Are tradition and Scripture at odds with one another? What does it even mean to ask that? In the modern church, the word “tradition” has taken on a connotation of man-made values and customs, and many believers make the assumption that human tradition is by nature contrary to “the biblical way.” Especially in the US, there seems to two prominent schools of thought: one, that the way our parents and ancestors did things should be honored and revered without question, and two, that the Bible is the only way and any practice not explicitly outlined in Scripture is an affront to God’s Word.

However, to any serious scholars, this topic is much more complex than that. In fact, even what we consider to be “the Bible” today is in a sense derived from tradition – tradition that stands up to biblical scrutiny and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, but tradition nonetheless. The Bible we know today was compiled with great difficulty over many years, and the canon of Scripture is one of the great gifts that tradition has bestowed upon us today.

The truth is, there are many issues the Bible does not examine in detail. We have to make decisions and act according to the basic principles outlined in the Bible and according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In the many generations of Christendom spread abroad in all of the cultures of the world, believers have developed a diverse array of practices, but most of them simply wanted to obey the Lord. For instance, Catholics, Orthodox churches, and Protestants have widely differing traditions, especially regarding common practices such as communion and baptism – and yet, we know that Christ valued these things, as He partook of them and even commanded them of His disciples.

It is eminently important that all of us as believers examine our own traditions and look at them through the lens of Scripture, and before making a judgement we should look at the traditions of other believers through the same lens and without the heart of a Pharisee. Tradition can be good, bad, or neutral, and so we must show love to our brothers and sisters in Christ as we determine what traditions we decide to perpetuate.

If you are interested in an online Bible study on topics such as the tradition and the Bible canon, check out our Canonization of Scripture and History of the Bible courses at International School of the Word!

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