Cranmer on Certitude and “the Flame”

“I have never found certitude easy. Beliefs grow slowly in my mind, changing shape as they gain a fresh insight, or shed what seems to be an error. It is not a process that leads naturally to a conclusion. This can be an advantage in the ordinary intercourse of life. One is better able to understand other people if one’s ideas have not yet hardened, and can be stretched without loss of integrity to accommodate theirs.

The difficulty is to know when the limits of understanding are reached. There always seems to be one more step that can be taken without danger in fellowship. Harmony is a great good, but there are others greater, for those whose sake it must be, in the last resort, renounced. I could, I hope, find the courage to die for them; but my mind still gropes in vain. It is an agonizing task to define the principles for which a man must condemn his living body to the flame.” — Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, en route to being burned at the stake.

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