What traditions that have been delievered to you do you hold firm to?
Without reading it all through, I think the answer would be close to, if not exactly, the formal pronouncements of the ecumentical councils that were held in the first, say 450 years of the church's life, well before the church began to ramify into Catholic / Orthodox, and later into Anabaptist / Protestant, and so on.
In fact, I think we are really debating four different approaches to Tradition, but writing as if we were debating only two. I am aware this is a recurrent theme of mine: different issues get blended in our posts, when they really belong apart. Anyway, if I am not mistaken, there are at least these four views:
- Holy Tradition, as held by Orthodox
- Tradition, as held by Rome
- tradition as maintained by Protestants
- the Anabaptist view of Tradition and and scripture.
My use or disuse of capitals is quite deliberate there. Dealing with them out of order, I would suggest:
- The Anabaptist
view is the one you good Orthodox are mainly attacking on these posts, that is, that there is no valid tradition at all and each believer, being endowed with the Holy Spirit as we are, is able to discern the right teaching direct from scripture by the Spirit's enlightenment, without needing the teaching of the Fathers, Councils, Reformers, theologians or anyone else. This view was held by the 16th century Anabaptists, but became more widely popularised over the past eighty years or so as a reaction to the debilitating effects of biblical criticism and the spread of Liberal theology.
- The Catholic
view, which holds that there are two equally authorative sources of truth - church tradition and scripture. There is no need for what is revealed via church tradition to be hinted at, let alone specified, in scripture. This view developed in the Middle Ages, later than the filioque
controversy and the split and is peculiar to Rome. Most Protestant books attacking tradition deal entirely, or almost entirely with this view and do not address the Orthodox position.
- The Orthodox
view, which is that scripture alone is the receptacle of God's revelation, and all that is necessary for salvation and godly living is contained within its pages, but for the correct interpretation of this sole source of authority one looks to Holy Tradition (Councils, Fathers, liturgy etc).
- The classic Protestant
view, which (I believe) is closer to the Orthodox view than to either of the other two. The Reformers did not expect anyone and everyone to refer only to the Holy Spirit within himself to gain proper understanding of the Bible, but laid great weight on the traditional understanding in the early church (which is why they retained practices like infant baptism, and continued to believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary). We do not believe that our tradition is infallible - that the masters have spoken and no further correction will ever be needed - but we do remain firmly within the general parameters they set, and have preserved.
Believers' baptism is a good example of development resulting from further reflection. I believe (I have no statistics ready to hand, but I guess they are available somewhere) that most convinced and practising Protestants in the world today now practise believers' baptism - though in no way do we say that those who retain the older practice are excluded from life and grace.
Justification by faith is another example. The early Fathers did not really develop a theory of the Atonement, concentrating rather on the doctrines of the Trinity and the Person of Christ - that is, on the dogmas that needed defining in response to current heresies. That Christ redeemed us by his death and resurrection they always affirmed and preached; but they did not systematise a doctrine of how
his death and resurrection redeemed us. They did not turn their attention to soteriology in their ecumenical statements. In the 16th century West however it became the major matter of theological debate and formulation.
So to answer ialmistry's question, we abide within that stream of tradition. It is more dynamic, more open to amendment and development, than the Orthodox view, and it allows freedom for individual believers to read and to discuss, and within the tradition to alter their views whilst remaining truly Evangelcial; but it does not make us each his own pope: that, I suggest, is more applicable to a fully developed Anabaptist view.
I think this may also point to a partial answer to the question, whether I ever feel frustrated on the forum. You see, I can sit down with my fellow Evangelicals and discuss points of theology - as I often do - or read theological books - also as I often do - and adjust my beliefs without creating a religious rift between me and my fellows. But the discussion on the threads here sometimes reads like, "The Church has spoken: there is no need to think about whether my personal beliefs need to change." This is such a new kind or idea of discussion, to my narrow Evangelical past experience, that I sometimes find it hard to 'get my head round it'.
I hope it is not in some way contrary to forum rules, but I think this might be just as relevantly posted on the sola scripture thread, so craving your indulgence, I shall do so.