In this section Tyndale argues strongly against specialized training for the understanding of Scripture based on the proven ambivalence of scholarship. Such ambivalence and disagreement foment division and sects. Scholars “corrupteth the scripture, and fashioneth it after his own imagination, as a potter doth his clay.” Tyndale is referring to popish theologians but the overlap with modern Evangelical text critics is conspicuous. Tyndale writes “God is that only which he testifieth of himself.” This early statement was later described as Scripture being autopistos, or self-authenticating and self-attesting. Tyndale presses the point as a matter of spiritual standing and sanctification writing, “and to imagine any other thing of God than that, is damnable idolatry” – “Man’s wisdom is plain idolatry: neither is there any idolatry than to imagine of God after man’s wisdom.” This idolatry is the reconstruction of Scripture to make God after the vacillating imagination of man.
“But now do ye clean contrary: ye drive them from God’s word, and will let no man come thereto, until he have been two years master of art. First, they nosel them in sophistry, and in benefundatum. And there corrupt they their judgments with apparent arguments, and with alleging unto them texts of logic, of natural philautia, of metaphysic, and moral philosophy, and of all manner books of Aristotle, and of all manner doctors which they yet never saw. Moreover, one holdeth this, another that; one is a Real, another a Nominal. What wonderful dreams have they of dreams of their predicaments, universals, second intentions, quiddities, haecceities and relatives; and whether species fundata in chimera be vera species; and whether this proposition be true, Non ens est aliquid; whether ens be cequivocum, or univocum. Ens is a voice only, say some. Ens is univocum, saith another, and descendeth into ens creatum, and into ens increatum, per modes intrinsecos. When they have this wise brawled eight, ten, or twelve or more years, and after that their judgments are utterly corrupt, then they begin their divinity; not at the scripture, but every man taketh a sundry doctor; which doctors are as sundry and as divers, the one contrary unto the other, as there are divers fashions and monstrous shapes, none like another, among our sects of religion. Every religion, every university, and almost every man, hath a sundry divinity. Now whatsoever opinions every man findeth with his doctor, that is his gospel, and that only is true with his doctor withal, corrupteth the scripture, and fashioneth it after his own imagination, as a potter doth his clay. Of what text thou provest hell, will another prove purgatory; another limbo patrum; and another the assumption of our lady: and another shall prove of the same text that an ape hath a tail. And of what text the gray friar proveth that our lady was without original sin, of the same shall the black friar prove that she was conceived in original sin. And all this do they with apparent reasons, with false similitudes and likenesses, and with arguments and persuasions of man’s wisdom, Now there is no division or heresy in the world save man’s wisdom, when man’s foolish wisdom interpreteth the scripture. Man’s wisdom scattereth, divideth, and maketh sects; while the wisdom of one is that a white coat is best to serve God in, and another saith a black, and another a gray, another a blue; and while one saith that God will hear your prayer in this place, another saith in that place; and while one saith this place is holier, and another that place is holier; one religion and this religion is holier than that; and this saint is greater with God than that; and an hundred thousand like things. Man’s wisdom is plain idolatry: neither is there any idolatry than to imagine of God after man’s wisdom. God is not man’s imagination; but that only which he saith of himself. God is nothing but his law and his promises; that is to say, that which he biddeth thee to do, and that which he biddeth thee believe and hope. God is but his word as Christ saith, John viii. “I am that I say unto you;” that is to say, That which I preach am I; my words are spirit and life. God is that only which he testifieth of himself; and to imagine any other thing of God than that, is damnable idolatry. Therefore saith the hundred and eighteenth psalm, “Happy are they which search the testimonies of the Lord;” that is to say, that which God testifieth and witnesseth unto us. But how shall I that do, when ye will not let me have his testimonies, or witnesses, in a tongue which I understand ? Will ye resist God ? Will ye forbid him to give his Spirit unto the lay as well as unto you? Hath he not made the English tongue? Why forbid ye him to speak in the English tongue then, as well as in the Latin?”
William Tyndale, “The Obedience of a Christian man,” Doctrinal Treatises and Introductions to Different Portions of the Holy Scriptures, edited for the Parker Society(Cambridge: The University Press, 1528, 1848), 156-161.