In die Skriflig
On-line version ISSN 2305-0853
Print version ISSN 1018-6441
VAN VLASTUIN, Willem. Between tradition and renewal: Some considerations about the use of tradition in reformed theology. In Skriflig (Online) [online]. 2013, vol.47, n.1, pp.433-440. ISSN 2305-0853.
In the theology and practice of the Christian church a tension between tradition and renewal exists. This essay focuses on this tension to provide a first step of methodological reflection to deal with it. Firstly, this tension is illustrated from the reformed perspective of sola scriptura that led to criticism of the tradition on the one hand, whilst understanding the reformed movement as part of the tradition on the other hand. A danger of unqualified sola scriptura is subjectivity. Subsequently, the importance of tradition is elaborated from the perspective of the church as the body of Christ across all ages. This implies that Christians should study and love the traditional theology because of the fundamental unity of the church that transcends cultural diversity. Rejecting tradition will cut the church from its historical and spiritual roots. Thirdly, this raises the question whether the church is imprisoned by tradition, as well as the problem of the relation between tradition and renewal. In response, it is argued that the doctrine of incarnation guarantees openness to history. With the help of the philosophical and Christian view on structural contingency, the belief that tradition is principally open to renewal is defended. Some examples are given as illustrations of how classic theological concepts can be reframed in our postmodern context. The last part of this essay concludes with the insight of Cyprian that only the conveyed tradition can be renewed, implying that renewal is in essence not a new theology, but a new application of apostolic theology.