Evangelical Traditionalism

Evangelicals are supposed to be totally devoted to the Bible.  Sola Scriptura! we shout.  But, as Craig Allert shows, Evangelicals are just as prone to following traditions as any other branch of Christendom.  (Just where in the Bible does it say to close your eyes when you pray!??)

Allert writes:  “What is actually happening in contemporary North American evangelical circles is that traditionalism has gradually crept into our understanding, or lack thereof, of the fundamentals.  Jaroslav Pelikan’s famous statement is apt here–‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is he dead faith of the living.’  Traditionalism is doing or believing something simply because it is a custom, even if it is devoid of understanding, meaning, and/or significance.  This is what contemporary evangelicals have done in retaining their core set of essentials … The evangelical is exhorted to believe the sore set of doctrines because they have ‘always’ been seen as essential …

“Thus, not only have certain nonessentials been given essential status, but also some foundational aspects of theology have been underemphasized or even ignored and therefore undervalued, and this to the detriment of the body of Christ.  The rich liturgical tradition of the church becomes confined to musically induced emotionalism.  The importance of the community of faith for the life of the believer is reduced to crass marketing strategies and the newest ‘get spiritual quick’ scheme.  The living voice of the Bible in theological history becomes lost in individual interpretation and defense of a rather static propositionalism” (A High View of Scripture?  The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon, 33-34).

Evangelicals have been used by God to preserve and fight for some very important doctrines.  However, we always need to re-examine our beliefs, to make sure we are not simply holding on to ideas and doctrines because that’s “what we’ve always believed.” 

Allert’s book is about how the NT Canon was formed.  Most evangelicals (and most Christians in general) have no idea how we got our Bible.  This is peculiar, since we say we believe it is the Word of God.  Wouldn’t you want to know how the Word of God got into your hands!?

I’m sure I’ll be posting more on this topic …

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