Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Something More and Tyndale Would Agree Upon!

As you might know, St. Thomas More and William Tyndale exchanged sometimes rather vituperative arguments and personal attacks on the relationship between the Church and the Holy Bible. More defended the consistent Catholic view that the Church preceded the Bible, teaching according to the oral tradition of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, and that the Church was therefore most qualified to interpret the Bible; after all, she wrote it, she canonized its contents, she read it and taught it. As this Christianity Today posts notes, Tyndale argued the opposite:

Sir Thomas More, who had been commissioned by the Church to refute Tyndale, had published his Dialogue Concerning Heresies in 1529. Tyndale’s Practice of Prelates includes brief rebuttals of More’s assertions in this book, and his Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, published in 1531, was a fuller response. One man was staunchly Catholic, the other staunchly Protestant and, indicative of the vicissitudes of chameleon-like Henry, both would be executed within five years for their differing views of the faith.

Their debate centered on the relation of the church, or Church, and Scripture. Tyndale argues that the gospel preceded the church, formed the church, and now provides the test for discerning the true church—made up of those people who read the Scriptures with eyes of faith. “For the whole Scripture and all believing hearts testify that we are begotten through the Word.”

Viewed from the 20th-century perspective, Tyndale’s polemics might seem harsh, full of personal attacks, occasionally illogical, and at times almost paranoid. His language is frequently rough, and he often abuses his opponents in personal-attack terms.

He calls Wolsey “Cardinal Wolfsee” because the cleric occupied more than one church office at the same time; he baits Sir Thomas More for his friendship with the Dutch scholar Erasmus (“His darling Erasmus” is Tyndale’s mocking phrase). He begs the question, assuming as true the point he is trying to prove. When the histories do not record clerical intrigue, he assumes that the writers, clergymen themselves, have covered their own tracks.

Yet this was the prevailing style of religious argumentation during the 16th century.

If you want to read Tyndale's work answering More's Dialogue, it's wonderful and ironic to note that the Catholic University of America Press is the publisher! Scepter Publishers provides a modernized version of More's Dialogue.

Unlike this balanced and scholarly analysis of the More-Tyndale debates/conflict, I have seen some posts, including comments on Wolf Hall stories about St. Thomas More, that offer the ridiculous suggestion that Thomas More, while in the Tower of London, orchestrated the arrest and trial and subsequent execution of William Tyndale. There is no evidence of this and if More had a part in Tyndale's burning at the stake in Vilvoorde, it was from beyond the grave, as Tyndale's execution took place more than a year after More was beheaded. More had resigned all authority in England, had no influence upon Henry VIII, and was not active in any search or arrest of Tyndale on the Continent: his goods and life were forfeit to the king!

All that background aside, I think St. Thomas More would be glad to hear that Tyndale Publishers, named for the reforming translator, has been granted a reprieve from the HHS contraception mandate, according to this CNA story:

A Bible publisher based in Illinois has won its lawsuit against the federal contraception mandate, with a final ruling delivered July 15 by a federal district court.

The ruling means that Tyndale House Publishers cannot be subject to the mandate, which was issued four years ago by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“In America, citizens have always had the freedom to believe, the freedom to express those beliefs, and the freedom to operate their businesses accordingly,” said Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which was representing Tyndale House in court.

“The Supreme Court upheld that principle in its Conestoga/Hobby Lobby decision last year, and the district court has rightly done the same,” Bowman said.

Tyndale House is the world’s largest privately-held Christian publisher of books, Bibles, and digital media. It gives more than 95 percent of its profits each year to religious non-profit causes across the globe.

The U.S. Supreme Court will have to defend the religious liberty of the Little Sisters of the Poor, however, since "the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rul[ed] against the Little Sisters, saying that they must follow the demands of the contraceptive mandate or else face fines of up to $2.5 million a year, or about 40 percent of the $6 million the Sisters beg for annually to run their ministry."

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