Friday, January 13, 2012

Darrell Bock on Tradition

Another aspect of how we approach the [Bible] is the way tradition – or often better, our sub-tradition – functions for our understanding.  Interpretation is never really an individual affair, since we all are called to function in the context of community.  Each of us enters community by joining different bodies, which themselves are affiliated with distinct theological traditions.  Such traditions frame how we ask questions of a text.  Tradition in this sense is valuable, because it helps provide perspective and a grid for understanding.  Serving as a guide, and often reflecting the collective judgment of many believers over time or within a locale, a tradition gives identity and can provide an additional basis for unity.  Tradition can also operate as a potential check against individual idiosyncrasies in interpretation, but it should not be an all-ruling tyrant.
There is a limit to the value and authority of tradition.  A tradition is not to be equated with the authority of Scripture.  It is not canon.  This means that it too should be subject to Scripture.  Some aspects of tradition are really matters of corporate preference, rather than something required by the Bible.  And being comfortable in our community often includes matters of personal preference and taste.
…Tradition, though it impacts us significantly, should only be authoritative (versus merely preferred) when it reflects Scripture.
Darrell L. Bock, “Interpreting the Bible – How We Read Texts” (1993)

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