Thursday, February 10, 2011

Scripture, Tradition or ?

There's an interesting discussion emanating from an article on A Pilgrims Progress. As a Christian of many years, a large part of which was in so-called, "full-time-ministry", I speak from my own experience, and with some amount of shame:

When a man/woman, Christian or otherwise, has been well instructed, in whatever philosophy or teaching we may choose, Christian or pagan, we develop a mindset which may take years before one is willing to examine that mindset, and allow it to be challenged.

The genuine Christian is not exempt from this fact of human frailty, hence Luke's commendation of the Bereans.

Apparently the Thessalonians were more like me. I trusted my professors, pastors and teachers, and received what was taught without question. After all, they were the experts. I was only a novice. What they said the Bible taught was more important than my own convictions. Their expectation was that those under their teaching became carbon copies of themselves, teaching what they taught.

From new birth, in my very early teens, God moved me over a period of years, by what I read in the Scriptures, from rank Arminianism, to Reformed theology, which I embraced, and preached for 30 or so years, finally rejecting much of the ecclesiology, but holding firmly to the doctrines of grace.

As I prepared sermons, wrote Bible Studies and articles, I would often find myself challenged by Scripture, especially on matters ecclesiological, which caused, not a few, internal struggles. I dismissed the turmoil by reminding myself of what my systematic theology taught and the perceived need to be consistent with the system, which I adhered to.

After all, I subscribed to a Statement of Faith, which was thoroughly Reformed, and, I well knew that my tenure as the pastor would be very short if I upset the status quo, even if I could show the truth from Scripture. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was important to stick to what we had always done, regardless of the fact that some of our practices and beliefs were radically different to what Scripture revealed.

What would the denominational leaders say if the church allowed me to challenge some traditions which could not be sustained from Scripture? What would my peers in ministry say? I was already under a shadow of suspicion because I had already dared to be Reformed in a traditionally Arminian denomination, and to now suggest that, from an ecclesiological point of view that both the Arminian and Reformed might need to rethink some of what was accepted was close to being blasphemous in the eyes of those who saw themselves as the authoritative voices on denominational matters.

There is only one authoritative voice, no matter how famous or well recognized other voices are, and that is the Scriptures. Sola Scriptura.