the tension between restoration and tradition

I am among those who appreciate restoration movements within the church, such as the Church of Christ, and the Anabaptists- among which I was raised Mennonite. There is something to be said about getting back to our roots and beyond the penchant for equating tradition with the inscripturated word, I mean, the Bible. That being said, in reality we all have and live in tradition, the “restorationists,” no less than all the rest.

It is surely worse than naive to simply think one can start over with the Bible, with the focus on the New Testament, and think one can find the primitive faith. Anabaptists in the stream of Menno Simons, found that out early on. You can’t put aside Christian orthodoxy such as what was hammered out in the creeds, along with the church councils in defining theology to scuttle heresy. Yes, the theology on God (Trinity, etc.) and Christ (two natures, one person, etc.) all has its value. There is no sense whatsoever in reinventing the wheel.

The tension comes with the thought that we need to find a tradition which can be traced back to the early church. Hence the move of a significant number of evangelicals to the Eastern Orthodox Church (while even more Eastern Orthodox convert to evangelicalism). And the search for a stream which would include more of a supposedly restorationist orientation, found in a group like the Waldensians.

To suppose there was one homogenous group of Christians in New Testament times, one church of apostolic purity, is to be rather naive, as we find in the New Testament letters and in Acts- in the witness of scripture, itself. It does become a matter of weighing everything, with a certain respect for the traditions we find within Christian orthodoxy, even while we may engage in some push back, as we together consider the witness of scripture itself. Theology needs to be rooted, pruned, and growing. The process involves many voices ending up with the same tune in different harmonies and variations. It is surely a pipe dream to think there is only one tradition flowing back to and rooted in the New Testament apostolic church. And that the church does not need to struggle through both what the faith means in its original context, along with the context in which the church finds itself, culturally in time. Yet we also need to learn from and respect tradition, yes from “the Great Tradition” (the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic) as well as from other traditions of the faith. Seeing the variants which are part of Christian tradition (such as found in Pentecostalism). Remembering all the while that there is no one set way of being church, even as we hold to and affirm our unity in all its varied expressions throughout the earth, as Christ’s body.

One comment on “the tension between restoration and tradition

  1. […] I briefly considered the tension between restoration and tradition. It seems like many of us on the Protestant side, or influenced largely by that tradition have a […]

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