TYNDALIAN THEOLOGY IN THE WORLD TODAY

 

By Gary Ray Branscome

 

 

Although the theology of William Tyndale differs little from that of Luther, except perhaps in the doctrine of eucharistic presence, there is a subtle difference of emphasis and focus that produces surprisingly different results. If you are familiar with the work and preaching of Dr. Walter A. Maier, the best way of illustrating that difference in emphasis might be by comparing it to the difference between Dr. Maier and the other Lutherans of his era.

Even though Dr. Maier espoused the doctrine of the Missouri Synod, he was clearly different. While most Lutherans accepted those differences, some found fault with him. Unlike most Lutheran pastors he preached with fervor, preferred to preach without clerical robes, called upon his listeners to make a decision, and emphasized faith in God’s promise of forgiveness in Christ rather than baptism. His theology has been described as, “traditional Lutheranism expressed in an untraditional manner”. However, even though this differed from what Lutherans were used to, in Tyndalian circles those differences would have been the norm rather than the exception. While that might be seen as evidence that the difference between Lutheran and Tyndalian theology is largely a difference in emphasis, the doctrine preached by Dr. Walter A. Maier, and recorded in his sermons, is pure Tyndalian Orthodoxy.

 

The Biblical Hermeneutic

 

          While Lutherans rely heavily on confessions, and use statements of faith to define what they believe, the Tyndalian emphasis is on the Biblical hermeneutic. That is not because there is any problem with what the confessions say – except possibly with what the Formula of Concord says about eucharistic presence – but because Tyndale’s emphasis was on the Bible. Furthermore, because Scripture interprets itself, the statements of Scripture are far clearer than any man made confession. I realize that there are many things in the Bible that we do not understand. However, the doctrine that God wants us to believe and teach, is the doctrine stated so clearly in His Word that it needs no interpretation (2Corinthians 1:13). Therefore, we do not start with what is hard to understand, but with those truths so clearly stated that no one can deny that that is what the Bible says. We then interpret the rest in the light of what those passages clearly say. [Isaiah 28:9-11, 1John 1:5, 2Corinthians 3:12.]

         

The Biblical hermeneutic is summarized in two passages of Scripture. First, the words, “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” summarize every passage that warns us not to add to or take from what the Bible says ( John 8:31-32). We are not to depart from God’s Word by adding man made explanations and interpretations to what God has written. Second, the words, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20), tell us that any interpretation that contradicts what the Bible explicitly says is false.

 

In order to demonstrate how these rules eliminate false interpretation, let us look at the words, “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel.” One cult insists that the words, “voice of the archangel,” prove that Christ is an archangel. However, that claim is built on an assumption, not on what the Bible says. They assume that the voice of the archangel is the voice of Christ, when the Bible says no such thing! Then, on the basis of that assumption, they jump to the conclusion that Christ is an archangel, even though it contradicts all of the passages that tell us that Christ is God (John 1:1-18, 1 John 5:20, etc.). Their assumption is an addition to God’s Word. Their conclusion is an addition to God’s Word. And, the fact that they contradict Scripture, tells us that they are in rebellion against God (1Samuel 15:23, Psalm 107:11, Romans 3:4).

 

THE DOCTRINE GOD HAS GIVEN US

 

Because we are not to add to God’s Word, the doctrine God has given us is nothing other than what Bible clearly and explicitly says, “line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little;” (Isaiah 28:10). I once tried to explain that to a cult member, only to have him say, “If it was that simple no one would have to go to church, they could just stay home and read their Bible.” What he failed to see was that that is one reason we do need to go to church. Left to ourselves, our carnal imaginations would run wild, and we would read all sort of unscriptural ideas into the text (Jeremiah 17:9). That is exactly what Dr. Francis Pieper was talking about when he said:

 

The first and foremost duty of the exegete consists in holding the flighty spirit of man to the simple word of Scripture and, where he has departed from it, to lead him back to the simple word of Scripture. Luther says that the sole purpose of all his writings and particularly of his exegetical works is to lead back into Scripture… The whole Christian doctrine is revealed in Scripture passages that need no exegesis, but are an open book alike to the learned and the unlearned and can be so readily translated that the translator cannot go wrong unless he has made up his mind to depart from the original. [“Christian Dogmatics”, Vol. one, pgs 360 and 347]

 

In order to bring our theology into accord with the Word of God we must begin by bringing our thinking into accord with the Word of God (Romans 12:2). We do that by eliminating unscriptural ideas and interpretations that contradict what the Bible says. And, the standard we use in eliminating error consists of those truths so clearly stated in Scripture that they need no interpretation. Since the Bible is primarily historic, we begin with Bible history. Furthermore, because the Bible interprets itself, it is Scripture, not the deceitfulness of the human heart, that determines which portions of the Bible are history and which are not. And, the Bible tells us that the Biblical record of creation is history in dozens of passages (Romans 5:12, Matthew 19:14, Acts 17:24, 2 Peter 3:5, etc.).

I am aware that the forces of Satan are viciously attacking the Biblical record of history. But, the people who reject Bible history are violating both of the rules that I previously stated. They depart from God’s Word, by reading atheistic assumptions into the text, and they rebel against God by contradicting His Word (John 8:31, Isaiah 8:20). Furthermore, Jesus calls them fools, because they are the ones following myths and fairy-tales (Luke 24:25, 1Corinthians 1:20 and 3:19).

In saying this, I want to make it perfectly clear that there is no conflict between true science and the Bible. There only appears to be a conflict, when the religion of atheism is passed off as science. For example: because one experiment after another has demonstrated that life comes only from preexisting life, whenever someone claims that life came into existence on its own, he is teaching atheistic religion not science. Likewise, because about forty percent of all fossil life forms are not extinct (and have not changed since the rocks were formed), whenever someone claims that an extinct life form has evolved into something else, he is teaching atheistic religion not science. Atheists have simply conned the public into believing that every “natural explanation” is science, even when such explanations contradict actual scientific evidence.

 

Bible history is important because God has revealed Himself in history. We worship the God who created the world in six days. We worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And, we worship the God who took on the nature of man through the miracle of the virgin birth, lived a sinless life, died for our sins, and rose again the third day. Furthermore, seven of the historical events recorded in Scripture have a deep spiritual significance, and that spiritual significance constitutes the heart and core of the salvation message. This is not an opinion, the Bible explicitly tells us what the spiritual significance of those events is.

For example: The words, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,” tell us the spiritual significance of the fall. The words, “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father,” tell us the spiritual significance of Christ’s virgin birth. And, the words, “He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world,” tell us the spiritual significance of Christ’s death on the cross. Now, the seven historical events I am speaking of, just happen to be the events summarized in the “Apostles’ Creed”, although the fall is not explicitly mentioned.

 

I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, died for our sins, and was buried; He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven And sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From there He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; The holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; The forgiveness of sins; The resurrection of the body; And the life everlasting. Amen.

 

In his book, “The Theology of Post Reformation Lutheranism”, Robert Preus provides an in-depth presentation of the Biblical hermeneutic, coupled with a scholarly exposition of the doctrine of Scripture that no true Tyndalian would ever disagree with. The same could be said of its companion volume (on the doctrine of God), and of His book, “Justification and Rome”.

Concerning the Biblical hermeneutic, he said, “The dogmatitians whom we have studied considered themselves and genuine Lutheranism bound not only to a doctrine but to a hermeneutic. To abandon the hermeneutics which they believed was Christ’s hermeneutics and that of the New Testament would result in abandoning the Christian Doctrine as well.” (Vol. 2, page 257)

 

[Note: Michael Farris’ book, “From Tyndale to Madison”, reveals the role that Tyndale played in the struggle for religious liberty in England and America, and concludes with the words, “The Word of God is the source of our liberty.”]

 

CONCLUSION

 

Because Tyndalian doctrine is the doctrine explicitly stated in God’s Word, the epistles of Paul, and especially his letter to the Romans, constitute the foremost statement of that theology. Therefore, when Paul explains in Romans 3:9-20, that the law cannot make us righteous, that is Tyndalian doctrine. When Paul explains in Romans 3:21-28 that Christ has made it possible for us to be justified by faith, without the works of the law, that is Tyndalian doctrine. When Paul goes on (in Romans 4) to explain that, to be justified by faith is to be justified by imputed righteousness, that is Tyndalian doctrine. When he goes on in chapter 5 to hold up Christ’s death as the source of our justification, that is Tyndalian doctrine. And, when he goes on to explain that just as the sin of one man made everyone guilty the obedience of one man makes us all righteous, teaching that we are saved by what He did, not by what we do, that is Tyndalian doctrine. Therefore, it would be irresponsible for us to sit by allowing the children of darkness to confuse the issues, cause division, and subvert faith by reading unscriptural assumptions into the text of Scripture, by jumping to conclusions that contradict what the Bible says elsewhere, or by denying the truth of what is written.