Basilicon Doron

I’ve been reading a lot of King James lately.  He’s been the vicitim of some pretty nasty characterizations over the years, and I’m sure he had his faults, but what is becoming increasingly clear is that the fact and sincerity of his religion was not one of those faults.  Indeed, he is clearly an Evangelical who takes his duty before God very seriously.  Here are a few selections from his Basilicon Doron, a book meant to instruct his son on how to govern the kingdom he would inherit.

He notes the sections of his book, especially those pertaining to his own faith:

To come then particularly to the matter of my Booke, there are two speciall great points, which (as I am informed) the malicious sort of men have detracted therein; and some of the honest sort have seemed a little to mistake: whereof the first and greatest is, that some sentences therein should seeme to furnish grounds to men, to doubt of my sinceritie in that Religion, which I have ever constantly professed… (King James VI and I Selected Writings. ed. Neil Rhodes et. al., 203)

Some of the more extreme preachers in James’s day had begun circulating the rumor that he was not actually a Christian.  His response is clear:

The first calumnie (most grievous indeed) is grounded upon the sharpe and bitter wordes, that therein are used in the description of the humors of Puritanes, and rash-headie Preachers, that thinke it their honour to contend with Kings, and perturbe whole kingdoms… (204)

James further explains his attitude towards the Puritans:

So as if there were no more to be looked into, but the very methode and order of the booke, it will sufficiently cleare me of that first and grievousest imputation, in the point of Religion: since in the first part, where Religion is onely treated of, I speake so plainely. And what in other parts I speake of Puritanes, it is onely of their morall faults, in that part where I speake of Policie: declaring when they contemne the Law and sovereigne authoritie, what exemplare punishment they deserve for the same. And now as to the matter it selfe whereupon this scandal is taken, that I may sufficiently satisfie all honest men, and by a just Apologie raise up a brasen wall or bulwarke against all the darts of the envious, I will the more narrowly rip up the words, whereat they seeme to be somewhat stomacked. (204)

Notice that James does not disagree with the Puritans’ theology in general.  He does not single out their soteriology or views of sacramental efficacy.  There’s no mention of predestination or justification.  James says that the Puritans have moral failings.  They break the law and reject the authorities.

James also considers the Puritans to be practical anabaptists.  They teach the same relationship of church and state, and they advocate rebellion against the civil authorities Continue reading

England and Orthodoxy in the 17th cent.

It is common to hear of ecumenical dialogue between Anglicans and Orthodox.  Today this usually means that a certain group of Anglicans are trying as hard as they can to become Eastern.  I have even seen citations of the Anglican Reformers’ dialogue with the Orthodox as evidence that the Anglicans were not “Protestant.”  The exact opposite is the case.

King James and his churchmen did indeed correspond with the Patriarch of Constantinople, however, the patriarch of the day was none other than Cyril Lukaris.  Lukaris was basically an Evangelical, and he looked to King James as an ally against the Jesuits.  Lukaris was in correspondence with James, as well as Archbishop Abbot, a man known for his Calvinism.  Lukaris sent two well-known students to Oxford: Metrophanes Kritopoulos and Nathaniel Konopios.  Kritopoulos would go on to become the archbishop of Alexandria.  James and Abbot established a scholarship program where they would agree to pay the expenses of students coming to England from Greece.

William Patterson describes this period of history with the following:

In about 1615, Cyril Lukaris, the Orthodox patriarch of Alexandria, then on official business in Constantinople, wrote a long letter in Greek to Archbishop Abbot.  The letter was in reply to one from Abbot, sent with the encouragement of King James I, whose interest in the Greek Church Lukaris found deeply encouraging.  Lukaris had evidently initiated the correspondence by asking if the English Church could assist in educating members of the Greek clergy.  Lukaris began his letter to Abbot by excusing himself for not answering sooner.  He had been called away to give aid to the Orthodox peoples of the Balkans and Poland who were threatened with an “anti-Christian tyranny” as a result of the “art and cunning of the Jesuits”- a reference to the vigorous effort being made in the those areas to bring the Orthodox within the jurisdiction of the papacy.  Under the agency of the Jesuits this same effort was being made in the city of Constantinople itself.  Lukaris noted that the two religions existed in single households and that conflict and argument were endemic among eastern Christians.  Under the circumstances Lukaris found the communication from England, containing an offer of help, to be heartening, and he expatiated upon the qualities of that monarch whose loving concern had been so expressed.  King James’s classical wisdom and charitable heart had made him unique among the then reigning monarchs- “a philosopher-king in every respect.”  James’s Christian qualities were no less evident than his generosity, and these attributes had carried his reputation to the East and across the world.  Finally Lukaris turned to the invitation which had elicited such an outpouring of gratitude.  Soon, he said, he would depart for Alexandria, and “from there I will gladly send to your piety men whom I select and judge to be pleasing to Christ as skilled in the service of the Gospel.”

~ King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom pg. 201-202

Patterson goes on to quote Lukaris describing himself as “Reforming,” and that the Reformed faith is “the pure and clear word of God.”

After completing his schooling, Kritopoulos toured Europe to study the Protestant churches there.  Patterson states that he:

spent eight months at Helmstedt in Germany as a guest in the home of Georg Calixtus, the irenic Lutheran theologian.  He also visited Wittenberg and spent almost a year at Nuremberg and the nearby University of Altdorf… At Berne and Geneva, he declared his hope to further the prospects of a union between the Reformed and Orthodox churches

pg. 213

The scholarship plan of Abbot and James did not last, however, one of their greatest acheivements in the ecumenical exchange did.  Lukaris sent the Codex Alexandrinus to England as a present in recognition of James’ support of the Greeks and Lukaris in particular.  It arrived in England in 1627 and continues to be an essential tool of textual scholarship today.

King James, Du Moulin, and the Union of the Reformation

King James felt it his responsibility to reunite the churches of Christendom.  He never wanted to carry this out at the expense of truth, however, as can be seen by his refusal to submit to the Roman Catholic Church.  The pope was eager to convert James, sending gifts and rosaries to his wife, but James had them returned.  In fact, James chose to work with definitively Reformed theologians to further his cause.

The most ambitious plan was crafted with the help of Peter Du Moulin of Paris.  According to their combined efforts, the Reformed churches of England and France would lead the effort, seeking to obtain alliance with the Swiss and Dutch churches.  From there, the Lutherans would be invited.  W. B. Patterson writes:

Du Moulin’s plan, with twenty articles, sought to find a basis for bringing together the Reformed churches, including the Church of England, and, subsequently, for bringing together these churches and the Lutheran churches. This would be done in two stages by means of an international assembly held with the support of the civil rulers of the Protestant states, especially the king of Great Britain, who is described in the first article as “the greatest and most powerful” of the sovereign princes of countries not under the subjection of the pope. The international assembly described in the plan would be a meeting of two theologians sent by the British king, two by the churches of France, two by those in the Netherlands, two by the Swiss cantons, and “one or two from each prince of Germany of our confession.” In addition, King James and the Elector Palatine might seek the support of some of the Lutheran princes, especially the king of Denmark and the dukes of Saxony, Wurttemberg, and Brunswick, in sending representatives there. The deputies at the assembly would put on the table the Reformed confessions of the various churches, including those of England and Scotland, and draw up a common confession. Some matters “not necessary to salvation” might be passed over, including the opinions of Arminius on predestination. Once this doctrinal accord had been drawn up, the delegates would formally declare that their churches did not condemn each other because of differences in ceremonies and ecclesiastical polity. The deputies would then seek to meet with deputies of the Lutheran churches in order to enlarge the association. On the perennially contentious issues of the necessity of baptism, the manner of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper, and the reception of the body of Christ in the Supper, agreement would be sought with the Lutherans on broad theological principles. But where complete agreement could not be reached, differing views would be tolerated among the churches. At the conclusion of the assembly a celebration of the Lord’s Supper would be held at which the Lutheran pastors and the others would communicate together.

~ King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom pg. 161

He concludes that:

After their return home, the deputies would submit their work for the approval of their respective churches, while the princes would seek to abolish the names of Lutheran, Calvinist, and Zwinglian in favor of the name Christian Reformed Churches.

Superintendents and Bishops

I’ve mentioned before about the Scottish episcopal system here and here.  Patterson gives us a good look at the specifics of the original makeup:

The Book of Discipline had recognized the need for officials who would oversee local churches, supervise the establishment of new ones, and ensure that only qualified persons would serve as ministers. It specified that such officials, called superintendents, would be in charge of areas whose boundaries were intended to reflect the geographical configurations of the country. In the early 1560s five superintendents and three bishops who conformed to the new religious settlement had begun their work.

~ W. B. Patterson King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom. pg. 7-8

What this means is that there were five superintendents, of the Reformed persuasion, and three continuing bishops retaining their positions from the pre-Reformation polity.  All were now united under the Church of Scotland and the Magistrate.

Scottish Apostolic Succession, If You Needed It

The earliest Scottish Reformed churches had an episcopal polity. Under the influence of Andrew Melville this was briefly dropped, but shortly thereafter it was reinstated. King James was convinced that divine right Presbyterians could secure neither ecclesiastical nor civil peace, and frankly hindsight shows that he was absolutely correct. Thus he returned the Scottish church to the polity of the first Book of Discipline written by Knox.

As part of the reinstating of the bishops (or “supervisors”), James had them ordained by standing English bishops. This was as much an effort to unite the kingdoms of Scotland and England as anything, but as W. B. Patterson notes, it also served to “restore to the Scottish episcopate the historic or apostolic succession that had been lost in Scotland but maintained in the Church of England” (King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom pg. 12).

Now of course, a truly Reformed Christian places no faith in manual apostolic succession. He knows that the fullness of the catholic church is present wherever the Word is, but some weaker brothers, presbyter and papist alike, desire apostolic succession. So I suppose they can have it.