Thankful for the Great Tradition

As I reflect on the First Sunday of Advent that we just enjoyed at my local church, I’m thankful to be part of the Great Tradition. This is what Gerald R. McDermott calls the longstanding theological and liturgical tradition of the Church of Jesus Christ. (See “Guided by the Great Cloud” in Christianity Today [November 2014]). As we celebrated the First Sunday of Advent and thus the beginning of a new Christian Year, I recalled that I didn’t grow up with such traditions. As McDermott discusses, many contemporary evangelicals have shed the ancient traditions in favor of a “me and the Bible” only type of tradition. But in doing so, evangelicals give up the richness of a longstanding theological and liturgical tradition. Like celebrating the season of Advent, when we prepare for the First and Second Coming of the Lord through worship and moments of quiet reflection. Such ancient practices enrich our lives and help us grow spiritually. This is not to say that all contemporary practices are suspect. But we are encouraged to retain the ancient traditions as we develop new and meaningful traditions for today. What does the Bible say to people of the twenty-first century? To answer this question requires a fresh reading of Scripture rooted in the Great Tradition of biblical interpretation, being guided by such helps as the ancient creeds, Reformed confessions and modern theologians. I’m thankful for my evangelical heritage, with its focus on the gospel and personal holiness. And I’m thankful for the Great Tradition, which helps me understand the gospel more fully, and guides me as I seek to become more like Jesus. I thank God for the “great cloud of witnesses.”

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