Scripture, Tradition, Reason

Sunday, March 18th. The fourth Sunday of Lent.

This morning Jeanene and I were attending the beginners’ class at Saint Luke’s. It’s a simple course on the Episcopal Church that is taught periodically for people who are new to Saint Lukes and possibly considering joining. It’s very strange being a novice in church. In my own tradition I would have taught courses like this. Now I don’t know anything. And there are a LOT of details to know in this tradition.

John Badders, our associate rector, is teaching the course. Today he handed out a three page summary of Anglican sources of authority. I knew what I was getting. A ridiculously simplified version of a complex subject. I know this because I used to make similar little handouts for various courses I taught at Covenant. “Historic Baptist Distinctives and Principles,” “Interpreting the Scriptures, “Church history,” etc.

But one of my disciplines right now is to be a novice. I need to let go of any sense that I know a lot about Christianity and embrace a more child-like point of view. So I got the paper and paid careful attention as we went through it.

The thing that really caught my interest was the Church’s careful delineation of their sources of authority. There are three of them, and they are meant to be kept in a balance of tension.

  1. Scripture – the interpreted teaching of the 66 books in our canon of scripture.
  2. Church Tradition – the theological, liturgical, and church polity traditions of Anglicans through the centuries.
  3. Reason – what modern humans learn through science and experience or with continued exposure to the Holy Spirit of God.

That last one really appeals to me. And I found it interesting that I just wrote that thing last night about not giving my mind away. Here are a people of faith who have openly acknowledged that science and reason are one of three important ways of discerning truth.

In other words, The Episcopal Church is saying to me, “Gordon, we cherish your mind. We want you to study the scriptures, submit yourself to our traditions, and use your mind and the advances of science in our ever-growing understanding of humanity and the world. Use all of these and perhaps, with the help of other honest, seeking brothers and sisters, we might just get somewhere.

I’m not ready to join yet. Honestly, all the bishops, fancy church councils, and incredibly complex church authority structures make this old Baptist boy a little nervous.

But I’m utterly disillusioned with Baptists. Maybe I’ll write about that sometime, but I don’t see myself going back there. Who knows? Maybe today was bringing me one step closer to the Anglican communion.

Gordon

  • Thoseawake

    I’m thinking of a song that could help explain/teach. What’s coming to my nondenom mind is:
    Thy _word_ is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path. (then)
    _Church Tradition_ is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path. (or, it could read “the holy catholic church” is a lamp….) (then)
    _Science and Experience_ is a lamp ….

    I sing this song with kiddos quite often; now I can consider these added (needed) verses! Thanks Gordon.