REFORMATION 500: Tradition

If it is asked how we can be sure that a tradition of the Church universal is not in fact a corrupt tradition we have the answer of the Reformers: “always in accordance with the Word of God.” The Scriptures are the continual control upon all traditions—universal, denominational, and local.

—Rev. D. H. C. Read, “The Reformation of Worship,” Scottish Journal of Theology 8:1 (March 1955):78

Tradition is the living faith of the dead, while traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. It is traditionalism that gives tradition a bad name.

—Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition Vol. 1,9,65

Tradition is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.

—author unknown

REFORMATION 500: Semper Reformanda (Always Reforming)

Many imagine that what Luther and Calvin did was to found new churches, with their specific doctrines and forms of worship; and that therefore to be their loyal followers means holding rigidly to these doctrines and forms. Thus any movement to make changes in the established ways of Reformed churches is always met by cries of “betrayal of our heritage.” But neither Luther nor Calvin had any intention of founding a church.

They simply set out to reform the Church that Christ Himself had founded. They had no desire to make a break with the Church and its heritage, but were forced to separate from the contemporary church because of its refusal to reform. Their intention was never to deny continuity with the Christian heritage but rather to restore to the Church her most ancient traditions, those of the New Testament, which they saw had been radically distorted. Hence they were literally re-formers. And nothing could have been further from their intentions than the idea that their Reformation was definitive and authoritative for all time. Thus a loyal son of the Reformation is one who is prepared at all times to reform, and not one who has made of the sixteenth-century Reformation a new idol that cannot be touched. A Reformed Church is a reforming Church, and its characteristic ought to be, not a tenacious adherence to sixteenth century forms and principles, but an openness to the leading of the Spirit in every age. 

—Rev. D. H. C. Read, “The Reformation of Worship,” Scottish Journal of Theology 8:1 (March 1955):68

REFORMATION 500: The Priesthood of All Believers

The aim of the Reformation was not the abolition of the priesthood but the abolition of the laity. Every Christian was to realize his priesthood: ‘Ye are a chosen generation; a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.’ This is the Biblical conception of worship—an offering of the entire congregation in praise and adoration. The Reformers aimed at restoring this heritage to a people who had become accustomed to being spectators at a ceremonial in a language they did not understand. They therefore insisted on everything being said at worship in a clear and intelligible voice in the language of the common people. They also encouraged the revival of congregational singing and audible participation in the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed.

—Rev. D.H.C. Read, “The Reformation of Worship, III. The Direction of Contemporary Worship,” Scottish Journal of Theology 8:3 (Sept. ’55), 285

Traditionalism (4)

There are two ways in which a tradition can be abused—either by neglect or by a slavish subservience. The Church which worships a God who was incarnate in human history cannot afford to neglect the heritage of that event; and a Church which worships the God who is a living Spirit cannot allow that heritage to become a dead letter of bondage. 

—Rev. D. H. C. Read, “The Reformation of Worship,” Scottish Journal of Theology 8:1 (March 1955):79

Traditionalism (2)

The Church on the whole has been tenaciously conservative through the ages, rightly stressing the eternal and immutable Gospel over against the passing fashions of men. But the quality of eternity and immutability has often been transferred from the Gospel itself to the forms in which it is expressed and modes of worship have drawn to themselves sacrosanctity which, although valuable and understandable, is hardly to be justified.

—Rev. D. H. C. Read, “The Reformation of Worship,” Scottish Journal of Theology 8:1 (March 1955):67

 

Participatory Worship

The aim of the Reformation was not the abolition of the priesthood but the abolition of the laity. Every Christian was to realize his priesthood: ‘Ye are a chosen generation; a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.’ This is the Biblical conception of worship—an offering of the entire congregation in praise and adoration.

–The Rev. D.H.C. Read, “The Reformation of Worship. Part III: The Direction of Contemporary Worship,” Scottish Journal of Theology 8:3 (Sept. 1955), 285