Thursday, June 15, 2006

Scripture and Tradition

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Not unrelated our recent discussion in the nature of Scripture's authority in relationship to "tradition," which is actually a question of how the believing and bible-reading community works in the interpretation of texts.

What does tradition mean, and what is it for? I posted this on Alan's blog:
I would say that Jesus was criticizing the obedience to human tradition that has set itself up against scripture. It doesn't look to me like a case of Jesus saying, "You guys shouldn't have traditions, you should read the Bible instead."

On an important level, "tradition" is the history of the church's bible reading, it's attempts to be faithful to the text (and moreover the god to whom it attests!) throughout history. We continue to tweak our traditions of theology and praxis as we go back to the text and always try to read it together with the opened eyes and burning hearts he gives to us.

For my own, kinda-protestant, kinda-catholic purposes, I'd define "Tradition" as those readings which are permanantly privileged, e.g. the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Chalcedonian Definition - just for a start.

On a practical level for me, it means I have to have dialogue with the Fathers and all kinds of people (even the Reformers!) to some degree as I consider what the Scriptures "mean" just as I must do so with my own local, covenented, sacramentally-bound community.
What do you think about that kind of definition, and sense of tradition's "authority"? Mind you that I'm not suggesting by any means that there are somehow two "streams" of authority, Bible and Tradition, with one pitted against the other. (Remember that particularly in debates like this, sometimes what isn't said is as important as what is.)

Also, Alan has asked a direct and perhaps challenging question you might want to go tangle with:
If in the Bible, it NEVER says that it (the Bible) is the sole authority in life and doctrine, then how is it that many of us believe such a thing?
Go get all up in that.


Heather said...

We all approach the Scriptures with some type of baggage, "cultural blinders," if you will. Kant, Nietzsche, and Derrida all speak of perspectivisim. As the Universal Church, we have an advantage. Whereas I may be limited by my perspective, I have the opportunity to balance that with 2000 years of church history and with the global church today. Tradition gives me a different set of glasses to interpret Scripture as well as orthodox boundaries with the freedom to explore and dance with God. I come from an evangelical background and appreciate the rediscovery of the grounding tradition from Tertullian, Augustine, Thomas a Kempis, Jeanne Guyon, Luther, through Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Anonymous said...


This issue is most important. I tried to leave a trackback on your site back to Chaos and Old Night, but I was not certain how to do it. Our most recent post interacts with this very issue, except that we argue against Grenz and Franke, saying that Scripture alone is sufficient to reveal God. In other words we are arguing against the coherentism of Grenz and Franke, that tradition functions as an authority. We try to put forth the idea thw tradition is a guide, which stops us from re-inventing the wheel as it were (i.e. Nicea and Chalcedon et al).

I would encourage you all to take a look at an alernative perspective here:


+ Alan said...

I think I'd put it like this - as opposed to two streams - I would say that Tradition and Scripture are two channels in the same stream. They will not be opposed to each other. They flow in the same direction, both being used by the same Spirit to lead us into all Truth.

Kyle said...

Well said, folks.

Thanks, Jason. I don't know what coherentism is, but I'll check out the post soon. :0)