I’ve been very moved in the last few days reading Diarmaid MacCulloch’s account of the last few weeks of the life of Thomas Cranmer, in his biography of the great man (Thomas Cranmer, Yale University Press, 1996). It’s a well known story, of course, of Cranmer’s apparent recantation of his Protestant convictions and then his dramatic recantation of the recantation. What struck me was one of the primary reasons MacCulloch suggests for Cranmer’s apparent capitulation back into the Catholicism out of which he had expended so much energy dragging himself and his country. The reason was friendship. Towards the end, in his confinement, he was very isolated from his Protestant friends. They had mostly either fled to the Continent or been jailed. Indeed two of the most prominent, Latimer and Ridley, had been burned at the stake and he had been forced watch their sufferings. At this point, says MacCulloch: ‘In isolation which was spiritual rather than physical, he cast in the role of friend and confidant the attendant who was guarding him, a simple but devout traditionalist Catholic called Nicholas Woodson. Woodson’s friendship came to be his only support, and to please Woodson he began giving way to everything that he had fought for twenty years and more’ (pp.588-89). Some very sharp Catholic minds had turned up during his imprisonment to try to argue him out of his Protestantism, but he held firm. Yet put him in a position where his only possible friend in all the world was a simple-minded Catholic and he weakened. I think it is only the most foolhardy of us who conclude that Cranmer was just one of life’s pushovers and that we would have been stronger. What do I conclude? I conclude that a desire to please my friends may well be deeper in me than I imagine it is. I conclude that therefore those deep friendships that I do have with brothers in the Lord are likely to be a far more powerful means by which the Lord keeps me true to him than I imagine they are. I conclude, finally, that choosing to sacrifice some other things in order to invest in those friendships is a very wise thing to do. According to MacCulloch it was spiritual isolation that did for Cranmer - although mercifully not permanently so. We are fools, I think, if we imagine that we are different. My PT colleague, Adrian Reynolds, might well add at this point: so when, Mr Pastor, did you last go to a conference where you knew you would be spending time with like-minded brothers? He puts on some pretty good ones, you know.
As Andy Byfield was teaching at the Cornhill + conference, I thought about suffering again. We generally (and our people in particular) have a poor theology of suffering. That’s because we’ve many of us been raised in a culture where it’s been relatively easy to be a believer. You see this worked out in the way we pray our prayers of petition, which are often a kind of prosperity-lite (‘Lord make n better. Amen’). I don’t think you can minister in a church unless you have a more developed theology of suffering – both personally (i.e. in your own life) and in how it works out corporately. It is such a key theme of the New Testament that a pastor who says ‘Hmm, I’ve never really thought that through’ makes you wonder if he’s actually ever read the Bible and wrestled with the difficult things (‘filling up the afflictions of Christ’ anyone?). For the record, I think Christopher Ash’s commentary on Job (the longer one, from Crossway) is superb in this. Job, of course, is the go-to book for this issue, but many commentaries just treat Job as go-to rather than go-to-from, for unless you see suffering in the context of the cross, resurrection and ascension, you cannot possibly hope to develop a theology of suffering which will equip you for service in the church.
Day rate £50
3 days £115
Student day rate £25
Student 3 days £60
Tuesday 21st June 2016 –
Thursday 23rd June 2016
Speakers will include Jonty Allcock, Don Carson, Simon Manchester, Vaughan Roberts, Dan Steel and Robin Weekes.
Marriage and Ministry Wiltshire Oct 2015
Monday 26th October 2015 –
Tuesday 27th October 2015
A 24 hour stopover hosted by Adrian and Celia Reynolds for up to 14 couples. Join us at The Old Bell in Malmesbury, on the border of Wiltshire and the Cotswolds. Marriage can be tough. Ministry can be tough. Together, they can be an explosive combination. What should be a joyful partnership sometimes turns out to be the very thing on which both ministry and marriage founder. We cannot let it.
Started in 1991, PT Cornhill exists primarily to train preachers, as well as equipping men and women to teach the Bible in other contexts, such as youth/children's work and women's ministry. Click here for more details
We're gradually adding material from our archive. EMA 1993 featured Dick Lucas, Phillip Jensen, Don Carson, David Petersen and John Lennox for a mix of inspiring teaching, challenging exhortation and encouraging reports of gospel work. (Click the title, left, for the talks)