Many people do not like the word “tradition.” It holds connotations of oldness or stinginess, and in our modern way we like new, different, novel, unique. But our traditions are always with us, and it is better to understand what traditions are, how they are used, and what forms them, rather than simply rejecting outright.
A theological tradition is a behavior, doctrine, or practice of Christians, passed from generation to generation, informing participants within the tradition about their own identity in the church and in the surrounding culture. Theological traditions exist to help explain reality in the light of biblical reasoning and wisdom, that one may better live out the Christian way of life. Traditions inform dogmas (essential things to be believed), doctrinal values, ethical values, or church organizational principles; they often serve to resolve tensions or concerns experienced at the time by the church. Hence, theological traditions are a critical part of the life of the Christian, even if the Christian that thinks, albeit naively, that “all traditions in the church are just man’s addition to real Christianity, and thus worthless.” While this skeptical thinking has merit in certain cases, the concept of tradition in and of itself is neutral. Traditions can be good or bad. Lets consider how traditions work in more detail.