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The “Great Tradition” of the Church

In his book, Visible Church – Visible Unity, Ola Tjørhom offers the following ten theses on the nature of the “Great Tradition” of the church:

  1. “The Great Tradition of the Church is grounded in the apostolic witness to Christ as ultimately revealed in Holy Scripture and living on in the church’s anamnesis”.
  2. “The Great Tradition of the Church is defined and shaped by the ecumenical creeds of the ancient and undivided church, mainly the Nicenum, but also the Apostolicum and the Athanasium, which express the fundamental trinitarian and christological witness of the ancient church as a whole.”
  3. “The Great Tradition of the Church is fundamentally catholic in the sense that it aims at incorporating the faith of the church in all its richness across time as well as space.”
  4. “The Great Tradition of the Church is sacramentally, ecclesiologically, and liturgically based, which means that it insists that participation in the fruits of Christ’s sacrifice takes place through word and sacrament in the space of the church.”
  5. “The Great Tradition of the Church realizes that the people of God are a structured people in the sense that pastoral leaders and shepherds as well as laity are included.”
  6. “The Great Tradition of the Church is based on the firm conviction that the Church, in accordance with its nature, is one, and it acknowledges a fundamental ecumenical obligation.”
  7. “The Great Tradition of the Church holds God’s will to be binding and obligatory for human life in its totality.”
  8. “The Great Tradition of the Church places significant weight on the Church’s sending, mission, and service in the world…as sacramentum mundi, a sacrament or sacramental sign in and for the world.”
  9. “The Great Tradition of the Church realizes that the dialectic between creation and redemption provides the framework of the Church’s mission.”
  10. “The Great Tradition of the Church should never be perceived as a purely nostalgic project.”  (pp. 27-29)

I find these points to be generally accurate and helpful in synthesizing something of a hermeneutical core within the fullness of the Christian Tradition.  However, I wonder how we come to appropriate these traits in protestant church life.  Is the Great Tradition just “there” to be appropriated by our own volition, or must we be a part of historically contiguous social body in which this Tradition has been preserved?  What would it mean for protestants to embody the Great Tradition in a substantial way?

One Comment

  1. Halden,

    I believe Protestants, especially evangelicals really need to incorporate the Great Tradition in their historicity. Evangelical theologians like J.I. Packer, Timothy George, and Thomas C. Oden have great respect for the Great Tradition, but the average Joe Evangelical hasn’t have the slightest idea who Irenaeus, John Chrysostom, or Gregory of Nyssa, let alone Calvin, Luther, or Wesley is?

    Pop evangelicalism, and pop pentecostalism for that matter, will be gravely maligned if they don’t see that the witness of the Church carried through the ages, it didn’t restart at the Reformation or the Restoration/Anabaptist movements. So there’s much to be learned in the evangelical churches especially church history and historical theology-might I add sound biblical interpretation?


    Tuesday, November 13, 2007 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

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