Monday, 28 May 2007

New series: encounters with tradition

Understanding the function of tradition remains a central task for theology today – and ecumenical progress requires an ever deeper understanding not only of one’s own tradition, but also of the internal “grammar” of other Christian traditions. But this is by no means easy. Indeed, as Gerhard Ebeling once remarked, relatively few Christians have ever had to made a real choice between traditions – in most cases, one’s own tradition simply maintains its own powerful self-evidentness in contrast to all other traditions.

Ebeling’s observation highlights the complex difficulties surrounding ecumenical understanding: if I have never encountered (say) the Roman Catholic tradition as a genuine possibility for faith, and so have never had to choose between this possibility and the possibility of my own tradition, then I’ve not yet really begun to understand the Roman Catholic tradition at all.

For this reason, we can learn a lot from people who have made a transition from one Christian tradition to another. Such people have experienced tradition itself – they have encountered both the non-self-evidentness of their own tradition, and the attractiveness and coherence of another tradition. So if we listen to the stories of people who have made such ecclesial transitions, it’s possible that the function of tradition will become a little more translucent, a little more thinkable.

With that in mind, we’re starting a new series here at F&T, entitled “Encounters with Tradition.” The series will feature guest-posts from several people who have made a transition from one Christian tradition to another – from Protestant to Catholic, from Baptist to Anglican, from evangelical to post-evangelical, and so on.

Perhaps these stories of diverse “encounters with tradition” will help us all to encounter our own (and other) traditions in a fresh way.

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