Friday, October 06, 2006

Why Freedom Matters

Today's anniversary will not grab the headlines on tonight's news. Nor will it be celebrated by ceremonies or memorials.

Despite this, it's worth pausing to say thank you for a pioneer of religious and political freedoms who was executed 470 years ago today.

William Tyndale, an Englishman, and an Oxford scholar, was burned to death on October 6th 1436. His crime? He translated the Bible into English against the wishes of the Catholic hierarchy.

Early in his career, when disputing with a theologian who stated, "We would be better off without God's law than the pope's" Tyndale famously declared, "I defy the pope and all his laws," and added, "If God spares my life, before many years I will cause a boy that drives the plough to know more of the Scripture than you do."

According to Foxe, Tyndale's 18 month imprisonment was characterised by such an example of godliness and prayer that the jailer and his daughter were both converted through his testimony.

In an age when religion is increasingly identified with intolerance, violence and strife, it's good to remember a man who fought the good fight with words not swords and whose sacrifice paved the way for his prophecy to be fulfilled as the teachings of the Bible were rediscovered during the Reformation - a discovery which turned a continent upside down.

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