In Thursday’s post (Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel?) I promised to revisit the William Tyndale story. The Bible translator – burned to death in 1536, was the victim of brute force repression (by church and state) in response to the fear that ordinary people would have access to the extraordinary resource of scripture.
As a teacher, I am struck by the fact that so many people are unaccustomed to placing the history of the church alongside the history of civilization. It turns out that Columbus wasn’t the only one who sailed off the edge of the map. The same call to discovery, and exploration, and newness that witnessed a voyage over edge of the world (1492) was at work in Luther’s protest of 1517, Tyndale’s translations into the English language, and the consequent explosion of knowledge and invention throughout the western world.
FAITH = PROGRESS: For me, this relationship between faith and human progress has never been more striking than when the content of the Bible was made available to ordinary people. Because of Tyndale’s work, and his courage, the latent imagination and creativity of the English language was released, and – in consequence – an entire population was invited to emerge from a kind of intellectual torpor.
Suddenly – and because the Bible invites people into light, life, equality, love, personal growth, and a conscious living into the image of Creator God – the soon-to-expand English-speaking world now comprised a population where everyone who could read had access to the transformational impact of the Good News, the radical invitation of Jesus, and the distilled wisdom of the ages. No wonder the powers that governed the status-quo were so frightened, and so brutal in their response.
Rather than preaching light and life, the church had been invested in the business of stifling curiosity, limiting academic inquiry, and fastening a tight lid on the imagination and creativity of ordinary people.
CRITICAL MOMENT: The introduction of Tyndale’s translation turns out to mark the critical moment that opened the door for the English language to become the literary tour de force it is today. Without Tyndale, it has been said, then there would have been no William Shakespeare. Until the early Reformation, exposure to all the extraordinary content of the scriptures – the ideas, the insights, the wisdom, the lyrical beauty of the Psalms, the words of Jesus, the pitch-perfect arguments of Paul – was limited to those who could read and understand latin, and also to those who had access to the text.
Once the words of scripture were downloaded into the active consciousness of its people, the English language – like its people – was seeded with the catalyst for a most remarkable transformation.
The word of God is the most essential document in the movement of this world out of the Dark Ages (and remains so in preventing our return). And the Bible remains the critical element if we want to understand how the United States of America was imagined, born, established, and nurtured into the amazing and unprecedented example of freedom, liberty, opportunity, and discovery that it is today.
So it grieves me that on the one hand Christian faith is being marginalized and scorned by so many detractors, people who would not have the opportunity to experience liberty were it not for the transformational power of the words in the Bible… and it grieves me on the other that so many Christians leverage isolated biblical texts to restrict the liberty of the very people God’s word not only values but sets free.
CHALLENGE: If you don’t spend much time in the Bible, friends, then let me challenge you to let its powerful, beautiful, radical, dangerous, transformational, challenging, God-breathed words seep into your consciousness.
Couldn’t we all use a little reformation? – DEREK