Vol.XV No.XI Pg.7
January 1979

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

To what extent should "traditions" govern our present study and practice? Should they be given ANY place?


"Tradition" (2 Thes. 3:6) refers to teachings passed down by inspired men (2 Thes. 2:15); hence, not all "traditions" are bad. I assume, however, that the querist refers to concepts and practices having no higher authority than "usage" or long time acceptance by men, without divine authority. Should things "we've always done" for 30, 50 or 150 years, govern or affect our study and practice today?

They will do so! It is practically impossible to be completely objective for we "see" things through glasses of experience. But knowing this, we should draw conclusions with caution. Does God's word really say this, or am I reading into the text traditional concepts or practices? If we believe the scriptures are the "last word" of truth, we will do all possible to read with an open mind, hungry for pure truth uncolored by human traditions. A genuine believer and true disciple of Christ may be measured by his devotion to such truth.

Does this mean past studies should be ignored? No! While overconfidence in past studies may blind us to some truth it is rank egotism to think we are the only honest truth-seekers, or that others have not been as capable or more so in finding truth. We profit greatly by cumulative studies and conclusions, and "new" (?) views must be regarded with great suspicion. But all of man's conclusions are subject to review in the light of God's word, and truth will shine more brightly under such investigation. Traditions should not govern Bible study, and should be respected only as previous efforts to find truth are respected.

Traditional practices (of human origin) may represent previous concepts of truth, and are included in the above. But they may also be no more than previous methods of doing something, being begun not as a matter of faith but of judgment or expediency. Unfortunately, long usage may clothe the practice with "authority" in the eyes of some, when in reality they do not even represent serious Bible study. The cloth spread over the Lords Supper to keep out flies may become "the Lord's sacred shroud." When a practice is questioned conscientious saints and serious students will simply check the scriptures to see if it is truly authorized. These people have no great problem with traditions. But blind followers, sectarians (in "the church"), and those having little Bible knowledge, have no sound base and may be tradition bound.

It should also be stated that practices are not wrong because they are traditional. Long usage may prove it best to do a thing in a certain way — with no claim made for "authority." A new way may disrupt an otherwise well established and orderly worship, with no compensating advantage. Anything, done long enough, will take on a certain "traditional" aspect; and uniformity among brethren in this tradition may serve to unite them. We should, however, make clear distinctions in mere custom and things of "the faith."