In the preface to Hoskyns’ great commentary, The Fourth Gospel, Francis Noel Davey notes something telling about the subtle yet profound differences between the English and Continental Reformers. Whereas German Protestantism continued to privilege the Pauline corpus, particularly Romans as the clearest elucidation of the Gospel, the church catholic in England remained more cautious. In fact, “the theology of the English Reformation soon sought a wider basis and a more positive idiom” rather than be controlled primarily by the Pauline epistles. Among the English was found,

 Zealous Christians who could listen to other Fathers besides Saint Augustine, to other Apostles besides Saint Paul; men who could praise God in other measures besides those of the psalmist and learn of Him from other lips besides those of the prophets and wise men; men who refused to identify the culture of the ancient world with its blindness, and who rejoiced in their new knowledge of the Hellenic tradition without a sense of guilt. To such mean the Fourth Gospel spoke in friendly terms. For this reason it has ever since exerted a powerful and creative influence upon the theology of the Church of England (5).

In this light, it’s easy to see why the English Reformers were more careful when it came to delineating sin, righteousness and justification theories. Davey drastically contextualizes the strict privileging of Romans a la Luther (“the door and key to Holy Scripture”) and effectively demonstrates how the “positive idiom” of the English Reformers by contrast could allow for further theological focus on deification, ascension and relationship between sacraments and the church as Christ body.

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