The point of this 3-part series is to get to examples of Christians being too lazy to reason. Any ol’ excuse will do for maintaining the status quo, even if it’s completely unreasonable. Or, “Here’s my argument; if I took 2 seconds, I could refute it myself, but I don’t care enough to give it 2 seconds.”
Today, though, I want to talk about when it’s okay to not give the reasons for your faith 2 seconds of thought.
Christianity IS Tradition
That statement ought to come as a surprise to us non-Catholics, but really, it’s undeniable.
At least, it’s undeniable if you believe in sola scriptura.
- Now I commend you, brothers, that you keep the traditions as I delivered them to you. (1 Cor. 11:2)
- Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or by our letter. (2 Thess. 2:15)
- We command you, brothers, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother that walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which you have received from us. (2 Thess. 3:6)
- It was necessary for me to write to you and exhort you to earnestly battle for the faith that was delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
- Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you will, as well, continue in the Son and in the Father. (1 Jn. 2:24)
The early churches always understood that there was a body of truth delivered to them by the apostles, and it was their job to preserve it. They did an excellent job of it, too … for a while. Even when they departed from their faith, they took their lumps—delivered in the form of rebukes from apostles and chastenings from the Lord—and got back going in the right direction. Even Laodicea maintained a good and godly church past the 1st century!
Of course, it shouldn’t surprise us that a letter from the Lord Jesus would be effective at turning a church around, especially since he can follow it up with a personal visit by means of the Holy Spirit!
Cling Tightly to Tradition
It’s only the traditions of men that the apostles and Jesus wanted us to avoid. Jesus’ traditions and the apostles’ traditions, those are a new law for us (Heb. 7:12).
(Yes, I know: "New law" isn’t the most comfortable way to phrase it, but the fact is that we do have commands that we are to obey. We do so spiritually, empowered and led by the Spirit, but we nonetheless do so. It is only those who obey Jesus’ commands who know and love him [Jn. 15:14; 1 Jn. 2:3-4]. Further, Heb. 7:12 lets us know that we don’t have to be afraid of such terminology, and it was used off and on by the Christians in the apostles’ churches who still clung tightly to apostolic tradition.)
It is good for us to know what traditions came from the apostles. It is for that reason that the New Testament was gathered. I’ve read plenty of books by competent scholars giving numerous reasons why those specific 27 books made it into the Bible, but the more familiar I get with the first 4 centuries of the church the more convinced I get that there was only one criteria for whether a book made it into the New Testament: Did an apostle approve it?
All those Christians of the first 4 centuries cared about was whether a teaching came from the apostles. That’s it. If the apostles taught it, then it was true. If the apostles didn’t teach it, then it might be interesting, but it certainly isn’t crucial. We are "apostolic" churches.
Handing Down Apostolic Tradition
I’m a researcher. It’s my gift from the Holy Spirit. I love digging through the early writings of the church. I love hunting down truth.
So you might expect me to recommend that to you.
I suggest you listen to me after I do the research for you.
It’s okay to have tradition handed to you.
Your job is to determine whom you trust to hand it to you.
I usually get a couple emails a week telling me that I ought to trust a priest with apostolic succession—whether Catholic or Orthodox—to hand that tradition down to me. Most of them are appalled at my gall in saying I can find it on my own.
But I never find apostolic tradition on my own. I get it by listening to people I have judged in the same way I’m about to ask you to judge me.
Jesus said that you will know a prophet by his fruit. Good fruit always comes from good trees and bad fruit from bad trees. If you see bad fruit—say, for example, a church that burns someone to death for translating the Bible into a language that everyone can read—then you can know that’s a bad tree.
On the other hand, if you see good fruit, then you ought to pay attention to that "prophet," whether that prophet is a church or a teacher. That’s a good tree, even if that church or teacher is teaching something contrary to what you intellectually have determined to be true.
Chances are, you’re misled or deceived in some way—minor or major—and that’s why they’re bearing better fruit than you. That’s also why you should learn from them.
Now I’m not asking you to listen to me because I personally bear great fruit. If there was no one around but me, you probably shouldn’t listen to me.
I’m asking you to listen to me because what I’m teaching has produced good fruit for a very long time. It’s what Rose Creek Village teaches, and what RCV teaches works. It’s what the Anabaptists taught, and in their early days, they were immensely successful at the things that matter in God. It’s what the 2nd century church taught, and as far as I’m concerned no generation has lived up to that standard since.
Back on Subject
It’s okay to have your faith generally handed to you. It’s okay not to intellectually analyze every aspect of it. It’s even okay if your tradition, given to you by your good-fruit-bearing church, happens to differ in some ways from the tradition of another good-fruit-bearing church. If both churches are good trees, then the differences can’t be too important, can they?
Of course, if your two good-fruit-bearing churches can’t get along, then neither of you have good fruit, because the two most important fruits are love and unity (Jn. 13:34-35; 17:20-23).
So, if you get your tradition from a good source, a source that bears good fruit, then you’re okay. You don’t have to do all that research. You can let them do it for you, and you can trust them. Simple!
Now, let me tell you when all this holding to tradition falls apart.
It’s when you start lying.
Oh, that’s right. That’s tomorrow’s subject.