Dear friends,

Many modern Canadian Anglicans reject the doctrine that the Bible alone is God’s definitive revelation by God of God Himself and His ways. Instead, they talk abut the “three legged stool” of the Bible, tradition and reason to know God and His ways. Last week I showed that this belief, while common among Canadian Anglicans in the Anglican Church of Canada, is not Anglican in an historical, global and formal sense. But regardless of whether or not the three-legged-stool is Anglican, is it true?

First of all, it is problematic. People talking this way usually do not research all of Christian tradition, from all over the globe, from all of Christian history. Instead, they consciously or unconsciously cherry-pick a handful of traditions they like. Similarly, reason usually ends up meaning a current culturally-popular ideology. Notice that in both cases, that we human beings are in control. We pick a human ideology or set of ideologies, and we pick some practices and beliefs from the past and then we declare that this is how we know God and His ways. And, oh yes, in light of these declarations we can now declare what bits and pieces of the Bible contribute to our knowledge of God and His ways.

Second of all, we see that the three-legged-stool is merely, then, a fancy way of believing that our thoughts can encompass and understand God – and it has no defense against the withering criticisms of atheists and skeptics that I talked about several blogs ago. Ironically, it has no defense against the critiques of Jesus about human attempts to know and understand God!

So, do we dispense with reason and tradition in reading and understanding the Bible? Not at all. Both have a proper place in helping us to correctly understand what the Bible says.

Now, by reason, I do not mean “ideology”. I mean reason! The ability to note consistencies and inconsistencies; coherence and incoherence; contradiction and harmony; mystery and clarity. Understood this way, we need to grow in our reasoning skills to read the Bible carefully.

What about tradition? God did not intend us to read the Bible alone, but to read it with others. We enter the Jesus Way one-by-one, but we walk the Jesus Way with Jesus and others. We become a Christian and we find a (local) church home. So, people have been faithfully reading and praying and living the Bible for centuries, in cultures and locales very different from our own. So we read the Bible with our brothers and our sisters in our local church. We read the Bible with Christians from all over the world. We read the Bible with our brothers and sisters who lived in the past. In other words, we read the Bible with the Body of Christ. The Bible is authoritative in our reading. It judges tradition understood in this way. But we are born into a history of reading and take our place – and this will continue till Christ returns!

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

George +