Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice

David Teems, Thomas Nelson.

More hagiography than biography, the constant stream of pro-Tyndale soundbites tends to confuse the reader. The author offers pieces of the life of Tyndale, but his constant unsubstantiated rambling into the Bible translator's greatness - as a writer, translator, Christian - overwhelm the reader.

Teems' sweeping comments about Tyndale, the Reformation, the medieval era, and religious history - usually without corresponding footnotes, examples, or details - likewise tend to lose the reader. He speaks of the personality of Tyndale as if he knows him first hand, but with reference to only a minimal of letters, government documents, observations of contemporaries, and so forth. Readers have no reason to believe him. Teems tends to skip over proving any of his musings, turning his book into the mushy sentimentalism so characteristic of evangelicals.

Particularly annoying are Teems' simplistic viewpoints. The Middle Ages: bad, full of scary monsters such as bishops and priests, and all sorts of witch-burnings (feminists have greatly exaggerated the number of these, but Teems is content to avoid modern historical research). The Reformation: good, full of light and truth and democracy. The Catholic Church: Teems' biggest monster of all. Readers get a sense that the Middle Ages and the Catholic Church were synonymous with totalitarianism, violence, intellectual and spiritual failure. Protestants, the great liberators of Europe according to this view, represent the opposite.

We get a Manichean - cowboys and Indians, light versus dark - version of history that just confuses and loses the readers.

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