Why do we need concern ourselves with lessons from men and women long dead?
Why should we explore their contributions?
I have been wrestling with these questions for a long time. Sadly it was not very long before that time that I would have made a snark remark about tradition. I would have arrogantly said something along the lines like “Who cares!?! Why would I care what someone who was catholic had to think about God? I mean they pray to Mary! They obviously have no idea what they were doing.”. I would have continued my rant with some blissfully ignorant idea that we(Pentecostals) were finally reclaiming true Christianity from the grips of centuries worth of failure. It is strange to me how quickly religion will box in a previously very open and wondrous mind. I was young and dumb. I am still young and dumb. Although thankfully the last three years have been a process of Holy Spirit reviving that open mindedness. So why tradition? Simply put, because none of us have ever had it all together. None of the church; past, or present, have ever been 100% right. Not a single generations has successfully married proper action with proper doctrine. And it is okay!!! Tradition is important because it refuses close mindedness and the false idea that we have it all together! I love the words of G.K. Chesterton on the importance of tradition:
“Tradition means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”
-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
I am by no means an expert in tradition but I am on a journey of discovering ancient paths that have been walked by influential men and women as they followed Jesus. I fully believe a great deal of American Protestantism needs a heavy dose of tradition. The church mostly exists on ideas and doctrines that are mere centuries old. Of course that does not make them wrong, but it should make them subject to investigation in light of traditions much older and agreed upon. My world was turned up on it’s head when I realized just how small my Pentecostal world view really was. Most of my theology was literally a drop in an ocean of ideas and concepts. I was never really exposed to anything beyond a typical conservative Alabama church tradition. Honestly I do not think the majority of the church has really stepped outside of their particular context to gaze at these beautiful truths! I hope in some small way to change that!
I agree so much with how Chesterton spoke of the need for tradition. It acknowledges the relevance of those great Saints before us and continues to give them a voice in directing and molding the church. It honestly frees us from the false idea that we need to reinvent the wheel with every generation. It frees us from the stress and confusion of trying to figure this whole thing out all over again. Of course the church must evolve culturally and in methodology but with out deep roots in the beautiful history of the church we shall surely find ourselves looking very little like that of the church that Christ inaugurated. Tradition enables us to be true to who we are as believers and enjoy the work of the Kingdom here and now in an ever changing and evolving culture!
Tradition steadies us on issue that have been settled for ages. We do not need more councils to decide what is considered truth on the trinity all because of tradition. Because of tradition we are able to be unified in the essentials and enjoy liberty in the non-essentials! The present church has so much to learn from each other and even more from the echoes of our kindred of centuries past! So let’s do it! Let’s abandon our terribly narrow view of our great God and plunge ourselves into the beautiful ocean of grace that has permeated all of history!
So what importance do you think traditions holds?
Through whom, to whom, and for whom all things exist!