Q&A: tradition and Tradition: means vs ends?

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Q: …just read your recent blog and I have a quick question. Although I know that the tradition and dogma of the church are essential and very important, is it wrong to have the perspective where they are used just as means to build that relationship with God?

Response:

There’s a difference between “traditions” and “Traditions” and it’s not just the capital letter. A Tradition or Dogma is a statement of a belief. So in order for one to subscribe to a particular religion, one must confess those beliefs to be part of whatever group or community is expressing the belief.

So, for example, I can’t call myself a Christian and say I don’t believe in the Trinity. Christians by definition DO believe in that, so you can choose to not believe in that, but you can’t call yourself a Christian. I cannot be both a Jew and a Christian in religion, because the two have definitively different beliefs.

traditions”, however, are not part of “the Faith”, they are cultural practices or rites that can be helpful, but they are simply means, not ends. *t*raditions are not dogmatic, but they cannot contradict dogma; they can supplement and complement Tradition, but they are “optional”, so to speak. For example, you don’t need to believe the stories about St. Mark and the lion to be called an Orthodox Christian, nor do you have to believe the account of the Vision of Theophilus concerning the visit of the Holy Family to Egypt. You don’t need to kneel with your hands in a fist to be called Orthodox, even if most Orthodox do that.

Tradition should always point us to God because it’s an expression of what we believe about God. For example, the Tradition that God is fully God and fully man, means something on so many levels. It means that we have a God who can relate to our condition. It means that we couldn’t be saved by just “some human”. It means that God condescends to humans and actually cares about them. It means that whatever the Incarnate Logos says is the voice of God…there are endless consequences of this Tradition. So we cannot look at Tradition or Dogma as only just means, they are expressions of Truth. So they are not just means, they are facts about the God with whom we are in relationship.

tradition = means
Tradition = truths

Hope this helps.

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