Friday, September 21, 2007


I haven't had time to write a major theological post in the last couple of weeks. I've got one brewing about teaching children about non violence. I'm wondering about the use of pronouns for God and the Other-ness of God. I've got another big one brewing about similarities between the Orthodox Church and Churches of Christ, and actually I've been thinking about a small part of that one. But I'm going to punt a little by just asking a question today.

One piece of literature I picked up at the Greek Festival in the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church had a listing of their beliefs and one of the beliefs stated that Scripture and Tradition were of equal authority in the Church.

How does that statement strike you? For me as a member of the Church of Christ which purportedly claims to "Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent," (although I will freely admit two things. 1) Otter Creek doesn't completely go along with that statement, and 2) Tradition is a major guiding factor in Churches of Christ), this idea of Scripture and tradition being equal troubles me. I would suppose the claim is that God has divinely guided the leaders of the Church since He established it, equal to how the Scriptures were divinely guided, but it also seems to open things way up for Man's intervention. And again, just because a group claims to only use Scripture as a guide (Sola Scriptura) doesn't exclude tradition and the meddling fingers of people being a part of it as well. Maybe I just prefer the illusion of a solely Scripturally based theology.

What think you?


John Westerman said...

We don't know one another. I live in Missouri. However, your question is one that I've thought about a great deal lately and I'd like to participate in this discussion. I too am troubled by the thought of tradition being equal to scripture. After all, this is a topic Jesus weighed in on with great emotion. Putting tradition above the commandments of God was a problem for Him, too. At the same time, we in the C of C have used our interpretations of scripture to create new traditions that we then force on the church as being the only scriptural approach to certain matters. So, sometimes we do put our own traditions above scripture. We don't always speak where the Bible speaks and sometimes when the Bible is silent, we say a whole lot more. Balancing tradition with a greater respect for scripture seems to be the more Biblical way to go.
John Westerman

Jeff said...

Everything John just said, except I might add "balancing tradition with a greater respect for others and their traditions." The CoC doesn't have a corner on the market for thinking they've interpreted scripture the only correct way (although we have a strong position). I read that same pamphlet from the Greek Orthodox Church at the festival, and saw the same correlation between it and the CoC. It hit me that God probably didn't intend for us to see scripture as a great holy scavenger hunt to see which group of people gets all the pieces together and the answers interpreted correctly to get their inheritance, all the while neglecting the message of love, peace, and grace we should have for each other. I feel like I've spent too much of my life trying to get it "right" that it weakens my ability to be a functioning part of His kingdom.

Phil said...

It's interesting that as I've been thinking and working through this stuff, having a greater respect for Scripture leads me to think of the "commands, examples, and necessary inferences" (to use Church of Christ hermeneutic code words) as more applicable for the time and place in which it was written and trying to discern the s/Spirit behind those things that we've always looked at as rules. Does looking at the Scripture as a narrative make it lose some of its power as a rulebook? It would seem so. To which the follow up is, Is that a bad thing? I don't think so, but for many of us that have used it as a rulebook/lawbook, does it leave me without an anchor that I might have relied on for years and year? Yes, but perhaps pulling up that anchor and using the Bible as a guide on a journey, rather than a harsh Law, frees me up to get on that journey.

I don't know. I might have mixed metaphors too poorly there, but hopefully something made sense in there.

Phil said...

Oh, and welcome to the conversation John.

belinda said...

My husband was raised in the Russian Orthodox Church and began attending the Church of Christ when he moved here because of the similarities. I think I understand the scripture vs. tradition argument. He's explained to me several times. THE Church could survive, continue, even thrive if all the bibles in the world were destroyed . . . thru tradition. That's not the same mentality of tradition as three songs, a prayer, another song, and the sermon. It's the idea that people KNOW the scriptures and would still be able to apply those things without actually having a bible around. We also need to remember the bible as we know it has been "edited." A lot of books from the original text have been removed. The majority of us grew up believing the King James version was THE inspired word of God. It's not.

John said...

In Galations we read where Paul confronted Peter for giving into the peer pressure of the Jewish group and therefore avoiding the gentile brethren--refusing to eat with them, etc. For several years I was able to escape from the peer pressure of the traditionalists and was able to grow spiritually and in wisdom and discernment. Yet, we're now in a geographic area where some ultra- traditionalists are disfellowhipping area congregations and publicly slandering Christian leaders who don't agree with them. I catch myself shamefully giving silent assent to the legalism just to avoid being labeled and ran off (I've had that happen before and it was extremely painful). Why can't people accept the freedom we have in Christ? Why can't we actually follow another restoration movement slogan and "agree to disagree?" These traditionalists who seem to believe that they need a law rather than the grace of God are choking the church and their congregations are suffocating to death.

judy thomas said...

Those of us, like you and I, Phil, who have taught narrative and who know its meandering and adaptable nature, may get a little uneasy about calling the Bible a narrative. But I believe it is, and that God's purpose with it was to share his Story and His love with us. And only in viewing it as a story told by a loving author, can we forego our slavish adherence to proof-texts. We must also remember that included in its pages too are history, POETRY (IMAGINE THAT!)and songs.

Justin said...


Was your husband allowed to go to church under soviet rule?

Not trying to stir stuff up, just an honest question.

belinda said...

Of course he was able to go to church under Soviet rule! There are quite a few churches in the Kremlin. The majority of people in Russia are Orthodox. The idea of the "god-less communist" is absolute nonsense. And so is the idea that WE (the U.S.) needs to send them Bibles.

belinda said...

Also, you may e-mail us at if you're interested in learning more.

Justin said...

I have no problem sending bibles to anyone... maybe they have plenty of bibles over there,but I've seen plenty of videos of people nearly fighting over bibles, so, whatever on that.

I read this

and I guess you can forgive me for thinking otherwise, but wikipedia begs to differ with you on how many soviets were allow to practice christianity, orthodox or not.

I don't know why you're such an apologist for that regime Belinda... I understand that some of what we may know about the USSR was purely propaganda, but I don't think any objective observer could say that the regime was a fair or good one. Say what you want about the United States and the Iraq War, but the Soviet Union forcebly occupied many many nations for 50 years, and I have my first hand sources on that as well (one of my dad's friends escaped east germany as a child).

I just feel like you hold more contempt against the United States than you do the USSR... maybe your husband's experience wasn't that bad there, but there are plenty of other first hand sources who tell different stories, and many millions more who can't because they were murdered by their government.

belinda said...

Justin, you ask questions and then seem to not like the answers you're given.

If he escaped Germany, he was probably running from the Nazis. The Russians were our friends then (WWII). The U.S. and Russia didn't really become "enemies" until late 50's - 60's. As has often been said, "know the source from which you get your information." Plenty of people have "profitted" from untruths.
"... many millions more who can't because they were murdered by their government." What are you talking about?? Right now, I do have lots of contempt for the U.S. I'm embarrassed over this administration and us - the voters - that allowed this to happen TWICE. Also, on the subject of sending Bibles, are the Bibles in Russian? Have you ever been to Russia and seen the churches there?? They weren't built 5 yrs. ago. The Orthodox Church has been in existence for thousands of years.

belinda said...

Justin, all I'm trying to say is things are NOT always the way they seem. Believe me, I had classes in school about Russia and communists. Very little of what was in those books was true. You have to stop and think about the people that write those books. I'm just saying I've learned alot of things were and are different than I was led to believe.

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