Scripture, Tradition, Reason

"God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars." - Martin Luther

Scripture, tradition and reason each hold a special place in the authority of our church (and our faith).  Richard Hooker (c. 1554-1600) is an early Anglican theologian who noted these are like a three-legged stool.  Scripture, tradition and reason each rely upon one another; when one is neglected the whole thing can fall over.  We have continued to honor the balance in these aspects throughout our heritage as a church.

The place of scripture varies widely among Christian denominations.  In the Episcopal Church we honor it in reading expansively as we gather each week.  This discipline is further supported in the Daily Office and other devotional material.  Some have suggested we are less knowledgeable, as we are less able to quote chapter and verse than others, yet the stories are a part of who we are.  Our holding 'scripture' in conjunction with 'reason' also sets us apart from those who hold to a literal interpretation of scripture.  We are more likely to sit with the contradictions than try to explain them away.

The traditions of the church are important.  They help us to learn from those who have gone before us.  Here, we can both learn from the successes and learn from "mistakes".  Honoring traditions can slow change too.  While change is important, we do well to temper it with an understanding of the traditions we inherit.  The Gospels are full of stories where Jesus pushes against traditions, particularly where there seemed to be tradition for traditions sake.

Reason may be listed, but there is no least in this list.  Our use of reason as central to the authority of the life and doctrine of the church has served us well.  It may be particularly meaningful in our current era.  Technological and scientific advancements have revolutionized our understanding of the world around us.  Some perceive this as a threat to their faith, whereas many Episcopalians embrace this.  Our church can reconcile our understanding of scripture and tradition with these advancements more readily.  Perhaps it will help us to connect with those who are struggling in other denominations.  May these aspects continue to guide our faith and our church in the years ahead.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul