John Yates III tells the story of how the English reformers, especially Thomas Cranmer, thought through this problem of authority in the third chapter of Reformation Anglicanism: A Vision for Today’s Global Communion (Crossway, 2017). They concluded that Scripture is sufficient for understanding how to be saved and that it teaches clearly that God alone can wake us up out of our sin. We are helpless until God comes to us.
On the question of authority, Anglicans have sometimes used what they claimed to be Richard Hooker’s image of a three-legged stool whose legs are Scripture, reason, and tradition (see Hooker’s portrait above). While liberal Anglicans have suggested that Hooker’s three legs were of equal length, Yates points out that Ashley Null’s image of a garden shows otherwise:
“[I]t is far more accurate to speak of Scripture as a garden bed in which reason and tradition are tools used to tend the soil, unlock its nutrients and bring forth the beauty within it.”
This, say Yates and Null, shows the role which Anglican reformers Cranmer and Hooker gave to Scripture. In Yates’ words, Scripture for them was sufficient, powerful, satisfying, and authoritative. It “has the power, in the hands of the Spirit, to reconfigure our hardware, not just our software. . . . Regular exposure to scripture works to change our most basic desires.”