God does use tradition to communicate his will and make his voice known. Tradition is any teaching, thought, or practice that is handed down or passed on. It could be a ritual, interpretive framework or a specific view on what a passage of Scripture means. The Bible itself is an example of God working through tradition (cf. 2 Thes 2:15), along with the development of doctrines derived from the Bible like the Trinity.
Christians evaluate all traditions (Col 2:8; 1 Thes 5:21) and it is the Holy Spirit that reveals to the community of faith whether or not a tradition is from God. Historically we see the church working in a communal and conciliar way to hear from the Holy Spirit on controversies of faith, from the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-21) onward.
The first serious breach of this approach resulted in the Great Schism of 1054 between the Eastern and Western churches, and the decay of unity–along with the proliferation of many innovative and competing traditions–has continued ever since1.
This is why I continually return to the catholic2, conciliar faith and practice of early Christianity as my baseline for evaluating any later decrees or doctrinal developments.
See also: Why An Anglican Christian?
- For historical timeline that visualizes the main splits within Christianity, see this graphic. There are now hundreds, if not thousands, of groups that adhere to basic Christian orthodoxy but separate from one another due to other doctrinal differences. ↩
- “Catholic” means “universal.” The doctrinal decrees of the Undivided Church represented the consensus of leaders in the Church, the “catholic tradition.” These decisions carry serious and binding authority as long as they do not directly contradict the teachings of the Apostles in the New Testament (cf. Hebrews 13:17). ↩