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Sir Thomas More and Religious Liberty. Gary B. Doxey International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU June 13, 2012. Sir Thomas More, 1478-1535. The Medieval World. The Renaissance—a Rebirth of Learning Inspired by Greece and Rome. The Medieval Skyline. Medieval Reformers.

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sir thomas more and religious liberty

Sir Thomas Moreand Religious Liberty

Gary B. Doxey

International Center for Law and

Religion Studies at BYU

June 13, 2012

medieval reformers
Medieval Reformers

Waldo of Lyon

(1140-1218)

Jan Hus (1369-1415)

John Wycliffe (1328-1384)

martin luther 1483 1546
Martin Luther, 1483-1546

“Erasmus laid an egg, and Luther hatched it.”

--Popular saying of the day

rise of nation state
Rise of Nation State
  • Emergence of strong rulers in 15th and 16th centuries
  • “National churches”
  • Economic prosperity and new royal revenues
  • Standing armies not dependent on feudal nobility
  • Bureaucratic government institutions
more s life and career
More’s Life and Career
  • Born in London, 1478
  • Studied classics at Oxford, 1492-1494 (age 15)
  • Clerk at New Inn and later Lincoln’s Inn
  • Called to bar, 1502 (age 24)
  • Elected to Parliament, 1504
  • Joined Privy Council, 1514
the context summary
The Context--Summary
  • Renaissance—the new learning of humanism
  • Reformation—conflict and schism, a danger to the powers who ruled the status quo
  • Rise of modern nation state—stronger, more centralized government
context continued
Context Continued
  • More was at the center of all these developments as a high governmental officer and confidant of the king; one of his special assignments was to bend his considerable intellectual and legal authority to put down Protestant subversives and insurgents who threatened the king’s stability
key events in his later life
Key Events in his Later Life
  • 1527—Henry first expresses doubts about his marriage
  • 1529—Wolsey falls from grace and Henry appoints More as Lord Chancellor
  • 1531– Convocation of Canterbury grants Henry title of Supreme Head of the English Church “as far as the law of Christ allows.”
  • 1532—More resigns as Lord Chancellor
key events in his later life1
Key Events in his Later Life
  • 1533—More refuses to attend coronation of Anne Bolyn
  • 1534—More refuses to affirm the oath of succession. He is placed in custody.
  • 1535—More is tried and executed for treason
slide37
“He spoke little before his execution. Only he asked the bystanders to pray for him in this world, and he would pray for them elsewhere. He then begged them earnestly to pray for the King, that it might please God to give him good counsel, protesting that he died the King’s good servant but God’s first.”

-- Paris Newsletter, July 1535

slide38
“Had we been master of such a servant, we would rather have lost the best city of our dominions than such a worthy counselor.”

--Charles V, HRE

“…more pure than any snow…such as England never had and never again will have.”

--Erasmus

the religious freedom legacy
The Religious Freedom Legacy?
  • Perception is reality? A martyr for conscience
  • Whose conscience? A deeper debate than meets the eye
  • Practical reality: an example of the painful nature of Europe’s conflict with pluralism and the practical accommodations that eventually led to begrudging toleration.
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