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for His renown

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  • Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Thomas Cranmer and Blue Like a Passing Purple Fad

    I recently finished reading Diarmaid MacCulloch's stellar biography of Thomas Cranmer. Anyone interested in the life of a great man who pushed forward the reformation in England should read this book. Cranmer is presented sympathetically in all the complexity of one who recanted under great distress only to heroically withdraw his recantations in the hour of his greatest trial. Cranmer persevered to the end. He kept the faith. He was burned at the stake, and that didn't separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Cranmer is a true hero.

    I love the way that MacCulloch describes Cranmer's work in his great legacy for English speaking people, the Book of Common Prayer. MacCulloch writes: "How fortunate that Cranmer did not seek to scintillate. Liturgy does not demand jokes or punchlines: purple passages which sound exciting once and then become embarrassing. The need is for words which can be polished as smooth as a pebble on a beach by repetition, to become part of the fabric of individual people in the middle of a communal act."

    What MacCulloch is saying is that the Book of Common Prayer has staying power, and so does MacCulloch's biography of Cranmer. These are great books that will be read by serious people who are heeding the admonition of the sage: "Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding" (Proverbs 23:23).

    If you're not interested in books that have staying power, books that will be read by serious people for years to come, waste your mind and your life on the purple passages of the passing fads of books like Blue Like Jazz. If you don't want to waste your time with such books, check out this review by Mark Coppenger or this one by J. D. Greear.


    Blogger Baptist Superman said...

    Most Baptists know more about Rocky Road than the Romans Road! Everybody lay off the donuts and hit the road...the Romans Road, that is.

    6:48 PM  
    Blogger -mike- said...

    I have read Blue Like Jazz, and willc ontinue to promote it. I also use the BCP. I enjoy both.

    Have you read the book yourself? If so, why are you so hostile towards it? He's of the same theological branch of the faith that you are (he's reformed and a baptist) and he is NOT involved within Emergent, contrary to what many would have you to believe.

    11:41 AM  
    Blogger Jim Hamilton said...


    I thought Blue Like Jazz was superficial and full of false dichotomies. Our culture needs the thick and rich Christian tradition, not a new spin. We need the eternal gospel of the risen Christ, not the flimsy trends peddled in this book.

    I think its popularity says more about our culture than it does about the quality of the thought in its pages.

    Hope this helps,


    6:38 PM  

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