scripture and tradition and Anglicanism

It seems to me that Anglicans are “caught betwixt two.” That is, often regarded as the middle way between Protestantism and Catholicism, Anglicans are not uniform in addressing what place tradition has in the church.

Some seem to think like the Roman Catholics (and Eastern Orthodox), that tradition is equal with scripture, because scripture not only opens the door, but is the door to this through apostolic succession. So that the traditions which we gather from the early church fathers were actually derived since they were evidently (arguably) received from the apostles. And therefore are equal in authority for the church with scripture itself.

Others put a high value on tradition, but see tradition in more of a Protestant light in the sense that it is helpful and useful in being faithful to the gospel, but not binding in the same sense that scripture is, certainly not for a church to be a church. In other words, they would acknowledge many churches as being genuinely churches who would not subscribe to such tradition. The emphasis here would be more on what scripture itself teaches, aside from what followed in the history and especially the early (and later, for some) centuries of the church. But with a respect to how the church has read or understood scripture. So that for them, tradition would still be important, but more so as a help in being obedient to the faith of the gospel. With this group, reason is included as an important help, with tradition. And they would probably emphasize testing all tradition by scripture, although everyone would believe that scripture and traditon must be in sync. And for all Anglicans, there is scripture, tradition and reason.

Again for some, tradition is so much derived from scripture that it has equal footing with scripture. God gave a certain authority from Christ to the apostles, and that authority continues to those who followed them from generation to generation, right up to the present day. With the unique authority the apostles had, passed down to the present day always through consecrated leaders and evident in practices, which are likewise consecrated.

It certainly doesn’t matter where I stand on the issue. My position would likely be less Catholic as in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, or what is called, the Great Tradition. I respect tradition in the sense that it includes specific ways in which the church is obedient to the faith of the gospel through the word and the sacraments. But precisely how tradition is carried out when scripture itself doesn’t specify that, I can’t see as having an equal authority and place with scripture itself. I value tradition and even high church as potentially helpful. And more than helpful, I see it as wisdom to follow in at least something of the tradition which the church has gathered, especially in the earlier formative centuries of the church, and with that, the formation of Christian orthodoxy. But I don’t believe for a second that professed churches which don’t carry out the same tradition are therefore any less churches, at all. I believe that God’s grace and special Presence in and through Christ extends to them as well, even when they don’t follow the same tradition as in prescribed practices and the understanding of such. Instead, they would have their own tradition for sure, derived from their reading of scripture, but hopefully and to some extent necessarily, not a tradition which doesn’t have respect for the tradition of the church in general.

I consider Anglicanism to have two primary strengths: the Book of Common Prayer, and how it does not claim to be the true church, but only a part of it, while celebrating all the other parts as well, including traditions such as Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Mennonites, Roman Catholics, etc., etc., etc. All united together in Christ in the faith of the gospel.


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