Cranmer: Scholar, Influencer, Martyr

Thomas Cranmer: Scholar, Culture Influencer, Martyr
Thomas Cranmer: Scholar, Culture Influencer, Martyr

He was a scholar and a cultural influencer. March 21st marks the anniversary of his Martyrdom. Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) is one of the historical figure(s) I most want to meet.

He was burned alive for holding to the gospel by Queen “Bloody” Mary. She didn’t love him. But others did.

The King Who Loved Cranmer

But, Henry the VIII loved him. Brought aboard the king’s yacht one day, the king let slip, “I know who is the greatest heretic in kent…” Henry then showed Cranmer the formal documents of the charges made against him. But, the king continued, he could think of no one better than his trusty Archbishop to investigate and report back. Unsurprisingly, the investigator found that the Archbishop had done no wrong (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Cranmer, 316)!

The Reformer Who Loved Cranmer

John Calvin loved him. The Genevan reformer declared that he would “cross ten seas” to help Cranmer repair the body of the church that “lies bleeding… I Would that I were as able as I am willing to exert myself!”

Calvin’s Successor Theodore Baza praised Thomas Cranmer as a “renewer of the true religion” and “most courageous solder” (Icones, pp 207-26):

No one can read the Book of Common Prayerand the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England and not appreciate the balanced judgment of the English historian…: ‘Her doctrinal confessions and discourses, composed by Protestants, set forth principles of theology in which Calvin or Knox would have found scarcely a word to disapprove…'” (Theodore Beza, Icones, 222-23)

The Worshipers Who Love Cranmer

His literary legacy is immense. it is claimed that The Book of Common Prayer (Amazon; ca; has “seeped into the collective consciousness more profoundly than any other book written in the English language: (p. ix).

Cranmer’s goal was to create a biblically literate culture. One writer summarizes the goal this way:

Cranmer wanted to make sure that the people of England were constantly exposed to Holy Scripture in a language they understood, working through the whole of the Bible regularly and the Psalms every month, while following a calendar that rehearsed in every church year the whole story of salvation starting with the Fall and culminating in Christ’s unique sacrifice of himself on the Cross and his glorious resurrection, the benefits of which we are not worthy to receive on any merits of ours—”we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under Thy table”—but only through the purest grace extended on the basis of Christ’s unique status as Lord and Savior.

The People Who Love Cranmer Today

Millions (literally) of people structure their worship and devotional life after the pattern that Cranmer developed. Many people try to read the Bible through in a year. But so often we start well, and then one day we fail. and we sort of just fizz out.

If you are serious about reading through the whole Bible in a year, and about being shaped by biblically and historically faithful prayers and reflections, you can’t go wrong with Cranmer.

One easy way to get into the word daily is to listen to the daily audio (with a written script to read along) produced by the Trinity Mission every morning and evening.


  1. When I read the first lines of this post I thought it was your bio intro for your new blog — until I got to the “martyred in” part and then wondered if you died, posted this posthumously (Deuteronomy 34:5-7 style) and didn’t bother to invite me to your funeral. Yes, all that is true.


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