William Tyndale – Independent Thinker in the Lollard Tradition

William Tyndale and English Religious Movements


Separatism was Tyndale's natural home


Before his death, Tyndale had developed a unique synthesis of Lutheranism, Lollardy, Humanism and his own work. But did he leave any body of believers who could be considered “Tyndalians”? The short answer is not immediately after his death.

Tyndale and Puritanism?

Recent historiography has attempted to trace Tyndale’s influence on later English religious movements. Two studies, the first by Leonard J. Trinterud1 and a later study by John F. New2, have connected Tyndale with Puritanism. They have done so on the basis of Tyndale’s concept of the Covenant. Trinterud argued that the Covenant is central to the teaching of the Puritans as it was to Tyndale. It was also an important concept to Calvin, from whom the Puritans developed. However, according to John F. New, the Covenant did not play a major role in Puritanism as Trinterud suggested. Therefore, Tyndale’s key doctrine of the Covenant was not a significant part of the theology of the Puritans.

Covenant and English Separatists

The Covenant was, however, a central part of another important English religious movement, the English Separatist tradition.

New writes,

“Indeed, Separatism seems its natural home, for the Church in this kind of covenant requires to be composed only of the good, those voluntarily dedicated to Christ. And from this assumption follows the quasi-Donatist nature of Separatism’s theology. Trinterud may have hit upon a characteristic that distinguishes Separatists from other Puritans,”3

namely, the concept of a mutual covenant between God and the Believer. New suggests that Calvin influenced the Puritans whereas Tyndale had a greater impact on the Separatists.

Summary

Tyndale, thus, left a legacy in the believer’s churches of the Separatist movements such as those begun by Robert Browne.4

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Footnotes

  1. Trinterud, Leonard, J. “The Origins of Puritanism”, in Church History, XX. (1951). 

  2. New, J. F.H. Anglican and Puritan. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964). 

  3. New, J. pg. 94. 

  4. Browne, Robert., A Book Which Showeth the Life and Manners of All True Christians. (Middleburg, 1582), and An Answer to Master Cartwright for His Letters for Joining with the English Church. (London, 1583). As quoted in New, J., pg. 94.