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77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent treatment of a great Archbishop
Thomas Cranmer was one of the inexperienced of all the 103 Archbishops of Canterbury when he was elevated from his brief tenure as Archdeacon of Taunton, after 20 years as a don at Cambridge, however despite this was to prove one of the most significant occupants of St Augustine's throne: his liturgy, the Act of 39 Articles, most of them identical to his 42 Articles, and...
Published on 9 Mar. 2002 by Mr E Q F Brown

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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Raw prejudice
The premise of this and all this author's books is the validity of what he calls 'faith' and the supernatural, which modernity recognises as simple cases of cognitive dissonance, or, in the terms of Sartrean existentialism, mauvaise foi, or, in layman's terms, a load of old cobblers. This dishonest bigot - his evident intelligence makes it impossible that he could give...
Published 2 months ago by Giles Penfold


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77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent treatment of a great Archbishop, 9 Mar. 2002
This review is from: Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Paperback)
Thomas Cranmer was one of the inexperienced of all the 103 Archbishops of Canterbury when he was elevated from his brief tenure as Archdeacon of Taunton, after 20 years as a don at Cambridge, however despite this was to prove one of the most significant occupants of St Augustine's throne: his liturgy, the Act of 39 Articles, most of them identical to his 42 Articles, and the Royal Supremacy remain on the statute book to this day. In this magnificent and beautifully written book, MacCullock weaves together the theological and political parts of Cranmer's life, and provides a comprehensive account as to how these two motivations, often in conflict, impacted upon him.
Thomas Cranmer is a complex character, and MacCullock deals fully with his contradictions: burning with hatred for the heresies of Rome, yet unusually (for the times) compassionate and often forgiving to his critics; uncertain and treading a very cautious path with Henry VIII, yet showing an absolute determination to push the Church of England towards a more evangelical perspective whenever he was given a free hand; weakened and broken by his imprisonment, yet finally triumphant in his last denunciation of all that Mary's church stood for. MacCullock clearly admires the Archbishop, but this does not make him blind to his faults: in praise or censure however he always presents all of Cranmer's actions in their political and theological context.
While the book is fully comprehensive on the political aspects of the mid 16th century, where MacCullock really stands out in is his detailed and highly precise awareness of theological controversies of the time. MacCullock has studied a vast array of 16th century theologians, and examined how they fitted into Cranmer's life. His grasp of these nuances is essential to an understanding of how and why both Cranmer himself, and the emerging Church of England developed. Any glance towards the footnotes illustrates the depth of research that MacCullock has undertaken to make sure that he has precisely captured Cranmer's changing views throughout his life.
The book is very long, as is necessary for comprehensiveness, however one never feels that it is too long: it is very well phrased and all terms and concepts are fully explained. This remains one of the best biographies of any figure that I have ever read: Cranmer has finally received a treatment worthy of his long and varied career.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough scholarship and an excellent presentation., 20 Jun. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Paperback)
MacCulloch has penned a prodigious and comprehensive biography of Thomas Cranmer. Serious questions about the development of his thought, theology and ecclesiology are given special attention. These are cast in relations to the contemporary political (local and international) situtations to better enable a reader to understand the man, his times and his influence. Given the stages over which the Henrician and Edwardian church reformations progressed, understanding Cranmer's central and guiding actions seems to be MacCulloch strongest sections. Emphasis, then, on Cranmer's central work in life is properly and comprehensively treated, without being severely colored by all that has been penned about his final days. Nevertheless, MacCulloch has done a convincing job of helping one to see Cranmer's sincerity of reform purposes, his pragmatic concerns about the pace of change, his understanding of the needs of commonfolk (as opposed to the middle and upper classes), his fierce opposition to established orders (friers and, later, radicals [nonconformists]). Especially instuctive is the secion on Cranmer's Prayer Book writing purpose, style and method, his borrowings, his innovations, and his synthses. For a 600 page, book, I found it a thoroughly compelling reading experience from first to last (about 6 days).
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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive biography, 15 Nov. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Paperback)
Traditionally, one is to give something up or take something on as a Lenten discipline. I did the latter, albeit inadvertently. Around Ash Wednesday of 1998, I began Darmaid MacCulloch's magisterial biography of Thomas Cranmer (Yale University Press 1996). I finished this magnificent tome on Holy Saturday. As the time passed, I came to realize that this Lent was for me a time to study a key figure in the Church and compare his often--to modern Episcopalians-- unorthodox theology against what I have come to believe.
Thomas Cranmer is a pillar of Episcopal history (and hagiography). One literally cannot participate in a Sunday service without reciting or hearing his words. In 1549, he compiled the first Book of Common Prayer. Many of the collects we say are either his original compositions or alterations upon existing texts. MacCulloch says of the Collects:
There is little doubt we owe him [Cranmer] the present form of the sequence of eighty-four seasonal collects and a dozen or so further examples embedded elsewhere in the 1549 services: no doubt either that these jewelled miniatures are one of the chief glories of the Anglican liturgical tradition, a particularly distinguished development of the genre of brief prayer which is peculiar to the Western Church. Their concise expression has not always won unqualified praise, especially from those who consider that God enjoys extended addresses from his creatures; but they have proved one of the most enduring vehicles of worship in the Anglican communion.
To me, today, the Collects focus and gather the scripture for each service.
Cranmer's beliefs were distinct, certain, and in some respects quite different from what I had thought. He was a strong predestinarian, and for this reason felt that "good works" had no effect upon where a soul went after death. He viewed the Pope as the Antichrist, and profoundly believed that the Ruler of England was the Head of the Church. (This led to his profound spiritual disorientation and crisis when the Catholic Mary succeed Edward VI; suddenly the person whom he viewed as Head of the Church was allied with evil personified).
Cranmer was decidedly "low church" in his beliefs and liturgy. The Eucharist, for him, was purely a memorial, and the bread and wine were not the true Christ. In his view, Christ was sacrificed once only at Golgotha; to say that each Eucharist was a new sacrifice was for him anathema. (A vestige of Cranmer's clear belief survives in the language of the Rite One Eucharist--"one oblation of himself once offered.") During his time, he had rood screens and images removed from churches, removed many saints' and holy days from the Church calendar, moved altars away from the church wall and toward the worshipers (this, at least, agrees with our modern theology), and changed the language of worship to English.
What made the Cranmer biography a Lenten discipline, and not just leisure reading, was for me to see again how literally every rite, word and image in our service comes from serious theological reflection and humankind's continuing effort, sometimes stumblingly, to find and reflect God's will in worship. I do not agree with Cranmer's view on predestination, although I certainly understand the sincerity with which it was held, and the struggles which brought him there. I have always found the Eucharistic language "one oblation of himself once offered" terribly stilted and prosaic; I now understand that Cranmer and subsequent Prayer Book compilers said exactly what they meant to say. (One of the great gifts of the "big tent" of Episcopalianism is that all of us --both those who view the Eucharist as memorial only and those who see the true body and blood transformed--may worship at the same table). While and since reading this fine biography, I find myself approaching almost everything we say and do in worship in a different, more reflective, posture. Next year for Lent I perhaps will give up chocolate. (I have tried this in other years, never making it as far as Refreshment Sunday.) Reflective Christians, however, who do not mind serious scholarship (this is not light reading) conveyed through lively prose could do worse than to take up this life and biography of Archbishop Cranmer.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MacCulloch on Thomas Cranmer is a masterpiece, 7 Oct. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Hardcover)
Exquisely researched and engagingly written, Diarmaid MacCulloch brought to life a figure who played a substantial role in both English and church history during the Reformation, and whose legacy lives on. I feel that for the first time in more than 30 years of bumping into Henry VIII's Archbishop of Canterbury, and of regularly using the Book of Common Prayer that he master-minded, I have properly met the man. MacCulloch obviously adores Cranmer, but is not blind to his shortcomings. He also shows the cost to Cranmer of bringing about fundamental change in the English Church -- ultimately losing his life. I came away from the book marveling at the richness and stature of the Anglican way of believing, and the part Cranmer played in making it happen. I have been heralding it from the housetops! Like all good books, I was sorry when it ended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and comprehensive, 6 Aug. 2011
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This review is from: Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Hardcover)
As other reviewers have commented, this is not light reading, but contains a huge amount of information of interest to anyone interested either in history or theology. I felt I got a much deeper feel of both the Machiavellian complexities of Tudor court politics and the way the Church of England and its liturgy were developed. Harold Wilson said "A week is a long time in politics"; I had never realised that it applied just as much in Henry VIII's day, and of course the consequences for people like Anne Boleyn and Cromwell (and eventually Cranmer himself) could be much more serious than just losing your office .... McCulloch's writing gives a detailed and balanced portrait of Cranmer the man, sympathetic but not hagiographic, and likewise for all the other protagonists. The general reader will enjoy the narrative, but the work is also impeccably referenced through extensive footnotes for the academic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THomas Cranmer: A Life, 9 Jan. 2010
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S. E. Ward "sue" (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Paperback)
Brilliant! Full of fascinating information about Cranmer and the times he lived in. A must for anyone studying the period.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cranmer, 28 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Paperback)
A good read that gives a good account of the early development of the English church.
Macculloch's sentence structure can make reading a slow unscrambling. In my paper back edition the punctuation was not always clear to my old eyes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Cranmer: A Life., 19 May 2014
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This review is from: Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Paperback)
I choose this rating because it is, without question, a well written book by a great author.
Thomas Cranmer was a great scholar during the reign of Hery V111. He was the giant of English verse and is
the person who put together, from monastic worship, the English Prayer Book. He lived a life often on a knife edge.
He suffered under Mary Tudor for his belief as a Protestant, finally being put to death. The book goes into great detail
of his early life and his difficult life with Henry and Mary. A very good book for the historian, although the general reader may
find it hard going at certain times. I strongly recommend this book for your library if you are a Tudor enthusiast.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Is gripping an appropriate description?, 26 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Paperback)
I was recommended to read this by an Irish Anglican presbyter courrently resident in the States. A very detailed account of Cranmer's life which gives great insights into how he developed spiritually. His own uncertainties his internal doubts and self questionings and his desire to carry all with him came over very clearly. And of course he left us with the foundations of the 1662 BCP which we may love for its language and/or the theology it expresses, in my case the latter. As much as this kind of biography can be I found it stimulating and almost gripping.
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5.0 out of 5 stars MacCulloch reigns supreme, 24 July 2013
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This review is from: Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Paperback)
I have always been a fan of Prof. D. MaCulloch, this book is a fine addition to any library. I recommend it to students of the Reformation, The Anglican Church, and The Prayer Book. The author has a fine writing style which is both clear and fresh. I suggest that this book is read after reading Reformation Europe's House Divided. As with all his books fantastic Bibliography and Notes.
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Thomas Cranmer: A Life
Thomas Cranmer: A Life by Diarmaid Macculloch (Paperback - 4 Dec. 1997)
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