Yeah, right…and I learned reading, writing and arithmetic from Day 1 because they’re so incredibly intuitive.
And church history is really about how faithful (or at times, how faithless) the church has been at handing down the traditions begun by Jesus and the apostles. Admittedly, talking about tradition tends to bug the Protestant in me, but my adverse reaction isn’t so much a response to tradition (if it’s simply the biblical truth being passed down in ways the church can learn and grow from it) but traditionalism. Traditionalism celebrates the form not the function, the husk not the heart, the ceremony for ceremony sake without any justification from God’s Word. Traditionalism sometimes makes tradition equal to Scripture, sometimes (in practice) over Scripture and sometimes departing from Scripture altogether. I have no stomach for traditionalism.
However, learning about tradition, at least in the 2 Timothy 2:2 sake, is something one will cherish as they study church history – how did the church keep its fidelity to Jesus and his Word throughout the centuries? The list is long of the those who faithfully carried the baton: Ignatius, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Athanasius, The Cappadocian Fathers, Ambrose, Leo, Augustine and so on. These men kept to the heart of 2 Timothy 2:2 by developing the traditions for the church which would keep her faithful to Jesus and the Gospel, things such as formulations on the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and the Creeds (e.g., Nicene). These traditions were essential for the survival of a church continually attacked doctrinally from both outside and in.
Now that’s a tradition I can get behind.
P.S. – The genesis of this post comes from my completion last week of a wonderful little book on the history of the early church by Stephen J. Nichols entitled For Us and for Our Salvation: The Doctrine of Christ in the Early Church. I highly recommend it for those who want a brief glimpse into what was going on in the Church during first four centuries after the apostles had passed away…and passed down their traditions. So take a chance and temporarily set aside a book enjoying its 15 minutes of evangelical fame for the story of those whose writings will demonstrate their relevance long after others have been forgotten.