Tradition: Love It or Lose It?

Does tradition breed empty faith or healthy Christianity?

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Evangelicals have a tendency to disparage tradition—to associate it with dead orthodoxy, a fire extinguisher that quenches the work of the Spirit. Yet Roger Olson points out in "The Tradition Temptation" that part of growing as disciples of Jesus is to learn the language and practices of the faith from generations past; we don't start from scratch as Christians, and each new generation doesn't create a new way of being Christian. In this lesson, we will study what Jesus taught about tradition and learn how we can find the right place for tradition in our faith.

Table of Contents

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:17–20; Matthew 22:34–40; Mark 7:1–8; 1 Corinthians 11:2; Colossians 2:6–10; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Peter 1:16,19–21; 2 Peter 3:14b–18


• Identify the Current Issue

• Discover the Eternal Principles

Teaching point one: Jesus did not throw out all tradition, but got to the heart of the matter—what was essentially God-fearing and faithful in the tradition.

Teaching point two: Jesus was critical of human traditions that took the place of true worship and obedience of God and that bound people rather than liberated them to fulfill God's purposes.

Teaching point three: The apostolic teaching about Jesus and the gospel is the true tradition which is to be received, believed and followed, and passed on.

Teaching point four: Christians need to be on their guard against human traditions that deny or undermine the gospel, the lordship of Jesus Christ, and the Christian life.

Teaching point five: To properly interpret Scripture, we need the insights, correction, and examples of others—including the saints who have gone before us.

• Apply Your Findings

• Recommended Resources


The Tradition Temptation, by Roger E. Olson (November 2003, 14 printed pages)

Total number of pages