce so that Henry was free to marry a second wife, Queen Anne, Queen Anne Boleyn. And Anne Boleyn did bear a child for Henry, but to Henry's disappointment, this child, too, turned out to be a girl that is, Elizabeth who would later on become queen of England. But all of these are significant, even if not particularly doctrinal. So we'll go back to your question: Were there any doctrinal changes? The answer is basically: No. Henry never could bring himself to embrace Protestant views regarding salvation or the means of grace or even very much regarding the kind of the formal or ceremonial life of the church. There, too, were two important changes, however, with respect to the church that are probably worth noting. One of those had to do with monasticism. In the late 1530s, Henry VIII and his government brought monasticism in England to an end. Now, in the continent and Lutheran territories, monasticism came to an end for theological reasons. Luther had written extensively on how the whole notion of monastic vows contradicts the way of salvation, justification through faith by grace without any works. So on the continent, monasticism came to an end for theological reasons. It seems that in England, the primary motivation for ending monasticism was monetary. The monasteries in England were, for the most part, wealthy rural establishments, and this wealth could be used by the English government for political and military purposes. So the property, the wealth of the monasteries, was taken by the government. Now, in many instances the government kept that wealth only a short time, and it passed into the hands of the local land owners. These local land owners, known in English history as the gentry, became then kind of the recipients of this monastic wealth and formed a kind of built in constituency for the reformation. Once again, not so much for doctrinal reasons, but on account of the fact that they were the recipients of all of this landed largesse that had come into their hands through the government from the monasteries. The other important change that I'd like to mention has to do with the English Bible. On account of the Bible in the English language being associated with medieval heresy in particular, Wycliffe and the Lollards it had become illegal in England to have an English Bible unless you got special permission from church officials. Well, that continued to be the case even after Tyndale began to translate the Bible and have it shipped back into England for distribution, but in the mid 1530s, Henry VIII was persuaded that the English Bible should be legalized. The first complete printed English Bible was done by a colleague of Tyndale's, a man by the name of Miles Coverdale, and then that was in 1535. And then a few years later, Henry agreed that every church in England should have an English Bible. So in 1539, those Bibles were printed up and distributed to the churches of England. On account of its size, it came to be known as the great Bible. Now, this great Bible then became the official Bible in English. It was available there for use in the churches and actually to be read by the people of England, and it amounts to an important change in the religious life of England, different from what had been medieval practice and attitudes toward the English Bible. So that's an important change that Henry VIII authorized. But as far as doctrine is concerned, Henry VIII really did not admit of any changes. In fact, in the last few years of his reign, there was on the books a law, a Parliamentary statute, that Henry VIII had helped to pass through Parliament that was known as the Six Articles Act, and it made the law of the land such teachings, medieval doctrinal teachings as transubstantiation, communion in one kind, the sacrament of penance, auricular confession to a priest, and so forth. And if you denied these teachings or if you spoke out against these practices, the offense could mean the loss of your life. It was a capital offense, for example, to deny transubstantiation. That's how formally committed Henry was to medieval doctrine. So the best way to summarize Henry's reformation is probably to think of it as Catholicism without the Pope.