Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tradition Bound

Last night I was reading my Bible and I came to a passage where it seemed strange to me that the word "God" in my NIV was not capitalized. I have a wide selection of Bibles in my room and I happened to pull my John MacArthur Study Bible off the shelf. This John MacArthur Bible was given to me by a customer with whom I had become friends at a bookstore I worked at a few years ago. After I had looked up the passage in question, I decided to flip to 1st Corinthians 14 to see what MacArthur had to say about that. I had just read the 14th chapter of 1st Corinthians the night before and I was curious to see what MacArthur, a strong Cessationist, would do with the passage. I was disappointed by what I saw. In my opinion MacArthur had to seriously twist the clear meaning of Scripture to deny that there is a God-given form of tongues which is not any intelligible human language, and to argue that even tongues, as the ability to speak a real language unknown to the speaker, had ceased. His arguments were weak and they involved assuming that Paul was speaking "sarcastically" over a good portion of the passage and that the singular "tongue" had a different meaning from the plural "tongues." I'm always very skeptical when I hear someone give an interpretation of Scripture where the writer is interpreted to be speaking in a joking or sarcastic manner. I think it is often a way of just avoiding whatever truth is being expressed there.

But on a deeper level, seeing MacArthur's commentary on 1st Corinthians showed me that MacArthur is just as tradition bound as any other Christian. His tradition is American Fundamentalism and in many ways I respect his tradition. I am thankful for the stress that the Fundamentalists place on the authority of Scripture, and the need for repentance and faith in Christ for salvation. I like the fact that Fundamentalists are about as far as you can get from post-modernism and relativism. But Fundamentalism is still a tradition that must twist Scripture here and there to hold on to some of its assumptions, especially its cessationist assumption.

The fact is that all Christians are in some way "tradition bound." I've always said that if a person could show me any place where the Tradition I am a part of, Anglicanism, conflicts with Scripture in any way, that I will leave that belief or practice behind. And I think that is the spirit of the English Reformation and the attitude all Christians should have. That where the Tradition conflicts with Scripture we will remove that aspect from our belief and practice. But where there is no conflict, where Scripture is silent, we will allow freedom. Personally, I am thankful for the kind of Tradition that doesn't conflict with Scripture. I believe that much of this Tradition, like the liturgy, is a gift from the Holy Spirit to the Church. If I am going to have any Tradition I want it to be the Ancient Tradition, accepted by all Christians before the division between East and West and confirmed as good and true by centuries of Christians.

No comments: