In the writings of his prophets and apostles, God has granted the church a wholesome word and a precious deposit (2 Timothy 1:13-14): which explains our past, opens up a future, and guides us on the path whereby we might inherit it.
One generation shall commend your works to another (Ps 145:4).
I’ve just finished two recent but very different books (here and here) on the nature of “tradition,” the church’s process of transmitting the faith once for all delivered to the saints from one generation to the next (1 Cor 15:3; 2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:2; Jude 3). The following are some thoughts sparked and/or provoked by these books.
(1) Central to the task of transmitting the faith from one generation to the next is the requirement of transmitting it as a whole, without addition or subtraction. In my judgment, the modern project of “mediating theology” often failed precisely in this regard. In an effort to gain a wider and more receptive hearing for the faith among a modern audience, mediating theology distinguished between the kernel or essence of the faith, which was to be preserved, and the husk of the faith, which could be set aside. The problem with such a strategy is not simply that it threatens to compromise the integrity of the faith–Scripture calls us to proclaim all God’s wonderful works (Ps 105:2), not just the works that might be palatable in a given age. The problem is also that it robs a particular generation of the full resources of the faith for addressing humanity’s greatest problems and God-given potential. As Cyril of Jerusalem long ago observed, the Christian faith, by virtue of its “wholeness” or “catholicity” “teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men’s knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly” and “universally treats and heals the whole class of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gifts.” Each generation thus requires “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:17).