Sunday, 27 April 2008

Living Tradition

A Sydney (Anglican) trained evangelical (now a bishop) said, in response to me talking about 'the tradition', "How can you believe in something that changes?" I took it to mean he was contrasting scripture with 'the tradition' minus the scriptures. A couple of clarifying points:
  • Without the tradition it is impossible to correctly understand the Scriptures. Tradition came before Scripture. (St Paul hands on to the Corinthians what he himself was taught. See 1Cor 11.) Remember, heretics were/are always adept at scriptural 'proofs'.
  • The Scriptures are only one strand (utterly unique, authoritative and irreplaceable) of the rope that maintains apostolic succession. (More on this later.)
  • The tradition changes so that the tradition lives for each age. Traditions that don't change die out. The hard part is being faithful to the tradition without betraying it; but when we do we are part of the living Christian tradition.
A good quote on tradition from Yoder to be found at Inhabitatio Dei.


  1. Of course also if you spend sometime doing so good work with the new testament and the Old we discover hundreds if not thousands of variations within the texts themselves. Scripture itself can hardly claim to be static. If you claim scripture is static which variations is one claiming as having authority.

  2. Quite. Even those who want to emphasise that the scriptures are static in that the canon is closed, must acknowledge the variety of ways it is used. Although, having said that, the fact that the canon is closed (albeit with the variety of interpretations down the ages) does suggest that there is a limit to the variation. Indeed, I think the tradition that we now recognise as orthodox (particular as related to the Trinity and the Incarnation) closes down some interpretations. But even so, as you say, huge possibilities of interpretive variety are right there in Scripture.