Tradtions

When it comes to church tradition, is it something you respect or suspect? Is it something you even think about at all? Hear from a church history professor, Brian Litfin, about the value of digging into tradition.

Ever since the 1500s, we Protestants have been Traditionphobes. In some circles, we would rather hear a cuss word than the T word. Bringing “tradition” to your ministry is surely some kind of regressive move that will stifle church growth. For many of us, embracing the past seems like the opposite of being a visionary pastor.

But times are changing. The rising generation looks backward in order to find the way forward. I see this all the time in today’s college students—and at Moody, where I teach, that means future ministry leaders. Tradition isn’t as scary to the Millennials as it is to their parents or grandparents. In fact, these rootless young people know intuitively how much they need it.

While church traditions can’t supplant the Bible, they can certainly round out the story that the Bible presents. Take the apostle Peter, for example. He just disappears in Acts 15, never to be heard from again. We have two of his letters, of course. But do they tell us anything about his life?

As it turns out, there are a whole lot of ancient church traditions that tell us about Peter. Some of these are likely to be accurate; others are historically dubious. Which of the following assertions do you think is true?

Peter traveled widely on evangelistic missions outside of Israel.
He ministered in Rome and provided leadership for the early Christians.
He died by crucifixion in Nero’s circus.
He was crucified upside-down.
He was buried in a grave now located beneath the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome
The [Roman] Catholic Church has recovered his actual bones.
He considered himself the founding bishop of Rome.

Although sorting through the historical evidence isn’t easy for busy pastors to do, the bigger problem is that we hardly think it’s worth our time. We’re Traditionphobes. That kind of stuff is for superstitious saint worshipers to worry about. Really? Maybe it’s time to reclaim our heritage in the faith—starting with the original generation of believers. You just might find a few nuggets amid the rubble of tradition. And when you see how spiritually rich some of this stuff is… who knows? You might even become a Traditionphile.

~ Brian Litfin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s