Sunday, August 04, 2013

Tradition and Authority

For these determined “Biblicists” had their contemporary philosophy in their heads, took it with them to the Bible and so most certainly read themselves into the Bible no less than Church Fathers and Scholastics. They were no doubt free of Church dogma but not of their own dogmas and conceptions.

Luther and Calvin did not go to work on the Bible in this way. Neither should we. It is in the Church that the Bible is read; it is by the Church that the Bible is heard. That means that in reading the Bible we should also hear what the Church, the Church that is distinguished from my person, has up to now read and heard from the Bible. Are we at liberty to ignore all that? Do the great teachers of the Church, do the Councils not possess a –certainly not heavenly—but, even so, earthly, human “authority”? We should not be too ready to say, "No."

To my mind the whole question of tradition falls under the Fifth Commandment: Honor father and mother! Certainly that is a limited authority; we have to obey God more than father and mother. But we have also to obey father and mother.

And so I should call to all those who get excited when they hear the words Orthodoxy, Council, Catechism: Dear friends, no excitement! There is no question of bondage and constraint. It is merely that in the Church the same kind of obedience as, I hope, you pay to your father and mother, is demanded of you towards the Church’s past, toward the “elders” of the Church.

Karl Barth, Credo, “Appendix: Answers to Questions”

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