The Pest of Nebulous Tradition

From Reformed Is Not Enough (p. 51):

God has created us in such a way that we do not have the luxury of a “no tradition” option. If we attempt it, the only thing we succeed in doing is incorporating a good deal of confusion into the tradition we hand down. This was seen by one wise Baptist pastor, who said, “We Baptists don’t believe in tradition. It is contrary to our historic position.” Our children grow up in our homes, and they learn countless lessons there – about worship, liturgy, devotion, cultural incarnation, and more. Most of what they know about these things is invisible to them. It is the teaching office of the Church, in part, to point out, identify, explain, and teach the biblical basis for such traditions. If there is no biblical basis for something, and the tradition is pernicious, then the point of the scriptural teaching should be in order to remove that tradition.

But the real pest is nebulous tradition. Traditions are at their worst when they grow up and are simply assumed in the bones, with no examination. But sinful human beings always need accountability – and sinful human opinions and traditions are the same. Those who compare themselves with themselves are not wise (2 Cor. 10:12).

“We do not have the luxury of a ‘no tradition’ option.” I love that. It reminds me of the case Carl Trueman makes in his book on creeds and confessions: namely, that the world is not divided between those who have creeds and those who don’t. It is divided between those who have creeds that are available for public scrutiny, and those who have private creeds, unavailable for others to see and test by Scripture.

In the same way, we are not looking at a division between people with traditions and people without traditions. Everyone has traditions. But not everyone tests their traditions by Scripture to see if they are worth keeping. Those who fail to do so are walking a dangerous road with a vertical drop at the end. The fall won’t be pretty.

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