What is Christian tradition?
One of the great sorrows of modern Christianity is the loss of tradition. The faith is 2,000 years old, yet many people don’t seem to understand that it goes back further than 500 years. Moreover, the loss of tradition means that old problems which the early Christians solved have now returned to plague the faithful
So it is needful then that we would address what tradition is and why Christians must recover and retain it.
Christian tradition is the continued life of God’s people. It contains all those teachings which our elders have passed down to us. And it allows modern Christians to build upon knowledge without the need to rediscover it. So tradition allows the religion to survive past a few generations.
Tradition allows Christians to build up religious knowledge over time. This allows them to enhance the faith. It also helps them rebuff other systems. So its loss is a great hindrance to Christianity’s continued existence. Below, we’ll address the value of tradition and what its loss has meant for the faith.
Christian Tradition Is the Continuity of Christianity
Christian tradition is the collective knowledge that Christians have built up over the centuries. Christians use the Bible as a source of axioms to accept as truth. They proceed to construct the religion using these axioms and reason.
Who Uses Christian Tradition
Christian tradition is used to construct knowledge within the Catholic and Orthodox communities. Protestants tend to reject it because tradition places constraints and standards upon them which they dislike being held to.
They reject tradition in order to permit themselves to make any claims that they like. Protestants then construct arguments to support these claims by picking self-serving verses from the Bible. The Protestant then asserts that their personal views are true because some part of the Bible seems to support them.
Why Christian Tradition Is Needed
The acceptance of tradition allows Christianity to develop over time. To accept tradition is to accept the knowledge that has been inherited from one’s forebears. To reject it is to reject their contributions and to begin the faith anew. This has the effect of destroying the history of the faith. It also ruins one’s knowledge of their place within it relative to the larger world.
Elements of Christian Tradition
Christianity has its root in the New Testament, and this book is justified by the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. The Messiah was a figure predicted to come in the Old Testament, so the Old justifies the New. It is for this reason that these two books are the foundations of Christian tradition.
Now, Christianity contains more than these two books alone. When one reads and thinks about the content contained within these, further understandings are produced. Now, if this learning is found to be in accordance with God’s designs, then it is incorporated into the religion as a whole. In this way, reason and the rulings of councils are able to add to the collection of things that are used to establish Christian doctrine.
So the existence of Christian tradition allows the Faith to contain more than that which is given in the Bible. These things include liturgical practices, conciliar rulings, artwork, and monastic schools.
Elements of Christian Tradition – List
The list below presents the elements which are used to construct Christian tradition within the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The items listed are in order of decreasing importance.
- The Bible
- Patristic writings
- The lives of saints
- Canon laws
- And artwork
Why the Bible Is Not Sufficient for the Religion
We live in a world in which Protestants have shaped the way that people think about Christianity to an enormous extent. This is a huge problem for Christianity because Protestant theology is built upon a wrong belief, and their faulty belief is harmful to the religion’s continued existence.
The destructive belief espoused by Protestants is called Sola Scriptura, and it holds that person may use the Bible to construct the Christian religion while ignoring all else which is not found within its pages.
This is the reason why so much of Protestant rhetoric takes the following form:
“Well, the Bible says (insert cherry-picked verse here). Therefore, the thing that I want to be true is true.”
Now, this way of thinking is both wrong and bad for many reasons.
Why Sola Scriptura is Wrong
It is the wrong way to think because the people who wrote the Bible did not believe that you could only use the Bible to construct the religion. The authors of the New Testament could not have believed this doctrine. This is because the book was not constructed until centuries after they had died. Meanwhile, the authors of the Old Testament could not have believed it for a similar reason.
So the people who wrote the Bible did not, and could not, believe that it was permissible to only use the Bible to construct religion. Anyone who argues otherwise must then come into conflict with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John while they are citing verses that were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Why Sola Scriptura Is Dangerous to Christianity
Further, the notion that one may use only the Bible to construct Christian doctrine is deadly to the religion. This is because ten people may read the same verse and produce ten different interpretations. And some of these views are likely to contradict one another.
So these views can’t all be correct. But they are all drawn using the same Bible and the same method. The method used is to cherry-pick verses and interpret them as the reader sees fit.
So if it could be true that Christians were permitted to pick verses from the Bible, interpret them as they saw fit, and then posit their views as acceptable Christian doctrine, then the religion would be filled with contradictions and, therefore, refute itself.
Yet no self-contradicting statement or ideology can be correct. As Christ tells us,
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
And, sure enough, the countries where Protestants have been allowed to shepherd the religion have all seen Christianity disintegrate into thousands of sects. Each of these sects teaches something different, and yet they all claim to follow the same god. The result is that Christianity has become an indefinite mess and a laughingstock wherever Protestants have brought it.
What Happens When Christians Reject Tradition
The New Testament doesn’t change. Neither does the Old. So new teachings cannot enter Christian doctrine because of updates to scripture.
Therefore, the development of religion depends upon humans producing more knowledge and adding to what already exists.
In other words, Christianity requires tradition in order to develop over time. If it rejects this, then the religion can never move past what a single person interprets of what he finds in the Bible.
So the Christians who reject tradition destroy all prior religious knowledge and effectively “reset” the theology of the religion. So heresies and other issues which had been resolved centuries prior are then able to return.
And the fact that some theological issues cannot be resolved until many others have been addressed means that to reject tradition is to also destroy the ability to answer these issues. This is because a theologian who rejects tradition is liable to die before he advances far enough into their theology to understand and respond to these question.
This is analogous to how the person who invented the wheel could not have been the person who invented the rocket. He must have died before the intermediate steps were taken.
So to reject tradition is to destroy any stores of religious knowledge which may have already been built. And this collapse of knowledge ruins a faith’s ability to respond to moral and theological issues. This is because it discarded the answers it already had and now has to rediscover them.
This collapse in the faith’s competence creates open spaces into which other religions may enter. This is the reason why systems such as Islam and Progressivism have been allowed to enter flourish in the Protestant world.