I think right off the bat of the traditional hymns of the Christian Church which are so rich with solid Biblical theology, praise to God and comfort for the worshiper. The tragedy is that today, traditional hymnology is being discarded in favor of modern chorusology. A tragic and spiritually impoverishing loss! We must have both the old hymns and new choruses, not either or. “Modernity’s Children” are so often characterized by having no sense of history. They therefore tend to carte blanche trifle with all tradition as completely outdated and expendable.
However there are great dangers in paradosis, such as the carrying on of traditions without the slightest awareness of why. Thoughtless traditions which then become empty repetitions! In a comic strip a son asked his father, “Dad, why do we always have turkey on Thanksgiving?” The father hesitantly answered, “Well…because it is tradition.” The son asked, “What is tradition?” His brother interrupted him and said, “Tradition is something we’ve been doing for so long that we can’t even remember why.” That is the danger isn’t it? The brother didn’t realize how profound his words really were.
There is another and even greater danger in paradosis
, and that is simply accepting theologically what is being handed down from our church fathers and forefathers without searching the Word of God to verify its Biblical basis. Because Great Grandpa, Grandpa and Pa believed it and practiced it, or disbelieved it and did not practice it, we also unquestionably do or do not the same. Traditions blindly preserved in ecclesiastical formaldehyde. Living spiritually totally on “HAND ME DOWNS.
” That is exactly what Martin Luther fought against at the risk of his very life. Much more on him later.
Perhaps that is why for the most part, the word paradosis has such a negative connotation in the Bible. For instance, we read in Mark 7:13 Jesus saying to the Pharisees and the Scribes,
“Thus invalidating the Word of God by your tradition (paradosis) which you
have handed down; and you do many things such as that
“TRADITION IS A TWO EDGED SWORD. IT CAN EITHER BRING YOU CLOSER
TO GOD, OR DRAW YOU FURTHER AWAY FROM GOD.“
MR. NAMELESS – FACELESS TRADITION
I recall vividly, as if it were yesterday, having a very intense discussion as a pastor with an elder in my Ann Arbor, MI church about I Corinthians 12:1-11 and several related Scriptures. As I affirmed the Word of God about the “Supernatural Gifts of the Holy Spirit,” and strongly emphasized the Biblical basis for each and all of them, he said that they no longer existed. I told him that the Apostle Paul says that they do. He responded that they do not because the church fathers over the centuries said they do not, and that they all could not be wrong – TRADITION. Bam!
Suddenly there he was! I had never met him so forcefully and immovably. I permitted the Scriptures to be, and he disallowed the Scriptures to be. The dominant and domineering historical and sometimes hysterical figure in so many churches:
“MR. NAMELESS – FACELESS TRADITION.”
In most denominations:
“MR. NAMELESS – FACELESS TRADITION”
has been for many years the most powerful force and the major stock-holder in the church. I had just met him, and suddenly he was no longer quite so faceless or nameless. That was the end of that discussion! I had naively believed that the Bible had the final word. I was told that Dr. Tradition had the final word. Ballgame over! Game, set, match!
I had believed for years as a young lad that the most difficult challenge and miracle for Jesus Christ was the raising of Lazarus from the dead. I found out that compared to trying to convince the Pharisees of the error of their traditions, the raising of Lazarus for Jesus was a piece of cake. (Mark 7:9)
After the declaration from the elder, which was more like “Tradition’s Fiat,” it became from that point on the dialogue of the deaf. I sat there with my dear wife, and he sat there surrounded by the traditional bearded ghosts of church history. I had the Bible on my side, and he had the traditions of the church on his side. Stalemate! Gridlock! Hopeless! I was soon dropped-kicked through the traditional ecclesiastical goal posts of life. Tradition is also a powerful “Kicker–Outer.”
Amazing, even if you have God and His Word on your side, tradition and traditionalists still believe that they are in the majority. With a bit of a different spin, the following story illustrates the point!
Isaac Asimov once told the story about a certain Rabbi Feldman who was having trouble with his congregation. The president of the congregation said to him, “Rabbi, this cannot be allowed to continue. Come, there must be a conference, and we must settle this once and for all.”
The Rabbi agreed to the conference with the church board. At the appointed time, the Rabbi, the church president and the ten elders met in a conference room in the synagogue, sitting around a magnificent mahogany table. One by one the issues were brought up and dealt with. It became more and more apparent that the Rabbi was a lonely voice in the wilderness.
The president of the synagogue said, “Come, Rabbi, enough of this. Let us vote and allow the majority to rule.” He then passed out the slips of paper and each man wrote his vote, yea or nay. The slips were then collected and the president said, “You may examine them Rabbi. It is eleven to one against you. We have the majority. You must leave.”
Whereupon the Rabbi rose to his feet in offended majesty! He said, “So, you now think because of the vote that you are right and I am wrong. Well, that is not so. I stand here – and he raised his arms impressively toward Heaven – and call upon the Holy One of Israel to give us a sign that I am right and you are wrong.” As he said this, there came a brilliant flash of lightning and a frightful crack of thunder that struck the mahogany table and split it right in two. The room was filled with smoke and fumes, and the president and the elders were hurled to the floor.
Through it all, the Rabbi remained erect, untouched and unshaken. His eyes were flashing and there was a wry smile on his face. Slowly the president lifted himself from the floor above what was left of the table. His hair was singed and his glasses were hanging from one ear. His clothing was in complete disarray. Finally he said, “All right, eleven to two, but we still have the majority.”
Oh yes, I know, denouncing traditional, doctrinal error and reclaiming lost truth may well split your world in two. It did mine. You may stand there with God and His Word on your side, with miracles happening in your church, and still be told that you are in the minority, and that you must leave! I am no stranger to the Rabbi’s feelings. Tradition may well separate you from your church, your entire family, your cozy ecclesiastical 70 degree comfort zone, and the support system of all your friends. Not easy! I know!
A little girl wrote to her pastor, “Dear Pastor, I heard you say in your sermon that we are to love our enemies. I am only six and do not have any enemies yet. I hope to have some when I am seven. Love, Jennifer.” Well Jennifer, you won’t have to wait until later to have enemies. All you have to do is declare that you believe in the gifts of healings, miracles, speaking in tongues etc., and you will have lots of enemies. To turn them into insty-enemies, let it be known that you pray in tongues. Love, Bob.
Of course, I still pointed out to the elder that just because a teaching is ancient does not make it necessarily Biblical. It may be nothing more than the aged, gray-headedness of old error, as gray hairs do not make something or someone automatically saintly. Just because certain false teachings have lasted for thousand of years means only that they have had longevity, and are as false now as they were at their beginning.
Dear God, it is no compensation at all that when a man contracts and dies of a contagious and vicious disease, he is be able to say that he caught it from an honorable, well-meaning but very lethal person. All of that only ticked the elder off more!
I remember hearing in the background the warning of the Apostle Paul echoing and reechoing down through the ages in Colossians 2:8,
“See to it that no ones takes you captive through philosophy and empty
deception, according to the tradition of men….
For this is how it has unfolded throughout church history over and over again:
“ERROR BECOMES TRADITION, ERRONEOUS TRADITION BECOMES FALSE
DOGMA, AND FALSE DOGMA TAKES PEOPLE HOSTAGE.
Frightening to think about, isn’t it? I am not suggesting that we throw away all tradition. But what the Bible does command is that we throw tradition away with great vigor whenever we find that it violates the truth of God’s Word. This is a well-deserved rebuke to those who confine themselves within the borders of tradition, when they should be breaking through those borders, forever leaving them behind, and launching out into new frontiers of hitherto non-confessed and unexplored truth.
Of course, it often means that because of reclaimed truth and the shedding of tradition, a lot of other traditional ecclesiastical structures and liturgies may well have to be pried lose and replaced too. For instance, you may have to get rid of the baby-sprinkling fount and build a baptismal immersion pool. As the old saying goes:
“YOU CANNOT MAKE OMELETS WITHOUT BREAKING THE EGGS.”
When tradition contradicts Scripture, we must call it for what it is, and what I have called it for years:
What tradictional churches then end up doing in effect is to erect two contrary wills under the one will. Even worse, to place two contradictory wills in the same Divine will. Then when they must preserve tradiction, they make His alleged will of tradiction superior to the revealed will of His Word. Then the “God of Tradiction” ends up contradicting the “God of the Word.” God contradicts Himself. Crazy stuff! Lethal stuff! Destructive stuff!
When the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, many people were killed outright. There were countless others however who appeared to be unaffected and unscathed on the basis of external observation. Yet unknowingly they had been contaminated by a deadly pollutant. It was invisible, but it entered the flesh of those victims and settled in their bones and is to this very day busy destroying them.
There are all kinds of bombs! Neutron Bombs! Atomic Bombs! Bunker Buster Bombs! Roadside Bombs! However in church history there have been and still are Tradiction Bombs, the fall-out of which are still poisoning and killing the minds of men with their lethal fall-out. These exploded over and over again Tradiction Bombs are insidious in the ways in which they infect the mind with error and falsehood that pass themselves off as absolute truth. As their fall-out continues, eyes are blinded, truth is hidden, and churches are disfigured and disabled from generation to generation.
The precious gifts of the Holy Spirit in my tradictional background had been bombed into oblivion by Tradiction Bombs. The horror of the Atom Bomb cannot be overstated. Neither can the horror of Tradiction Bombs.
But how in the world, or should we ask how in the church does Tradiction replace Scripture? Good question! I knew that it was coming! Huge study required here! I don’t have the space. We must remember that both doctrinally and practically:
“TRADICTION IS AUTHORED BY MAN, AND SCRIPTURE IS AUTHORED BY GOD.”
That seems simplistically obvious, but it is the key to understanding what is happening. Let me put it another way:
“TRADICTION HAS MAN’S INTEREST AS PRIMARY, AND SCRIPTURE HAS
GOD’S INTERESTS AS PRIMARY.”
If you will, tradiction is motivated by self-interest! Always! What does the human self feel most comfortable with? Comfortable self-interest will always replace uncomfortable and unpredictable truth. Church people want to be preacher-centered and themselves pew-centered. It is much more comfortable that way. But the gifts of the Spirit speaking and moving through the entire body of Christ make Christianity stereophonic and no longer monophonic. God is coming from everywhere unpredictably rather than coming from just the pulpit predictably. Very unsettling for the now uncomfortable, challenged self!
So that when truth is unsettling to self, comfortable tradiction will in an religio-evolutionary way be allowed and encouraged to downgrade truth, first to mere probability, then to optional status, and eventually to downright falsehood. That is true in every area, though we are only talking here about one area – the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Religious homosexuals are attempting from self-interest to begin new tradictions in the church that legitimize perversion in the name of God. Positive-thinking gurus in the church are attempting to begin the tradiction of a no-Hell gospel that is far more palatable to the human self. Listen:
“SELF-INTEREST WILL ALWAYS OUTWEIGH TRUTH. THAT IN A NUTSHELL IS
THE EVOLUTION OF TRADICTION
The Lord gives us a stern warning in Luke 11:35,
“Then watch out that the light in you may not be darkness.”
Likewise, I would have to add a similar warning:
“THEN WATCH OUT THAT THE TRUTH IN YOU MAY NOT BE TRADICTION.”
For while it is true about mankind in general as stated in John 3:19,
“…and men loved the darkness rather
than the light.”
So it must be said about many religious people in particular:
“THEY LOVED TRADICTION RATHER THAN TRUTH
For of a certainty, there is nothing harder to free a church from than:
ROMAN CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT TRADICTION
This can be illustrated in the history of the Roman Catholic Church more clearly than anywhere else. We have just celebrated the great Protestant Reformation launched by Martin Luther on October 31, 1517. Martin nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, calling the Roman Catholic Church to confront its errors on 95 counts.
Martin Luther was a most admirable and courageous brother to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude for his strong devotion to the truth of God’s Word. We all as “Protestants” live in the blessings of Martin Luther’s “Protest” every day of our lives.
Tragically, there are very, very few Martin Luther’s in the modern Protestant Church at large today, even though we now need them more than ever. It has been stated that:
“HE WHO SETTLES FOR HALF TRUTHS IS ONLY HALF A MAN.”
Martin Luther was a whole man! Luther refused to play loose and fast with the truth of God’s Word to bolster “Roman Catholic Church Tradictions.”
You may recall that the Roman Catholic Church in Luther’s day had kept the Bible away from the common man by keeping it closed under a double lock of an unknown language (Latin) and a less than reliable translation. The Popes and their Red Birds (Cardinals) were in the business of keeping men ignorant of Scripture, and instructing them to know nothing but what they were told by the church hierarchy and oral, unwritten tradiction.
In short, the people were told to see through other men’s eyeballs, until at last they lost their spiritual sight altogether. What a damnable and damning scheme! Those were dark days of massive ignorance of the Scriptures, and the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy made sure that it stayed that way in order to keep the people biblical illiterates, and to keep the lucrative and suppressive church system going. The number one fear was:
“THAT THE TERRIBLE BOOK OF THE BIBLE SHOULD EVER COME
TO BE UNSEALED AND REVEALED TO THE LAITY.“
In short, they dulled the people’s understanding of the truth that they might command their services. They blinded their eyes that they might lead them wherever they would. The Catholic theologian by the name of Canon Charles Davis left the Catholic Church because of what he called:
“THE CONCERN FOR AUTHORITY AT THE EXPENSE OF TRUTH.”
This hitherto unchallenged and unquestioned authority had given rise to rampant Roman Catholic Tradictions such as the sale of indulgences, priestly mediation, confession booths, purgatory, justification by works, transubstantiation, image worship, Maryolatry, baptismal salvation, praying to saints and a host of other contradictions to the Word of God. Luther found 95.
Enter Martin Luther who had his 95 howitzers not only, but Luther labored to translate the Bible into the German language of the common people, and the rest is history. And when the Bible was restored to the common man, a very strong part of the credo of Protestant Christianity thankfully and urgently became:
“SOLA SCRIPTURA – SCRIPTURE ALONE.”
However Sola Scriptura, this time in Protestantism, is less and less being embraced any more. As a matter of fact, TRADICTION in many Protestant churches is not only on the same level with but often transcends SCRIPTURE today. Let’s state it as succinctly and as clearly as we can. Whether we can believe it or not, much of Protestant Christianity holds to this conviction:
“TRADITION IS THE INFALLIBLE JUDGE OF SCRIPTURE, AND SCRIPTURE IS
NOT THE INFALLIBLE JUDGE OF TRADITION
This is exactly what happened to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in my ecclesiastical background, nothing more and nothing less. Protestant Tradiction! The supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit have been tradicted. Tradiction said that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ended with the Apostles, that they were replaced by the completed Bible, and that they were merely temporal scaffolding for the infant 1st century church. None of those theories are even faintly Biblical, but still to this day the “God of Truth” has been made subservient to the “God of Tradiction.”
There was a great light that began to shine during the powerful “Charismatic Renewal” of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s which illumined transdenominationally the glorious truths of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Scripture. The vast tradictional, false theological wasteland and empty space concerning the Holy Spirit and His gifts began to be occupied by truth. But in my church, tradiction quickly shrunk that opening back again to nothing. All that might have been seemed to pass away forever. The door of opportunity closed as quickly as it opened. Which serves as a strong warning and rebuke to those who allow their convictions to stop at some “Tradictional Boundary.”
The grass-roots parishioner who is born into and raised up in a certain denomination most typically and blindly accepts what his church teaches him as being God’s honest truth. I know, because I did that for many years. The grassroots “Church Joe” never digs deeply into the Word of God to verify what he is being told. The results on a wide scale are often ignorance and deception. And after all, who wants to admit to either? It is a demeaning thing to have to confess that you have believed fallacy instead of truth, and that you have been deceived for most of your life. That is disorienting and demeaning stuff.
Nonetheless, Martin Luther taught us this principle by his remarkable life:
“ONLY THOSE WHO SEEK THE TRUTH FOR THEMSELVES ARE THE REAL
CANDIDATES FOR FINDING IT.”
Jesus said, “Seek and you shall find.” If not, the chances are strong that you are being and will be TRADICTED. Why? Because many historic tradictions remain, and many new tradictions are being instituted in the modern Protestant churches with each passing year.
I will point out just a few of the many current Church Tradictions. Changing the names of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to Sun, Light and Burning Ray! (Presbyterian Church USA) Accepting practicing homosexuals and lesbians as full church members, as well as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ! (United Methodist Church) Declaring same-sex marriages as God’s will for people’s lives! (Episcopalian Church) Selling and retailing God’s graces- Protestant Indulgences. (Charismaniacs) I could fill up many pages with new tradictions that right in front of our faces these days are corrupting modern Christianity. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit of God is saying!