Crazy Harry and Bloody Marty

by Clive Holman

The well known picture of Henry Vlll by Holbein with him standing legs apart, arms akimbo was painted in 1537. In this portrait he projects defiance as well as majesty. This was not far from the time of his confrontation with the Pope over his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. It says, 'Look, l am the King of England, and who is the "Bishop of Rome," to push me around?:

Henry was concerned that Catherine had borne him no heir because he had married his brother's wife, which is forbidden according to the Book of Leviticus (though his brother was dead by then of course). The Pope as we all know would not agree to annul the marriage.

Prior to this tussle the Pope had awarded Henry the title 'Defender of the Faith,' because he had written a book defending the Seven Sacraments (against Luther). This term might well be used to describe the Pope himself, so for him to have conferred it on Henry must have seemed a great honour. Just as Cardinal Wolsey had become too magnificent, did being designated 'Defender of the Faith' actually go to Henry's head?

Now that he was 'Defender of the Faith' he sought to go one step further, and place himself as head of the Church in England. Then he could not be prevented from nullifying his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and marrying Anne Boleyn.

Anne Boleyn obviously allegedly subsequently cheated on Henry and for this supposed treachery was beheaded. This despite Henry having previously had an adulterous relationship with her sister Mary. So then an adulterous and hypocritical man became the head of a church!

However Henry was not trying to bring the Reformation into England. He had already refuted Luther. Worship carried on in as unchanged a manner as it could, given that now Henry was it's head rather than the Pope. He did not have reform as his motive, but remarriage. It was only after his death that the church in England became truly Protestant.

Martin Luther is often portrayed as a thoughtful, deep man. He may have been complex, troubled even, but he could not be described as wise. He became discontented over the vows he had taken as an Augustinian monk, somewhat reflected in the fact that he later married. He translated the Bible into German and added the word 'alone,' as in 'justification is by faith alone.' He didn't like the letter of James, which states 'faith without works is dead,' and would have had it removed from the New Testament if he could.

Luther wanted reform within the Church, which in some ways did need to reform. There were ways in which the Church could benefit from reform, that was true, but it did not seem that this particular reformer was hell-bent on reforming himself! He felt that a man was so hopelessly, intrinsically sinful, that he could make no real contribution to his own salvation, and so had to rely wholly on Jesus's Sacrifice in order to be saved. There was no point thinking that anything you could actually do would make any difference to your salvation.

This point of view contributed in part to his objection to the sale of 'indulgences.'

He also did away with the idea of purgatory on the same basis (no need for purgation), which put paid to the notion of praying for the dead. (That's why you won't find Maccabees in a Protestant Bible, with it's reference to the virtues of this practice).

Also, because he himself had reinterpreted Scripture in this way, it followed that everyone should solely rely on Scripture (sola Scriptura) and disregard the interpretations of the Church.

In line with the above, he also dismissed the idea that there should be confession or any role for priests or Pope to play in the salvation of men.

The Seven Sacraments of the , Catholic Faith were thus reduced to two. Baptism and Marriage.

So instead of changing himself, Luther changed the interpretation of Scripture. It was easier!

The princes of the Holy Roman Empire who wanted to rebel against the Catholic Emperor championed his cause and he became their tool in waging many wars and putting down revolts

However Lutheran Protestants do not see any bad side to Luther, only his core tenets that are fundamental to the Protestant faith. Their churches are beautiful and their faith is sincere. Just in the same way Church of England Protestants are by no means trying to imitate the founder of their Church, the tyrannical Henry Vlll.

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