To whom does tradition belong?
I studied theology in school. Something that comes with that territory is strong opinions about what God is like, what the Bible is and anything else related to those two. I have them, you have them, churches have them, pastors have them, we all try to pursue God and all of us have somewhat differing perspectives if we really get into it.
This disagreement can be good and helpful, but it becomes a problem when it becomes entrenched. For instance, I once was at a church where after talking to the pastor for a while I realized he would come at me – theologically speaking – if I didn’t believe close to what he did about how to interpret the book of Revelation. I’ve also seen and heard many snide comments along the lines of “well if they don’t interpret the Bible like this than they aren’t really Christians.”
The thing is, the Bible isn’t ours, its Christianity’s
Our theology was not made on an island, it’s a conversation with what has been believed through all history
Just take the Bible.
The Bible is a compilation of many books written over about a thousand years that people in various times and in various places thought were worth keeping, transmitting, editing, redacting, and compiling. Over the process of time, scribes preserved texts, but they also could (as was a custom in the ancient world) edit them if they thought something would be improved. This is particularly true of the Old Testament, and what this means is that it’s impossible to talk about any one person “writing” a book, let alone keeping it and preserving it.
This process, the process of tradition, is how we assume God has worked in and through the people to give us what we have today, and it is beautiful.
The beauty in tradition is that it belongs to none of us, but that it also belongs to all of us. We have all be given what has been passed on from before, and over time have come to see God’s working in and through it. We see the faults and the failures, but also the joys and the flashes of brilliance, and, given enough time, we see God working in it all. The touch is always passed on.
In my field there are strong opinions, but there is also an understanding that this whole thing is bigger than us. The mystery of God can and should be taken seriously, but is still never able to be firmly able to be in our grasp. We can add to the great cloud of witnesses, but we can never claim that others joining the conversation don’t belong to it too. The beauty of Tradition is that is welcomes all who will join and follow. The life of faith
My mother occasionally makes a thing she calls Southwest surprise, the recipe is as follows.
Tomatoes (whole or canned)
Southwest seasonings (garlic, chili powder, paprika, salt, pepper, etc)
Whatever else seems good at the time (that’s the surprise)
Music: Helplessness Blues: Fleet Foxes. This is a great song about moving from the self to the whole.
O God beyond all of us. Thank you for the mystery that is your work in, though, and among us. Help us to be mindful of the ways you work through others. Help us to be open to those whom we may not like or those who are not like us. Help us to be kind and gracious to one another. Be our center and our guide, give us new life though your Son Jesus Christ.
Think about times when people have been adamant about interpreting the Bible in one particular way. Even if you disagree, think about what the strengths are in interpreting the passage in a different way might be.
Go and Read some church fathers, A good, free, online resource (though I cannot attest to any of the other content on the website) is http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/ . I would recommend reading the letters of Ignatius of Antioch or The Shepherd of Hermas. For a bit deeper reading, Athanasius on the Incarnation and Origen’s De Pricipiis are both excellent.