Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Tradition, Part Two

Here's more excerpts from Michael Weed's excellent essay entitled "Tradition: A Stranger to the Modern World and Church" found in the current issue of Austin Graduate School of Theology's Christian Studies (Volume 21):

To dismiss the importance of wise practices and traditions that we have received from generations that have gone before us is a recipe for unstable churches and superficial faith. To alter or dismiss a practice because "it's merely a tradition," or to promote an innovation simply because "there's no verse against it" -- much less, "other churches are doing it" -- is an invitation to make the church vulnerable to the shifting winds of the surrounding culture and to discard centuries of Christian wisdom. While we often need a better understanding of the meaning and purpose of existing traditions, lack of understanding is no basis for discarding a tradition.

To revise or replace a tradition wisely is to do so with a better tradition, i.e., a practice that better accomplishes the tasks of guarding that which has been entrusted to the church and of passing on the faith. One should ask, "Does the proposed practice/tradition better enable the church to 'hold fast the traditions' (2 Thess 2.15), to 'entrust to faithful men what you have heard' (2 Tim 2.2), to 'continue in what you have learned' (2 Tim 3.13), and to guard the church against threats both from within and without?" Or does the new practice, however unintentionally, yield to pressures of the surrounding culture -- and perhaps especially the "emerging church" culture? Unless such considerations have been carefully weighed, received traditions should not be abandoned.


One hundred years from now, if baseball is still being played, baseball players will practice fielding grounders and flies, take batting practice, run wind sprints, honor a curfew, and submit to weight checks. None of these disciplines is required by the rules of the game. They are, however, extremely important for fielding a team capable of playing the game of baseball well and for developing a "winning tradition." Over time, some training practices/traditions change (e.g., many trainers no longer encourage athletes to run stadium steps due to indications this may damage knee cartilage), and new training methods replace older ones because they better accomplish the task of equipping baseball players to play the game of baseball well.

One thing is certain, one hundred years from now, if baseball is still being played, successful baseball teams -- whether Little League or the Cleveland Indians -- will rigorously practice the disciplines necessary for playing baseball well.

Would anyone expect less of churches entrusted with equipping children and adults to live faithful lives?