When Tradition Trumps Scripture
This has been a topic I have been thinking about since the hearing James White's on The Dividing Line on New Year's Eve day. In that dividing line he refuted an Arminian Baptist's poor attempt at refuting The Doctrines of Grace, also known as, Calvinism. While this speaker's refutation was poor, there was something that really stuck with me. Dr. White stated that the poor exegesis (the drawing out of the meaning of Scripture) demonstrated by this Arminian Baptist is a direct result of allowing tradition to trump Scripture.
The Arminian Baptist consistently took Scripture out of context (Romans 8:28-32), emphasized the wrong words (2 Peter 3:9), denied the clear teaching of Scripture (Romans 9:10-13), and he persisted in a blatant misrepresentation of the Calvinist position. All of these things I have come to expect from my Arminian brothers, after all, as this particular Arminian Baptist stated over and over again, Calvinism is a pernicious false doctrine that need not even be examined. Of course, anyone who is involved in so-called discernment ministries ask, "How can anyone properly refute a topic that one has not properly researched?" Further, when a person simply applies the basic rules of grammar to the Arminian's proof texts their doctrine falls apart like a sand castle when it is beset by the rising tide.
The saddest point with many Arminians, and many others within Christianity that hold to non-biblical doctrines (by non-biblical, I mean doctrines that have no clear biblical foundation, as opposed to unbiblical, which are doctrines that are contrary to the clear teaching of scripture) is that they allow their tradition to trump scripture. This should never be the case. Our traditions are always defined by scripture. Of course many within this branch of Christianity would proudly crow about not having traditions, however, this is a tradition in and of itself.
So with this in mind, I have had to ask myself, and I ask you, the reader, to examine what traditions you have that are trumping scripture, and what will you do with them should you find them? Here are a couple of traditions that are especially prevalent in Christianity, especially at the beginning of the year. Perhaps your church passed out handouts giving you a plan on how to read the entire bible the whole year? Or maybe they hand out a checklist, a sort of "spiritual to-do" list of various spiritual disciplines such as prayer, bible reading, fasting, church attendance, tithing, etc. These things are not full of grace, but rather they are elements of legalism. Legalism is the doing of any good thing with the thought that the act will ingratiate God to us. Worse yet, if you do not do these things God will love you less. My friends this is the epitome of legalism, and do not let anyone mature Christian, church leader or even a church pastor tell you different!
I am not against bible reading or spiritual disciplines, they are, in fact, a natural fruit of a changed heart. A changed heart will want to read the God's word; it will want to communicate with God through prayer; it will want to give finances joyfully and without compulsion; it will want to seek out a community of fellow believers and actively fellowship with them; it will motivate you to fast when the times of life require a special time of separation from the world. It is clear, however, that there are churches and leaders that have taken these good things and made them ultimate things, as Timothy Keller puts it. In other words, they are made idols that we sacrifice to in the hope that God will no longer be angry with us over our sin. In reality, however, we have sinned in that we, in the act of spiritual devotion, have created an idol.
Again, traditions are not necessarily bad things. Perhaps you come from a church with a tradition of emphasizing traditions or spiritual disciplines. It is your responsibility as a believer to examine the tradition or discipline regardless of who taught your the tradition or discipline (Acts 17:11). Secondly, if your tradition or discipline becomes an ultimate thing, then you must repent of your idolatry. Lastly, I am not telling you to go up to your leader or pastor and tell him that he is preaching idolatry. Perhaps he or she has not had his/her conscience trained properly, or maybe he/she is just ignorant of the scriptural teachings, or, and this is the worst case scenario, perhaps he/she is is so devoted to their tradition that she absolutely will not change. What we must understand is that in this area we are dealing with the conscience, and these areas must be handled delicately, or better yet given to God in prayer.
My purpose is not to change people that can not or will not change, but rather to help those that are willing to examine themselves and make the necessary changes. So I end this post with the question, are you willing to change?