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Oliver Cromwell’s Crisis

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Lord Protector of England, and Christian reformer of church and civil governance. A hero of liberty to some. A fanatical tyrant to others.  From an unfinished portrait by Samuel Cooper (credit: Wikipedia)

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Lord Protector of England, and Christian reformer of church and civil governance. A godly hero of liberty to some. A fanatical tyrant to others. From an unfinished portrait by Samuel Cooper (credit: Wikipedia)

By the early 17th century, the only type of governance that the English people had known for hundreds of years was the monarchy.  Along with the office of the king in the political realm, for Christians there was a corresponding office of bishop. The term bishop was derived from the Greek word episkopos, as found in Titus 1:7, typically translated today as “overseer.” Just as the king oversaw the worldly affairs of state, the bishop oversaw the spiritual affairs of the church.  King James I of England, who sponsored the famous English Bible translation that bears his name, was famously quoted as saying, “No bishop, no king.”

For James, a king can only rule a people properly with the assistance of bishops who could administer the spiritual life of Christian communities in accordance with the standard set by such a benevolent and divinely appointed king. King James, along with his bishops, saw this governing arrangement as quite efficient. But what happens when the people begin to lose confidence with their leaders? What happens when you can trust neither your bishop nor your king?
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