Monday, June 26, 2017

Old and New TraditionsMy late teens were during the beginning stages of rock and roll.  The song “Rock Around the Clock” was one of the first.  During my sophomore year in college I lived with my grandparents.  When grandmother entered my room her common question was, “How can you listen to that noise?”  Years later, I caught myself asking that same question!

Culture and traditions change.  The slowest to change are those that are religious!  It never ceases to amaze me that people believe that traditions are equal to scripture.  The proof usually given is, “Since we have always done it this way, it must be God’s way or we would not be doing it!”  That’s what Jesus faced when his disciples were plucking corn on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-2).  They weren’t guilty of breaking the Sabbath, just neglecting to submit to the prevailing tradition.  For the Pharisees, their actions were the unpardonable sin!  Sadly, we have inherited their DNA.  Love for tradition overrides fellowship with other brethren.  Love for tradition overshadows God’s word.  Love for tradition captures our allegiance and promotes blindness.  Our righteous objections are raised when someone moves our old traditional paths.  Why?  Tradition is elevated as if it is the doctrine of Christ!  When Jesus said something about those traditions and refused to be pressured into accepting them, they crucified him.

Some criticize having a “contemporary service.”  If by “contemporary” one laments dropping the traditional 1960’s format, that practice isn’t the stuff book, chapter, and verse are made of.  Several years ago, we lamented the passing of the “thou” and “thee” vocabulary in prayer and song.  The claim was made that if we substituted “you” and “your” in prayer, we were being disrespectful to God!  What is ungodly about using “you” or “your” in prayer rather than “thee, thou” and “thine”?  God didn’t inspire the 1611 King James English!  To make that period’s vocabulary into a doctrine of Christ is to create a new gospel (Galatians 1:6-9)!  Is it wrong in prayer or song to use the vocabulary of 1611?  No.  Neither is the use of modern English!  To deify a version or the English of a past period is to go beyond the scriptures and serve tradition rather than God.

Some also criticize inviting folks to “come as you are.”  Culture is a part of our thinking, but culture changes.  It is not set in stone!  If it was, then a restoration of New Testament Christianity would include the culture of the first century as part of that restoration and make it equal to doctrine!  Which one of the apostles attended an assembly in winged tip shoes with matching ensemble?  If what we wear isn’t sinful on Monday, why would it be on Sunday?  Some say, “You must wear your best”!  Really?  It is amazing how easy manmade laws roll off our tongues when we claim to teach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Traditions blind us to our own contradictions.  Can’t you see a sign on the door of a church building in the South Pacific stating, “Must wear Sunday shoes to enter”?

Some denounce “shorter sermons, 12 to 15 minutes.”  Isn’t it strange that none of the sermons in the New Testament deify their length?  What authority does anyone have to define a sermon as digressive because of its length?  If God hasn’t done it, then to judge a sermon’s integrity by minutes rather than content is sinful!  Didn’t John warn against such (2 John 1:9)?

It is sad for a generation like mine to see our secular songs be replaced by the next generation’s music.  How can they appreciate that noise?  The Platters, Elvis, and Neil Diamond were real music!  Yet, culture and tradition have been changing since the Garden of Eden.  I guess there will always be some who are saddened by the passing of old church traditions as newer ones are introduced.  New or old, tradition, unless given by God, is nothing more than an exercise in human judgment or desire.  Paul’s statements to the Roman Christians still applies today.  Before one makes a tradition into a binding doctrine, Romans 14 should be considered.