Transgressing By Traditions: The Failure of Extreme Fundamentalism

Posted on August 31, 2009 by


1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. 5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

(Mt 15:1-9)

It’s amazing isn’t it? ” What?” You say.

The fact that we can have “church” and sin by doing it.

“WHAT?!?!” You say.

Yes, we can sin by having church?

“How?” You ask.

By elevating our traditions above the Word of God.

“Oh, we don’t have traditions.” You reply.

Oh, yes you do. We all do.

The issue is to determine the nature of those traditions.

Many times our traditions are harmless things that are simply our way of adapting our faith to our particular cultural setting.

At other times our traditions do not change when our times require some sort of change. It is usually at this juncture that traditions become doctrines that divide. They then become objects of contention, strife, and issues which divide God’s people. In fact, they are often “supported” by Scripture, albeit Scripture taken out of context.

It is then that we find ourselves elevating our tradition above God’s Word. You see, the goal of God’s Word is God’s glory. In fact, that is God’s goal in all that He does (See Isa 42:8; Rom 11;33-36), and is His desire for us in all that we do (See 1Cor 10:31;Col 3:17). Yet, when we divide over things that are not even mentioned in the Scriptures, treat one another with disdain, and break fellowship over these things; we have indeed elevated our tradition above Scripture. How? Scripture calls for us to love one another, and thereby honor God (See Jn 13:34,35;1Tim 1:5-7). To use an unwritten doctrine as an occasion to divide and mistreat another while ignoring the commandment to glorify God by loving one another is to elevate our doctrine above Scripture. Any time that we ignore Scripture to uphold our pet doctrines we have elevated our doctrine above Scripture.

Thus it is that we transgress by tradition.

It is easy to do.

It is difficult to examine our dearly held beliefs, yet it is necessary. We are commanded to put everything to the test and only keep the good (See 1Thess 5:21).

It is absolutely essential that we strive to honor God by exalting His Word as the Supreme Authority in our lives and worship.

To do otherwise is to set ourselves and our traditions up as the authority, and to do so is sinful Pharisaism.

Let us never forget that God and His Word will forever be our only authority. Let us bring all traditions to the Scriptures.

The problem with extreme fundamentalists today is the fact that they have erred precisely in this manner.  The denial of the Word of God in various translations, separating over music, dress codes, facial hair on men, and even denying that a person can be baptized in any way other than in running water (yes, it’s true; some do that) are just a few examples of how man’s traditions are elevated above God’s Word.

These sacred cows have divided churches, caused people to despise Christianity, and caused much harm.  I often find myself very close to being sinfully angry, as I have to deal with this on a regular basis.  I often have to repent of that anger, then find myself pitying the ones who are doing this.  They are often missing out on so much joy that can be theirs.  After all, if our acceptance with God is performance driven, we have great reason to fear that we are not godly and spiritual.  Focusing on externals will do that to us.

If we bring this to the Scriptures, however, we find that the doctrines of justification by faith, and sanctifying grace give us much reason to rejoice.  God has accepted us.  He is working in us to will and to do what He desires.  We are recipients of grace, and beloved in the Father’s eyes.

To transgress by tradition is often to neglect the great doctrines of the faith.  It is often to neglect the true fundamentals.

Today I call upon all of my fundamentalist brethren to honestly take the time to examine their doctrines and practices and see how they measure up to God’s Word, the five sola’s, and the historic fundamentals.  If they don’t fit that, they must be discarded, no matter how old, precious, and dear they are to us.