Autonomy and Tradition

Here are some thoughts for my friends.  These are not researched conclusions, but personal observations.

There are two basic sources for theology (excluding natural theology at this point): Scripture and Tradition.  Many have debated the primacy of one or the other.  As a protestant, my vote is already cast, but that is not the point of this post.

While I and many others hold to the authority and infallibility of Scripture, others hold that Scripture is not necessarily God’s revelation to humanity, but is instead the greatest human expression of the Christian faith.  This maneuver allows those who make it to avoid the unpleasantries of much of the Old Testament material and alleviate the many tensions Scripture creates with our postmodern sensibilities.  Scripture then is not “God’s Word” but the greatest witness to it.  When faced with ethical and theological questions, Scripture can be called to the stand, but it cannot give the verdict.

Many who I perceive to take this approach to Scripture suggest that the history of Christian Tradition has a greater role in developing theology.  We can mine the broad stream of orthodoxies that flow through history to address the current issues we face.

This turn toward “rooted faith” appears to often be accompanied by at least one of two ironies, though often both are present.  First, the individual is the arbiter of which tradition is allowed primacy in shaping their personal theologies. (e.g. One really wants the claim to apostolicity found in the Catholic faith, but is unwilling to accept the all-male clergy, so one rejects that tradition for another.)  Second, the individual maintains the right to reject aspects of the tradition in which she finally settles.  Church membership is out of the question, and borrowing from alternative traditions is par for the course.

The individual is now free from the critique of Scripture, and though she claims to be seeking a more communal experience of faith she places herself over the community to critique and reject that which she finds unsavory.

As far as I can tell, this is arrogant and blind individualism.  If neither Scripture, nor the Church can prophetically call you to repentance you are not free to choose the good.  Ask yourself, ‘What could convict me of sin and righteousness?”


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