Friday, 30 September 2011

The Christianity of Anne Boleyn

Whenever I think of Anne Boleyn, the thoughts are negative. In general, history portrays her as the young temptress with bewitching powers who seduced King Henry VIII. We read of an immoral woman who pressured the King to divorce and dethrone his Queen, disinherit his daughter, and break with the church... all in order to achieve her greatest ambition: to become Queen.

With this impression of Anne Boleyn, I was surprised to come across a book which proposes that Anne was, in fact, an evangelical christian! In Anne Boleyn: One short life that changed the English-speaking world, Colin Hamer presents a fresh perspective on Anne's life, using credible, primary sources.

I read with great skepticism. It was amazing to discover a side to Anne's life that one never reads about in a general history book. According to Hamer, Anne worked zealously to protect and promote well-known evangelicals, both at home and abroad, and endeavoured to fill prominent church roles with men of evangelical faith. She worked hard to promote the Bible and other evangelical books in English, displaying them publicly in court (though they were banned books).

In his chapter called A faith in Action, Hamer presents a brief overview of the christianity of Anne Boleyn. I've posted parts of this chapter. See what you think!

A personal testimony
Personal Bible study was Anne's practice; her chaplain Latymer said that 'Her highness was very expert in the French tongue, exercising herself continually in reading the French Bible and other French books of like effect and conceived great pleasure in the same, wherefore her highness charged her chaplains to be furnished of all kind of French books that reverently treated of the holy scripture." (Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p. 268).
Louis de Brun, in a work dedicated to Anne, in 1531 wrote of her:

When I consider the great affection and real passion which you have for the French tongue, I am not surprised that you are never found, if circumstances permit, without your having some book in French in your hand which is of use and value in pointing out and finding the true and narrow way to all virtues, as, for example, translations of the Holy Scriptures, reliable and full of sound doctrines... And most of all... I have seen you continually reading those helpful letters of St Paul which contain all the fashion and rule to live righteously, in every good manner of behaviour, which you know well and practise, thanks to your continual reading of them. (Ibid, p. 269)

It is in these Pauline letters that Anne would have read the great statements about faith... Starkey says: '[Anne] continued this practice of conspicuous piety throughout the days of her prosperity, reading improving works herself and encouraging her ladies to read them as well' (Starkey, Six Wives: the queens of Henry VIII, p. 369).

Anne's Doctrinal Position
Anne, her brother George, and her father were all described as Lutherans - but this does not mean they held a clear doctrinal position that would identify them with everything that Luther said. Nor was there any direct connection with Wycliffe and the Lollards of an earlier time. The thing that united them was an absolute conviction of the importance of the Bible - in other words, they were evangelicals. The Roman Catholic Church was itself in a state of flux. Many within the Church, on reading the New Testament for themselves, had begun to see that the doctrinal position of the Roman Church bore little relationship to Scripture. Some embraced the 'new learning' wholeheartedly, some did in part. For others their journey to faith was a slow one, with doubts resurfacing on the way. Thomas Bilney (see below) and Archbishop Cranmer embraced the 'new learning', then shrank back in horror at the thought of their ruined careers, the damage to others it would cause, and the very real prospect of their own torture and burning. Then later they received renewed strength and witnessed to the Saviour, going to their violent deaths with enormous courage and heroism. These heroes of faith faltered - but who would be so bold as to pass judgment on them? Today we are surrounded by considered doctrinal statements that were hammered out over the hundred or so years after these tumultuous events, secure in the knowledge that the evangelical cause largely triumphed - a perspective denied them.

Anne was the catalyst in the break with Rome
Without Anne it is almost certain that Henry would not have made the break from Rome. Not only did she provide the motivation, she also gave him the scriptural arguments to strengthen his resolve. Anne brought evangelical books directly to Henry, marking particular passages for his attention and discussion... The Bible, not just church and 'religion', was the frequent dinner conversation in the Boleyn home, and Anne took the habit to the King's own dining table. William Latymer says that Anne and Henry never dined 'without some argument of Scripture thoroughly debated' (Denny, p. 210).

Key Figures could count on Anne's support
Anne's influence did not stop with Henry: the Archbishop of Canterbury was a known supporter of Anne, the Lord Privy Seal was her father, and the King's secretary was Thomas Cromwell, also firmly in the Boleyn camp, or at least, so it was thought; the Lord Chancellor, Thomas Audley, was also on very favourable terms with her. There was a circle of friends at court who were sympathetic to reform and would obviously be emboldened when Anne was crowned queen.

Anne pressured Henry to protect evangelicals at home
Anne's influence in theological matters had already displayed itself well before her marriage. In 1528 she had written to Cardinal Wolsey to 'remember the parson of Honey Lane for my sake'. All Hallows, Honey Lane, near Cheapside in the City of London, was a centre for evangelicals attracting great numbers to hear the preachers.The rector, Dr Robert Forman, and his curate, Thomas Garrett, were under investigation for heresy. Garrett particularly was involved in importing books that were more radical than any which Anne's agents handled. It was a brave move by Anne to write to the Cardinal, because Wolsey prided himself in tracking down the trade in books and prosecuting those involved, boasting to Pope Clement VII about his efforts. Anne also persuaded Henry to get Wolsey to intervene on behalf of the Prior of Reading, John Shirburn, who in 1529 had been arrested for possessing Lutheran books sent to him by Garrett. That Henry should intervene on behalf of an acknowledged Lutheran when he himself was still a staunch advocate of Catholic doctrine shows the remarkable extent of Anne's influence... Thomas Alway, prosecute by Wolsey for having banned books, wrote to Anne: "I remember how many deeds of pity your goodness has done within these few years... without respect of any persons, as well as to strangers and aliens as to many of this land, as well to poor as to the rich" (Ibid, p. 128).

Anne pressured Henry to protect evangelicals abroad
Anne also personally intervened to help evangelicals in trouble in mainland Europe. When Francis I turned against the Reformers in France Anne did her best to help them, including a poet called Nicholas Bourbon... he wrote of Anne: 'How can I express my thanks, still less, O Queen repay you? I confess I have not the resources. But the Spirit of Jesus which enflames you wholly with His fire, He has the wherewhithal to give you your due' (quoted by Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p. 261).
... Soon after her coronation Anne worked to restore the Antwerp merchant Richard Herman to membership of the Society of Merchants from which he had been expelled for helping to distribute copies of the New Testament in English. IN May 1535 William Tyndale was arrested in Antwerp, betrayed by one of Thomas More's agents. Anne acted with Cromwell in putting pressure on Henry, who had the necessary letters written in an attempt to secure his release. For whatever reason this was unsuccessful, the famous Bible translator eventually being strangled and then burnt on 6 October 1536.

Anne influenced key Church appointments
Anne worked hard to ensure that key Church appointments went to evangelicals, and her influence predated her coronation; she was recorded as far back as 1528 putting pressure on Cardinal Wolsey to appoint clerics who would promote reform. Before 1532 newly appointed bishops were mainly of orthodox Catholic persuasion; from 1532 to 1536 eleven bishops were appointed, nine of whom were considered to be evangelicals, such as Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Shaxton, Thomas Goodrich...

Anne saw the Bible in English as a goal
Anne's fluency in French gave her the privileged position of reading the Bible for herself - a privilege she was keen to see extended to all her English-speaking subjects. According to Latymer she kept a Bible in English in her rooms fro anyone to read who wished to do so...

Anne promoted the trade in Bibles and evangelical books
This trade was illegal. Her brother George was particularly active in the trade; with the protection of his family connections he would smuggle controversial works back to England in his diplomatic bag... As recently as 1998 it was established that George translated the French commentary into English. It carried a dedication to Anne showing a strong affection between brother and sister, and a common cause - the evangelical faith. Another work was the text of the Bible book Ecclesiastes with a commentary, also probably by George, emphasising in clear vivid language the need for a living faith in Christ... it was not just through George that Anne worked - she had her own contacts abroad, especially in Antwerp. Agents there supplied her with evangelical books, and she in turn supported those involved in the trade. Among the Reformers in Antwerp was William Tyndale; his translation of the New Testament was being smuggled into England in considerable numbers...

In the opinion of others...
John Foxe, writing in the 16th century, recorded: "What a zealous defender she was of Christ's gospel all the world doth know, and her acts do and will declare to the world's end" (John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, v. 175)
Alexander Ales wrote in a letter to Elizabeth I that "true religion in England had its commencement and its end with your mother" (Letter to Queen Elizabeth, 1 September 1559. Quoted in Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p. 264).
And in our own day, Joanna Denny writes: 'Anne Boleyn was the catalyst for the Reformation, the initiator of the Protestant religion in England' (Denny, p. 132).

I would love to share more of this chapter, but time (both for me and for you!) is short. We don't know what were the faith and motives of Anne Boleyn... over 500 years have passed. Yet this information seems to give support to the idea that Anne Boleyn was possibly an evangelical Christian. The Lord knows... perhaps she even came to saving faith by the grace of God! Even that possibility is encouraging, isn't it. An era in history which looked so dark was still illuminated with the light of the Gospel of Christ... the Holy Spirit cannot be quenched, and perhaps the Lord even called and greatly used that infamous Queen of England, Lady Anne Boleyn!

Monday, 26 September 2011

180 Clip

Dear sisters, I pray you are encouraged by this video clip. The beginning presents a shocking view of our culture in thought, word and action, and is not for the feint-hearted. Evangelist Ray Comfort is used mightily to reach this rebellious generation with the biblical Gospel of Christ... the Lord is triumphing even in the greatest darkness and horror. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1: 16). Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


I was amazed to come across this poem tonight. The Lord's timing is so perfect. Praise Him!These are beautiful, convicting words; I pray that you are blessed by them as I was. There is no sweeter, greater, more precious thing than being taught by our Teacher, the Lord Jesus! There may be pain for a while... but who can fathom the depth and magnitude of the Grace and Love of the Lord! May His Name be praised. I love the words of this poem - and will finally leave you alone to read it :)...


(Author Unknown)

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried:
Quietly, patiently, lovingly God replied.

I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate,
And the Master so gently said, "Child, you must wait".

"Wait? You say, wait! " my indignant reply.
"Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By Faith, I have asked, and am claiming your Word.
My future and all to which I can relate
hangs in the balance, and YOU tell me to WAIT?
I'm needing a 'yes', a go-ahead sign,
or even a 'no' to which I can resign.
And Lord, You promised that if we believe
we need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord, I've been asking, and this is my cry:
I'm weary of asking! I need a reply!

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate
As my Master replied once again, "You must wait."

So, I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut
and grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting.... for what?"

He seemed, then, to kneel, and His eyes wept with mine,
And he tenderly said, "I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens, and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead, and cause mountains to run.
All you seek, I could give, and pleased you would be.
You would have what you want--But, you wouldn't know Me.

You'd not know the depth of My love for each saint;
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint;
You'd not learn to see through the clouds of despair;
You'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there;
You'd not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence were all you could see.

You'd never experience that fullness of love
As the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove;
You'd know that I give and I save.... (for a start),
But you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

The glow of My comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight,
The depth that's beyond getting just what you asked
Of an infinite God, who makes what you have LAST.

You'd never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that "My grace is sufficient for Thee."
Yes, your dreams for your loved one overnight would come true,
But, Oh, the Loss! If I lost what I'm doing in you!

So, be silent, My Child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to get to know Me.
And though oft' may My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still, "WAIT."

Monday, 19 September 2011

A Special Verse for Today

Of necessity, this will be a short post :). Tonight, I was blessed by reading this verse and the Lord laid it on my heart to share it with you. In thinking about what I posted yesterday, the Lord convicted me through this verse especially, and encouraged me. To remember Who I have believed, and that He is faithful to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.

"I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices: my flesh also shall rest in hope" (Psalm 16: 8-9).

Praise the Lord. By His Grace, may we always set Him before us. He is our hope; our solid Rock, which cannot be shaken. In Him we will not move, will not be buffeted, rocked, disillusioned by the opinions and struggles of this world! The Lord is our Light and our Salvation. In Him we need not fear!

With love, from your sister in Him

Saturday, 17 September 2011

In the Light of His Preciousness

What props do our hearts truly lean on?
Today I was blessed to read a beautiful puritan prayer, out of a book called 'The Valley of Vision'. I've been challenged lately to think about how much value I truly place on man's opinion and estimation. Mainly because my desire to please was revealed to me in a big way! The Lord, in His grace, has shown me this more and more lately. How I listen to the strong opinions and criticism of unbelieving extended family, and try to bend wherever I can in order not to fulfil their negative impression of me. Several things about my life, mainly that I am a Christian and was educated through homeschooling, have placed me in a 'box' for them, and I try to change that impression in front of them, to show them that I don't just stay in that box! Recently I jumped in and said 'yes' to a suggestion of theirs, without truly waiting on the Lord. We all (my immediate family, that is) felt uneasy about it from the first, yet I still let the 'yes' remain a 'yes'. The day before I was to fulfil this commitment, however, the Lord finally convicted me to say no. In His Grace, He showed me the motives of my heart, and that I hadn't prayerfully sought Him for an answer. It was hard to go to those relatives and say 'no'! To, in some ways, confirm their opinion of me, and remain in the 'box'. But He helped me through this, with support from Dad, Mum, and a Christian Aunt who truly loves the Lord.
All this to say, that the words in this puritan prayer today truly convicted me on this same thing. That in the "light of His preciousness", all things of this world are "infinitely poor". It is my prayer today, that He may "wean me from all other dependences", like being dependent upon the good opinion of others. These 'dependences' are sneaky props for our hearts... all the while propping up our pride and self-dependance. I love the line in this puritan prayer which says, "Produce in me self-despair that will make Jesus precious to me, delightful in all His offices, pleasurable in all His ways, and may I love His commands as well as His promises". May this be our prayer. It is most often painful and costly to give up these things... but the Lord Jesus is a priceless treasure, and in Him is all Life, Joy, Peace and Salvation. Praise His Name. I pray that you are blessed by these words.

My dear Lord,
I depend wholly upon Thee,
wean me from all other dependences.
Thou art my All, Thou dost overrule all and delight in me.
Thou are the foundation of goodness,
how can I distrust Thee?
how be anxious about what happens to me?
In the light of Thy preciousness
the world and all its enjoyments are infinitely poor:
I value the favour of men no more than pebbles.
Amid the blessings I receive from Thee
may I never lose the heart of a stranger.
May I love Thee, my benefactor, in all my benefits,
not forgetting that my greatest danger arises from my advantages.
Produce in me self-despair that will make Jesus precious to me,
delightful in His offices,
pleasurable in all His ways,
and may I love His commands as well as His promises.
Help me to discern between true and false love,
the one consisting of supreme love to Thee, the other not,
the former uniting thy glory and man's happiness
that they may become one common interest,
the latter disjointing and separating them both,
seeking the latter with neglect of the former.
Teach me that genuine love is different in kind
from that wrought by rational arguments
or the motive of self-interest,
that such love is a pleasing passion affording
joy to the mind where it is.
Grant me grace to distinguish between the genuine and the false,
and to rest in Thee Who art all love.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

For Him

(My cousin got married near this archway
in March... in my Aunty's garden :)

How weary and discouraging it is, to carry the burdens of life alone. And what sweet, joyful relief it is to hand those burdens over to the Lord Jesus, and abide in Him. Earlier in the week, I felt so discouraged by something, and it hung over me like a burden of lead. After I had wallowed in the discouragement for a time, the Lord showed me that I was focusing self-ward - turning my thoughts inward, to how unpleasant this thing was for me. How could He be honoured through this if, far from turning my eyes upon Jesus, I was focusing on... my own grievances? The Holy Spirit convicted me, through this experience, that I certainly will experience discouragement - in every circumstance! - while I'm just thinking of self. On the other hand, I will know the greatest of joy and victory if I go through every circumstance... for Him! This is our joy, to do everything out of love for Jesus. To see that no matter how apparently discouraging a circumstance seems, in Jesus it will most assuredly be a victory for Him, bringing glory to His Name. This is our purpose as His children... to do all things through Him, and for Him. I pray that you are blessed by this beautiful prayer, as I was.

Jesus, You shall be first in my life.
I want to talk with You and work for You.
I want to think over everything with You,
making all my decisions with You.
Nothing shall be done without You,
for I do not want to shut You out of my life.
Bind me tightly to You,
so that nothing-
no work, no burden, no other interest, no joy -
can separate us during this day.
So may I constantly live in Your holy presence:
for You are here!

May this day be dedicated
To You, Jesus, dearest Lord.
Troubles, cares - whate'er it brings me,
May Your name be praised, adored.

Lamb of God, beloved Bridegroom,
Grant Your grace to me this day,
That I may reflect Your image
In whate'er I do and say.

Help me to endure each trial,
Dearest Jesus, hear my plea.
Even on the hardest pathway
May You, Lord, be seen in me.

May I live to bring You glory
When Your name is so despised,
In all things, whate'er may happen,
Prove myself Your faithful bride.

(Basilea Schlink, My All For Him)