Blinding Traditions

Could there be Christian traditions that are actually a danger to me?  Traditions have the power to shape my lens to see things in the Scriptures that are not there and to blind me to things that are there.  It is hard for evangelicals to imagine that we ourselves could be blind to truth within the Bible, but we need to go no farther than the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law to see the power of tradition to blind men to the truth.

The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law were rigorously trained in the Scriptures.  They had memorized and studied the same Old Testament that we say is inspired of God, powerful, and sharper than any double-edged sword…and yet Jesus said that their traditions had nullified the Word of God (Mark 7:13).  Joseph Hellerman observes that:

Tragically, Pharisees, chief priest, and others simply had too much invested in their own view of reality to respond to the prophetic challenge that God brought to their personal lives and precious cultural institutions through the words and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.  So they had Him crucified…Contemporary Christians would be utterly arrogant to assume that we are somehow immune to similar theological blind spots. [1]

It is my pride and fear that will keep me from allowing my doctrine and my ministry practice to be tested against the Word of God.  I must be willing to admit that I may have been wrong and courageous enough to change a practice that I once held as a conviction but now realize was a preference.   When our desire is to be aligned with truth we will have no fear of examination but rather be inspired to continue a pursuit of knowing and living the truth.

In closing, N.T. Wright captures for me the attitude that I should have towards my traditions (some of which I love dearly) and the Scripture.  He writes:

For me the dynamic of a commitment to Scripture is not ‘we believe the Bible, so there is nothing more to be learned’, but rather ‘we believe the Bible, so we had better discover all the things in it to which our traditions including our “protestant” or “evangelical” traditions, which have supposed themselves to be “biblical” but are sometimes demonstrably not, have made us blind. [2]

[1] Hellerman, Joseph H., “When the Church Was a Family” (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2009), p. 61.

[2] Wright, N.T., “The Challenge of Jesus”( London: SPCK Publishing ,2000)

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