Friday, June 17, 2022

The Tradition of Scripture

An interesting online conversation I was in the other day got me thinking about the relationship between "tradition" and "scripture." In my theological training there was much made of the Wesleyan quadrilateral and the inter-relatedness of "Scripture," "tradition," "reason," and "experience." What I've been thinking a lot about, lately, those is the fact that Scripture itself is a tradition.

What do I mean by that?


Well, no one alive today was there when the texts of Scripture were written. Every one of us receive the text(s) of Scripture from someone else, who received them from someone else, who received them from someone else... and so on. They are passed from person to person, or more specifically from peoples to peoples, as a tradition. When we receive them we accept that they are treated as Scripture within the tradition in which we receive them and this we do so as an act of faith. That is, if they are indeed received within a faith tradition we receive this text in the belief that they have not just come from the person(s) who gave us the text but in some way this has come from God.

In the church I am now a part of the liturgy reinforces this concept when we say at the end of each reading "This is the Word of the Lord" or "This is the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." After this the congregation joins together and proclaims "Thanks be to God" (or similar). 

As a result, we confess together that the text is something more than the text and we believe that in faith. Indeed to call it Scripture is to confess something well beyond the historical facts of the reception of the text.

And that's OK. Indeed, it's a good thing. If we were left to prove the historical reliability of each individual text contained within Scripture every time we read it we'd never get on with the any of the work of the Kingdom.

So, all this is to say that the dichotomy between "Scripture" and "Tradition" is a false one and irrelevant. Things like the "Wesleyan quadrilateral" need to be reconsidered, reworked, nuanced, or abandoned as a result. 

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