Henry VIII, persecutor

July 30 was the day of commemoration for Robert Barnes, the English Lutheran who was martyred for his faith. I had always assumed that he was killed by Roman Catholic inquisitors, but he wasn’t. He was burned at the stake by Henry VIII, years after the king had broken from Rome! (When he burned Barnes for not believing in transubstantiation and for believing that Communion should be given to the laity in both kinds, he also executed three Catholics for not believing that Henry was the rightful head of the English church.)

Better known is William Tyndale who was strangled and burned for translating the Bible into English. I had assumed that this too was the work of Roman Catholics fighting the Reformation. But no, Tyndale’s execution was also the work of the protestant Henry VIII!

Nearly 500 years later, last Saturday, 8 Christians in Pakistan were martyred for their faith.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Beth

    It is not really accurate to apply the term Protestant to Henry VIII. Although he initiated the break with Rome and rejected the Pope’s authority over the Church of England, he also insisted that the Church of England maintain agreement with Roman Catholic doctrines – being especially severe against anyone who denied transubstantiation. It was only after Henry’s death that the Church of England officially adopted Protestant doctrines (in the Thirty-Nine Articles, etc.). It is certainly true that Henry VIII’s England was a dangerous place to be both a Catholic and a Protestant.

    Also, Henry VIII was not directly responsible for the execution of Tyndale. He was arrested and executed by the authorities in what was then the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium).

  • Beth

    It is not really accurate to apply the term Protestant to Henry VIII. Although he initiated the break with Rome and rejected the Pope’s authority over the Church of England, he also insisted that the Church of England maintain agreement with Roman Catholic doctrines – being especially severe against anyone who denied transubstantiation. It was only after Henry’s death that the Church of England officially adopted Protestant doctrines (in the Thirty-Nine Articles, etc.). It is certainly true that Henry VIII’s England was a dangerous place to be both a Catholic and a Protestant.

    Also, Henry VIII was not directly responsible for the execution of Tyndale. He was arrested and executed by the authorities in what was then the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium).

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    I thought Lutherans believed in transubstantiation. No? (if my memory is correct, there is a bitter irony in the reasons for Robert Barnes’ execution, no?)

    And Beth’s right. For those who were truly Protestant OR Catholic, and not just willing to have a rather lecherous king be the head of their church, it was a dark time.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    I thought Lutherans believed in transubstantiation. No? (if my memory is correct, there is a bitter irony in the reasons for Robert Barnes’ execution, no?)

    And Beth’s right. For those who were truly Protestant OR Catholic, and not just willing to have a rather lecherous king be the head of their church, it was a dark time.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    No we don’t, Bubba! To believe that Christ’s Body and Blood are truly present in the bread and wine does not mean that they change into bread and wine! But I could see how that could seem like too subtle of a distinction to die–or kill– for! But many did.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    No we don’t, Bubba! To believe that Christ’s Body and Blood are truly present in the bread and wine does not mean that they change into bread and wine! But I could see how that could seem like too subtle of a distinction to die–or kill– for! But many did.

  • Joe

    Bike Bubba – we believe in the Real Presence of the true body and blood of Christ. But not in transubstantiation. Wikipedia does a pretty good job of explaining it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacramental_union

  • Joe

    Bike Bubba – we believe in the Real Presence of the true body and blood of Christ. But not in transubstantiation. Wikipedia does a pretty good job of explaining it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacramental_union

  • http://watersblogged.blogspot.com Rev. Bob Waters

    As I recall, it wasn’t Barnes’s views on the Supper which got him in dutch with old Harry. It was his doctrine of justification.

    On the day he burned Barnes, though, he also burned some Catholics. Old Hank was an equal opportunity persecutor.

  • http://watersblogged.blogspot.com Rev. Bob Waters

    As I recall, it wasn’t Barnes’s views on the Supper which got him in dutch with old Harry. It was his doctrine of justification.

    On the day he burned Barnes, though, he also burned some Catholics. Old Hank was an equal opportunity persecutor.

  • http://www.redhatrob.com RedHatRob

    Transubstantiation is a philosophical description of “real presence” using the vocabulary & categories of Aristotle. Luther hated Aristotle.
    Aristotle said that all objects had two kinds of qualities: substantial qualities, and accidental qualities. Liquid, gas, or solid were accidental qualities of water, but not its substance. Catholic doctrine asserted the when the priest consecrated the elements, they retained all of the “accidents” of bread and wine (taste, touch, smell, appearance), but that their “substance” had been supernaturally transformed/changed.

    Luther thought this was all sophisticated nonsense – scholastic word play.

    He believed in the real presence, but said that the bread & wine didn’t change. AFTER they were consecrated, though, the real presence of Christ’s body 7 blood were now present WITH the bread and wine, (“in, with, through, and under”). He used the analogy of a piece of steel heated in the fire, which then glowed red because the fire was “in, with, through, and under” the steel.

    Zwingli said the bread & wine were simply symbols. Luther refused to shake his hand, and said, “You have a different spirit from us.”

  • http://www.redhatrob.com RedHatRob

    Transubstantiation is a philosophical description of “real presence” using the vocabulary & categories of Aristotle. Luther hated Aristotle.
    Aristotle said that all objects had two kinds of qualities: substantial qualities, and accidental qualities. Liquid, gas, or solid were accidental qualities of water, but not its substance. Catholic doctrine asserted the when the priest consecrated the elements, they retained all of the “accidents” of bread and wine (taste, touch, smell, appearance), but that their “substance” had been supernaturally transformed/changed.

    Luther thought this was all sophisticated nonsense – scholastic word play.

    He believed in the real presence, but said that the bread & wine didn’t change. AFTER they were consecrated, though, the real presence of Christ’s body 7 blood were now present WITH the bread and wine, (“in, with, through, and under”). He used the analogy of a piece of steel heated in the fire, which then glowed red because the fire was “in, with, through, and under” the steel.

    Zwingli said the bread & wine were simply symbols. Luther refused to shake his hand, and said, “You have a different spirit from us.”

  • http://therighthandoffellowship.blogspot.com John Guthrie

    The one most responsible for Tyndale’s execution was Sir Thomas More. More, responsible for the torture and execution of many Protestants (he had a torture chamber in his own home)issued an arrest warrant and offered a reward for Tyndale’s capture. More also sent agents to various European countries to discover where Tyndale was in hiding. Henry could have stopped the execution if he wanted to, but he did not. This certainly makes Henry culpable, but it is More (who Henry had beheaded shortly before Tyndale’s execution)who bears the primary responsibility. My source: a recent biography of Tyndale by Brian Moynahan, “God’s Best Seller.”

  • http://therighthandoffellowship.blogspot.com John Guthrie

    The one most responsible for Tyndale’s execution was Sir Thomas More. More, responsible for the torture and execution of many Protestants (he had a torture chamber in his own home)issued an arrest warrant and offered a reward for Tyndale’s capture. More also sent agents to various European countries to discover where Tyndale was in hiding. Henry could have stopped the execution if he wanted to, but he did not. This certainly makes Henry culpable, but it is More (who Henry had beheaded shortly before Tyndale’s execution)who bears the primary responsibility. My source: a recent biography of Tyndale by Brian Moynahan, “God’s Best Seller.”

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Thanks for the correction.

    Weird to think of leaders having a torture chamber in their own home….can you imagine giving your wife a kiss after breakfast and cheerfully saying “bye, honey, I’m off to twist the thumbscrews and heat up some iron pokers on the heretics downstairs.”?

    Yeesh. I guess it still happens, though.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Thanks for the correction.

    Weird to think of leaders having a torture chamber in their own home….can you imagine giving your wife a kiss after breakfast and cheerfully saying “bye, honey, I’m off to twist the thumbscrews and heat up some iron pokers on the heretics downstairs.”?

    Yeesh. I guess it still happens, though.


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