Friday, July 23

The Bride of Tradition

I had written at length some time ago about the importance of tradition and how it needs relevance in our lives today. Recent discussions have caused me to re-read what I have written and realize that I didn't fully develop some thoughts at that time which I would have sworn that I had at least scribbled down. Ah well. Thankfully, my beautiful and talented assistant to the right will be happy to assist me.

As you may already know, I have a strong interest in medieval studies. It was this interest which has spurred my interest and love of the medieval church and, in a sideways fashion, has rekindled my interest in spirituality in general.

One of the principal things to know about medieval studies is that everything you were taught about it is wrong. By and large, what we (as the general public) have been taught about medievalism is actually a Victorian recreation of what they thought people in medieval times were about. Piecing out what is Victorian and what is really medieval can be a real trick sometimes and requires a lot of thinking. Key to this sorting process is an understanding the society of the time, the mindset and views of the people and generally recognizing what would resonate with the people of the day. In the field of biblical study, this is commonly known as the historical-critical approach to hermeneutics.

For myself, use of the historical-critical analysis is vital to a deeper and fuller understanding of the source material (any source material). If you understand why [x] was said in such a manner, then one can separate the 1st century levantine-roman traditions from the kernel of immutable truth.

I'm certainly not the first to do this, as Paul has beaten me to the punch by a long time. A good deal of the Pauline letters are about separating the socio-cultural traditions of the people of Judea from the Messianic Judaism which was the 1st century church. Where I would go further is by doing a reconversion; interpreting the kernel of truth in the light of the here and now, putting it back into a context which has meaning to the audience of today.

I would like to take this storied analytic tradition further. For me, it is important to examine the history of the Church in the same manner as the many look at scripture, with an eye to understanding the socio-political context in which decisions of theology and doctrine were made. By getting a grasp on the 'why' of things, one can, more accurately reflect upon the value and applicability of the decisions and make more informed decisions. This is not, in any way, attempting to obviate the place of the Spirit in these things, but rather invoking Poor Richard's axiom "The Lord helps those who help themselves".

I'll not for a moment pretend that there isn't a good amount of heavy lifting there. It's a process that, once embarked upon, can lead you down some dark and bizarre alleys. It can test your faith, especially if you come from a background where so much is given to you without explanation, pre-digested and packaged for your convenience. Finally, the decisions which I arrive at are often different/contrary/heretical to the mainstream as well as being decisions which may only be right for me. Then again, the root of the word 'heresy' is αίρεση, to choose or decide.

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