Tradition

With the death of Pope John Paul II, the enlivened dialog between Catholics and Protestants that his passing has facilitated frequently crashes on the rocks of tradition. With that in mind, I thought I would repost a section of my earlier post on Starting Point: Sola Scriptura, that includes my views on tradition. For your edification and comment.

While tradition, which includes all creeds, catechisms, articles, and confessions, is important as the accumulated wisdom of the church, it all came into being based on Scripture and contrary to Scripture is not infallible, only reliable and that reliability must be reaffirmed by every generation of Christians. I should say that I see tradition as very Anglican in essence because it is arrived at through reasonable discourse, by applying rational argument to the witness of Scripture. Tradition’s fundamental weakness, at least for me, fits nicely into Paul’s statements about “knowing in part” and “seeing through a mirror darkly”. It is the moon to Scripture’s sun. It is only a reflection. In the end it is to Scripture we return, and it is there we all should start. This is not to say tradition and the reason used to arrive at it are not important, they are. After all, we are all called to be Bereans are we not or we risk becoming ignoble, to turn Paul’s famous assessment to its flipside. But the salient point is this, while Paul elevated the production of tradition to a noble endeavor, it is only the handmaiden of truth seeking belief, while Scripture remains the Rosetta Stone of all opinion.

There you have it. Agree? Disagree? Don’t care…

  5 comments for “Tradition

  1. Politickal Animal
    April 5, 2005 at 4:55 pm

    Umm… I’m not real bright, so please forgive any missing points as I respond. You write a very good thought in your reprint segment. Tradition can be a Spirit-killing thing whenever it is elevated to the status of sacred cow. Interestingly, shorter term Protestant congregations than the Roman Catholics have managed quite well to do this very thing. Yet the tendency has been to hang the tradition albatross around their Catholic and Anglican necks and feel pretty good about our Protestant (or non-Catholic) selves. But how do we explain the big-time church fights that erupt over things like changes in worship times, changes in hymnals, changes in which Bible translation is being used, changes in worship style to accommodate more contemporary persons? Is it tradition? Yes. And human orneryness, combined.

    Which leads me to comment very briefly here that I believe the big heresy of the American Church (pick your denomination and insert here________) is the relatively new tradition we call individualism, aka privatized religion, aka “deeply personal faith,” or “My Jesus.” Fragmented beliefs as to what makes church “church” or what makes a Christian “Christian” of a host of individuals is no different than the Tower of Babel in its impact on congregations and whole denominations. And so many times that impact is a negative, divisive one. Just my random thoughts. Thanks!

  2. April 6, 2005 at 12:48 am

    Tradition, with a capital T is usually reserved for more than worship times and hymnals, but I see your point and agree wholeheartedly. When we major in the minors we do God a disservice.

    I also see your point on indvidualism and “deeply personal faith” which I might not connect as strongly as you did. But having come out of the Episcopal Church, I have seen what true division is about, and since I have only been the member of two churches in 29 years, I haven’t had the chance to witness picayune divisiveness in the same way you may have. Where the church I was a member had a problem with changes, it wasn’t so much tradition as habit and failure of leadership to support the members as much as rule the members.

    Thanks for commenting and by the way, you are brighter than you give yourself credit for.

  3. April 6, 2005 at 7:24 am

    Those without creeds ususally have a pet phrases and teachings which are unofficial creeds. It is the way people learn, yes learn about God, is to have foundational ideas that they hang things on.

  4. April 6, 2005 at 7:54 am

    Terry, an interesting premise for a posting. It would seem even those with creeds go through the same processes and that we all develop a framework, what some would call a worldview or paradigm of belief, that defines how we think about and approach what we believe. Thanks for commenting.

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