Those Tantalizing Traditions

Dusty Owens

It is ironic that a large group of religious people that pride themselves in "speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent" should wallow in the mud-hole of traditionalism. Someone has observed, "We may think we are walking in the 'old paths' when we're only standing in a rut!" Opinions and judgments for one generation become to a later generation, laws and regulations to which everyone must dutifully submit. It was so with the physical Israel of old; it is so with God's people today.

We erected our own laws of interpreting the Scriptures, laws which are now enshrined on a pedestal marked, "Do Not Touch." Two of these "laws" are, "by apostolic example," and "by necessary inference." Keep in mind, these did not come from God's revelation; we invented them! By applying these "laws" we ascertain "truths." By sprinkling in a whole lot of "human wisdom, reasoning, logical deductions and inductions," we transform these "truths" into "God's Laws," and then, bind them on fellow Christians.

The ones who usually work the process of "ascertaining truths" are the preachers. They mean well, but they get caught up in the system. First, they learn the "laws of interpretation" (usually at one of our schools), and second, they learn the "laws of God" that are obtained by the process. If they stay within the parameters set by those who guard the traditions, then they become part of the group of preachers that churn out still new "laws of God" using the tested, infallible method, even for generations yet unborn. In my lifetime, I have seen several new "laws of God" produced in this fashion.

Of course, these "laws of God" are nothing more than traditions of men. Jesus had to contend with them in His day. Time and again He challenged the Pharisees and scribes with respect to their traditions, charging them with making "void the word of God because of your tradition" (Matt. 15:6). The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus' day guarded their traditions with a fervent dedication, and defended them with a "righteous indignation." These "teachers of the Law" were willing to do most anything to protect that which had been passed on to them by their forefathers. They would resort to treachery, hyprocrisy, slander and the spreading of malicious lies in the name of God's service, and, finally, would put to death God's Son before they would give up their "sacred idols."

In my opinion, we have been guilty of this same zealous dedication to traditionalism, especially in the last few decades. We thunder out our "logical deductions" and "necessary inferences" with the same amount of religious fervor as when we command, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," etc. We used to be careful to differentiate between that which the Lord commanded and what our own opinion or judgment is on a matter. If the opinion or judgment has been found around a generation or two, it is placed on a par with a "thus saith the Lord." Therefore, we make the same mistake of elevating the traditions of our forefathers to the prominent place of Divine edict, as the Catholic church has done through the centuries.

The bottom line to all of this is that with our self-imposed interpretation process we have created various shades of a Church of Christ Doctrine (or Creed), which is used to determine lines of fellowship. At the present there are approximately 20 Churches of Christ with their own Doctrine, each teaching that they are the only true church! Each one claims to use the same infallible method of interpreting the Scriptures. The truth of the matter is that much of what each "Church of Christ" has defined as "God's Law" rests upon the fallible and undependable, wisdom of man. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, But the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 16:25).