Who is the real Thomas More?

John Guy, Thomas More: A Very Brief History. London: SPCK, 2018. 116pp. 

Will the real Thomas More please step forward?

Since the mid-Twentieth Century there have been at least two “Thomas Mores” vying for supremacy in the mind of the reading public. One is the principled, self-assured philosopher-kind of the A Man for All Seasons (1966). The other is the sneering sadistic zealot of Wolf Hall (2009). One is a saint, the other is very much, so to speak, a sinner.

John Guy–Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge–offers an eminently readable history of the enigmatic Thomas More, perhaps one of the most fascinating individuals in English history. In a quick 116 pages (TOC below) he whisks us through More’s life, death, and then explores his legacy and representation in modern literature.

The book begins, as it ought, by exploring some of the internal tensions that More himself seems to have experienced, beginning with his childhood. His story begins in the conflict between his desire for the cloister and his father’s desire for him, the chambers.

As the story unfolds, these two Thomases appear in conflict.

On the one hand, he is the renaissance man capable of writing the jovial, witty Utopia and carrying on a learned correspondence with his friend–that ultimate of renaissance men–Desiderius Erasmus. He is the capable theologian able to, at Henry VIII’s request, pen refutations of Luther’s doctrines. At the same time he appears to be at least savvy enough a politician to become Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor and to advance Henry’s agenda.

Without tracing More’s entire life, it seems (in Guy’s estimation) that there was a tipping point. A moment–not necessarily an instant–in which the theologian and author of Utopia won out over the political More. It would lead to his death.

Guy does a wonderful job of unwinding the threads of More’s self and offering a helpful topography of the religious and civil realities of Tudor England. A particularly unique contribution is his treatment of the reception of More in subsequent generations. He includes More’s successors who engaged in a successful campaign to rehabilitate More for a post-reformation society. I heartily commend it.

 

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Chronology

Part 1 – The History

  1. Shaping a mind
  2. Utopia
  3. The king’s servant
  4. The dissident

Part 2 – The Legacy

  1. More’s writings
  2. Thomas More in art
  3. Canonization
  4. The lure of fiction

Epilogue

 

 

 

 

A question to change the world

Ordinary Time

A simple question can change the world. Sound preposterous doesn’t it? Yet, I’m convinced its true.

Over the last year I’ve taken to asking myself, “is the world a better place for my having done this?” Or, alternately, “do I want to live in a town where people do this?”

A simple example. There are miles of prairie paths and bike trails around our home. These paths inevitably have to cross suburban roads. When I’m tempted not to yield to a walker or runner, I ask: do I want to live in a place where drivers show disregard for legal rights of way?

My answer is: no. I don’t. One day I will be on the path and wanting to cross the street. I’d like people to let me cross as the law allows.

It’s a simple question. There’s nothing remarkable or profound about it. Use it regularly, it can change you and change the world.

 

Five dimensions of organizational culture

Navigating organizational culture

Reading Time: 1 minute

When you join an organization, you have a short window of time to adapt to its culture — and too many talented individuals stumble in their new company because they fail to read the cultural tea leaves.

This happens because most organizations don’t explain the cultural rules to newcomers, and new hires are so focused on the job and the new boss that they overlook the rules’ profound influence.

Yet understanding the culture plays a big role in your initial success. Being cognizant of not just what your colleagues do but how they work matters if you want to be effective and be perceived well.

There are five dimensions of culture that have a big impact on your ability to navigate a new job: how your organization values and cultivates relationships, how people tend to communicate, how people make decisions, whether individuals or groups are valued, and how accepting people are of change.

Read the full article here .

Surviving a crisis

I almost drowned once. No, I wasn’t caught by a rip tide. I didn’t lose my bearings and drift out to sea.

I’m speaking metaphorically.

I served in the leadership of an organization that went through a terrible ordeal—a conflict I’ve never seen the likes of elsewhere.

And it almost killed me.

Drowning—metaphorical or not—isn’t a pleasant experience. 

The thing is, however, that once you escape it and survive it, it re-calibrates your expectations. 

That heated conversation in a meeting? We can get past that. 

The difficulty planning logistics for a conference? We can muddle through. 

A challenging author? No worries. 

When you’ve survived extensive exposure to a near-toxic environment, just about everything else becomes manageable. As one former infantry officer put it, “Did anyone die?” If no one died; it’s a good day.

When you emerge after the crisis it’ll take you some time to find your feet again, but you will. 

Get two free Russ Ramsey Books

Reading the Bible more imaginatively

As a pastor I know how hard it can be to read the Bible. It is, after all, ancient literature. It was written for, but not to us (in the words of John Walton).

The result is that sometimes we feel like we’re reading a foreign language, a book whose meaning isn’t always certain and often is contested.

At time the Bible speaks to us. At times it seems strangely silent.

If you want to enrich your Bible experience you should find resources that help you read it with greater imagination. Russ Ramsey is the perfect writer to help you with that. 

My deep desire for these books is help people hide Scripture in their hearts by way of the imagination. I’d love to have your help in that mission. -Russ Ramsey

A fantastic resource

For a limited time you can join the launch team for Russ’s forthcoming books, all in the series Retelling the Stories. 

  • The Advent of the Lamb of God
  • The Passion of the King of Glory 
  • The Mission of the Body of Christ

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