As my family and I prepare to head out to seminary this August we’ve been doing the very best we can to visit as many family and friends as we can fit in. This past weekend we went to a massive family reunion and it was so good to see so many family members at one time. We get together and play a lot of sports, catch up on what we’ve been doing and celebrate our common faith as one massive unit.
During this time of celebration, we were in “small groups” and the question came up about the difference between Biblical principles and traditions along with the merits/demerits of traditions. For me it was a very exciting question to cover as the family that we were with are all very traditional in their values and practices and I was eager to see what they would say and how they would react to such a probing question.
Some were met with confusion, others appeared irked by the question itself and others approached it very thoughtfully.
I think it is a fitting question to ask yourself before entering seminary.
In my mind the difference is simple: A Biblical principle is one that is found in Scripture and gives guidance on how to lead a godly life in accordance with the will of God. A tradition, on the other hand, is a man-made custom that is passed down for generations.
I want to make one thing very clear before I go any further on the topic of traditions, not all traditions are bad; in fact I believe that most are good and have the absolute best intentions behind them.
The problem that comes with traditions, however, is when we start to believe that our traditions are the only right way to do things.
As a denominationally divided bride of Christ, we agree on the supremacy of Christ and that salvation comes through Him alone and after that almost everything else has been disagreed upon so much that we’ve split apart. Some of that comes from holding too closely to a tradition over a principle.
The Bible is crystal clear on who the main focus is, but on the issues that have divided us it is obviously less clear. Baptism separates us, the Lord’s Supper separates us, the role of women in the church separates us, how you should dress and the list goes on and on.
I can sense you, dear reader, are already frustrated just looking at the list above. My guess is that is because you have preconceived notions on how every one of those “should” look. Please allow me to challenge you with this: whatever your stance is, the other side can make an equally compelling argument to support their stance. Could it be that it just might be a both/and issue instead of an either/or issue? Could “the way we’ve always done things” be getting in the way of growth and harmony in the Body of Christ? Can we admit that we might not be doing everything the “right” way?
I say we keep the principles and examine the traditions with an open hand.
By Michael A. Murphy Michael is a husband and father to three children. He and his wife will be moving their family from Michigan to Colorado to attend seminary this fall. Mike and his wife, Denise, blog together at theevertree.wordpress.com