Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October 1548-1595 A.D. Remembering Prof. William Whittaker—English Reformed Churchman


October 1548-1595 A.D.  Remembering Prof. William Whittaker—English Reformed Churchman

Veitch, Donald Philip. “The English Reformer: Professor William Whittaker.”  Reformed Churchmen.  28 Jun 2009.  http://reformationanglicanism.blogspot.com/2009/06/english-reformer-professor-william.html.  Accessed 19 Sept 2014. 

The English Reformer: Professor William Whittaker


William Whittaker’s A Disputation on the Holy Scripture Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, ed. Parker Society (Cambridge Press, 1849).

On the frontispiece of this volume the purpose is stated: “For the Publication of the Works of the Fathers and Early Writers of the Reformed English Church.” Clearly, the use of the word “Reformed” was operative with the editors of this infamous collection.

A downloadable version is available at:
http://books.google.com/books?id=PhYXAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=william+whittaker+scriptures&as_brr=1

This work consists of the following sections:
1.               Preface by the Editor
2.               William Whittaker’s Dedicatory to Lord Burghley, Elizabeth’s secretary
3.               Preface to the Controversies
4.               First Question: Number of Canonical Books
5.               Second Question: Authentic Versions of the Scriptures
6.               Third Question: The Authority of Scripture
7.               Fourth Question: The Perspicuity of the Scripture
8.               Fifth Question: Of the Interpretation of Scripture
9.               Sixth Question: Of the Perfection of Scripture, against Unwritten Tradition
10.          Closing: To the Reader
It will be clear from this volume that cardinal difference between the Reformed/Reformational communions and the Roman communion on the subject of Sacred Scriptures.

William Whittaker (1548-1595) remains one of the greatest Anglican theologians of the Elizabethan period. He was the Master of St. John’s College, Cambridge and one of Cambridge’s leading divines.

Whittaker was born in Holme, Lancashire, 1547, and nearly related to Alexander Nowell, the celebrated dean of St. Paul’s and author of Nowell’s Catechism. His uncle, Dean Nowell, sent Whittaker to St. Paul’s in London followed by entrance to Trinity Hall, Cambridge in October 1564. He received his B.A. (1568). In 1571, he began his Master’s work. Throughout his labours, his uncle assisted Whittaker by defraying costs and granting Whittaker “leases.”

He proved himself an indefatigable student of the Scriptures, varied commentators, and the Schoolmen. John Whitgift, Master of Trinity and the future Archbishop of Canterbury, took note of the young scholar.

By 1578, he had been admitted to the degree of B.D. at Oxford. By 1579, he had distinguished himself and was appointed the Queen’s Professor of Divinity. In 1580, Queen Elizabeth added the Chancellorship of St. Paul’s, London.

His teachings were consistently Calvinistic and, in some quarters, were viewed as puritan-leaning. However, in a letter to Bancroft, he is no friend to the radical puritans and had “small sympathy” for them. However, he shared with the Puritans an hostility for Arminianism which was making inroads to the Church of England. He embraced the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-nine Articles in their intended, not Tractarian, sense. By 1582, he was engaged in opposing Romanism and took part in a disputation, Pontifex Romanus est ill Antichristus, or The Roman Pope is that Antichrist.

He also published Dec Ecclesia, De Conciliis, De Romano Pontice, De ministris et presybyteris Ecclesiae, De sanctis mortuis, De Ecclesia triumphante, De Sacramentkis in genere, De Baptismo, and De Eucharistia. A longer list is provided in the Preface.

Were Professor Whittaker, the Anglican and Calvinist alive today, he would not be accepted in any Anglican body in the United States.  We doubt few have engaged his writings, including those from the Anglican Church of North America.

Through the influence of John Whitgift and Sir Burghley, Whittaker was appointed by the Crown to be the Master of St. John’s College, Cambridge. The college grew in numbers and Calvinism was the dominant ethos.

In 1587, he was granted the D.D. and by 1592, the Mastership of Trinity College. In 1594, he published De Authoritate Scriptura with a dedication to Whitgift. The book that is before us is one of the great textbooks on the doctrine of Scripture.

Cardinal Bellamarine was his principle foe who had enormous respect for Professor Whittaker’s academic and theological prowess. It was reputed that Bellarmine’s fellow-Jesuits would comment on the picture of Whittaker maintained in Bellarmine’s office; it was a mutual respect between two academic lions, one a Calvinist, the other a Papist.

Whittaker is a must for every bibliography for an Anglican Churchman. It was copiously used by the late Rev. Dr. Philip Edcumbe Hughes in The Theology of the English Reformers.

To be continued. Part One

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