How many times have you heard someone boast that they were battling for the truth? How many times have you and I seen ourselves as great contenders for the faith? Though I have seen it in several groups, it would be hard to deny that it is oft-repeated around the Independent Baptist world. Is it as true as we imagine?
No doubt when you proclaim the Gospel with caution and clarity you are defending a much-attacked truth. I can think of no place more than the Gospel where error is thrown like mud against the wall to see what will stick. If you are a Baptist, you may spend a great deal of time clarifying Baptist distinctives that you believe to be thoroughly Bible based. Even though Christians may disagree, for example, on something like Baptism, at least there are a multitude of Scriptures that can be brought to bear on the subject. Surely there would be some justification on making a stand on a subject prolifically mentioned in the Bible!
What about, however, when we go beyond the foundational truths of Scripture? Or what is often mentioned in the Bible? Have you ever, as I have, heard standards, preferences, or worship styles mentioned with equal fervor? Is this defending truth?
I maintain that it is not truth at all, but tradition. I won’t even claim that there isn’t some place for tradition, but that is not the place to divide the sheep and the goats, or cull out the heretics.
I fear that we have even lost our way. We hardly even recognize a biblical criteria to determine core truths. We make a clod of dirt and a mountain of equal value. I have long since lost count of all the articles I have seen on some subject held up as of paramount importance biblically, and even be filled with endless scripture citations, that was merely someone’s preference. The strange thing about these articles is that if you actually check the references,they are not speaking of the subject at hand in any material way. One of the favorites is to call the discussed subject a critical doctrine and quote II Timothy 3:16 on “profitable for doctrine” when it is actually about the Word of God, not the pet topic under discussion.
The saddest thing is that type of teaching is either: a) deceptive, or what I believe to be much more likely, b) naive. The writer does not even realize just how ludicrous that line of reasoning is!
But that is the problem with tradition– to force it you must use strong handed methods. You must be ugly to propagate it with those who no longer want it. What else could you do?
Truth is altogether different. It only needs proclaimed. Unlike tradition, it loses nothing if some let it go. Tradition dies if we can’t prop it up, but truth is ever marching on.
Strangely, we are the group most often lambasting tradition in others while we are blinded to it in ourselves. Vestal garments aren’t the only traditions out there!
Let’s, then, learn the difference between tradition and truth as clearly as we would distinguish the temporal and the eternal. If we don’t, we may waste our lives fighting for the wrong things.
Find all articles in the series here.