Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Sunday, May 28, 2006

"Tradition, Tradition! Tradition!"

I'm a big fan of "Fiddler on the Roof". One of the best-known parts of the musical is when Tevye sings about the importance of tradition to his community and how the ideas of the young people were challenging this. He doesn't answer with God's Word or with common sense, just "Tradition!"

How much does our own belief and practice rest upon tradition, rather than the Word of God?

Some who are of a more modernising mindset may say, "Not me!" But do they delude themselves? Are they merely "neo-traditionalists"? Do their beliefs and practices rest as much on tradition (albeit modern evangelical tradition) as the old fuddy-duddies? One of the most amusing things I find is to hear NIV'ers use the same arguments as some AV'ers when confronted with the inadequacies of their favoured translation: "We've used it for so long." "I think it sounds better."

We all need to ask ourselves: are we seeking to know God's will, rather than our own will or that of others (even the Puritans!). Are we even depending on authority figures to interpret God's Word for us, rather than being like the Bereans who, even though confronted by the Apostle Paul, "were more noble-minded... for they examin[ed] the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."

Are we imposing our traditions on others? Are we ridiculing others for traditionalism, when we ourselves are guilty of it? Are we assuming that others are being traditionalist, when they actually might be following Scripture?

Just as importantly, are we living up to what we profess? What hypocrites we can be!

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22)

9 Comments:

Blogger Philip S Taylor said...

Tradition can be a good thing as long as it does not trump God's Word. Sadly it does for many people. I remember Phillip Jensen (Sydney Anglican) saying that he hated tradition when it got in the way for obediance and service. So, he never put the flower arrangements in the same place in the church. He never kept the piano in the same place. He preached from different locations, and wore different styles of clothes.

He may have taken it too far on some things but as far as the circumstances of corporate worship go I think he had a point.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 12:04:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

There is a place for tradition, but it should not become authoritative. E.g. I think those translations who sought to follow on from the tradition of the AV, e.g. the NKJV, NASB, ESV and RSV, were sensitive to the accumulated memorisation of the previous generations, whereas the NIV was unnecessarily disruptive.

Some people can be too revolutionary, always wanting the new fad. They are merely slaves to fashion and don't seek what is profitable. In a sense, this is partly what I call neo-traditionalism. Are we wanting to change a custom, but it is completely unnecessary and disruptive? Sometimes the sensitivities of the older members of the congregation can be trampled on for the sake of the youth. We need to be loving and sensitive towards all the members of the congregation, instead of being selfish.

In the recent discussions on the Lord's Supper we were discussing how for many people an impediment to more frequent observance is merely "this is the way we've always done it", rather than thinking what is Biblical or what is profitable. There are also those who say, "The Puritans and Covenanters did it this way," in such a way that it is clear they are making them authoritative.

Are our traditions blinding us to the rightness of other believer's arguments from Scripture? Are our traditions profitable, or are they impediments to true spirituality? There is a difference between profitable, non-authoritative custom, and vain, authoritative tradition.

"'And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men..." (Mark 7:7,8)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 12:29:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Doug Wilson has talked about the comfort we derive from good traditions, both in the Church and in the family. I think he makes a good point. Order is a good thing, and the familiarity of traditions, e.g. summer trips to the North Coast, etc., can make for happy memories.

I would also ask, are our traditions divorcing us from the society around us? Are they an unnecessary impediment to the Gospel?

The opposite danger is conformity to the World and the adoption of their methods in opposition to the guidance of God's Word.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 12:44:00 pm  
Blogger Philip S Taylor said...

So being an RP what traditions would you like to see the axe laid to and what traditions can you live with? What new traditions would you like to start?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 5:10:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Traditions are often at a congregational level, but here are some unhelpful ones (in my opinion) or bad behaviors associated with traditions at a general denominational level:

1. Infrequent Lord's Supper.
2. Communion seasons.
3. Widespread use of the NIV. (Based on the belief that it's the best translation? I don't think so!)
4. The use of Communion tokens. My old congregation, Bready, tried to kill this on two occasions, and we lost by one vote last time. I was told by a member of Synod that some old elder beside him woke-up during the vote and looked around him; seeing everyone with their hand up, he stuck his up too. This vote swung it!
5. Believing that someone is almost immoral because they don't go with the majority consensus, e.g. if a woman wears a head-covering then they're obviously Pharisaical and a danger to society!
6. The belief that all AV'ers are necessarily traditionalists.
7. Cutting Synod discussions prematurely or not giving men enough time to examine the arguments because you don't want to exceed the time limit, do you! (A good moderator is one who stays within the time limit, full stop.)
8. A fear of open discussion about controversial issues. (Obviously if you think a certain group of people are prone to division, then that is another matter.) All churches (not just RP) need to develop a greater openness to people having different opinions. Obviously wrong opinions need corrected, but they'll never get corrected unless people are free to express them!

The following is another case of misguided ideas of authority, rather than tradition:

People forming opinions based merely on the authority of pastors/ theological staff without thinking for themselves. "But Mr So-and-so doesn't think so." (No arguments provided but this.) You don't want to make your own arguments do you? (Especially at Synod. If you can't think through an issue yourself, then don't vote!) This is not the fault of those exalted to this status. (Although a quick reminder now and then wouldn't go amiss!)

Cliquishness is a problem too, but that isn't exactly RP-only!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 7:57:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

One thing I would add by way of balance: traditionalism isn't as widespread as some make out at times. I'm glad to be RP and I think we do try pretty hard to be Biblical. Otherwise I wouldn't be here! I also think that old-style traditionalism is dying off, but there is always the other danger of neo-traditionalism from modern evangelicalism.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 8:03:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Okay, one more RP tradition which could do with being axed: the variability in tunes per Psalm, esp. the propensity of some precentors to want to change the tune they use everytime they precent. (I went to one congregation and didn't know a single tune. Boy, was the precentor working hard!)

Does this help people with private and family worship? Does this help people embed the words in their minds? I don't think so!

I'd rather be like our RPCNA brethren, who stick to the same tune for each Psalm portion. I'm currently putting together a list for my own family primarily based on - wait for it - traditional tunes!

Peculiarly RPCI, I think, Phil!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 9:21:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Another tradition common to conservative evangelicalism found in the RP church is the belief that the temperate consumption of alcoholic beverages is a sin. Where is this in the Word of God?

"And wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart." (Psa. 104:15)

Pharisaical additions to God's Word are serious sins:

"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book." (Rev. 22:18)

Nevertheless, consumption of such beverages must be taken with caution as is often mentioned in the Books of Proverbs. Let us be temperate in all things. Why would a man want more than a glass, except to be affected or to impress his friends?

Sunday, June 04, 2006 4:21:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Okay, another tradition common to all Presbyterian churches sadly: committeeism. We have replaced the sort of debate that the Council of Elders in Jerusalem had in Acts 15 with committees.

This is absolutely antithetical to Biblical Presbyterianism and disgusts me.

We have also replaced presbytery-level and synod-level diaconates with committees. I believe that the first diaconate in Acts 6 was at the presbytery level, based on the traditional arguments that Jerusalem had more than one congregation.

Thursday, June 15, 2006 10:31:00 pm  

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