The Spiritual Problems of Rejecting Tradition
Many Protestants have a hard time understanding what the Ancient Jews, Orthodox Jews, Reformed Jews, the Early Christians, the Eastern Orthodox, and the Catholics mean when they speak about Holy Tradition. To the Protestants, Holy Tradition is simply a collection of questionable stories, myths, false and/or new doctrines, unbiblical and/or anti-christian teachings, and works-oriented rituals. As they would say, "If it's not written in the Bible, then it must be false." Hence, Protestant analyses of this issue are often filled with pre-conceived notions and biases, which limit Biblical studies to the doctrines of men living in the 16th-17th centuries, since a serious distrust of the Ancient Jews and Early Christians, even of people who were disciples of the Apostles themselves, is vehemently enforced as doctrine. As a result, Protestants not only misunderstand Tradition and insult the integrity of the Ancient Witnesses by elevating their own versions of theology above the original Apostolic Faith embraced by the Early Church, but their Bible studies also suffer since they cannot totally relate to the theological context, the spirituality, and the content of Scripture. This causes them to have many difficulties in comprehending why anyone would accept and believe in something that "isn't written in Scripture".
Protestants have such a difficult time with the issue of Tradition because they are inflexibly fixated on the idea that only what is written in Scripture can be true. Though this statement sounds like a self-evident truth, since the Bible is from the Holy Spirit and the teachings of men cannot compare to God's own words, Tradition has never been regarded as a man-made supplement to the Bible until Martin Luther invented this doctrine in the 16th century, or rather, he created his own version of a similar heresy of the Sadducees in Christ's time. So this premise has no Biblical and Apostolic basis. Moreover, millions of Orthodox Jews for 3000 years before Luther and millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the world for 1500 years before Luther had all read the Bible and none of them had ever discovered in Scripture the belief that the Tradition of the Prophets and Apostolic Tradition, if in the Bible or not, was contrary to Scripture and/or inferior to the Bible, as though Scripture had condemned the total concept of Holy Tradition. In fact, all the Ancient Jews and Early Christians openly proclaimed and were able to prove from Scripture and Sacred History that Holy Tradition, if from the Prophets or the Apostles, contained the words of God Himself for the sake of preserving the most correct understanding and intepretation of Scripture, as well as providing the most holy instruction leading to spiritual perfection. In the case of Christianity, the Gospel began as oral Tradition, parts of which were later recorded in writing and then were collected to comprise our New Testament (NT). But it was always known from observation that the oral Gospel contained many more teachings and involved doctrines which were never written in the NT, such as the Holy Trinity, the decisions on which books should or should not be accepted as Biblical, among other concepts. The Ancient Jews and Early Christians also made a clear distinction and/or were fully aware of false traditions, new traditions, corrupted traditions, and man-made traditions which competed with the Holy Tradition established by the Prophets and/or the Apostles, all of which were the direct cause for many of the ancient debates and theological disputes which took place in Sacred History. For this reason, Protestant assumptions about Tradition begin with flawed premises, which are man-made doctrines themselves, and faulty research, or lack thereof, all of which influence their interpretations of Scripture to the point of being theologically opposed in some cases to Scripture and actual witnesses of the Apostles in Early Christianity.
The Protestant belief that the recognized Tradition of the Prophets and of the Apostles came into existence long after the Prophets and Apostles and was man-made and inferior to Scripture is itself a man-made doctrine. The Ancient Witnesses and Scripture itself nowhere taught such a concept and they instead consistently made a distinction between Holy Tradition and man-made tradition. But Martin Luther rejected this ancient and Biblical distinction and intentionally confused the issue by teaching that Holy Tradition was no different from man-made tradition, due to his extremist reaction to a number of Catholic distortions of Apostolic Tradition, which began in the 9th century. Thus, Protestants no longer wanted to discern between the two, and they believed Luther's new doctrine that only the Bible can be the spiritual standard of God's words and that all previous traditions must be false.
This is why Protestants have such a hard time understanding Tradition, because they are totally unaware of the well-documented, universal, consistent, historical evidence supporting the belief that the Prophets and Apostles had established Holy Tradition and that it had been perfectly preserved with the texts of the Bible over the centuries without additions and subtractions, and with no spiritual deviations in doctrine. Protestants also cannot comprehend how the Ancient Jews and Early Christians could have been able to distinguish and maintain a distinction between the Holy Tradition and any false traditions which eventually appeared, yet at the same time Protestants can fully understand how the Ancients kept a distinction between true Scriptures and books claiming to be Scriptures. This inconsistency in thought is the result of selective logic which guides Protestant theology in reading Scripture and the Ancient Witnesses, thereby causing a distinct separation between Protestant spirituality and the spirituality of the Ancient Jews and Early Christians. This separation between the Protestant spiritual culture and the spiritual culture of Sacred History creates a serious blindness for Protestants in perceiving spirituality in the same way as the people of Apostolic times had done. For instance, Holy Tradition has always instructed Jews and Christians to pray and worship according to a more mystical spirituality, whereas Protestant spirituality is much more limited and superficial in its various methods of prayer and worship. Since the Protestant spiritual culture does not and cannot experience the same spiritual things that the Ancient Jews did, they cannot fully recognize certain aspects of the Bible's spirituality, nor all the theological messages which the Prophets and Apostles had intended to convey in Scripture. Instead, the words of the Bible are often made to fit Protestant spiritual expectations rather than viewed in the spiritual context of the Ancient Witnesses.
Despite Protestant misconceptions, the spiritual commentaries of Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity provide for us the truest context by which the spirituality and teachings of the Bible can be understood. In fact, the writers of the Bible expressed spirituality and theology according to the perceptions and assumptions of the writers of Sacred History and vice-versa. It was not the case that the Ancient Jews and Early Christians were forcing their own spiritual expectations into Scripture and recording these ideas, as though the Ancient Witnesses were evolving a different spirituality from the Prophets and Apostles, thereby implying that the Bible's writers somehow presented theology in a way more closely aligned to Protestantism. But rather, these Ancient Witnesses were imitating the spiritual perceptions of the Prophets and Apostles in their commentaries. There are no indications to suggest otherwise. The Bible does not reflect a Protestant spiritual culture and theological dimension. The Bible is purely a product of an ancient spirituality which differs in many ways from Protestantism. This is something that Protestants simply cannot or will not understand, though it is critical for any true interpretation of Scripture and the details of its words. The Bible both condemns false traditions and yet it also promotes Holy Tradition, as the Ancient Witnesses even relate. Thus, a distinction between Holy Tradition and false tradition is what Sacred History reports for us and this is the only logical indication for what the Bible teaches on this subject, since there is no significant factor saying otherwise. It is not because Holy Tradition forces this interpretation on Scripture, but because the Prophets and Apostles had established Holy Tradition, and their successors faithfully preserved it as the truest means of understanding the original messages intended for God's people.
Since Apostolic times, there have been no councils condemning Holy Tradition, no debates disproving it, no Biblical or spiritual objections to it, no evidence against it; indeed, the idea that Tradition is evil was never believed by anyone until Martin Luther invented this idea and turned it into a doctrine of Christ. The only exception to this historical observation is the fact that the Sadducees of Ancient Judaism also made this doctrine a fundamental belief. But because they relied only on what Scripture says, they could not believe that there was life after death, since the Old Testament (OT) does not clearly teach this idea. They are a classic example of what spiritually happens when Holy Tradition is refuted and rejected for the sake of accepting only what the Bible says.
The Sadducees' misinterpretation of the Bible reveals that the rejection of Tradition is a dangerous spiritual dogma. If Tradition, which forms the standard by which Scripture should be interpreted, cannot be accepted with Scripture, then the Bible can be interpreted in any way anyone desires. For example, Calvinists read the Bible and to them the Bible says that there is no free will, that is, humans have no power in choosing Christ or Satan; God simply creates some people to go to Heaven and others to go to hell. Anyone who disagrees with this interpretation of Scripture, such as mainstream Protestants, according to Calvinists, are disagreeing with Scripture because, as they see it, Scripture says that God predestines souls for Heaven or for hell. Despite the fact that the first witnesses and disciples of the Apostles, the Early Christians, learned from the Apostles that Scripture does teach that humans have the free will to choose either Christ or Satan, and many Protestants agree with this, Calvinists condemn the Early Church and certain Protestants because their doctrine of free will supposedly contradicts Scripture! The idea that Calvinists are contradicting Scripture does not occur to them because the Bible says what they want to see in it. Similarly, mainstream Protestants read the Bible, and as far as they are concerned, Scripture says that only the Bible can be Holy Spirit inspired, that Tradition is extra-biblical and therefore of human origin. Despite the fact that the Early Christians unanimously and universally declared that Scripture speaks of a written and oral Gospel from the Holy Spirit through the Apostles for all generations of Christians, Protestants oppose the Apostolic witness of the Early Christians because they are supposedly contradicting Scripture. Thus, Protestants see in the Bible only the things they want to see in it! Both the Calvinists and mainstream Protesants of modern times read the Bible and yet they come up with totally different observations of what the Bible alone supposedly says, even possessing completely different perceptions to things that none of the Early Christians had ever noticed from Scripture or Tradition. Nevertheless, the Early Christians and their modern namesake, the Eastern Orthodox, as well as the Catholics, read the same Scriptures and yet the Bible says to them that Holy Tradition is Biblical and historically Apostolic! Now, how can the Bible say all of these contradictory things if the Bible's truths are self-evident and require no tradition to understand them?
These few samples of major contradictions reveal a serious problem for the doctrine of rejecting Tradition. Strict readings of Scripture without the original Apostolic standard of interpretation to guide the reader lead to misinterpretations, misconceptions, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, new doctrines and traditions, religious divisions, and flawed conclusions. False traditions interpreting the Bible have taken place again and again throughout history. In Early Church times there were cults preaching that Jesus was not born God, but that He later became God at some point during His ministry, and then God forsook Him on the Cross. They read the Bible and that is what Scripture can be made to say. The Bible does not specifically say that Jesus was born God, only that He was God at some time in His life. In fact, there is a verse where Jesus refutes the idea that He can be good because only God is good. So, as far as this ancient theology was concerned, the Bible says that Jesus was not born God, but that He became God later on in His life. This is precisely what the Sadducees had done to the Bible, and it is similar to what all Protestants do. The Bible can be made to say anything people want it to say, and any theology can appear reasonably consistent, especially if the historical, personal, and spiritual contexts of the Bible's writers are ignored or adjusted to conform to the new interpretations.
Creating arbitrary boundaries for interpreting Scripture, that is, reading it according to a certain man-made standard and not the traditional standard of the Apostles, ignores the historical and spiritual context of its writers. This always leads to religious division, confusion, and new traditions, as is happening today in Protestantism. For instance, Calvinism did not originate only from Scripture; it came from a man with an agenda to replace certain traditional beliefs with his own interpretations of what he wanted the Bible to say. His ideas became codified and eventually gained a following, which over time became human traditions formed into doctrines of Christ. Also, Protestantism did not originate only from Scripture; it too came from a man with an agenda to replace certain traditional beliefs with his own innovations. Enough people agreed with him, codified them in theology and practice, and over time they became human traditions formed into doctrines of Christ. Thus, it is quite ironic that the Protestant rejection of Tradition actually became a new tradition. The same is true for any church, any cult, and any reformer. Each denomination and each system of theology is by itself a tradition which originates from somewhere, if from the Prophets, the Apostles, modern reformers, or various cult leaders. Each church has its own historical stories, its own rituals, its own Biblical interpretations, its own religious hierarchy, its own patterns of worship, its own historical tradition, its own spirituality, its own theology, and so on, as an equal spiritual authority to Scripture. This is what Tradition is and this is what it will always be. Therefore, when the Sadducees, Protestants, and cult offshoots from Protestantism reject the general concept of Tradition itself, they have not only espoused an unbiblical and historically heretical doctrine, they are also following a self-refuting belief by rejecting in theory what they themselves accept in practice. This leads to contradiction, arrogance, and ignorance, for the Bible's own historical and spiritual Tradition is dismissed for the sake of new traditional beliefs and practices interpreted into Scripture and assumed to be part of the Bible. This leads to a vast amount of spiritual problems not only for all Christians but also for individual souls.
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