“It has been a common mistake to assume that there was no fourth alternative open to Cranmer besides Catholic, Lutheran, and Zwinglian. There was in fact, a fourth available possibility in Virtualism, the Eucharistic doctrine according to which, while the bread and wine remain unchanged after the consecration, the faithful communicants receive with the elements the virtue or power of the Body and Blood of Christ.  This was the view of the Eucharist affirmed by Martin Bucer, Henry Bullinger, Peter Martyr, and John Calvin.  It has been argued at length by C.W. Dugmore in The Mass and the English Reformers and more recently by Peter Brooks in Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of the Eucharist, that Cranmer’s was a high Calvinist doctrine.


Furthermore, however close to Calvin or Zwingli Cranmer’s Eucharistic beliefs were, it must be noted that Cranmer and Zwingli differed in their evaluation of the importance of the Eucharist.  Cranmer, like Calvin, desired a weekly Eucharist, whereas Zwingli settled for a quarterly Eucharist.  On balance, then, I think Cranmer moved from a Catholic through a Lutheran to a Calvinist or Virtualist doctrine of the Eucharist, and that the final stage was accompanied by the strong influence on him of Nicholas Ridley, relying on the Nominalism he found in Radbertus.  Cranmer, it must be insisted, affirmed that by the power of the Holy Spirit, the true consecratory agent in the sacrament, Christ with all the benefits of his passion and resurrection was spiritually present at the Lord’s Table, and that this was known in the hearts of believers by the interior testimony of faith.  Faith did not create the presence–that would be blasphemy.  Rather it confirmed the presence through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Cranmer would undoubtedly have agreed with the statement made by his mentor, Ridley, in the Cambridge debate of 1549.  There Ridley stated that the three practical benefits of the Eucharist were unity, nutrition, and conversion.  (Worship and Theology in England, Book 1: I. From Cramner to Hooker, 1534-1603; 2. From Andrewes to Baxter and Fox, 1603-1690, p. 183 & 185)