Earlier on in my blogging efforts, I posted a short note on the following verse, and linked an essay I found that challenged me on the meaning of “elemental”.
If interested, see Elements – Stoicheia. For this post, we will address the topic of human tradition.
Let’s read the passage and consider.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Paul is giving a command (See to it…) in this verse, that a believer is to not be taken captive. This is a warning to believers that we have the capacity to fall victim to falsehoods and lies. He is providing the method of captivity, when He speaks of “according to human tradition”. This captivity Paul refers to depends on human tradition, is in conformity with human tradition.
So, what might we glean from this framing of a real danger Paul is warning us of? Is there a certain method or process that human tradition provides that will give us ample warning that we are slipping into dangerous territory? Maybe.
First off, let’s consider how traditions are handed down? This is the second aspect discussed in our opening post on this topic, that is, the faithfulness of the followers in continuing a tradition. Our first aspect was, as you may remember, the authority establishing the tradition, and of course, when Paul speaks of human traditions, he may be hinting at the source of authority of the tradition as being human. This definitely may be his intent, and is to be considered.
But my take on this verse is considering the method used when these practices are handed down. When Paul brings in the terms philosophy and deceit, I again lean to the opinion that this is describing a method of handing down a practice or tradition to the next generation. This method of handing down a practice to the next generation may include twisting of the tradition that was originally of the Lord, until it slowly becomes a tradition rooted in human authority.
But I digress again. The method, I suppose is my concern in this verse. The method! According to human tradition. Two items for you to consider, and remember my friend, as I sometimes suggest in this blog, we are dealing with my thoughts and extra-biblical research and not necessarily anything directly from the Scripture, so beware!
Slight Revisions to the Original Tradition/Practice
These slight revisions are often a result of using a thesis/antithesis argument, which inevitably produces a result, called the synthesis, which holds strictly to neither position, but finds a middle ground. This is an acceptable, convenient, and logic based way to move from the original intent, to a watered down message. Without a commitment to the authority of the Scripture, human logic allows for this movement, and therefore a sliding away from the original intent of the command. As the tradition veers from the original intent, there is no way to return to the original command using this philosophy. There always has to be a consideration of the opposing view, which humanly speaking is opposing to the Scripture.
A formal logic of this philosophy follows
- A thesis is a proposition
- In this case, the original intent of the tradition/practice given by God. Let’s remember Exodus 20 where the original intent is to honor your parents.
- The antithesis is simply the negation of the thesis, a reaction to the proposition
- Let’s consider Matthew 15, where the giving of money to God through the temple is a tradition negating the command to honor a father or mother.
- The synthesis solves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis by reconciling their common truths, and forming a new proposition – a new basis for the tradition.
- The synthesis might be an allowance of both, giving a nod to the original intent of the Word, but not condemning the alternative option. It seems Jesus did not accept this as an alternative option.
A Dependence on Historical Precedent
Once this drift from the truth occurs, human tradition uses the historical precedent of this practice to support the practice. How often have you heard the saying – But we have always done it this way, to justify a certain action or practice. When you think of it, this argument completely ignores the importance of the original authority the practice is hopefully based on.
This post highlights, hopefully our dire need to always go back to the original commands from the Giver of truth. Logic and time may not provide us a basis upon which to depend on for traditions we exercise in our lives.
Let me finish this wordy post with a challenging passage from the Word.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. – Psalm 62:5-7
God alone is our source authority, He is our rock, our salvation, our fortress, our glory and refuge. He is the only One we can truly trust. Don’t argue against His word, trying to justify an alternate thinking. Be quiet and wait for Him.
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion. If you would like to receive daily posts from Considering the Bible, click on the “Follow” link below