Are You a “Traditionalist”?
If you read this blog very much or that of Antonio … or if you have the pleasure of Antonio’s comments appearing on your blog, then you probably have noticed that he uses the term traditionalist. I first noticed this term being used by him about 6 months ago, I think. It immediately provoked thought on my part.
My first reaction to the term was to think of Catholics. I was raised Catholic, but converted into a Biblical Believer at the age of 20. After having gone round and round with my Catholic relatives (mom, uncles etc…) I heard the word tradition often used as a defense for many of the Catholic positions that are clearly unbiblical. In fact, when push comes to shove, although Catholics say they believe the Bible, if there is a tension between a portion of Scripture and the teachings of their church (this is what is called tradition for the purposes of this post) the devoted Catholic will stick with the Church tradition unabashedly.
So, when I saw Antonio refer to Calvinist Lordship Salvation teachers as traditionalists, I was given pause. I had been narrowly thinking of Roman Catholics as traditionalists and “Protestants” as … well … not worthy of that descriptor. Then, I started analyzing the situation more closely.
I noticed a few things. For example, one time when discussing Calvinism with a brother, he responded to one of my Biblical challenges and critiqued my interpretation by saying this: “That has not been the position of historical Christianity.” I thought, "So what?" I happen to know many Christians who have arrived at the same interpretation as I have living presently. Maybe we're all wrong - but don't try to tell me because of "historical Chriatanity" we are wrong - or we are wrong because we are outnumbered. Majority doesn't rule when it comes to truth.
Another example - when the subject of dispensationalism comes up, more than one friend will deride it as a theological viewpoint because, as it is named and defined today, it is fairly new in relation to church history. Therefore, haughty insults of “Johnny-come-lately” are thrown out. Isn’t this a somewhat traditionalist criticism? In other words, if this is not on record as what all the theologians for centuries of church history have taught, then it must be wrong. I think this approach in challenging the dispensationalist system of Bible study is not an appeal to Biblical teaching at all – it is a criticism is on the tradition of the teaching.
I read where a blogger buddy recently challenged a certain viewpoint of Lewis Sperry Chafer on eschatology – this friend said, “Prior to 1827 is there any record of the teaching of a pre-trib rapture in church history?” (Even though I am not entirely sure that the answer to his question is no), his is a common and proud appeal to the foothold of traditional Protestant theology.
So there ARE traditionalist Protestants!
This is unfortunate to my mind because I think of those who were in the Catholic Church before Martin Luther came along. I am sure they wagged their heads at him for his newfangled ideas. His views were eventually given ear and these revelations … sparked by God’s Word … then sparked the Protestant Reformation.
But … was it right to then enthrone the ideas and interpretations of him and his successors to the same heights as the Romish doctrines had been? May it never be!
In the world there is nothing new under the sun. But, when a Christian picks up his Bible, we each have the Holy Spirit and can be revealed the fresh truth of His Word … which I believe holds many truths that are very complex as well as some wonderful simple truths. It is not necessary to have the opinions of the church fathers etc… as a guide when reading our Bibles, although these can be helpful when kept in their place. Please understand, I am not suggesting that each Christian is an island unto himself ... but that we have direct access to God’s truth in our own copies of the Bible.
I am also not saying that there isn’t room to point out cultish or erroneous teaching, but don’t appeal to “the church fathers” or the long-standing position of the majority in the church for your criticism. Go to the Bible itself, because it is NEVER WRONG – and men CAN be wrong – even in large numbers for long periods of time. Don’t be a traditionalist!