Wednesday, 20 January 2010


The following is an argument published in the early 16th century between the famous martyr, reformer, and translator of Scripture, William Tyndale, and Sir Thomas More, regarded by the Roman Catholic church of the day as the greatest scholar in England. In his opinion, the burning of heretics (protestants) was just and necessary. He later became a persecutor, and was himself beheaded for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the English church instead of the pope.

More: “Christ said not, the Holy Ghost shall write, but shall teach. Whatsoever the church says, it is the word of God, though it be not in Scripture.”

Tyndale: “It is not the custom of Scripture to say the Holy Ghost writeth but inspireth the writer…and it is manifest that…love compelled the apostles to leave nothing unwritten that should be necessarily required, and that, if it were left out, should hurt the soul…These are written, says St John, that ye may believe and through belief have life.”

More: “The apostles have taught by mouth many things they did not write, because they should not come into the hands of the heathen for mocking.”

Tyndale: “I pray you what thing more to be mocked by the heathen could they teach than the resurrection; and that Christ was God and Man, and died between two thieves? And yet all these things the apostles wrote. And again, purgatory, penance, and satisfaction for sin, and praying to saints, are marvellous agreeable unto the superstition of the heathen people, so that they needed not to abstain from writing of them for fear lest the heathen should have mocked them.”

More: “We must not examine the teaching of the church by Scripture, but understand Scripture by means of what the church says.”

Tyndale: “What! Does the air give light to the sun, or the sun to the air? Is the church before the gospel, or the gospel before the church? Is not the father older than the son? God begat us with his own will, with the word of truth, says James (1: 18.) If he who begetteth is before him who is begotten, the word is before the church, or, to speak more correctly, before the congregation.”

More: “Why do you say congregation and not church?”

Tyndale: “Because by that word church, you understand nothing but a multitude of shaven, shorn and oiled, which we now call the spiritualty or clergy; while the word of right is common unto all the congregation of them that believe in Christ.”

More: “The church is the pope and his sect or followers.”

Tyndale: “The pope teacheth us to trust in holy works for salvation, as penance, saints’ merits, and friars’ coats. Now, he that hath no faith to be saved through Christ, is not of Christ’s church.”

More: “The Romish church from which the Lutherans came out, was before them, and therefore is the right one.”

Tyndale: “In like manner you may say, the church of the Pharisees, whence Christ and his disciples came out, was before them, and was therefore the right church, and consequently Christ and his disciples are heretics.”

More: “No: the apostles came out from the church of the Pharisees because they found not Christ there; but your priests in Germany and elsewhere, have come out of our church, because they wanted wives.”

Tyndale: “Wrong…these priests were at first attached to what you call heresies, and then they took wives; but yours were first attached to the holy doctrine of the pope, and then they took harlots.”

More: “Luther’s books be open if ye will not believe us.”

Tyndale: “Nay, ye have shut them up, and have even burnt them…”

More: “I marvel that ye deny purgatory, Sir William, except it be a plain point with you to go straight to hell.”

Tyndale: “I know no other purging but faith in the cross of Christ; while you, for a groat, or a sixpence, buy some secret pills [indulgences] which you take to purge yourselves of your sins.”

More: “Faith, then, is your purgatory, you say; there is no need, therefore, of works – a most immoral doctrine!”

Tyndale: “It is faith alone that saves us, but not a bare faith. When a horse beareth a saddle and a man thereon, we may well say that the horse only and alone beareth the saddle, but we do not mean the saddle empty, and no man thereon.”