Good & Bad Tradition

Posted February 14, 2012 by Clay Cass
Categories: Bible, doctrine, New Testament, Quote

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At Restoration Church this last Sunday, Anthony’s sermon was about John 16:12-15. In this set of verses Jesus is speaking about the role of the Holy Spirit and his promise to guide us in the Truth after Jesus has ascended to the right hand of God. This got me thinking about the relationship between church tradition and the sufficiency and authority of scripture. Dr. Frame offered some helpful comments in his Doctrine of the Word of God about good and bad kinds of tradition that I wanted to share. It is worth quoting him at length on this.

Tradition refers to words or practices ‘passed down’ from one person or group to another. The NT distinguishes between two kinds of tradition, one good and one bad. The good tradition is that revelation that God the Father ‘handed over to’ Jesus his Son, to be further delivered to ‘anyone whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Matt. 11:27). This tradition is the mystery of the gospel, kept secret for ages (Rom. 16:25-26), that is revealed to the apostles (1 Cor. 2:9-10). The apostles pass this tradition on to the church (1 Cor. 15:2-3), and the church has the responsibility to obey that tradition (2 Thess. 3:6; 2 Peter 2:21), to hold it firmly (2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 1:12-14) and to guard it against distortion (1 Tim. 6:20; Jude 3), as God gave to the Jews the responsibility to guard the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2). The church is then to pass the tradition on to ‘faithful men who will be able to teach others also; (2 Tim. 2:2). This tradition is God’s revelation through Jesus and the apostles, now deposited permanently in Scripture.”

“The bad tradition is the tradition of the Pharisees, which they placed on a level of authority equal to Scripture, thus ‘making void the word of God’ (Mark 7:13). The Jewish tradition was a system of commentaries on Scripture and commandments that went somewhat beyond Scripture, so that no one would ever risk breaking any biblical commands. But they gave too much authority to this tradition, so Jesus says, ‘they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders’ (Matt. 23:4).”

“Extrabiblical tradition is not necessarily bad, however, whether or not it comes from the apostles. Indeed, such tradition is unavoidable. In the nearly two thousand years since Jesus’ ascension, Christians could hardly avoid accumulating many standard ways of doing things and of formulating doctrine. Scripture does not provide a liturgy, or a list of events to take place in worship. But to carry out Paul’s admonition to do everything ‘decently and in order’ (1 Cor. 14:40), many churches have agreed that worship should follow a certain standard order of events, usually allowing for variation on certain occasions. “

“When the claims of a tradition are suitably modest, and that tradition facilitates the communication of the biblical Word of God, that tradition should be respected, even while being viewed with a critical eye. What we should avoid is traditionalism, such as (1) the view that once a tradition is established, it can never be changed, (2) the notion that some traditions is just as authoritative as Scripture, and (3) the notion that we should not test traditions by the Scriptures.”


Making progress…

Posted May 21, 2011 by Clay Cass
Categories: missions, teaching, Uganda Trip

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  • Received a yellow fever vaccination on Tuesday. It wasn’t until Friday when I started feeling normal again.
  • Continued progress on the curriculum. I take my working definition of ethics from John Frame’s Doctrine of the Christian Life: [Christian] ethics is theology, viewed as a means of determining which persons, acts, and attitudes receive God’s blessing and which do not.
  • Had a good chat with my mentor Mark Henry yesterday. Mark is a pastor and missionary based out of California.
  • Ministry update letters are in the mail! View it here.

Gaba Bible Institute

Posted May 16, 2011 by Clay Cass
Categories: cultural context, missions, teaching, Uganda Trip

Tags: ,

This week starts the beginning of my final full court press to prepare for the trip. Most of my work so far has been preparing my curriculum and trying to understand the history and context of Uganda. Also, I got my passport in the mail a couple days ago!

Here is a great video introducing the school in which we will be teaching and living. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me thus far – your continued support is appreciated.

Goin’ to Uganda

Posted April 18, 2011 by Clay Cass
Categories: Church, cultural context, missions, teaching, Uganda Trip

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Hello all, for those of you that I haven’t already told I have been accepted as a student teacher with an organization called Training Leaders International. Lord willing on June 10th I will embark on a 15 day trip to teach a class at Gaba Bible Institute in Uganda on Christian Ethics. This opportunity came suddenly about a month and a half ago when TLI president Darren Carlson came to RTS and hosted a lunch meeting introducing the organization and ways to get involved. As I sat there listening to his presentation and reading over the outline my heart “burned within” (Luke 24:32) in response to the call to serve others with my passions and talents. In a nutshell, TLI’s purpose is to help “meet the needs of theological  training overseas” by recruiting theology students to take part in short term trips to share their gifts and resources with church leaders in parts of the world where theological training is either lacking or does not exist. Take a minute and check out the TLI blog, especially the post from April 15th about Gaba Bible Institute.

Over these remaining weeks also make sure to check back for occasional updates on my planning and preparation. I’ve never traveled this far and so I’m getting a crash course in international travel (yes, a poor choice of words). To make this trip a reality several pieces need to come together: immunization shots, passport, plane tickets, writing a curriculum (!) and general funding (about $3,600) just to name a few. Fire away any questions or helpful tips you’ve picked up along the way. I look forward to hearing from you!


A Quote on the Dynamics of Daily Faith

Posted June 14, 2010 by Clay Cass
Categories: doctrine, Quote

“Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude.”

Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p. 101

Augustine on finding strength for enjoying God

Posted February 10, 2010 by Clay Cass
Categories: Quote

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This quote has quickly become one of my favorite explanations of the impact that Jesus’ life has on the life of a believer. In book 7 of Augustine’s Confessions he talks about his battle with belief. In a climax of internal realizations he says, “And I marveled to find that at last I loved You [God] and not some phantom instead of you; yet I did not stably enjoy my God, but was ravished to You by Your beauty, yet soon was torn away from You again by my own weight, and fell again with torment to lower things. Carnal habit was that weight.” Where do you find strength to enjoy God, to embrace his beauty, without falling from the weight of our sinful nature? At this point it is worth quoting Augustine at length.

So I set about finding a way to gain the strength that was necessary for enjoying You. And I could not find it until I embraced the Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is over all things, God blessed forever, who was calling unto me and saying: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and who brought into union with our nature that Food which I lacked the strength to take; for the Word was made flesh that Your Wisdom, by which You created all things, might give suck to our souls’ infancy. For I was not yet lowly enough to hold the lowly Jesus as my God, nor did I know what lesson His embracing of our weakness was to teach. For Your Word, the eternal Truth, towering above the highest parts of Your creation, lifts up to Himself those that were cast down. He built for Himself here below a lowly house of our clay, that by it He might bring down from themselves and bring up to Himself those who were to be made subject, healing the swollenness of their pride and fostering their love: so that their self-confidence might grow no further but rather diminish, seeing the deity at their feet, humbled by the assumption of our coat of human nature: to the end that weary at last they might cast themselves down upon His humanity and rise again in its rising.

Where do we find the strength to enjoy God and embrace him continually? By embracing God the mediator. Christ confronts the fallen state of the world and offers not only an example but rebirth. Christ doesn’t just make us aware of our idols he helps us to let them go by giving us himself to embrace.

Kant philosophizes that philosophy is unknowable

Posted January 31, 2010 by Clay Cass
Categories: Philosophy

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Have you heard the one about the jelly jars and the mysterious cylindrical jelly? This has is one of my favorite parables so far in my class (History of Philosophy and Christian Thought, John Frame, RTS.) A group of philosophical minded jelly jars get together to find out why jelly takes a cylindrical shape when put inside them. They do scientific tests on the jelly but come up stumped. One day however the smartest jelly jar of them all postulates that it is not anything in the jelly itself that makes it cylindrical when put inside them, it is a quality they have as jelly jars – the jelly is conforming to them. As it turns out, this is a comparable illustration of Kant’s view of the world. All the universals that Plato wanted to say were the reality, of which our world is a mere shadow, Kant claims the mind itself creates and imposes on the world – substance, unity, plurality, causality, cylindricity are all made up so we don’t go crazy. The jelly of experience enters our mind and it conforms to the shape of our intuition to become objects in space and time. These qualities may really exist but we cannot say for certain. All we know is they exist in the noumenal realm, the counterpart of the now famous distinction from the phenomenal world. The noumenal realm is like the junk drawer of the universe. All metaphysical truth is relegated to this realm because its truth is unknowable. Included in that group is God, time, space, and basically anything Kant couldn’t figure out.

Among the many amazing aspects of his philosophy is the idea that metaphysical truths which suspend in the unknowable category play a dominant role in the rest of his system. Specifically, he recognizes that living as if God exists has benefits for life. Indeed, he brings Christ into his system as an icon of human morality. Dr. Frame’s response is simple but powerful. He asks if we should live as if God exists (for moral benefit, mental stability, etc.) should we not also believe he exists? In other words, by introducing the helpfulness of the God category we are also in a way admitting the need for a real God. This can be a backdoor approach to the moral argument for the existence of God.

Today’s secular philosophers have rationalizations for morality that, unlike Kant, don’t include God. Dr. Richard Dawkins, though he presents himself as more of a scientist than philosopher, wants to argue the exact opposite, that the God category (or religion) is responsible for more blood shed than any other category of thought. You see, Dawkins is a modern-day representative of the reaction people had to Kant’s noumenal realm – if it is unknowable then it is disposable, all we have is the world as our mind experiences it. For Dawkins then, the God experience is one of delusion. Nonetheless, this illustrates the important role that philosophy has for our understanding of God. If we set as our goal to believe as the Bible teaches us, we must be able to formulate that in a philosophically and theologically correct way, which is that biblical revelation is authoritative over human reason. Kant is an amazing synthesis thinker and master visionary. From the standpoint of faith, one wishes he could have used that amazing ability to expound a knowable God.