Doctrine Or Is It Tradition?

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Anyone who has previously read my posts on the subject of truth knows that I believe in absolutes.  Setting that aside, let’s delve into the topic of doctrine versus tradition.

So many churches cling to their traditions.  These traditions were often established to give a sense of order and “security” to those who like the comfort of familiarity and order within their worship.

Order is good and beneficial.  In fact, God is a God of order.  Most of life functions better within some sort of order.  The opposite is true; randomness breeds chaos.

The danger with our forms of order and/or traditions is the following:

  • Tradition can easily become so familiar that it becomes part of what we “worship.”  Worship may seem like a strong term to use, but if we follow something with no willingness to change the way we practice it, then it is part of what we obey and therefore “worship.” 
  • Sometimes, the practices we follow are more a result of the familiar and personal preferences then of actual conviction or of Divine guidance.

It can become difficult to distinguish between what is doctrine and what is tradition. Differentiating between the two is extremely important.

Tradition is an order, a form, a preference, a practice that has been established over a length of time (generally passed down from generations).  It is merely a personal preference.  This does not make it necessarily wrong in and of itself.  It can become very wrong though when it is adhered to with as much staunch teaching and in practice as if it was doctrine itself.

Doctrine is clear, Biblical teaching, based on the truth of God’s Word.  It is to be obeyed. 

It is also important to delineate between major and minor doctrines.  So often minor doctrines are emphasized as if they are major doctrinal tenets of our faith.  As some have said, “Don’t major in the minor.”  And another famous cliche’, “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.”

What becomes even more dangerous is when we are unwilling to change when it becomes apparent that the tradition is no longer applicable and has no reason for staunch loyalty due to its lack of Scriptural teaching.

Fear and pride can be the “root” of many of our traditions and resulting practices.  On the surface, it can all sound good, spiritual, and wise.  Yet, if we put our traditions above actual Scriptural teachings and use it to become the “pulpit” upon which we “bully”, ostracize, or discipline fellow Christians, we must ask ourselves, “What is really behind why we do the things we do?”

I love the following quotes taken from the book, Think Differently, Live Differently by Bob Hamp.  He said:

“Familiarity becomes tradition and unbending tradition becomes rigidity. Rigidity refers to a way of viewing reality. It is a mindset that says, ‘We’ve always done it this way, and change is evil.’ … Rigidity is a way of thinking that limits the fluidity of life and in so doing, reduces the quality of life. The Pharisees believed that a crippled woman should stay crippled because people were not supposed to ‘work’ (including healing) on the Sabbath. But Jesus healed her on the Sabbath because He had a bigger and better understanding about the true purpose of that day. Rigidity is not the same as order, though its proponents would say it is. It does not allow for change, growth, context, priority or any one of a multitude of factors that influence life. Rigidity is often the precursor to collapse. In the building industry, architects and engineers have discovered that in order to build earthquake-proof buildings, they must allow room for flex. When the ground moves, a building that is too rigid will topple. If the structure has some ‘give’ to it, it will sway with the movement and remain standing and intact.”

Traditions can replace the life of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but there is “fluidity” where God’s Spirit is working.

Don’t let your order become your god.

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